448 ELL Academic Language

Report
Building Academic Language for
ALL Learners, Including ELL
EDC 448 – Dr. Coiro
Objectives

Build an understanding of the functions and challenging
features of Academic Language (in English)

Make connections between instructional strategies that
work for ALL Learners and those that especially benefit
English Language Learners

Explore and reflect on the potentials of vocabulary
activities that help learners appreciate nuanced shades of
meaning and actively make nuanced connections
between key concepts in your content area
Social Language versus
Academic Language
What is Academic Language?

Academic language proficiency: the abilities to construct
meaning from oral and written language, related complex
ideas and information, recognize features of different
genres, and use various linguistic strategies to
communicate

Academic language: a set of words, grammar, and
organizational strategies used to describe complex ideas,
higher-order thinking processes, and abstract concepts
So what’s the big deal about
ELLs in the United States?

96% of English-Language Learners (ELL’s) scored BELOW
BASIC on NAEP Reading Exam (2005)

31% of ELL’s drop out of high school (compared to 10% native
English speakers)

In the last 15 years, ELL
populations have grown between
200% - 500% in states outside
the top five states (CA, TX,
FL, NY, IL)

Content area teachers MUST
address their needs!
Explicitly Teaching Academic Language:
Bricks and Mortar

Bricks: technical words specific to a discipline
(vary from concrete to abstract) = Tier 3 words

Mortar: general-utility words that hold the
content-specific technical words together (often
abstract as well) = Tier 2 words or “connectors”

Useful for explicitly teaching and linking academic
language/text & thinking
Explicitly Teaching Academic Language:
Bricks and Mortar
BRICKS
MORTAR
Language Arts: Imagery,
alliteration, theme,
metaphor, plot
That is, implied, contains,
leads us to believe, teaches a
message
History: revolution,
emancipation, right,
obligarchy
Math: reciprocal, balance,
proof, hypotenuse, obtuse,
matrix
Therefore, as a result,
consequently, consist of
Science: mitosis, gravity,
force, sublimation
Hypothesis, variable, infer,
results, dependent
If…then, end up with,
derive, take care of, thus,
suppose
Functions of
Academic Language

1. To Describe Complex Ideas and Relationships



2. To Describe Higher-Order Thinking



Example: human body systems, chemical reactions, geological forces; good and
bad historical figures; complex word problems
People struggle to use tools of language to make clear and accessible
Example: metacognitive reading/thinking strategies (MMDAAVISS)
How to bridge language from “outside” school walls to classroom language
3. To Describe Abstraction


“On the other hand, the two scientists had differing views on the topic of evolution.”
(language cues are not automatic for everyone; no “average” student)
Create situations and tasks that train students to notice this language, and engage
in thinking that reflects these abstractions (e.g., use graphic organizers - the longterm effects of war; evidence that supports opposing position; similarities between
two cultures, interpretations of characters words/actions)
Challenging Features of
Academic Language

Figurative expressions (e.g., it boils down to; read between the lines;
that answer doesn’t hold water) builds on knowledge of
metaphors/cliches

Multiple meaning words (e.g., register; block; note) require mental
flexibility and experiences in different contexts

Explicit language for “distant audiences” requires different language
than that of oral language around the dinner table (note differences)

Supportive evidence to back up claims (what evidence is good?)

Long sentences with complex shades of verb meaning (The people
could look for shelter elsewhere … would, can, will, shall, might, may,
must, should, ought to..) and if/then qualifiers
Challenging If/Then Qualifiers
in Academic Language

Scientific method: If I were to add this to the mixture, what would
happen?

Alternative possibilities in History: What would have happened if
the Germans had repelled the invasion?

Narrative interpretations: How would you feel if you were in her
shoes? If the character had been a woman, would the people have
respected her less?

Math problem solving: If we put a zero in the denominator, what
would happen? Could we solve this if gravity were not a constant?
How can content-area teachers
address these challenges?
Explicitly teach and then design opportunities to practice…
Understanding nuances of academic language in each
discipline
1.

SEE YOUR HANDOUTS for subject-specific academic expressions
Understanding how words are used to communicate shades of
meaning
2.

SEMANTIC GRADIENTS ACTIVITY
Actively making personal connections and seeing
relationships between ideas
3.

LIST-GROUP-LABEL ACTIVITY
Homework
(Note changes in syllabus)

Due Tuesday, March 6: CHOOSE ONE:



Due Thursday, March 8:



Video Webcast and Reflection
Summary Handout and Reflection
Concept Definition for Two Terms from Your Lesson Plan
Text (use handout from class)
NOTEBOOK CHECK!!! Bring to class
Continue work on Lesson Plan Backward Design
Organizer (Blue handout with 3 columns)

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