Author Biography

Alicia Smail is a sixth-grade, Title I reading specialist in a public school. Her research interests include vocabulary instruction as a means for improving overall literacy skills.

Linda Kucan is an associate professor in the Department of Instruction and Learning at the University of Pittsburgh. Her research interests include comprehension of informational texts, classroom discourse, and vocabulary.


This article describes how middle school students who qualified for learning support performed in an enhanced language development program known as Word Generation (WG). Word Generation is a cross-curricular language development program designed to improve students’ overall literacy skills by focusing on deepening students’ knowledge of academic language. This study was guided by the following question: How does an enhanced language development program influence students’ vocabulary learning and broader literacy skills? Students demonstrated statistically significant positive differences on the pretest/posttest vocabulary knowledge assessment and maintained that learning on a delayed posttest. Engagement with the WG materials positively influenced students’ abilities to interact with complex texts, engage in effective discussions, and construct influential argumentative essays. The findings show promise for incorporating multifaceted vocabulary instruction such as Word Generation into middle school classrooms with students who struggle with reading.