From Words to Thematic Text Analysis: Collocation Activities as Academic Vocabulary Building Strategies in the Middle and High School ELA Classroom (Grades 6–12)

  • Brandy GibbEmail author
  • Guofang Li
Part of the English Language Education book series (ELED, volume 17)


Academic vocabulary learning has been cited as one of the major barriers to English Language Learners’ (ELLs) reading comprehension and academic success in content classrooms. In English Language Arts (ELA), academic vocabulary can be complicated for ELLs as it often inhabits abstract landscapes where references to characters or events in a text are discussed through thematic, metaphoric, and/or symbolic references. However, academic vocabulary is essential for ELLs to develop their ability to independently problem solve when reading complex texts, engage in high-level text analysis, and predict meaning across texts (Halliday MAK, Matthiessen CMIM, Halliday’s introduction to functional grammar, 4th edn. Routledge, London, 2013). This chapter describes how ELA teachers can provide apprenticeship in academic vocabulary acquisition through collocation (or common phrasing) activities to help ELLs develop their use of sophisticated content-based vocabulary and prepare them for thematic text analysis tasks in the ELA classroom. Working with collocations requires ELLs to combine academic vocabulary into phrasal categories such as combining the academic word, often a noun, with the appropriate verb, adjective, or preposition (Lewis M, The lexical approach: the state of ELT and a way forward. Language Teaching Publications, London, 2002). This process leads to an intuitive understanding of how to work with more advanced syntax, particularly as it relates to the creation of multi-clause sentences used to construct statements of analysis and develop solid arguments. This type of thematic understanding of the academic language used throughout a text is a transferable skill that supports ELLs’ academic success within and beyond the ELA classroom.

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Crofton House SchoolVancouverCanada
  2. 2.Department of Language and Literacy Education, Faculty of EducationUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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