Key elements of robust vocabulary instruction for emergent bilingual adolescents

Amy C. Crosson, Margaret G. McKeown, Kelly P. Robbins, Kathleen J. Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Purpose: In this clinical focus article, the authors argue for robust vocabulary instruction with emergent bilingual learners both in inclusive classroom settings and in clinical settings for emergent bilinguals with language and literacy disordersRobust vocabulary instruction focuses on high-utility academic words that carry abstract meanings and appear in texts across content areas (e.g., diminish, ambiguous). For emergent bilinguals, vocabulary instruction should be infused with morphological analysis emphasizing Latin roots to support students to problem-solve meanings of new, unfamiliar words and make connections between semantic clusters of related words in English. An innovative and critical component of this instructional approach is to support emergent bilinguals to leverage their linguistic resources by making connections to their home languages. Five design principles for teaching emergent bilinguals to engage in morphological analysis with Latin roots are presented. These design principles are illustrated with examples of evidence-based practices from intervention materials for instruction. Examples are drawn from varied instructional contexts. We present a synthesis of findings from implementation trials of our instructional program. Finally, application of the approach to clinical settings for speech-language pathologists are addressed. Conclusions: Clinical practice with emergent bilingual learners at intermediate and advanced stages of proficiency should incorporate robust vocabulary instruction for emergent bilinguals from a variety of cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Clinicians should focus on high-utility academic words, and they should teach morphological problem-solving skills for generative word learning. Clinicians should leverage emergent bilingual learners’ home language resources for developing morphological problem-solving skill.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)493-505
Number of pages13
JournalLanguage, speech, and hearing services in schools
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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