The Missouri Reader Vol. 43, Issue 1 | Page 29


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In my perspective, multicultural education should not focus only on minorities. All students are equally important, although different ...

What Does Your Reading Philosophy Say About You?

Peg Grafwallner


I am a first-grade teacher at Kansas City International Academy (KCIA), a unique charter school with a high population of English Language Learner students. We serve a population of students from 21 different countries. Our students and families speak 15 different languages. My co-teacher and I teach in a regular education classroom with 23 students. We have 13 ELL students and 10 students whose native language is English. In our classroom, we have students who speak English, Spanish, Somali, and MaiMai. A few months into my graduate program, I read an article about vocabulary instruction being helpful to students. I immediately had this thought that I was not doing enough to help my students with their comprehension. Up until that point, I had not considered the importance of vocabulary instruction in my schedule every day.

During my fourth year of teaching we began using the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System, an assessment program used to find the reading levels of students. This program helps identify the reading level students should be working on during guided reading. Since this was a new program to us, we had no previous data to make a comparison to at the beginning of the year. The Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System provides a word list to assess students to provide educators with a starting point. My observation with a lot of our ELL students was that the word list assessment provided a higher level than where they actually were comprehending. The students were able to read with fluency and accuracy but their comprehension was holding them back. I immediately thought of vocabulary instruction and asked myself if vocabulary instruction during guided reading would make a difference in their growth as readers.

During my final course for my Master’s Degree program, I completed an action research study. The question driving my research was, “What is the impact of vocabulary instruction on the reading levels and comprehension of ELL students?” For this action research study, I worked with a group of six first grade ELL students. Prior to starting any work with the students, I completed research on ways to teach vocabulary during guided reading and other parts of the day. I decided to focus on two strategies for vocabulary instruction. Throughout this article, I will describe the instructional strategies I used when working with students and the resources used to find these strategies, the data I collected throughout the study, and my interpretation of the data. I will share what I found to be the impact of vocabulary instruction to be for ELL students.

Review of the Literature

In Teachers’ Perceptions of their Preparation for Teaching Linguistically and Culturally Diverse Learners in Rural Eastern North Carolina (O’Neal, Ringler, & Rodriquez, 2008) the authors describe how teachers did not feel prepared to teach ELL students. Of the teachers that were interviewed, 25% felt unprepared for the diversity but 100% of teachers felt responsible for student success. This article really pushed me to learn best practices for ELL students. I felt reassurance when I heard that other teachers felt the same way I have at times. However, it created a drive in me to learn the best ways to help and teach my ELL students during reading instruction.

During the same semester, I read an article about vocabulary instruction that sparked an interest in researching vocabulary instruction. “Vocabulary is important to reading achievement and to overall school success. However, in spite of all of the research in support of vocabulary instruction, there is a lack of robust vocabulary instruction in many American schools.” (Gallagher & Anderson, 2016, p. 274) This quote is very powerful. After reading this quote, I realized that vocabulary was not a huge emphasis in my classroom. I wanted to find ways to include vocabulary into my schedule on a regular basis.

In The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading, Richardson (2016) reveals a very specific way to teach guided reading. Because my action research study focused on guided reading, I looked to this resource for suggestions on including vocabulary instruction into my guided reading lessons. Richardson lays out several steps of vocabulary instruction when introducing a new book during guided reading. She says you should write the new words on a dry erase board and pronounce each word to students. Then have the students repeat the word. It is also is important to discuss the meaning using illustrations and/or examples from the story. This can be done by reading a sentence from the book that includes the vocabulary word. The teacher should also work with the students to


Appendix B



Take what your classmate(s) said and bounce an idea off of it. For example, you can start your sentences with…

“That reminds me of…”

“I agree because…”

“True. Another example is when…”

“That’s a great point…”


Rephrase what was just said in a shorter version. For example, you can start your sentences with…

“I hear you saying that…”

“So, if I understand you correctly…”

“I like how you said…”


Understand what your classmates mean by asking them questions. For example, you can start your questions with…

“Can you tell me more about that?”

“I’m not sure I understand…”

“I see your point, but what about…?

“Have you thought about…?”


Support one another’s responses by reading information from the text.

“I found that in the text on page…”

“The text says…”

adapted from:

Himmele, P. & Himmele, W. (2011). Total participation techniques: Making every student an active learner. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.