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Helping Students ‘Talk the Talk’ for Academic Success

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( — Learning to write academic essays and lab reports can be challenging for any middle schooler, but it’s particularly tough for children with special needs.

Rollanda O’Connor, a professor at the University of California, Riverside’s Graduate School of Education, is working to change that. O’Connor was recently awarded a $1.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES) to continue her research on reading, writing and language development in middle school children with learning disabilities.

The focus of the current project is on the acquisition and understanding of academic language, which is becoming increasingly important for students as they advance through the K-12 school system. O’Connor, who is the Eady/Hendrick Chair in Learning Disabilities at UCR, said children who receive special education need extra help with vocabulary development because they don’t read as much as their mainstream peers.

“Much of vocabulary learning occurs incidentally as students engage in wide reading, but poor readers don’t read much, so their vocabulary grows much more slowly than their peers. My aim with this project is to help teachers close the gap in academic language learning before it interferes with students’ success in all subjects,” O’Connor said.

Titled “Vocabulary CHAAOS: Creating Habits that Accelerate Academic language Of Students,” the three-year project will support teachers as they introduce key academic concepts to students in special education classes in the 6th through 8th grades at several school districts in Southern California and North Carolina.

Read the full release here:

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