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Exploring PACT Academic Language Instruction Across Disciplines. A Look at Two Cases: Teaching English & Math. P. Holmes, A. Mendle & B. Merino University of California, Davis. Research Questions:.

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Exploring pact academic language instruction across disciplines l.jpg

Exploring PACT Academic Language Instruction Across Disciplines

A Look at Two Cases: Teaching English & Math.

P. Holmes, A. Mendle & B. Merino University of California, Davis.


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Research Questions: Disciplines

  • How do exemplary beginning teachers (EBTs) identify the language demands of “tasks” in the PACT lesson cycle?

  • How do EBTs “scaffold” the language demands they identify?

  • How can these cases expand our understanding of teacher development & Academic Language Instruction?


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Description of the Problem Disciplines

  • Academic Language is a complex, dynamic and evolving construct that taps multiple traditions (Valdez, 2004).

  • Increasingly linguistically diverse CA population of school children need teachers who can provide instruction of AL. (Rumberger, Gandara & Merino, 2006)


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Theoretical Frameworks Disciplines

  • On teacher development:

    “An embodied understanding of practice rather than attributes, forms the basis for professional skill & development”. (Dall’Alba & Sandberg, 2006, p.30)


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AL: Key sample definitions Disciplines

  • – The language knowledge together with the associated knowledge of the world and metacognitive strategies necessary to function effectively in the discourse domain of the schools ( Cummins, 2000, p. 67)

  • –The dense and abstract language characteristic of the texts of advanced literacy construes the specialized and abstract knowledge that students are expected to develop as they move into secondary school and higher education� (Schleppegrell, 2004, p. 163).


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AL - A constructivist view. Disciplines

  • The body of knowledge, strategies and skills necessary to accomplish the academic tasks or genres of a specific discipline in a particular context� (Merino & Scarcella, 2004)


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The Institutional Context Disciplines

  • A 15 month - Credential/MA Program

  • An integrated model of delivery of AL Instruction.

  • N = 124 Elementary/Secondary;

  • Secondary - N = 67; English N=16.

  • Elementary - N = 57: Math N=57.


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UCD TE Program Teacher Roles: Disciplines

  • Advocate for Equity in Learning

  • Teacher Researcher

  • Reflective Practitioner

  • Collaborative Professional


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Criteria for Case Selection Disciplines

  • PACT Performance above median within the cohort.

  • Pedagogically sound lesson cycle.

  • Exemplary performance in AL within some element.


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Teaching Context- English Case Disciplines

  • 7th & 8th Grade Intermediate English Language Development Class

  • 15 students with 4 primary languages (Hmong, Spanish, Russian, Vietnamese)

  • High Point C curriculum, CELDT levels 1 – 3, Far Below Basic to Basic CST levels, 7 students with IEPs,

  • novel Number the Stars is focus of PACT lessons using two new reading strategies – “making connections” and “one question, one comment”

  • most students have solid oral English and use it regularly; however, use in academic tasks (oral or written) is much weaker

  • candidate was particularly interested in reading from the start of our program & intended to pursue a reading specialist authorization.


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Candidate’s Understanding of Students’ Language Levels Disciplines

  • “Some specific skills my students are still learning include the following: how to answer questions using complete sentences, how to write questions correctly, and how to find supporting evidence in a text. In addition, my students are learning how to write a coherent paragraph using a topic sentence, transitions and a concluding sentence. My students are also still learning how to locate the main idea in a text and then use that main idea to write a summary.” (Task 1 excerpt)


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Candidate’s Understanding of Students’ Language Levels Disciplines

  • “My students have difficulty implementing academic language. When I ask students a specific question during class discussions, about half of my students have a hard time answering the question appropriately. Most of my students have trouble phrasing what they would like to say, even when they have the correct answer. Often my students will stumble when they speak in class, and sometimes when this happens my students will become frustrated and stop trying to communicate their ideas… One of the areas in which my students need constant development is vocabulary. I often have to define terms during class readings, when I introduce a new topic, or when I am giving instructions on the overhead. I constantly must think about words that will be most difficult for my students, and I try to have visuals for the words I know my students will have trouble understanding.”(Task 1 excerpt)


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Identified Lesson Language Demands Disciplines

1. Novel vocabulary – both specific Holocaust terms and general words, requires constant awareness of challenging terms- restatements, synonyms, context all used to reinforce meaning

