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

As I reflect on my action research project, I am highly pleased with the results of my project. All of my students made significant gains from their pre-assessments to the post assessments, during the weekly instructional period, as well as from the diagnostic evaluations to the comprehensive exams at the end of the fourteen week period. These results were the same for both genders, all four ethnicities represented, and even for my struggling learners. I was pleasantly surprised that it did not really matter if a students had technology at home. This was a huge insight, as I worried that the gap would continue to widen because some students did not have the same access to Flocabulary at home. There was a definite difference when looking at the scores on the pre-tests, but by Friday, the students caught their peers with technology. Attendance was an issue, although not a significant one. Students who missed two days in the beginning of the week did score close to ten points lower than their peers with better attendance.

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, but I waited to share the graphic organizers to see if there was any difference between my students' scores on their second common formative assessment. My students scored higher than the school average and the county average in reading, however it is really hard to pinpoint what specifically caused the difference. In February, I shared the graphic organizers and a list of other vocabulary websites that I have shared with my students with my peers and my students' parents. I want to keep the intentional focus on vocabulary.

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.

I do believe my action research project can be easily replicated in classrooms all across North Carolina. The Word Up Project does have a fee associated with Flocabulary, but schools often get to make recommendations in how their instructional money is utilized. My study has the data to support the use of the program.

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 their will be great growth in reading!