Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Education




Curriculum and Instruction with a K-12 Reading Endorsement

Capstone Instructor

Prof. Steven Slavik

Second Reader

Prof. Cristy Bloch


English Language Learner, secondary school, literacy, reading comprehension, vocabulary


As the population of English Language Learners in United States public schools has risen significantly in recent years, the unique academic challenges these students faced, particularly in middle and high school, became more apparent. A widening reading and vocabulary gap between English Language Learners and their native English-speaking peers posed particular barriers in secondary content area classes, where many teachers reported feeling ill-prepared to meet the specialized linguistic needs of their English Language Learner students. This paper analyzed a mix of recent, available qualitative and quantitative research on best practices to improve literacy outcomes for adolescent English Language Learners. As a result of the research, this paper identified several strategies that have been found to be successful in increasing English Language Learners’ reading, vocabulary and content comprehension through secondary content area classes, namely explicit reading comprehension strategy instruction, a focus on vocabulary and academic language, reading engagement strategies, and finally the integration of literacy and content. This paper concluded by outlining specific applications of the results for secondary school content area teachers to ensure that the academic literacy needs of their English Language Learner students are being met.