Journal of the Effective Schools Project, Volume 18, 2011 Page: 54
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The Effect of Explicit Vocabulary Instruction on
Student Achievement in Math and Science
Laurie A. McAdams
The purpose of this study was to explore the effect of explicit math and
science vocabulary instruction on student achievement. Participants
consisted of 114 students enrolled in 5th grade math and science classes
under the direction of two different teachers. The experimental group
consisted of 58 students, of which 15 were economically disadvantaged
and 12 were identified at-risk The control group consisted of 56 stu-
dents, of which 10 were economically disadvantaged and eight were
identified at-risk. Both groups were taught the same educational objec-
tives simultaneously; however, Group 1 was exposed to intensive content
-specific vocabulary instruction through use of a graphic organizer dur-
ing the school year. The research used a quasi-experimental research
design. Independent t-tests were used to explore systematic variation
between all students, economically disadvantaged students, and students
identified at-risk based on students' performance on the 5th grade math
and science Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) state
standardized assessments administered during the 2008-2009 school
year. One statistically significant finding was reported between econom-
ically disadvantaged students in the two groups (p = .03). Findings from
this study implied that schools serving economically disadvantaged stu-
dents should consider integrating explicit vocabulary activities consist-
ing of definitional information, contextual information, and pictorial
According to recent statistics, eight
million adolescent students are
struggling readers (Biancarosa &
Snow, 2004). Biancarosa and
Snow purported these students
have an unlikely chance to experi-
ence academic success due to the
fact they cannot successfully read
and comprehend the material in
their textbooks. Harmon, Hedrick,
and Wood (2005) surmised the
challenges and struggles adoles-
cent students experienced with
content textbooks resulted from a
lack of vocabulary knowledge.
Vocabulary instruction also plays a
vital role in literacy development.
The National Reading Panel identi-
fied vocabulary development as
"one of the most important areas
within comprehension" (National
Institute of Child Health and Hu-
man Development, 2000, pp. 4-9).
Carter and Dean (2006) asserted
developing adolescent students'
vocabulary in content areas was
critical to foster content compre-
hension. Carter and Dean de-
scribed vocabulary instruction as
"teaching students to use strategies
that help them make connections
between concepts and the termi-
nology used to describe the con-
cepts" (p. 134). The Texas Read-
ing Initiative (2002) asserted con-
tent area vocabulary instruction
must also be explicit and suggest-
ed instructional practices for con-
tent-specific words included creat-
ing visual images, linking words to
background knowledge, exploring
word features (i.e., definition, syn-
onyms, and antonyms), and main-
taining personal word banks.
Armbruster and Nagy (1992) de-
Carter and Dean (2006)
vocabulary in content
areas was critical to foster
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Tarleton State University. Effective Schools Project. Journal of the Effective Schools Project, Volume 18, 2011, periodical, 2011; Stephenville, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth201694/m1/58/: accessed June 28, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Tarleton State University.