Summer 2018


Capstone Project

Degree Name



Julianne H. Scullen

Content Expert

Nancy Weeda


Research on reading indicates that vocabulary knowledge plays a significant role in comprehension and content learning. Textbooks remain the primary instructional medium in most social studies classrooms, but are rarely written with supports that allow struggling readers to comprehend the text independently. Because typical textbooks do not contain adequate guidance or materials for effective vocabulary instruction, social studies teachers must incorporate these features into their curriculum. This is especially important for teachers of English learners. In order to learn grade-level content, English learners who lack a sufficient background in content vocabulary require rigorous vocabulary instruction that draws on established best practices. This curriculum-writing capstone project began as an effort to answer the following research question: How can middle-school US history teachers in my district integrate research-based vocabulary instructional methods into their classes for the benefit of all students? Using features from several educational frameworks, I developed lesson plans and materials which incorporate recommended vocabulary strategies into existing United States history curriculum. Students are provided with much-needed support throughout all stages of the unit. They learn new terms through direct and structured lessons that provide opportunities to deepen understanding. They practice authentic use of the vocabulary words within the unit’s context with appropriate scaffolds given when necessary. A variety of assessments throughout the unit are used to gauge the students’ grasp of the vocabulary words, and require students to demonstrate how those words can be used to explain and analyze unit learning targets. The resulting curriculum is primarily intended for use in a sheltered-instruction classroom, but also serves as a model to mainstream teachers who want to improve their vocabulary instruction. I detail each step of the curriculum-writing process and reflect on the potential impact of the final product.

Project Type



Curriculum, ESL/ ELLs, Literacy








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