The words, vocabulary and concepts we utilize in the proccess of completing tasks for the acquisition of knowledge and learning. The multidimensional and dynamic nature (Halliday, 1993) of academic language means the language evolves from the tasks of doing school to the changing nature of texts used outside of school.
Definitions of academic language usually then focus on the context, which could include the genre, topic, text, or the process, such as words often used to answer questions.
Academic language is: – the language used in the classroom and workplace – the language of text – the language assessments – the language of academic success – the language of power (Scarcella, 2012)
A review of the research and after the conclusion of a large scale program to increase academic language in urban schools researchers concluded that academic language is harder to learn and use then other types of specialized vocabulary (Snow, & Uccelli, 2009) this holds for English speakers and second language learners.
For ELL students you must consider the language demands of the task. You can often preteach these vocabulary words as much as the vocabulary of the content. It is important to give students the words in contexts in both languages.
Overall teach students how to use and produce the texts to get school done as high levels of academic language predict future success in school and life.
Beck, McKeown and Kucan (2002) developed a three-tiered model as a general framework for vocabulary that gets used in the Common Core State Standards discussion of academic language.
Tier One- 2,000–3,000 high frequency word families Tier Two- 7,000 high utility and general academic words Tier Three 85,000 words or 18,000 word families specific to a discipline such as barometric“
Teach students the language of both the content and the language of how the content gets organized through text structure.
Examine texts to see what words are critical to know in order to complete the task. Pre-teach these words to students. Especially for differentiation.
Create a classroom of readers and writers who understand how academic language gets used by those in power and how we can use the language as a source of our own collective power to change the world. Reinforce this community through a culture of success where we discuss what expert readers and writers do in different disciplines. Celebrate the work of children and your own writing process.
Model, highlight, and scaffold how you make and read different texts within the disciplines.