Erica Bowers, Ed.D.
[email protected]
Laura Keisler, Ed.D.
[email protected]
What is the goal for the learners you
support?

Academic Literacy!
If advanced academic literacy is our goalthan we, as teachers, must be acutely aware
of the academic language demands students
will encounter.
What is different about language as
students progress through the grades?
It becomes more “Academic.”

 Scarcella (2003) defines Academic English as “a variety or a
register of English used in professional books and characterized
by the specific linguistic features associated with academic
disciplines.”
 “The difference between the ‘everyday’ and the ‘specialist’ lexis
[words] is a major way that language of academic texts differs
from the ordinary interactional language of daily life”
(Schleppegrell, 2004).
 Language used to “access and engage with the school
curriculum” (Bailey & Heritage, 2008)
From Narrative to
Academic

Science Text

 Use very specific content area
language
 Cause/Effect structure
if _____, then _____
 You need to be able to “read”
And present information
graphically
Math Texts

• Use very content
specific
language
• Diagrams,
equations,
graphs
• A lot of text on
one page!
History Texts
• Tend to use another
“voice”
• Use multiple charts,
graphs, pictures,
political cartoons.
• Unfamiliar phrases

Don’t think Language Arts is
Immune!
• Content specific
language AND
multiple meaning
words!
• Bloom’s language
• Complex sentence
structure

Students must learn to…

Read, write, and speak like a scientist
Read, write, and speak like a
historian
Read, write, and speak like a
mathematician
What makes Academic
Language so difficult?

Academic language is more than just the words (vocabulary) we
speak- it’s knowing how and when to use them!
For example:
Everyday language: Cow-brain sandwiches are illegal now
because you might get Mad Cow.
Science speak, “Human consumption of the cerebrum matter of
the Bos taurus or related bovid mammals is currently
interdicted by legislation related to the potential for Bovine
Spongiform Encephalopathy—or BSE—contraction.”
Distinguishing between the Form
and Function of Language

Language Forms- the
structure of language.
 Syntax and sentence
structure
 Narrative and
Expository text
structure
 Grammatical features
 Academic Vocabulary
Language Functions: the
purposes/tasks for using
language.
 Explain
 Infer
 Analyze
 Synthesize
 Compare/Contrast
 Persuade
Vocabulary: A Key Component to
Comprehension

Vocabulary knowledge strongly
influences reading comprehension
.(Nagy & Scott ,
2000; Beck & McKeown, 2007)
Knowledge of word meanings affects
every aspect of language knowledge.
2003, p. 241)
(Stahl,

Which words do I
choose?
The Importance of Selecting
the “Right” Words

So many words,
135,473
13,882 words
2,980 words
1,676 words
620 words
203 words
107 words
so little time!
• 310 words make up
about 50% of words
in text.
• We often find
ourselves teaching
the rare words that
only occur in 10% of
text!
• The trick is to teach
the middle of the
pyramid.
Zeno et al., 1995
One Method for
Selecting Vocabulary

Tier Words
 A strategy created by Beck, Mckeown, & Kucan
(2002) to select critical words for instruction.
Tier Words

An ideal reader’s vocabulary contains three tiers of
cont.
words:
 Tier 1 words- high frequency & common words. We
gain most of these words through exposure in oral
language. (i.e., happy, run, stop…)
 Tier 3 words- infrequent words that are often content
driven (i.e., ptolemy, viscosity, temperance). It is best
to directly teach these using student friendly
definitions.
Tier Words

cont.
Tier 2 words- occur frequently in the ideal
reader’s vocabulary and across many
content areas (i.e., manufacturing, journal,
recycle).
These are the words to focus on during
instruction.
Try it….

Johnny Harrington was a kind master who treated his
servants fairly. He was also a successful wool merchant,
and his business required that he travel often. In his
absence, his servants would tend to the fields and cattle
and maintain the upkeep of his mansion. They
performed their duties happily, for they felt fortunate
to have such a benevolent and trusting master.
Which words are Tier 2?
Activity excerpted from Beck, McKeown, & Kucan, 2002, p. 16
Do your selections
agree?

Johnny Harrington was a kind master who treated his
servants fairly. He was also a successful wool merchant,
and his business required that he travel often. In his
absence, his servants would tend to the fields and cattle
and maintain the upkeep of his mansion. They
performed their duties happily, for they felt fortunate
to have such a benevolent and trusting master.
Another Consideration…

 Words with more that take on a shade of a different
meaning in a content area….
e.g., function, distribute, factor, power.
Academic Vocabulary:
making it explicit

What technical vocabulary might
students be unfamiliar with?
Is everyday vocabulary used in an
unfamiliar way in the text (i.e., are there
words with multiple meanings students
might not be aware of)?
Technical Vocabulary

Content/topic specific vocabulary they
need to learn in order to understand the
reading and build their knowledge of the
subject
Integer
Hypothesis
Myth
Acropolis
Everyday Vocabulary

words that students are likely to encounter in
many subject areas and can have either a
specialized or more general meaning depending
on the context in which they are being used.
Students may be familiar with these words but
find that they may be used in unfamiliar or unique
ways in a particular content area.
Try it…
Give a definition for each word to the person
sitting next to you:

Word Everyday Meanings Technical Meaning in a content area
Order __________________
___________________________
Odd
__________________
___________________________
Story
__________________
___________________________
Good
__________________
___________________________
Pool
__________________
___________________________
Try this one!

