Saturday, December 19, 2009

Helping ELLs Acquire Academic Content

This article appeared in ASCD Express,
Volume 5 | Issue 5 | December 10, 2009. -Angela

Helping ELLs Acquire Academic Content

Academic language, as described by ASCD authors Pérsida and William Himmele, is “the language of books.” Acquiring academic language means learning content-specific as well as non-content-specific vocabulary and navigating the grammatical patterns of informational texts.

Classroom teachers bear the most responsibility for conveying academic content, so they need ways to actively engage English language learners (ELLs) in lessons that help them simultaneously develop language and comprehend content.

In this issue of ASCD Express, you'll learn how to embed academic language in any conversation, how language objectives strengthen lesson objectives, how to help ELLs understand figurative language, and how to use graphic organizers to scaffold content-specific vocabulary.


Increasing Exposure to Academic Language by Speaking It
For teachers to increase students' exposure to academic language, it's important that they approach almost any verbal interaction as an opportunity for developing academic language. They can support ELLs by using academic language in meaningful contexts and following difficult words with synonymous terms.


You Don't Have to Be a Specialist: Supporting ELLs in Content-Area Reading
Attending to language objectives with strategies before, during, and after reading will set up ELLs for success and also complements lesson objectives for all students.


Helping ELLs Become Smart Cookies: Unpacking Idioms
Idioms, which are so common in the English language, can be a roadblock for ELLs. But having students identify and generate hypotheses about figurative language can aid comprehension, and idiom journals and walls can spark students' investigative curiosity and chart their progress.


Tools for Implementation

Are You Fluent in Best Practices for ELLs?

Content-Area Conversations
Educating Linguistically and Culturally Diverse Students Professional Inquiry Kit


Content Writing Strategies to Support ELLs
Teachers can help all students, and especially ELLs, understand and retain content-area vocabulary and concepts by using student-created glossaries and inviting student-directed learning.

Watch the video


New Leaders for New Schools: Hiring an Aligned Instructional Staff
Teachers spend the most time with students and have the biggest effect on student learning. So for principals, establishing selection criteria, recruiting, and hiring the right teachers can feel like a herculean responsibility. This fifth column in our series about principal leadership in urban schools describes how New Leaders follow through.

My Back Pages: Teaching the Language of Thinking
Because teaching and learning are transmitted mainly through language, Art Costa and Robert Marzano—in a 1987 Educational Leadership article—encourage teachers to demonstrate and develop the language of thinking in classroom discussions and procedures.

New Voices

Give ELLs Time to Play with Vocabulary
By using multiple mediums and dedicating time to unpack academic vocabulary words with examples from other cultures and disciplines, teachers can deepen students' connection to and comprehension of new content.


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