By Susan Ranney, from the Teacher Education Pedagogies Learning Series
University of Minnesota, February 16, 2017
- Academic language is not just the language of school – It goes beyond school tasks.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Academic language, as well as any kind of language, has features that operate on the levels of vocabulary, syntax, and discourse.
- Academic vocabulary includes both subject specific words and general academic words.
- Academic vocabulary should be taught deliberately and systematically, in meaningful contexts.
- 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.
- Academic syntax often has complex sentences and expanded noun phrases that are challenging for many students to process.
- Syntax can be taught in meaningful, communicative ways rather than through traditional grammar lessons.
- Discourse patterns refer to the ways we organize and link extended chunks of oral or written language.
- Discourse varies by genre, discipline, and culture. Students need explicit instruction, models and practice with different discourse styles and features.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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