Spring 2017



Degree Name


Primary Advisor/Dissertation Chair

Kristi Liu

Secondary Advisor/Reader One

Heidi Bernal

Peer-Reviewer/Reader Two

Angela Imdieke


Research indicates that ELs’ vocabulary knowledge is an important basis for building communication skills in a second language, as well as a strong predictor of later academic skills. High quality vocabulary instruction is crucial and the literature emphasizes direct instruction techniques with words that are intentionally selected (Anderson & Nagy, 1993; Christ, 2007; Silverman & Crandell, 2010). However, little research has been done in kindergarten classrooms that teach through a play-based curriculum which avoids extensive amounts of direct instruction. This qualitative casestudy of two ELs in a kindergarten classroom using the Angry Birds Playground (ABP) framework to guide curriculum and instruction addresses students’ math vocabulary acquisition within a play-based classroom. Specifically, it examined the ways play was infused into lessons and how students orally produced target vocabulary words during math tasks. Data collection included the following sources: (a) audio and video recordings of classroom interactions; (b) reflective interviews with the kindergarten teacher and the two focal students; (c) observational field notes; (d) audio recordings of planning time between the classroom teacher and the EL teacher, and; (e) worksheets and photographs of student work. Study results suggest that play, in this classroom, incorporated either independent practice of math concepts using manipulatives, or structured partner interactions using math manipulatives. Typically these activities did not include any kind of direct scaffolding of vocabulary. Students were most likely to produce the vocabulary when the teacher planned intentional opportunities for peer interaction that required them to use a particular vocabulary word. However, because the kindergarten teacher was new to planning vocabulary instruction and math instruction time was limited, these intentional opportunities did not consistently happen. Recommendations address the need for teachers in play-based settings to balance indirect and direct instruction. They also describe ways that teachers of EL students can plan for purposeful interaction with target words in order to optimize young students’ content vocabulary learning.

Research Methodology

Case Study, Interview, Observation