Above, left to right, are Washington School teachers Julia Starenko, Tom Erf and Colleen Kelly.

Three School District 65 teachers at Washington School are participating in a federal formative research study which is investigating ways for fourth- and fifth-grade teachers to structure comprehensive approaches to vocabulary instruction in their classrooms.

The study is directed by Drs. James Baumann and Patrick Manyak of the University of Wyoming and Dr. Camille Blachowicz of National-Louis University with sites in Ft. Collins, Co. and Evanston. The two school districts were chosen because of their multilingual and multicultural students and highly qualified teaching staffs, said Dr. Blachowicz.

Washington School teachers Colleen Kelly, Tom Erf and Julia Starenko are working with the research team, which includes Drs. Ann Bates and Char Cieply as facilitators, to review the research on a comprehensive approach to vocabulary in the middle elementary grades and to test out some components of a comprehensive model. This model, based on the work of Michael Graves, James Baumann, Camille Blachowicz and Peter Fisher and others, proposes a four component approach: ensuring rich language experiences; teaching individual words; teaching word learning strategies; and developing word awareness (interest in words and knowledge about how they work).

The goal is to field test methodologies that go across the curriculum in each grade. These teachers’ trials, along with those of their fellow teachers in Colorado, will provide formative input for the second and third years of this project. Later this year, fourth- and fifth-grade teachers in other District 65 schools will have a chance to volunteer for years two and three of the project.