Find X
X
4
8
Other Resources for
Selecting Words

 The Academic Word List (List of Academic Words
that occur in multiple academic contexts across
genres):
http://www.victoria.ac.nz/lals/resources/academicw
ordlist/
 Word Count (86,800 most frequently occurring
words in English ranked by order of frequency)
http://www.wordcount.org/main.php
Research suggests four main principles to
guide vocabulary instruction:
1.

Students should be active in developing their understanding
2.
Students should personalize word meanings.
3.
Students should be immersed in words.
4.
Students should build on multiple sources of information to
learn words through repeated exposures
of words and ways to learn them.
(Nagy & Scott , 2000)
Activities that utilize the 4
principles of effective vocabulary
instruction

 Parade-Pause-Pair Vocabulary
 The Semantic Sleuth Response Boards
 The Semantic Sleuth
 4-Corners
 Multiple Meaning Carousel
 The Semantic Sleuth Squad
 Rise and Fall Definitions
 Vocabulary Memory Boxes
Excerpted from Bowers & Keisler, 2010.
Games are excerpted from: Bowers, E. & Keisler, L. (2010). Building Academic Language
through Content-Area Text: Strategies to Support English Language Learners. Huntington
Beach, CA: Shell Education.
Rise and Fall Definitions

 Teacher shares a sentence using a vocabulary word and
offers two definitions for the word.
 Students select the definition they feel is correct.
 Rise (stand) or fall (sit) represents the 2 answer choices.
 Students rise or fall depending on which answer they feel
is correct.
Rise and Fall Definitions

Teacher sentence:
At the beginning of the brainstorming session the
leaders had an inchoate idea of what their mission
statement should be.
Rise: not yet completed, or fully formed; vague
Fall: crazy, wild, irrational.
Rise and Fall Definitions

Teacher definition:
After Sam forgot their anniversary, roses were not enough
to mollify Sadie, who was clear that nothing less than
diamonds would get him back in her good graces.
Rise: invalidate, annul, void, cancel
Fall: To soften, appease, pacify
Parade-Pause-Pair

 Students make cards with either just the vocabulary word or
just the definition.
 Students choose one of their cards to
“parade.”
 Students get up and parade (mix) until the teacher says,
“pause.”
 They pair with the closest person and share their card.
 The pairs determine the word to match the definition or the
definition to match the word.
 After 2 “parades” students switch cards with their partner
and continue playing.
The Semantic Sleuth
Squad

•Students are arranged in teams and each team is
given a vocabulary word used in a teacher generated
sentence.
•Students work as a group to define their word by
using context clues or word structure strategies.
•Students write a team definition, explanation of the
strategy they used to determine the meaning, and
use the word correctly in a sentence.
Semantic Sleuth Squad

Sentence:
Becky bought a machine that would help her to
desiccate her fruit so that she could eat it in the
winter.
Strategy:
Team definition:
Team sentence:
Semantic Sleuth Squad

Sentence:
His enemy was in an enervated state after he had been
deprived of food and water.
Strategy:
Team Definition:
Team Sentence:
References

Beck, I., McKeown, M. G., & Kucan, L. (2002). Bringing words to life: Robust vocabulary instruction. New
York, NY: Guilford Press.
Beck, I. & McKeown, M.G. (2007). Increasing young low income children’s oral vocabulary repertoires
through rich and focused instruction. The Elementary School Journal, 107(3), pp. 251-271.
Bowers, E. & Keisler, L. (2010). Building Academic Language through Content-Area Text: Strategies to
Support English Language Learners. Huntington Beach, CA: Shell Education. Huntington Beach, CA:
Shell Education.
Juel, C., Biancarosa, G., Coker, D., & Deffes, R. (2003).Walking with Rosie: A cautionary tale of early
reading instruction. Educational Leadership, 60(7), pp.12–18.
Nagy, W.E., & Scott, J.A. (2000). Vocabulary Processes. In M.L. Kamil, P. Mosenthal, P.D. Pearson, &
R. Barr (Eds.), Handbook of reading research (Vol. III, pp. 269-284). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Snow, C. E. (1990). The development of definitional skill. Journal of Child Language, 17, pp. 697-710.
Stahl, S. A. (2003). Vocabulary and readability: How knowing word meanings affects comprehension.
Top Language Disorders, 23(3), pp. 241- 247.
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Academic Vocabulary