How Does The Esl Curriculum Membership Support Academic Language
The ESL Curriculum Membership is packed with tools to help your students begin using academic language in the classroom or online.
The vocabulary word banks include tons of visuals to help students understand new words quickly. The word banks also make it easy to have regular routines of listening, discussion, and writing.
One effective activity for teaching vocabulary is LDI Listen, Discuss, Identify:
The grammar speaking pages help you get your students focusing on particular structures, creating lots of language in a scaffolded way, differentiated, step-by-step way.
The engaging, original reading passages utilize new vocabulary across a wide-range of background building topics with both literary and informational texts.
The discussion pages focus in on particular academic words and sentence stems which help students organize what they want to say in ways that will help them succeed in Englishproficiency tests as well as standardized tests.
All of the lessons in each unit of the curriculum lend themselves easily to writing, helping them write in a variety of formats including narrative, informational as well as opinion writing.
Why Is Academic Language Important
Academic language is a key factor if you want your English learners to succeed in school.
In schools, especially at higher levels of education, people speak differently.
They use words and sentence structures that differ from the way families generally talk at the breakfast table or friends talk at the park.
That means we can have students who sound fluent in English, but struggle academically due to their lacking academic languageproficiency.
Identify Standards And Objectives
First, identify your goals for the lesson. What are your target standards? It is helpful to post these clearly so that students know what they will be focused on learning and eliminate unnecessary information that does not meet your objective.
Next, identify your content objectives and language objectives:
- The content objectives focus on the content you will be teaching, such as a math, Science, Social Studies, or language arts objective.
- The language objectives focus on the academic language functions that students need to master in order to access grade-level content.
It is critical to teach language objectives explicitly so that ELLs can learn the content and language they need.
For example, Jennifer Himmel shares the following examples in her popular article about how to write language objectives for content-area lessons:
|3rd grade Science, States of Matter|
|Content Area Standard||Language Objective|
|California: Students know that matter has three forms: solid, liquid, and gas.||Students will be able to distinguish between liquids, solids, and gases and provide an example of each.||Students will be able to orally describe characteristics of liquids, solids, and gases to a partner.|
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Visual Tool For Planning For Academic Language And Content Integration
One tool we would like to share here is a framework for analyzing academic language demands in content lessons that identifies and integrates the many variables into a graphic organizer. The framework was developed by OHara, Pritchard, and Zwiers in order to prepare all teachers to respond to the need for academic language instruction for ELs. They note that others have attended to developing language objectives based on content standards, but they believe it is necessary to go further and analyze academic texts, tasks, and assessments at each of the linguistic levels of discourse, syntax, and vocabulary in order to arrive at language objectives and supports for academic language development. Their framework provides a useful tool for bringing together these complex and overlapping elements of academic language analysis. The graphic organizer that they developed is available in their article linked here Figure 1 from OHara, Pritchard & Zwiers . Figure 1. From OHara, S., Pritchard, R., & Zwiers, Z. . Identifying academic language demands in support of the Common Core Standards. ASCD Express, 7. Retrieved from
Learn Some Additional Strategies For Scaffolding And Differentiating Instruction
Scaffolding instruction means to put in place some supports that can help students access grade-level content. In addition, your students may be at varying levels of English language proficiency, and some differentiation might be necessary. It’s ok to start small — and remember that this is an area where an ESL teacher can provide some helpful ideas!
Some strategies for scaffolding and differentiating include:
- using extra supports such as realia, graphic organizers, and visuals
- pre-teaching key concepts and vocabulary before the lesson
- differentiating through the use of different kinds of activities, such as asking newcomer students to draw a response and more advanced students to write a response.
If students are having trouble with an activity, try to identify whether a new concept, set of directions, vocabulary word, or other element is causing the difficulty. Identify some different ways that you can help students move beyond those obstacles. These might include providing a book about the topic in the student’s native language or reviewing new vocabulary words together.
Video: Pre-teaching concepts and vocabulary before a lesson
Video: Using “realia” to build background
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Teaching Content To Els: The Solution
One principle that teachers of English learners can begin to apply immediately is creating and posting language objectives for their lessons (whether in the classroom or online in a virtual space. Many teachers are familiar with using content objectives to identify what students will learn and be able to do in the lesson. However, they are less likely to include language objectives that support the linguistic development of their students.
Implementing language objectives can be a powerful first step in ensuring that English learners have equal access to the curriculum even though they may not be fully proficient in the language. This is because the second language acquisition process requires opportunities for the language learner to be exposed to, practice with, and then be assessed on their language skills .
To this end, language objectives:
- articulate for learners the academic language functions and skills that they need to master to fully participate in the lesson and meet the grade-level content standards .
