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Academic Language. Brick and Mortar Words. Essential Practices in Teaching Academic Language. Academic Language. A way of reading, writing, speaking and listening that reflects valued knowledge and effective communication skills. Types of Capital. Social Capital:

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academic language

Academic Language

Brick and Mortar Words

academic language1
Academic Language

A way of reading, writing, speaking and listening that reflects valued knowledge and effective communication skills.

types of capital
Types of Capital
  • Social Capital:
    • Interaction with adults, siblings, peers
  • Cultural Capital:
    • Travel experiences, education of parents, wealth, television, music
  • Knowledge Capital:
    • Information gained from computers, reading, being read to, travel, conversations about the world
  • Linguistic Capital:
    • Quality and quantity of language used by parents, peers, on television shows/movies, in regionaldialects
  • Adjustment of language to situation and audience
  • Ability to use distinguishable language with different audiences
invisible criteria
Invisible Criteria

Students fail when…

  • Assessments depend heavily on
    • things that have not been taught
    • non-school experiences
    • the teacher’s own cultural values
  • Certain ways of talking about the text and expressing ideas are invalidated
teachers positively impact academic language when they
Teachers positively impact academic language when they
  • intentionally include the teaching of brick and mortar words.
  • repeatedly expose studentsto brick and mortar words.
  • regularlyutilize word-learning strategies to help students use brick and mortar words.
workshop objectives
Workshop Objectives
  • To define academic language, i.e., brick and mortar words
  • To give examples of academic language, i.e., brick and mortar words
  • To demonstrate several ways to teach brick and mortar words
brick words
Brick Words
  • Content-specific terms/vocabulary
  • Technical words
  • High-yield words that play a key role in the lesson
  • Tools for understanding the lesson
  • Words in big, bold-faced print
examples of bricks
Examples of Bricks
  • ELA irony, theme, conflict, thesis
  • Soc Stu emancipation, democracy,


  • Math reciprocal, proof, matrix, polygons
  • Science meiosis, gravity, evaporation
  • Phys. Ed. tee, tip, shotgun, love, butterfly stroke
teachers already use bricks with literacy strategies
Teachers Already Use Bricks With Literacy Strategies
  • Frayer Model (HISD literacy strategy)
  • Organizing Grid (HISD literacy strategy)
  • Analogies (Marzano)
  • Comparison Matrix (Marzano)
  • Combination Notes (Marzano)
additional ways to teach bricks
Additional Ways toTeach Bricks

Verbal and visual associations

Right Away activities

Kinesthetic, auditory, and tactile connections

verbal associations
Verbal Associations
  • Activities that connect learning to oral, vocal, unwritten, or spoken tasks

The teacher gives students a quick verbal definition and several examples of the brick. Then she/he moves to visual associations so that students can begin to associate the brick with an image.

visual associations
Visual Associations
  • Activities that connect learning to pictures, illustrations, and other non-verbal representations

draw or use a picture

show a video

use a graphic organizer

make a web map

demonstrate with a real thing

right away activities
Right Away Activities
  • Activities that give students immediate engagement with the new word

Have You Ever…?

The teacher poses a question that forces students to activate their personal experiences and prior knowledge in order to connect to and describe the brick.

Have you ever critiqued a movie?

Describe what happened.

Now watch the hands go up!

right away activities1
Right Away Activities

Idea Completion

The teacher uses the brick in a sentence stem but does not finish the statement; students complete this fragment based on the lesson. Responses can be either oral or written.

  • Because of the density of the black hole,…

How ironic that it is raining and…

kinesthetic auditory and tactile connections
Kinesthetic, Auditory,and Tactile Connections
  • Activities that include ways to experience, hear, or touch the new word

Teacher and/or students act out the brick in the form of hand motions, role plays, music or chants, or real items.

Teachers can combine several bricks in one activity.

mortar words
Mortar Words
  • General academic words that are common terms in everyday communication
  • Words used across a variety of domains
  • Utility words that define and hold together “bricks”
  • Subtle words or expressions that connect bricks
examples of mortar words
Examples of Mortar Words
  • ELA implies, contains, reflects, represents, supports
  • Soc Stu consequently, therefore, consists of, factors
  • Math if…then, derive, why, calculate suppose, equals, balance, isolate
  • Science variable, infer, dependent, why, balance, what happens when
  • Standardized tests & instructional tasks

contrast, differ from, analyze, led to, ramifications

dialogue using brick and mortar words in math
Dialogue Using Brick and Mortar Words in Math
  • At the end of this hand-out, note the underlined brick and mortar words that the teacher uses to build the student’s academic language of balancing an equation in algebra.
  • 2(7x-4) + 3(2x-1) = 2(9x-2) – 3(4x-7)
teachers already use mortar words with literacy strategies
Teachers Already Use Mortar Words with Literacy Strategies
  • S-W-B-S




additional ways to teach mortar words
Additional Ways toTeach Mortar Words
  • Teacher’s use of and drawing attention to mortar words in the lesson
    • Connectives: therefore, however, because, maintain, require, tend, correspond, represent
    • Prepositions: inside, between, without
    • Pronouns: each other, themselves, it
    • Verbs: explain, examine, develop, show, prove, discuss, trace, simplify

1) Think Alouds

2) Highlighting

dialogue using mortar words in science
Dialogue UsingMortar Words in Science
  • At the end of this hand-out, note the underlined mortar words used as connectives to explain the function of a squid’s two long tentacles.
three benefits of academic language
Three Benefits ofAcademic Language
  • Students gain new words, new terms, a new language.
  • Students develop mental skills:

Comprehension Skills

Summarizing Questioning

Predicting Connecting to Background

Thinking Skills

Classifying Comparing

Inferring Synthesizing

Evaluating Analyzing

three benefits of academic language1
Three Benefits ofAcademic Language

3. Students become more proficient in the language of school.

This skill prepares students for graduation and lays the foundation for their becoming valued employees in the workforce, distinguished military personnel in the Armed Forces, and/or successful students in college. Regardless of the path taken in life, students will be able to compete realistically in their chosen careers.


Zwiers, Jeff. Building Academic Language: Essential Practices for Content Classrooms, Grades 5-12. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2008.


How will this workshop on brick and mortar words impact your classes?

What else would you like to learn about brick and mortar words?