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Academic English

Academic English. HOW TO CREATE A LANGUAGE-RICH ENVIRONMENT FOR THE BENEFIT OF ALL STUDENTS BY MEGAN O’REILLY 2011. What is Academic English?. Academic English is the language that is used in academic or formal settings

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Academic English

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  2. What is Academic English? • Academic English is the language that is used in academic or formal settings • The complex language we use in the classroom, not the language the students use in social situations

  3. Why do we need to teach Academic English? • Exposure and knowledge of academic language will help all students be successful in school • It will help our students: • Follow directions • Complete assignments • Develop higher order thinking skills • Expand vocabulary • Perform better on tests • Prepare them for higher education

  4. This presentation will address: • Identifying academic vocabulary • Planning for explicitly vocabulary instruction • Ideas for specific activities to use in the classroom


  6. Think of vocabulary words in terms of “bricks and mortar.” The bricks are the content area words that are crucial for learning and understanding. These vocabulary words are usually concrete and easy to define. The mortar are the other vocabulary words that are not content specific, but still necessary to know in order to understand the concepts and complete given tasks. Bricks and MortarZwiers, 2008

  7. Vocabulary Bricks Mortar • Content-area specific vocabulary terms • Schema • Inferring • Dividend • Evaporation • Prism • Colony • Confederates • Terms that are used in a variety of disciplines • Identify • Classify • While • Because • However • Define • Explain

  8. Brick Terms • Brick terms are the content area specific words • Are usually easy to define and explain • Concrete • Might only use those terms within that discipline

  9. Mortar Terms • Mortar terms are the words that connect the brick terms together • We use them in a variety of disciplines • Their meanings can often be difficult to explain and abstract

  10. Importance of Mortar Terms • They often require students to engage themselves in higher order thinking skills • This vocabulary is often needed to perform specific tasksand is found on standardized tests • Mortar terms are words that students will continuously encounter in school and their lives

  11. Brick and Mortar Terms in Texts Can you identify the which words are bricks and which are mortar in a 5th grade science text?

  12. Brick and Mortar Terms in Objectives Take a look at some real objectives from the 5th grade Reader’s Workshop Inferring unit: CO: TLW infer the meaning from figurative language. LO: TLW explain how figurative language helps you understand the meaning of the text better. Which words are bricks and which are mortar?

  13. Which words are bricks and which are mortar? CO: TLW infer the meaning from figurative language. LO: TLW explain how figurative language helps you understand the meaning of the text better.

  14. Bricks and Mortar Terms in Objectives For this specific lesson, infer and figurative languageare brick terms because they are content specific. Meaning, explain, and text are all mortar terms because they are used in a variety of disciplines. If this was a different unit, then infer would be a mortar term because it can be used across different content areas; however, because the unit is Inferring it is a content-specific word


  16. Explicitly Teaching Academic Language • Language needs to be explicitly taught, therefore we need to be planning for this to happen. • Think about what words they need to be able to read, write, say, and comprehend. This is the language we need to teach. • Vocabulary terms • Grammatical structures • Writing conventions

  17. Content and Language Objectives • Objectives explicitly tell the students what they will learn and how they will learn it • Content and Language Objectives should drive the lesson and the activities and they should be directly related to each other • Students should be able to recognize when the objectives have been met or not

  18. Objectives Content Objectives Language Objectives • The content the students will learn in that lesson • What the students will learn • The goal for the lesson • The specific language the students will need in order to achieve the content objective • How are they going to achieve or master the content objective?

  19. Language Objectives • Be explicit – Tell students exactly what you want them to do • Use grammatical forms • Past tense, future tense, conditional statements, etc. • Give them the words and structures you want them to use • Use sentence frames • List words they need to use • Use at least one of the four different language modalities • Reading, writing, listening, speaking

  20. What NOT to do with your objectives • Do not simplify the language in objectives – this will inhibit student learning • Will result in the loss of a teachable moment • Do not use ambiguous words that cannot be quantified • Words like understand and know cannot be quantified – each students’ understanding will be different

  21. Planning Vocabulary Instruction HOW TO PLAN FOR VOCABULARY INSTRUCTION

  22. Defining Brick Terms • Content specific vocabulary words are usually easily definable • Go over definitions multiple times and model how to use them appropriately • Make the word meaningful for the students, use examples they can make connections with

  23. Understanding Brick Terms • Be consistent – Use synonyms to help them understand the term, but continue to use the academic term being taught • Have students repeat definitions • Echo reading the definition • Reading definition aloud to a partner • Copy definitions in writing • Make the definitions meaningful to the students by allowing them to paraphrase and use their own words to define it

  24. Defining Mortar Words • For academic words that are not content specific, plan for vocabulary learning by explicitly teaching the definition, even if it is vague • Use synonyms to demonstrate how that word is used • Use the word in multiple examples, and in a variety of contexts

  25. Understanding Mortar Terms • Specifically teach how to use the terms and then give the students a chance to practice using the word in a variety of examples • Include academic vocabulary in sentence frames that forces students to use the word • Use however, although, yet, and while instead of but • Encourage students to try and use the term in their speaking/writing

