Analyze the academic language demands involved in grade-level teaching and learning.
Throughout the school day, ELLs are surrounded by the academic language of oral and written discourse. The specialized discourse of each content area challenges students to understand and engage with ideas and concepts. Teachers and instructional leaders must be aware of the complexities of language development and consider the features of academic language in planning and implementing curriculum and instruction.
RESEARCH-BASED EVIDENCE FOR ACTION 2
Students’ mastery of grade-level academic language is key to academic success (Freeman & Freeman, 2008; Zwiers, 2008; Frances, et. al., 2006). It is a foundation for college and career readiness for all students, including ELLs. The communication goals of each content area guide the choice of language structures, register, and discourse (Askehave & Swales, 2001; Anstrom et al., 2010). At school, students need opportunities to play the expert and do the communicative work of a particular discipline (Gee, 2008; Hart & Lee, 2003; Irujo, 2007) in order to learn the discipline-specific language. For ELLs in particular, academic language must be made explicit (Valdés, 2001).
Language features can be organized at three levels: discourse, sentence, and word/phrase, which emphasize linguistic complexity, language forms, and vocabulary (Halliday & Hassan, 1989; Bailey & Huang, 2011). Empirical studies have shown how each of these features of language impact students’ overall language proficiency and that language proficiency grows when these features are explicitly taught (Snow & Uccelli, 2009; Echevarría, Short, & Powers, 2006).
A REPRESENTATION OF ACTION 2 IN THE WIDA STANDARDS FRAMEWORK
The Features of Academic Language identify the major characteristics of academic language that WIDA has identified for its three performance criteria: Linguistic Complexity at the discourse level, Language Forms and Conventions at the sentence level, and Vocabulary Usage at the word/phrase level. Linguistic Complexity entails the quantity, quality, and variety of sentences involved in processing or producing language related to ideas and concepts. Language Forms and Conventions take into account the grammatical structures and associated mechanics typically encountered in each discipline or content area. Vocabulary Usage involves general academic words and phrases used in school, specialized content words
At school, students need opportunities to play the expert and do the communicative work of a particular discipline (Gee, 2008; Hart & Lee, 2003; Irujo, 2007) in order to learn the discipline-specific language.
and words with multiple meanings applicable across one or more content areas, and technical words unique to topics within each content area.
The Features of Academic Language, in conjunction with the Performance Definitions, provide the broad set of language expectations for ELLs to be used in interpreting the language development standards and grade-level strands of model performance indicators.
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