Supporting the Development of Academic Language Jill Robbins Second Language Learning Consultants, Washington, DC What’s difficult in Math? • Verbal Explanations: referent is abstract, must produce explanations • Vocabulary: unique words and specialized meanings of common words: round, table, little context • Structures: specialized syntax • Non-Linguistic Factors: measurement system, numerical conventions Math’s Syntactic Structures • Comparatives (greater/less than; n times as much as; as…as) • Prepositions (divided into; divided by; multiplied by) • Passive Voice (x is defined as…) • Reversals (a = b - 5 or b - a = 5) • Logical Connectors (if…then…) Problem-Solving Steps 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Understand the problem Find the needed information Choose a plan Solve the problem Check the answer What’s difficult in Science? • Vocabulary: Latin/Greek • Discourse: facts presented; • Inferences expected • Structures: increasingly complex • Academic Language Skills • Concepts: • conflict with naïve understandings • Study Skills: • locate info, take notes • Read diagrams, charts What’s difficult in Social Studies? • Concepts & Prior Knowledge • Vocabulary: words represent complex ideas: democracy • Language Functions:analyze, compare, contrast, evaluate • Structures: long sentences with embedded clauses; cause/effect phrases; variety of tenses used What is Academic Language? • Language used during teaching and learning. • Language of literature. • Language in content textbooks. • Language used to communicate new concepts. • Language of literacy. Teaching Academic Language 1. Identify student needs 2. Provide comprehensible texts 3. Expect authentic and appropriate student products Sociolinguistic Perspective on Academic Language • Solomon & Rhodes (1995) Identified disparity between researchers’ and educators’ concepts of academic language • Cultural component to academic discourse: differing Initiation-ReplyEvaluation (IRE) patterns (Phiilips 1983) 1. Academic Language Needs of English Learners • Develop academic vocabulary. • Understand and use correct grammatical structures and appropriate discourse. • Read to acquire new information. • Understand information presented orally. • Participate in classroom discussions. • Write to communicate knowledge and ideas. 2. Academic Language Texts • Informational texts: articles, essays, textbooks, websites, electronic databases. • Oral texts: teacher, speakers, students, video, TV, film. 3. Academic Language Products • Science lab reports and presentations • Math problem explanations. • Social Studies research reports. • Constructed answers to demonstrate comprehension. Analyzing Textbook Language What difficulties will ELLs have with this type of content material? THE TEACHER’S ROLE • Model academic language. • Practice literacy across the curriculum. • Teach language awareness. • Develop students’ metacognition. • Teach learning strategies. Language Awareness and Use • Focus on language forms. • Identify language registers. • Practice language functions. • Differentiate between discourse styles. • Use language for critical thinking. • Gain insight into own L1 and L2.