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who love the English language, treasure great literature, and recognize the turn of a good phrase, whether delivered orally or in writing.

However . . . how did you feel when you purchased your most recent BlackBerry/fancy cell phone/digital camera/new computer . . . and you had to figure out how to turn it on? It’s amazing how highly educated, literate people, including educators, can turn into mush when trying to navigate today’s technology. As an example, perhaps you have run across words and phrases in a product’s manual such as:

  • glog (hmm . . . like a blog?)

  • e-cycle center (a store where you can buy e-cycles?)

  • dynamic smart cooling (something to aid menopausal women?)

  • chiller (an especially cold smoothie?)

  • in-row cooling (like an ice cube tray?)

  • drexting (texting while wearing a dress?)

  • conficker (we don’t even want to try . . .)

  • influencer (we’ve got it . . . the suffix “er” means “one who . . .”)

While one who influences is a good guess here, the actual technological definition for influencer is: In the blogosphere, an influencer is a person who blogs about a specific sub- ject and is highly recognized online as an expert. An influencer differs from an a-list blogger in that they are often able to sway another’s opinions and thoughts on the subject matter.

Okay, but what’s an a-list blogger? And, were you able to resist the temptation to correct the definition to read, “An influencer differs from an a-list blogger in that he or she is . . .?” Further, if one of your students used the word influencer in an essay, how quickly would you circle it in red and jot, “No such word . . .”?

We have all had experiences where, as knowledgeable, well-read, educated people, we became lost when we listened to or read about a new and unfamiliar topic. We’re often tripped up by the terminology, phrases, and concepts that are unique to the subject matter. When this happens, we most likely become frustrated and disinterested, and we may tune out and give up. Every day, many English learners sit in classrooms where both the topic and the related words and concepts are totally unfamiliar to them. Other ELs may have familiarity with the topic, perhaps even some expertise, but because they don’t know the English words, terminology, and phrases—that is, the content-specific academic language— they are also unable to understand what is being taught.

What Is Academic Language?

As an elementary reading/language arts teacher or secondary English teacher, you may be wondering how it is possible to separate “academic language” from all the other types of language within our content area. This is similar to the dilemma frequently expressed by language arts teachers that it’s especially challenging to write language objectives because as language arts teachers, all we “do” is language! However, within our particular content area, academic language plays a critically important role, and for English learners (as well as struggling readers and writers), academic language can provide serious chal- lenges. In this chapter, we will define academic language (also referred to as “academic English”), discuss why academic language is challenging for ELs, and offer suggestions

chapter 1

/ Academic Language of the English-Language Arts

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