Integrating Technology and Interactive Learning Logs to Improve Vocabulary Acquisition in Fourth Graders in an Area of Poverty

Polly Westfall, Union Elementary School, Brunswick County Schools

My Final Conclusions:
  • All of my students made significant gains from their pre-assessments to the post assessments.
  • Males and females had similar gains.
  • Caucasian students, African-American students, Hispanic students, and Multi-racial students made significant gains.
  • The largest increase in growth was with Hispanic and African-American students from their pre-tests to their post-tests.
  • My two lowest students gained over 85 words each.
  • There was not a significant difference between the final scores of students with access to technology at home as compared with students without access to technology, however, those without technology had a greater increase from pre-tests to post-tests.
  • Students who missed two or more days during a given week scored ten points or more below the class mean.

My Recommendations:
  • I do believe my action research project can be easily replicated in classrooms all across North Carolina. The Word Up Project is research-based. There is a program for students in grades K - 8, along with SAT Prep words. Teachers need fifteen to thirty minutes a day to incorporate this program into their day. Since it relates to Tier Two words, Flocabulary should not be considered a separate, insignificant program. It is aiding in the development of vocabulary acquisition using the multi-meaning words that students read daily.
  • I do recommend that teachers encourage students add a writing component such as a learning log. My students used this resource when they were writing and often referred back to the words throughout the year.

My Final Reflections:
My students' attitude about vocabulary acquisition has improved dramatically. Best of all, the students have become word collectors. They marvel, along with their teacher, when they come across an intriguing new word. When words from the Word Up Project are sighted in books or tests, students are quick to point them out. I am thrilled that students are using words they have learned in their own writing. They try to impress me by using the words as they reflect on books they have read during our guided reading group dialogues. When the study was complete, a collective sigh filled the classroom. Students are eager to advance to the next level in the program and to explore the other sections of Flocabulary.

I have shared the use of Flocabulary with my grade level and my peer teachers at Union. The entire fourth grade used the Orange Level of the Word Up Project during the year, however, my students were the only ones to use the graphic organizers in their learning logs. My students scored higher than the school average and the county average in reading on their last common formative assessment, but it is really hard to pinpoint what specifically caused the difference.

If I did this same action research again, I would try to find some different variables to compare. Perhaps, I would compare my findings at my rural setting to a school in an urban setting. I would also have an intentional focus on particular graphic organizers to see which ones seemed to help the most. In addition, I would have a way for my students to track when they saw one of the words in a book, reading selection, or test.

Since I have returned to a self-contained setting, I would like to determine if technology can improve the acquisition of math facts, just as it did with vocabulary. I believe technology, connected with strong instructional practices can improve the automaticity of learning math facts which often impede the learning of more complex math skills.

I appreciate that Governor McCrory empowered educators by allowing us to complete action research projects. I have always had an interest in research and best practices, but this process allowed me to hone my skills and to share my findings with other professional educators. It helped that I was allowed to choose a topic which correlated with a personal passion of mine. Completing the courses associated with the projects and reading the educational peer-reviewed articles reminded my of my graduate program in Curriculum Instruction. It is always beneficial for educators to collaborate, sharing their insights on topics relevant to current classrooms. I appreciated my principal's full support of my project. By allocating funds for me to use Flocabulary, I was able to reach and teach all of my students. I can't wait to see how my students perform on their end of grade tests. I believe there will be great growth in reading!