conclusion, sentence fragment); from grammar (such as action verbs, noun clauses, subjects, predicates, homonyms, antonyms, imperative, declarative, interrogative); as well as from other components of the curriculum. Obviously, you will need to intro- duce and teach key content vocabulary when teaching poetry, biography, plays, and other genres related to both reading and writing.
Process/Function Words. These are the words and phrases that have to do with functional language use, such as how to request information, justify opinions, state a conclusion, uncover an author’s message, “state in your own words,” identify mul- tiple perspectives, summarize, persuade, question, interpret, and so forth. Tasks that students are to accomplish during a lesson also fit into this category, and for English learners, their meanings may need to be taught explicitly. Examples include list, explain, paraphrase, debate, identify, create, write a five-paragraph essay, define, share with a partne , and so forth.
Words and Word Parts That Teach English Structure. These are words and word parts that enable students to learn new vocabulary, primarily based on English morphology. Although instruction in this category generally falls under the responsi- bility of English-language arts teachers, we also encourage teachers of other content areas to be aware of the academic language of their own disciplines. While you teach past tense (such as adding an -ed to regular verbs) as part of your ELA curriculum, a history teacher might reinforce past tense by pointing out that when we talk or write about historical events, we use the past tense of English. Similarly, as part of an ELA curriculum, you are responsible for teaching about English morphology (base words, roots, prefixes, suffixes). However, science teachers use many words with these morphemes as part of their key vocabulary (such as arthropod, ecosystem, anaerobic respiration). If English learners (and other students) have an opportunity to read, write, and orally produce words with complex parts during their English/ language arts class as well as their history and science classes, English development is doubly reinforced. And, if this reinforcement occurs every school day, one can assume that English learners’ mastery of English will be accelerated, as happens with repeated practice in any new learning situation. For a usable and informative list of English word roots that provide the clue to more than 100,000 English words, refer to pages 60–61 of Making Content Comprehensible for English Learners: The SIOP® Model (Echevarria, Vogt, & Short, 2008). This is a must-have list for both elementary and secondary teachers in ALL curricular areas. Picture a stool with three legs. If one of the legs is broken, the stool will not be able to
fulfill its function, which is to hold a person who sits on it. From our experience, English learners must have instruction in and practice with all three “legs” of academic vocabulary (content words, process/function words, and words/word parts that teach English structure) if they’re going to develop the academic language they need to be successful students.
Of course, academic English also involves reading and writing. As you most likely know, the National Reading Panel (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2000) defined the components of reading as phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and reading comprehension. Research suggests that high-quality instruction in these five components generally works for English learners as well, although additional focus on oral language development and background building are called for to enhance comprehension (August & Shanahan, 2006; Goldenberg, 2008).
What Is Academic Language?