The study reported here examines the English language knowledge and performance of bilingual school children of Middle School age in Britain, in particular their acquisition and use of vocabulary. One of the chief premises of the research is that pupils from bilingual minority ethnic backgrounds suffer a major disadvantage while learning from the National Curriculum because they lack the necessary richness of word knowledge, accompanied by the conceptual frameworks expected in learning subjects such as science and geography. Furthermore, it is believed that by raising awareness among teachers and by the adoption of appropriate methods of vocabulary teaching founded on research, the vocabulary learning of bilingual pupils can be greatly increased. The aim of the study is to identify, describe and evaluate methods of vocabulary instruction currently used and to provide recommendations for suitable methods to be introduced. By means of an action research methodology implemented in a middle school, and with the joint participation of some members of staff and some pupils, classroom data was collected over a two and a half year period from teachers of science, geography and English and their pupils, supplemented with semi-structured interviews with teachers and support staff and conversations with children. These data provided material for a detailed analysis of exactly how individual words develop from first introduction into the pupils’ active vocabular
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