their content classes. This will enable English learners to negotiate meaning through con- firming and disconfirming their understanding while they work and interact with others.
In addition to explicit vocabulary instruction, we need to provide a variety of scaf- folds, including context. Writing a list of new terms on the board or pointing out sen- tences that are bolded in the textbook only helps if students know what they mean. To create a context for learning academic English, teachers must preteach terms and sentence patterns (e.g., interrogative and declarative), and explain them in ways that students can understand and relate to, followed by showing how the terms and sentence patterns are used in the textbook. Scaffolding involves providing enough support to students so that they are gradually able to be successful independently. Another way of scaffolding academic English is to have word walls or posters displayed that show academic language (such as literary terms with definitions) or processes (such as a strategy poster for decoding unknown words). Certainly, older learners can work in groups to create these posters with mnemonics, including cartoons or other illustrations. As English learners refer to and use these posted academic language words and phrases, they will internalize the terms and begin to use them independently.
In the lesson plans and units that appear in Chapters 3–7, you will see a variety of instructional techniques and activities for teaching, practicing, and using academic lan- guage in the English-language arts classroom. As you read the lesson plans, note the box on the lesson plan that is labeled “academic vocabulary.” Reflect on why particular activi- ties were selected for the respective content and language objectives. Additional resources for selecting effective activities that develop academic language and content knowledge include: Buehl’s Classroom Strategies for Interactive Learning (2009); Vogt and Echever- ria’s 99 Ideas and Activities for Teaching English Learners with the SIOP® Model (2008); and Reiss’s 102 Content Strategies for English Language Learners (2008). Secondary teachers will also find the following books to be helpful: Zwiers’s Building Academic Language: Essential Practices for Content Classrooms (Grades 5-12) (2008), and Developing Academic Thinking Skills in Grades 6–12: A Handbook of Multiple Intelligence Activities (2004).
The Role of Discussion and Conversation in Developing Academic Language
As mentioned previously, researchers who have investigated the relationship between language and learning suggest that there should be more balance in student talk and teacher talk in order to promote meaningful language learning opportunities for English learners (Cazden, 2001; Echevarria, 1995; Tharp & Gallimore, 1988; Walqui, 2006). In order to achieve a better balance, teachers need to carefully analyze their own class- room interaction patterns, the way they formulate questions, how they provide students with academic feedback, and the opportunities they provide for students to engage in meaningful talk.
Not surprisingly, teacher questioning usually drives the type and quality of classroom discussions. The IRE or IRF pattern discussed previously is characterized by questions to which the teacher already knows the answer and results in the teacher unintentionally expecting students to “guess what I’m thinking” (Echevarria & Silver, 1995). In fact, researchers have found that explicit, “right there” questions are used about 50% of the
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