About Academic Language / Teacher Education

Teaching about Academic Language: 15 Things I would like educators to know

By Susan Ranney, from the Teacher Education Pedagogies Learning Series
University of Minnesota, February 16, 2017

  1. Academic language is not just the language of school – It goes beyond school tasks.
  2. Other languages and styles of speaking can be used in learning. Teaching academic language doesn’t require being exclusive or discriminatory to other forms of language.
  3. Academic language is used in communicating complex and abstract ideas so students need to have access to it in order to comprehend complex texts and communicate effectively in a wide range of contexts.
  4. School is a place where children can and should gain access to academic language. Teachers need to deliberately plan for scaffolding, modeling, and providing opportunities for learning academic language.
  5. Academic language, as well as any kind of language, has features that operate on the levels of vocabulary, syntax, and discourse.
  6. Academic vocabulary includes both subject specific words and general academic words.
  7. Academic vocabulary should be taught deliberately and systematically, in meaningful contexts.
  8. There are tools to help teachers identify general academic vocabulary and special learners’ dictionaries are useful tools in for teachers to consult in teaching vocabulary.
  9. Academic syntax often has complex sentences and expanded noun phrases that are challenging for many students to process.
  10. Syntax can be taught in meaningful, communicative ways rather than through traditional grammar lessons.
  11. Discourse patterns refer to the ways we organize and link extended chunks of oral or written language.
  12. Discourse varies by genre, discipline, and culture. Students need explicit instruction, models and practice with different discourse styles and features.
  13. Academic conversations that build ideas need to be modeled, taught, and practiced. Students need extensive opportunities to practice speaking in academic ways as well as a focus on academic language in literacy tasks.
  14. The teaching-learning cycle is an approach that is especially useful in literacy development as it scaffolds academic language structures through modeling, deconstruction, and joint construction of texts.
  15. Academic language proficiency can be a major determiner in performance on assessments and teachers need to take this into consideration in designing assessments as well as preparing students for assessments.
Featured image courtesy of pixabay.com

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