Graduation Date


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Department or Program


Department or Program Chair

Elizabeth Truesdell PhD

First Reader

Madalienne F. Peters, EdD

Second Reader

Elizabeth Truesdell, PhD


With an increased population of English Language Learners (ELLs), educators are in need of programs and strategies that help their students learn academic content while learning to understand, speak, read, and write English (Duessen, Autio, Roccegrandi & Hanita, 2014). ELLs face several obstacles while learning in an elementary school classroom.

Studies have shown the positive effects of word analysis and vocabulary learning strategies on student achievement (Carlo, August, McLaughlin, Snow, Dressler, Lippman, Lively & White, 2004). Project GLAD is a model of professional development in the area of language acquisition and literacy that focuses on such instruction. According to Echevarria and Short (2000), ELLs have an “added complexity of having to learn and use high-level academic English as they study challenging content in a new language” (p. 1). The purpose of this study is to identify effective practices for teaching English-Language Arts to elementary school children who are ELLs and struggling to build literacy skills.

This teacher action research project involved 20 students at the fifth grade level, at varying levels of English language proficiency. Qualitative data were gathered on the students using writing samples collected over a one-month period where students receive targeted instruction on writing in connection with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). This instruction took place during ELD instruction time for 45-minutes each day, for four days a week. The researcher compared student rubric scores from the writing prompts before and after the received explicit instruction.

Results indicate that direct and explicit instruction involving academic vocabulary and instruction targeting specific writing strategies can help improve student’s writing abilities.

The researcher believes there are gaps in the research in regards to teaching students who face multiple challenges, for example, students who are both ELLs and who have learning disabilities and/or Individual Education Plans (IEPs). Implications of the findings suggest that there should be specific programs and strategies for students who are Newcomers, as well as specific strategies for teaching students with multiple learning needs. Additionally, it would be beneficial to have additional research and strategies for upper grades in regards to teaching ELLs.