- are beneficial not only for language learners but for all students in a class, as everyone can benefit from the clarity that comes with a teacher outlining the requisite academic language to be learned and mastered in each lesson.
Now let’s take a closer look at some examples and how to write language objectives.
Use Peer Review And Cooperative Learning Strategies
Using peer learning can be a powerful way to help students master content. Here are some ways to get students working together:
- Use graphic organizers. Have students work in collaborative groups and use a graphic organizer as a scaffold for specific tasks, such as identifying main ideas or relationships between information, etc. It gives a purpose while reading while interacting and using the language.
- Assign reading partners. Pair ELLs with friendly fluent readers. Ask partners to read aloud to each other, alternating sentences or pages. After partner reading, ask them to summarize what they read. For variety, use choral reading once in a while. Assign different sections to each team, ask them to rehearse, and then ask teams to read chorally.
- Use Think-Pair-Share . TPS is a collaborative learning strategy in which students work together to solve a problem or answer a question about an assigned reading. This technique requires students to think individually about a topic or answer to a question and share ideas with classmates. Discussing an answer with a partner serves to maximize participation, focus attention and engage students in comprehending the reading material. Read more in the following articles:
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Syntax Features In The Sample Lesson
Looking toward the standards for broad guidance, we can identify some of the ELA standards in the language section as being especially relevant, such as those requiring students to use complex sentence structures, relative clauses, prepositional phrases, and verb tenses appropriate to the context. With this guidance from our ELA standards in mind, we read the text and analyzed the tasks, thinking about specific syntactic demands. As we analyzed the text, we looked for sentence-level features that were especially important to the comprehension of the text and for those that appeared with great frequency to target in language objectives. A sample paragraph from Chapter 1 provides an example for analysis:
If that seems harsh, perhaps its because Martin, Sr., came from harsh circumstances. Born into a family of sharecroppers , he grew up very poor. With his mothers support, he left home to go to Atlanta in search of a better life when he was only fifteen. Martin Sr. worked extremely hard, earning his high school degree and then attending Morehouse, a prestigious all-black college.
Components Of Academic Language
Some students come to school not having the language at their fingertips to express their thinking, including English learners or children in poverty. Theyve got great things going on in their minds, but dont know how to show you what theyre thinking. They cant find the words because they havent been taught how to express their thoughts, either verbally, in writing, or by demonstration. Its just not something theyve done or been taught.
As teachers, we must help students express their thinking by developing academic language, the language of school.
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Sample Language Learning Lesson Plan
Lesson plans are important because they provide the teacher with something to teach the students. In addition, they ensure that the students will actually learn something during the class.
Having a detailed lesson plan that follows the proper lesson plan layout will help the teacher to be more prepared and feel comfortable teaching the class.
A lesson plan is like a map to the classroom. Without one, the teacher may seem lost, unprepared, unprofessional, unintelligent, et cetera.
The teacher should have an outline of the lesson plan written down and available during class. That way there will be no confusion about what to do next, how much time to spend on each activity, et cetera.
Due to the fact that lesson plans are relatively easy to create, every teacher should use them. In addition, there are hundreds of templates, sample plans, and activities available. Thus, there is no excuse not to have a plan. It is an easy and foolproof method of ensuring that teachers at least look like they know what they are doing even if they feel like they do not.
Here is an example lesson plan for teaching English. Of course, any language could be substituted.
Youll notice there are 6 lessons. This is done so that you have an extra lesson in case your students move more quickly through some lessons compared to others.
Objective: Students will learn the first nine letters of the English alphabet
Warm up 5 minutes
Review 10 minutes
Using Language Objectives In A Distance Learning Environment
While teachers like Ms. Shell understand that the characteristics of good teaching for English learners does not change in a virtual environment, they do understand that instruction will necessarily need to look different in order to account for the challenges that distance learning presents for many learners.
Accordingly, teachers will need to think through how to:
- present language objectives to learners in engaging ways
- measure learner understanding of the objective throughout the delivery of the lesson
- assess student mastery towards those objectives.
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Strategies For Building Students Academic Language
1. Encourage students to read diverse texts: Reading and then thinking and talking about different genres is a robust sequence for learning academic language.
2. Introduce summary frames: Summarizing is a simple and fail-safe approach to academic language activities. Students read a section of text to themselves before verbally summarizing the passage to a partner. Alternatively, learners can complete sentence frames, or guides for summarization. Some examples:
- If the main idea of the paragraph is problem/solution, use the frame: _____ wanted _____, but ______, so ______.
- If the main idea of the paragraph is cause/effect, use the frame: _____ happens because ______.
