Bristow, Ellen

Bristow, Ellen
Start date:
September 2019
Research Topic:
An historical and socio-linguistic investigation into English language vocabulary pedagogy in schools in Wales
Research pathway:
Research Supervisor:
Dr Lise Fontaine and Dr Sara Pons-Sanz
Supervising school:
School of English, Communication & Philosophy,
Primary funding source:
ESRC Studentship

My research is in the field of vocabulary development, specifically children’s ability to decode and analyse the meaning of unfamiliar and/or complex academic words. Taking an historical and socio-linguistic approach, my doctoral project aims to trial and test creative intervention strategies which could aid both children’s vocabulary development and pedagogical practices in the English language classroom.

The ability to cope with different levels of lexical complexity when reading, writing, spelling and speaking is not only fundamental to children’s academic success, but also to understanding semantic nuances in social relationships and life post-education. However, recent GCSE pass-rate statistics suggest that there is a ‘gap’ between the vocabulary children and teenagers are expected to know and understand and what they actually know and understand. My research, therefore, explores to what extent explicit teaching of word history, word deconstruction and word-part meanings—through integrated Latinate, Classical Greek, French and native prefixes, root words and suffixes—influences children’s vocabulary development and aids growth of key communication skillsets.

By working closely with schools, teachers and students, this project hopes to understand how we could develop English language teaching strategies to support the diverse and varied needs of our young people.