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Examples for Standards for Grades 9–12

  • Critique the logic of functional documents by examining the sequence of information and procedures in anticipation of possible reader misunderstandings.

  • Describe with sensory details the sights, sounds, and smells of a scene and the specific actions, movements, gestures, and feelings of the characters.

  • Discern the meaning of analogies encountered, analyzing specific comparisons as well as relationships and inferences. As you can see, many of the underlined words may be used in other content areas as

well, but students need to be explicitly taught their meaning. Some of these words are common, but have a specialized meaning in the English-language arts. And, as mentioned previously, for those of us who teach ELA, it’s sometimes difficult to separate “academic language” from “content language” (and you might even wish to argue some of our examples above in terms of which is which!). For students who speak a Latin-based lan- guage such as Spanish, cognates may help in teaching some words. For example, predict in English is predecir in Spanish; justify in English is justificar in Spanish; communication in English is communicacion in Spanish.

What is important is that academic language is taught so that English learners and struggling readers can be successful throughout the school day. In the English-language arts, academic language enables students to read, write, and speak like writers, literary critics, and knowledgeable and informed readers.

In Appendix B you will find a comprehensive list of ELA and academic words and phrases across several domains in the grade-level clusters used throughout this book (K–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12). The words and phrases were culled from the California State Con- tent Standards for the English-Language Arts. Your state’s standards and domains will dif- fer a bit, but we hope this extensive list will assist you in your lesson and unit planning, and in the writing of your content and language objectives.

Concluding Thoughts

Proficiency in English is the best predictor of academic success, and understanding academic language is an important part of overall English proficiency. In this chapter we have discussed what academic language is, why it is important, and how it can be devel- oped. In ELA, teachers need to explicitly teach both content area terms and general academic terms as well as provide opportunities for students to develop academic language, so that English learners can fully participate in lessons, meet content standards for the English-language arts, and increase their academic language proficiency. An important way to provide opportunities for students to learn and practice academic language is through classroom conversations and structured discussions. When you teach students how to participate in classroom conversations, you not only improve their English skills but also prepare them to understand the type of language used by historians, scientists, mathematicians, authors, literary critics, and other scholars. You will give them the tools they need to practice language skills that will enable them to back up claims with evidence, be more detailed in their observations, use persuasive language compellingly in arguments, and compare events or points of view.

Concluding Thoughts

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