2. Anticipation Guide procedures – “anticipate,” purpose, directions

3. Similes – reinforcing literary term presented earlier in year

4. “Connections,” “Comments” & “Text” (presented through cell phone text messaging!) – key terms of new reading strategies

5. Writing complete sentences – formal and informal opportunities in lessons

6. Use of quotation marks when making connections on worksheet

7. Using new reading and response strategies effectively – multiple reinforcements and scaffolds, discussion protocol

8. ELD standards part of each day’s plans

9. Visuals for handouts and key concepts to support understanding


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Strategies Planned and Used to Develop Academic Language – (evidence from both plans and video clips)

Day One

1. Holocaust background - PowerPoint notes and children’s book to discuss key vocabulary and historical period; whiteboard responses to

2. Key vocabulary introduction in context (worksheet for future reference) – definitions, pictures, and book sentences

3. Door pass with 3 facts students have learned about the Holocaust


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Strategies Planned and Used to Develop Academic Language – (evidence from both plans and video clips)

Day Two

1. Review of key Holocaust elements with PPt. slides, identification cards about lives of young people lost in the Holocaust

2. Anticipation Guide about key issues – individual responses and class discussion, then a written paragraph taking a position

3. Introduction of “making connections” strategy – focus on “text to self” with sentence starters for those who need support

4. Begin oral reading of novel, teacher modeling “text to self” connections, students required to make one connection after chapter one


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Strategies Planned and Used to Develop Academic Language – (evidence from both plans and video clips)

Day Three

1. Reading of second children’s book as preview to new novel chapter – introduces concept of “text to text” connections

2. Chapter Two reading with “text to self” connections – guide on overhead

3. “One question; One comment” activity – overhead to guide students’ writing; whole class participates in student-led discussion


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Scoring on the Academic Language Rubric (evidence from both plans and video clips)

2007-2008 Academic Language Category – Passed

E10: How does the candidate describe student language development in relation to the language demands of the learning tasks and assessments? 3

“The candidate has a unique ability to assess the content she will teach, identify language challenges, and provide scaffolds to address these challenges. This may be seen at the word-level (”text,” “personal experience,” “connection,” etc.), the concept/schema level (need for pre-teaching Holocaust history), and practical level (multiple modalities for imparting instructions, etc.). She is familiar with her students’ various ability levels based on multiple measures (CELDT, STAR, IEP’s, written work, observation, etc.) and both their independent and scaffolded levels of performance.” (Candidate did not reach Score 4 because of missing discussion of vision of how these lessons/skills fit into broader disciplinary content.)


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Scoring on the Academic Language Rubric (evidence from both plans and video clips)

E11: How do the candidate’s planning, instruction, and assessment support academic language development?3

“The candidate uses multiple scaffolds. She models activities using visuals (Powerpoint, overhead transparencies, etc.), gives students opportunities for oral and written practice (”One Question/One Comment” discussion, “Anticipation Guide” paragraph), and gives students both oral and written feedback (discussion evaluation/clarifying questions, comments on “Making Connections” handout). She is intentional and articulate about why she selected these strategies and planned them in the order that she did. She has plans for more advanced students, but does not make clear how she will enhance/remove scaffolds for currently- struggling learners.” (Prevents score of 4)


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Implications of The English Case (evidence from both plans and video clips)

1. Academic language development understanding can be attained at a high level by new teachers, with support of resident teachers and methods presented in education courses

2. Working directly with English learners accelerates understanding of how to implement strategies to support Academic Language development

3. Use clips from this case to demonstrate strong Academic Language instruction

4. Introduce children’s books as preview of issues in grade level texts


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“It is my job to make sure my students continually have experiences where they practice academic language that they have learned and encounter new academic language.” (Task 5 excerpt)

… from the Candidate


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Teaching Context- Multiple Subject Case experiences where they practice academic language that they have learned and encounter new academic language.”

  • K-6 Elementary School

  • Grade 2 class, 20 students

  • Six students came from homes where English is not the primary language. All were classified as “Initially Fluent English Proficient”

  • 12% of the school are English learners; 40% in the district are English learners

  • The community is a mix of newly developed houses and apartments, isolated from mainstream flow of the town


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Teaching Context- Multiple Subject Case experiences where they practice academic language that they have learned and encounter new academic language.”

Task 1 excerpt


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Rationale for MS Case Selection experiences where they practice academic language that they have learned and encounter new academic language.”

