Building Academic Language: Essential Practices for Content Classrooms, Grades 5-12

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9780787987619: Building Academic Language: Essential Practices for Content Classrooms, Grades 5-12

Many students, ranging from native English speakers to recent immigrants, need help in understanding and using the language of school. Language is the lifeblood of learning in all content areas, and it plays a major role in academic achievement. Building Academic Language explains the functions and features of academic language that every teacher (language arts, history, math, & science teachers, etc.) should know for supporting academic reading, writing, and discussion. The book includes research-based instructional and assessment activities that content teachers can use to build students' abilities to understand and describe the many abstract concepts, higher-order thinking skills, and complex relationships in a discipline. The book emphasizes an approach that builds from students' existing ways of learning and communicating, scaffolding them to think and talk as content area experts think and talk about math, science, history, and language arts.

Major topics and themes include:

  • What is academic language and how does it differ by content area?
  • How can language-building activities (discussions, small groups, etc.) support content understanding?
  • How can we build language abilities for content reading and writing - and vice versa?
  • How can we build on students' diverse ways of understanding, learning, and communicating about the world?
  • How can we more effectively model and scaffold academic language in our teaching and assessment?

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From the Back Cover:

Building Academic Language

Essential Practices for Content Classrooms, Grades 5–12

Many students, native English speakers and English learners alike, need extra support in understanding and using the language of school. Language plays a major role in learning, particularly in upper grades as content areas begin to specialize and emphasize different thinking skills, abstract concepts, and complex relationships. Building Academic Language shows what teachers can do to help all students develop the language needed to reach high levels of academic achievement.

Developing academic language involves more than acquiring content-specific vocabulary; it includes learning a wide range of general utility words, figurative expressions, grammatical conventions, and discussion strategies. Drawing from current theory and research, this book provides insights and practical guidance in the following areas:Developing an additive approach that builds on students' existing ways of learning and communicatingModeling and scaffolding language(s) used by content area experts in language arts, history, science, and mathDesigning effective assessments and lessons with language in mindStrengthening the interweaving strands oflanguage, literacy, and content learning

Building Academic Language offers many practical activities and classroom examples as well as a wide range of tips, tools, templates, and rubrics to help teachers integrate language development into content instruction and assessment every busy day.

Praise for Building Academic Language

"Building Academic Language is a thoroughly practical book that is entirely well grounded in theory—it is, without doubt, the best discussion we have to date of academic language and its crucial impact on school success."—James Paul Gee, Mary Lou Fulton Presidential Professor of Literacy Studies, Arizona State University

"Zwiers shows and tells how to weave academic language into everything. He offers content teachers new ways to fortify familiar teaching strategies such that diverse students authentically internalize the language of school . . . I will definitely use this resource in my work with teachers and in my own teaching."—Kristin Stout, teacher coach and professional development provider, Sequoia Union High School District, Redwood City, California

About the Author:

Jeff Zwiers, Ed.D., works with teachers and schools nationally and internationally on the development of literacy, language, and content area instruction. He also teaches teacher education courses at Stanford University.

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