Sunday, July 8, 2012

How to Teach Academic Vocabulary to ELLs--Especially Important in Common Core Based Lessons!

Acquiring academic vocabulary will be one of the major challenges for ELLs once the country moves to common core.  As most teachers of ELLs already know, often times ELLs sound "fluent", but that spoken language is informal in nature.  It is conversational English.  This type of English leads to compositions that are copies of this speech.  Such writing samples are full of Tier 1 words (to be discussed in videos below) such as NICE, GOOD, LIKE, etc.  Rarely do you find academic language such as content specific vocabulary, academic language verbs such as PREDICT, CONVERT, ANALYZE, etc.  Sentences in these compositions are very simplistic with occasional inserts of compound sentences using AND, BUT, OR.  Accurate complex sentences are often absent or full of errors. 

ACADEMIC VOCABULARY Here Elizabeth Coelho provides a detailed overview on how to build academic language for ELLs and EOs alike.  Teachers need to carefully review words in lectures or books that might have more than one meaning.  In her lecture, she mentions the word "ROCK."  ELLs may only be familiar with the object on the lawn that can be thrown.  When the class moves to science and rock-types are addressed such as igneous rocks, teachers need to build background knowledge.  Further, the word "igneous" will probably never be encountered again in their lives unless they study geology in college so how much time should be devoted to such a word.  So teachers need to identify true academic words (words that carry over into multiple disciplines) from "one shot" words that don't need as much time devoted to them. 

Common core standards expect all teachers to equip students with the necessary skills to build vocabulary by using context clues, sentence structure, word parts, etc.  Figurative language will also play a part as students become at ease in recognizing analogies, metaphors, similes, etc.   Essentially, the CCSS wants to make sure that students will be able to secure good jobs after high school and have such vocabulary building skills already in place in their transition to the real world.

The CCSS will better equip ELLs and EOs to succeed in life after high school.



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