3. Help students translate from academic to social language : Model how to say something in a more academic way or how to paraphrase academic texts into more conversational language. Provide students with a difficult expository passage, like the inventors paradox, and have teams reinterpret the text using everyday language.
4. Have students complete scripts of academic routines: Some discourse routines seem obvious to adults, but are more complex than NASA for young learners unless you provide scaffolding, like these speech examples:
- The topic of my presentation is ______.
- In the first part, I give a few basic definitions. In the next section, I will explain ______. In part three, I am going to show ______.
Using Comprehension Checks And Assessing Progress
It is also essential that students understand how teachers will measure their progress towards meeting each objective. Towards this aim, teachers must build in multiple comprehension checks throughout the lesson that align to the lesson’s objectives. Teachers can:
- use apps such as Kahoot to create quick and simple comprehension checks throughout a lesson
- incorporate turn and talks via breakout rooms at preset intervals throughout a lesson that provide the teacher an opportunity to determine if students are practicing the academic language highlighted in the language objective
- visit the breakout rooms and use a simple oral language checklist to measure student progress towards linguistic aims of lessons, or teachers can capture that information via the use of shared digital documents where students synthesize in writing their oral discussion.
At the conclusion of a lesson, teachers can assess student progress towards meeting objectives via:
- tickets out that are submitted digitally
- the recording of a Flipgrid or use of another video platform where learners respond to a prompt that requires learners to use the academic language highlighted in the lesson’s objectives.
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Teaching Content To Els: The Challenge
In my work supporting general education and ESL/bilingual teachers who provide sheltered instruction for English learners , I have met many teachers like Mrs. Shell. While these teachers want to provide effective instruction for their ELs, often they don’t see themselves as language teachers and so they aren’t sure where to begin with their students.
These teachers aren’t alone, however, and they are facing a challenge shared by teachers across the country. We know that for school-age students, academic language is crucial for school success . In addition, research allows us to state with a fair degree of confidence that English learners best acquire English when language forms are explicitly taught and when they have many opportunities to use the language in meaningful contexts .
Yet while the explicit instructional support that ESL and bilingual teachers provide is essential to English learners’ academic language development, English learners receive a majority of their instruction from general education and content area teachers who may not have experience teaching academic language development.
The question becomes then: What do general education classroom teachers need to do in order to support the academic English development of language learners in both face-to-face and virtual environments, especially when English learners are one of many types of students they serve?
Language Functions For Academics
Language functions are our purposes for using language. We use language for a wide variety of purposes, in social settings and academic settings and formal and informal contexts. Ask yourself, What is it that Im asking my students to do?
Examples of language functions include:
- Compare and contrast
The language function determines the grammatical forms. Each language function will have specific grammatical forms that are relevant to that function.
For instance, when comparing and contrasting, students will use grammatical forms, such as ___but___, ___whereas___, although ____, and Both ___ and ___. Language functions and grammatical forms are generic and can be used across topics.
The topic determines the vocabulary and vocabulary is specific to the topic.
All three of the above, vocabulary, grammatical forms, and functions work together to form academic language . An understanding of language functions, grammatical forms, and vocabulary will help you break apart language for your young learners and teach them how to build it back up.
See below for links to examples of how these three components work together within real classroom lessons.
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What Are Language Demands Of A Learning Task
Language demands of a learning task include any of the receptive language skills or the productive language skills needed by the student in order to engage in and complete the task successfully. Language demands are so embedded in instructional activities that you may take many for granted. When identifying the language demands of your planned lessons and assessments, consider everything that the students have to do to engage in the communication related to the activity: listen to directions, read a piece of text, answer a question out loud, prepare a presentation, write a summary, respond to written questions, research a topic, talk within a small group of peers. All of these common activities create a demand for language reception or language production.
Some language demands are related to text types, which have specific conventions with respect to format, expected content, tone, common grammatical structures , etc. The language demands of other tasks are not as predictable, and may vary depending on the situation, e.g., participating in a discussion or asking a question. All students, not only English Learners, have productive and receptive language development needs. The discussion of language development should address your whole class, including English Learners, speakers of varieties of English, and other native English speakers.
Strategies To Make Using Academic Language Rewarding:
Interest grows out of confidence.
The better our students feel when they use academic languagethe more confident they feel about using academic languagethe more rewarding it will be for them and the easier it will be for you to get them using it more.
Celebrate each and every attempt students make in using academic language.
You can also gamify the use of academic language by making a list of words or structures you want to hear during class.
You can reward points to students or their groups each time you hear anything from the list.
Points can be used to buy free homework passes, game time, a class dance minute, etc. Tip: Letting students buy rewards that the whole class benefits from is a great strategy.
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