Bristow, Ellen

Start date:
September 2019
Research Topic:
Child vocabulary development - Explicit etymology and morphology teaching at the transition from primary to secondary school
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. I have designed a morphology and etymology focused Vocabulary Development Programme, which explores whether explicit teaching of word parts, word history and vocabulary decoding skill could influence pupils’ ability to comprehend complex academic vocabulary at the transition from primary to secondary school.

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 whether directly teaching children English word history, word construction and word-part meanings—by integrating elements of Latin, Greek, Old English and French into the classroom—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.