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Academic Language Overview. Academic Language Takeaways. Academic language is different from everyday language. Some students are not exposed to this language outside of school. Much of academic language is discipline-specific.

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Academic language takeaways
Academic Language Takeaways

  • Academic language is different from everyday language. Some students are not exposed to this language outside of school.

  • Much of academic language is discipline-specific.

  • Unless we make academic language explicit for learning, some students will be excluded from classroom discourse and future opportunities that depend on having acquired this language.

Academic language
Academic Language

Academic language development is making the language explicit to expand students’ control over language and improve their language choices according to the purposeand audience for the message.

Academic language also offers structuresfor developing as well as expressing explanations, evaluations, and analyses.

Developing students’fluency in academic language provides access to the “language of school” and academic success.

Academic language1
Academic Language

The purposes of Academic Language areto clearly and explicitly define, classify, analyze, explain, argue, interpret and evaluate ideas for all pupils.

Academic language2
Academic Language

  • Language for academicpurposes differs greatly from every day purposes

  • These differences include

    • precisely-defined vocabulary to express abstract concepts and complex ideas

    • more complex grammar in order to pack more information into each sentence

    • a greater variety of conjunctions and connective words and phrases to create coherence among multiple ideas

    • formatting conventions, graphics and organizational titles and headings to guide understanding of texts

    • a better-defined system of how texts are organized to achieve academic purposes

Academic language3
Academic Language

Academic Language also includes instructional language needed to participate in learning and assessment tasks including

  • discussing ideas

  • asking questions

  • summarizing instructional and disciplinary texts

  • following and giving instructions

  • explaining thinking aloud

  • giving reasons for a point of view

  • writing essays to display knowledge on tests


Connector words: and, but, because, therefore, however


Technical vocabulary: triangle, metaphor, metabolize

Words whose technical meaning is different than everyday language: “balance” in chemistry, “plane” in mathematics, “ruler” in history/social science, “force” in science

Genres forms

  • Structure of an explanation

  • Description of what is being explained

  • Statements of cause-effect relationships

  • Sometimes ending with an interpretation or judgment


Have a general structure – e.g., narratives, explanations, arguments

Subject specific genres forms

Procedures for a science experiment

Literary interpretation

Argument proposing causes of an historical event

Subject-Specific Genres/FORMS

Representing word problems mathematically

Structures of argument genre form

Temporal connectives: first, next

Causal conditional connectives: because

Comparative connectives to introduce counterpoints: consequently, therefore

Structures ofArgument Genre/FORM

Mental verbs used to express opinions: like, believe

Move from personal to impersonal voice

Connectives used for logical relations and to link points

Structure of arguments

Structure of Arguments

Argument with evidence: Proposition, argument, conclusion

Discussion: statement of issue, arguments for, arguments against, recommendation

Elaborated discussion: statement of issue, preview of pro/con, several iterations of point/elaboration representing arguments against, several iterations of point/elaboration representing arguments for, summary, conclusion

Characteristics of advanced academic language
Characteristics of Advanced Academic Language

Abstractions: government, electron, linear equation, acid

Nominalizations, verbs or adjectives becoming nouns to enable more dense text or more cohesive text:

organize into…→ this organization…

…were revealed. The trigger for this revelation was…

More precise connector words and phrases, going beyond “and” or “but” to “in contrast” or “Given this, it follows that…”.

Academic language competencies measured rubric 10
Academic LanguageCompetencies Measured (Rubric 10)

  • Understanding language demands and resources for instructional emphasis

    • Identification of linguistic features of a genre/form/function addressed within instruction

    • Relation of vocabulary identified to content and to students’ academic language proficiencies

    • Description of student language strengths and needs

Academic language competencies measured rubric 11
Academic LanguageCompetencies Measured (Rubric 11)

  • Expanding students’ academic language repertoires

    • Making key linguistic features related to genre purpose visible to students

    • Modeling vocabulary and linguistic features and providing opportunities for practice (developing fluency)

    • (at higher levels) appropriateness of models for students at different levels of language proficiency


  • Analyze video for academic language using graphic organizer