  26. Do not simplify the Academic English for language learners. Every student is capable of mastering the language with given supports. Give students the opportunity to master the academic language by planning for engaging lessons that afford student participation and a chance to practicing using the language. ELLs and Academic English


  28. Planning Activities • Lessons need to incorporate learning experiences that are engaging for all students, regardless of the language ability • Students should have an opportunity to produce language (output) • Activities should be related to the Language Objective • Should incorporate the different language modalities

  29. Ground Rules for Activities • Teach good speaker/listener behaviors • Establish rules for buzz partners and group work • Plan for effective class discussion • Give students silence to think • Effective wait time

  30. Good Speaker and Listener Behaviors Good Academic Speaker Good Academic Listener • Maintains eye contact • Uses gestures and facial expressions • Varies voice tone and volume • Pauses to let listeners process • Checks for listener comprehension • Stays on topics • Maintains eye contact • Nods and uses facial expressions to support speaker • Waits for appropriate pauses to talk • Responds • Ask questions for clarity, elaboration, and examples Zwiers, 2008

  31. Buzz Partner and Group Rules • “Respect, connect, build, support” motto • Respect – be respectful to speaker without criticizing them • Connect – acknowledge usefulness of responses • Build – turn individual thoughts into a bigger, collective, shared thought • Support – provide evidence from the text or experience Zwiers, 2008

  32. Effective Classroom Discussions • Ask fewer questions and give more time for thoughtful answers • Make questions relevant to real-world applications • Ask open-ended questions that require higher order thinking skills • Avoid asking questions where students “please the teacher” by saying something right • Avoid responses that tell students whether they are right or wrong • Respond with Hmmm, OK, Interesting, All right Zwiers, 2008

  33. Silent Wait Time • When asking students to respond to a question or a topic, give them silence to think before completing the task • Students are processing complex academic language • Students are engaged in a cognitively demanding task • Students are planning a response with complex academic language • This requires time to think • More students will be engaged with silent wait time, more students will respond, and their responses will be more academic

  34. Language Modalities • The different ways a language can be experienced

  35. Language Modalities Input Output • Language is coming in and the student has to receive and process it • Reading • Listening • The language is coming out after the student processes it • Speaking • Writing

  36. Input vs. Output • Students need to be receptive and able to process incoming academic language through listening and reading • Effective input will help students comprehend the meaning of the words, and how and when to use them

  37. Input vs. Output • Student comprehension is easier to assess with output • Output shows how students use the language • When planning for activities, teachers need a balance between input/output activities is needed

  38. Activities for Academic English Input LISTENING READING

  39. Activities for Listening • Give students a specific task to do while listening • If you are teaching inferring, during a think aloud have students: • Touch their nose when they hear you make an inference • Keep tally marks of all the times they hear you make inferences

  40. Four Corners • Choose a topic or a prompt you want students to respond to, with four predetermined possible responses • Assign four responses to the four corners of the room, and have students move to the corners according to how they would respond • This is a low risk activity that all students can do regardless of language ability, and works really well with shy students This can be modified to incorporate a written/spoken activity, where students need to write or share their explanation for choosing that corner/response. Himmele & Himmele 2009

  41. Activities for Reading • Give students a specific task to do while reading • Something to think about during Independent Reading time • Require students to be active readers • Assessment is difficult when there is not output • Record new academic words on a log • Use context clues to help them infer the definitions of academic words • Underline/circle academic words

  42. Independent Reading Vocabulary Logs • While reading, give students the task to find academic vocabulary words that are unknown to them and record it on a log • Record word and how it was used • Clues to possible meanings • Definition (possibly give time to use dictionaries) • Use it in another way

  43. Himmele & Himmele 2009

  44. Activities for Academic English Output SPEAKING WRITING

  45. Activities for Speaking • Students need to be given the opportunity to speak using the academic English they are learning • Teach good speaking skills • Turn and Talks • Give students specific directions for speaking • Post the question or topic the students are responding to so they can refer to it • Use explicit sentences frames and enforce their use • “I infer _______, and the clues I used were _______.”

  46. Sentence Frames For a comparing/contrasting lesson for Native American Cinderella stories: “_____ is comparable to _____ because _____.” Possible student responses: “The main character in Sootfaceis comparable to the main character in The Rough-Faced Girlbecauseneither of them were considered beautiful.

  47. Networking Session • If students are tired of working with the same buzz partner, do a networking session where students need to walk around, network, and find students they have not talked to that day to complete their speaking task • Gives students a chance to talk to new classmates and move around Himmele & Himmele 2009

  48. Activities for Writing • Have students use the academic language to write for a specific task • Use sentence frames and give them the specific language you want them to use in their writing • Academic vocabulary • Grammatical forms • Desired punctuation • Connect activity to the Language Objective

  49. Activities for Writing • Quick Writes/Exit Tickets • Students respond to a question or a prompt in writing • Affords students with the opportunity to use and produce academic language and gives teachers an opportunity to assess student learning • Quick Draws • Allows students to respond to what their learning through symbolic representation • Can be very cognitively demanding to draw a picture for a complex, abstract concept

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