Exploring the Word-Use Profiles of Low-Vocabulary, Average-Vocabulary and Vocabulary-Matched English Learners

Exploring the Word-Use Profiles of Low-Vocabulary, Average-Vocabulary and Vocabulary-Matched English Learners

First Author: Penelope Collins -- University of California, Irvine
Additional authors/chairs: 
Dale Webster
Keywords: English Language Learners (ELL), Vocabulary
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose: Language minority students who are proficient in English at kindergarten entry have reading achievement trajectories similar to those of native English speakers (Kieffer, 2008). Language minority students who are not proficient in English, English learners (ELLs) are the fastest growing group among American students, yet they are disproportionately underserved and have lower achievement (Olsen, 2014). The achievement gap between ELLs and native English speakers tends to increase with the time it takes to become proficient in English (Kieffer, 2008). To better understand the vocabulary and reading profiles of ELLs who are slower at acquiring English vocabulary, we will compare ELLs with weak vocabulary knowledge to their more-proficient peers and to a sample of younger ELLs matched on vocabulary knowledge.

Method: Participants were 106 ELLs, including 78 3rd and 4th grade ELLs (26 low-vocabulary and 54 chronological-age matched) and 26 1st grade ELLs whose PPVT raw scores matched those of the low-vocabulary ELLs. Children were individually administered measures of vocabulary (PPVT, Expressive Vocabulary Test, Multiple Meanings, Attributions), word reading and nonverbal intelligence.

Results: Preliminary analyses suggest that CA-matched ELLs outperformed their low-vocabulary peers. The younger, vocabulary-matched ELLs had similar raw scores on the PPVT and EVT, as well as the Color Progressive Matrices and TOWRE, but had lower scores than low-vocabulary ELLs on Multiple Meanings and Attributions subtests.

Conclusions: The lower performance of low-vocabulary ELLs may reflect a lag in the acquisition of vocabulary and decoding skills relative to their more proficient ELL peers.