  • PACT was centered on the meaning of equals,greater than and less than

  • The definitions were discourse specific and very prone to student misunderstanding

  • There is a research base about children’s understanding of these issues

  • Academic language was embedded in the instruction and assessment of this event


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A Brief Look At the Mathematics and the Research experiences where they practice academic language that they have learned and encounter new academic language.”

  • What might children say about the following?

    • 2 + 3 = 5

    • 5 = 2 + 3

    • 7 + 6 =  + 5

  • Are there grade level differences in the way students respond?


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Candidate’s Understanding of Students’ Language Levels experiences where they practice academic language that they have learned and encounter new academic language.”

  • “In mathematics, students have become accustomed to using mathematical vocabulary such as, addition in place of 'plussing,' and subtraction in place of ‘minusing,’and the frequent use of value, rectangular prism, sum, difference etc. While the focus is always to master the concept, the use of academic language is encouraged and promoted.” (Task 1 excerpt)

  • “…elementary school students harbor serious misconceptions about the meaning of the equal sign and their confusion does not dissolve with time.” (Task 2 excerpt)

  • “…as a student progresses through the grades, one often struggles with algebraic functions due to their confusion of the equal sign.” (Task 2 excerpt)


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Strategies Planned and Used to Develop Academic Language experiences where they practice academic language that they have learned and encounter new academic language.”

  • “…engaging them in discussions in which different conceptions of the equal sign emerge and must be resolved.” (Task 2 excerpt)

  • “Students will also visually represent equivalent number sentences on a balance to help them conceptualize how these expressions could be represented in another (visual) manner.” (Task 2 excerpt)

  • “I specifically incorporated kinesthetic approaches because there are numerous students in this particular classroom who benefit from this type of instruction. … There are a number of students which fall in the below proficient category for math and from previous experiences with these students I have learned that these students have an easier time grasping a concept which they can refer back to via hands-on experience…” (Task 2 excerpt)


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Strategies Planned and Used to Develop Academic Language experiences where they practice academic language that they have learned and encounter new academic language.”

  • “I posed multiple number sentences and students were asked to respond with true or false.” (Task 5 excerpt)

  • “It seemed once they were introduced to their misconceptions they quickly moved past them in pursuit of developing a deep understanding of the concept.” (Task 5 excerpt)


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Strategies Planned and Used to Develop Academic Language experiences where they practice academic language that they have learned and encounter new academic language.”

  • “Throughout these class discussions and activities instructor will help students define and fine tune mathematical vocabulary that may be unclear …” (Task 2 excerpt)

  • “Instructor will help students better communicate themselves by modeling the use of academic language…” (Task 2 excerpt)

  • “The planning started with less complex concepts such as, 3 + _ = 9. This was done in order to build a firm foundation of the function of the equal sign, so as not to divert attention to complex expressions with multiple symbols.” (Task 2 excerpt)

  • “…[Give] …(ELL’s in particular) the opportunity for the content, term or language to be heard within the context numerous time. … Students can effectively learn mathematics in heterogeneous groups if structures are developed to provide appropriate, differentiated support for a range of students.” (Task 2 excerpt)


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Scoring on the Academic Language Rubric experiences where they practice academic language that they have learned and encounter new academic language.”

  • EM 10 - “Candidate identifies a wide range of language demands associated with learning the instructional content, this includes (equal, greater than, less than, true/false, balances. Candidate noted some inconsistincies in her own presentation of academic language and outlined in her next steps how she would address this.” (Score report)

  • Score: 2


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Scoring on the Academic Language Rubric experiences where they practice academic language that they have learned and encounter new academic language.”

  • EM 11 - Candidate appeared to have thoughtfully considered practices and examples that would actively engage students and support language demands. These include students holding number cards and demonstrating different formats (9=4+5 or 4+5=9); community solving of problems and articulating reasoning strategies. Candidate does articulate why strategies would benefit students, and supports her reasoning with research (Carpenter, Franke & Levi), stating that students need to be in positions that offer them opportunity to articulate and perhaps challenge existing conceptions or misconceptions. The video segment presented examples of the candidate presenting explicit models, opportunities for practice and feedback/questions that nudge students to articulate their problem solving strategies and/or justify a response. These strategies supported students’ language development.

  • Score: 3


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Implications of The Multiple Subject Case experiences where they practice academic language that they have learned and encounter new academic language.”

  • Academic language can be a part of the central focus of a mathematics lesson

  • Complex mathematical thinking can be facilitated by focusing on the language demands of the discipline

  • There is value in discussing and extolling misconceptions