Sie sind auf Seite 1von 10


A Journal for Physical and Sport Educators

ISSN: 0892-4562 (Print) 2168-3778 (Online) Journal homepage:

Academic Language in Physical Education

Phoebe Constantinou

To cite this article: Phoebe Constantinou (2015) Academic Language in Physical Education,
Strategies, 28:3, 9-17, DOI: 10.1080/08924562.2015.1025169

To link to this article:

Published online: 13 May 2015.

Submit your article to this journal

Article views: 369

View related articles

View Crossmark data

Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at

Download by: [West Virginia University Libraries] Date: 01 September 2017, At: 13:16
in Physical Education
Downloaded by [West Virginia University Libraries] at 13:17 01 September 2017

By Phoebe Constantinou

ew York State has recently adopted the education Teacher Performance
Assessment (edTPA) as part of the Teacher Certification Examination (http://www.nystce. The edTPA requires teacher candidates to prepare a comprehensive portfolio
that includes lesson plans, handouts, and video clips of instruction, as well as class assessments and
analyses of student learning. The edTPA has caused much excitement and passionate discussions
among New York State teacher education programs. As a result, a greater collaborative and
cooperative approach among all disciplines, as well as among teacher education programs, has
emerged. One of the edTPA requirements is the integration of academic language into each
instructional task. This requirement has created uncertainty and confusion among preservice
physical education candidates.
Volume 28 May/June 9
pincott & Hill-Bonnet, 2008; Sweetwater District-Wide Aca-
demic Support Teams, 2010, Hundley, 2012).
Discipline-specific Social language is often used to verbally communicate daily
events such as discussing movies in an informal gathering. In
vocabulary can be these situations, an individual has the opportunity to rephrase
and repeat words until the concept being expressed is com-
words such as muscular municated clearly. Social language may include slang, short
sentences, or even incorrect grammar, yet in this context, these
endurance, agility or types of foibles are generally not considered inappropriate.
On the other hand, in a formal academic setting, such as a
forward roll. conference or formal panel discussion, slang, grammatical er-
rors and other language mistakes are considered inappropriate
and unacceptable. Furthermore, in formal academic settings,
the ideas and topics at hand are more complicated and com-
plex. Written formal documents provide no opportunities for
rephrasing or clarifications. Thus, utilizing discipline-specific
Inservice physical educators are in a similar situation. They
Downloaded by [West Virginia University Libraries] at 13:17 01 September 2017

academic language to articulate complex concepts and ideas in

are expected to incorporate the Common Core Literacy Stan- the field is critical for any individual and is imperative for stu-
dards in their teaching as well. The Common Core Standards dent success (Lippincott & Hill-Bonnet, 2008; Wasik, 2006).
(2014) for reading, writing, speaking and listening are directly
related to academic language skills. Thus, two of the most com-
mon questions often raised by both physical education teachers
and teacher candidates are: The edTPA Academic Language
W hat is academic language?
How can it be incorporated into a physical education les- According to the edTPA definition, discipline-specific
son plan? academic language is the language necessary for students to
learn the content and concepts within a discipline (edTPA,
This article answers these two questions and aims to provide 2013).Thus, the language demands necessary for each in-
a step-by-step approach designed to help preservice and in- structional task must be identified. Language demands are
service teachers understand and incorporate academic language the receptive language skills (e.g., listening, reading) and the
into their lesson planning. It provides examples of discipline- productive language skills (e.g., speaking, writing) in other
specific vocabulary, language functions, syntax and discourse. words, all language skills that a student might need to un-
Examples of teaching strategies and assessment tools that en- derstand or communicate concepts (e.g., listen to directions
hance and measure academic language skills are also discussed or read guiding instructions, answer a question verbally, pre-
and presented. pare a fitness plan, analyze a movement pattern, respond to
written questions, research a topic, discuss or give feedback
to peers, etc.). These common lesson activities create language
What Is Academic Language? demands for students and need to be addressed for successful
Academic language is defined as the oral, written and non- completion of the instructional task (OHara, Pritchard, &
verbal language used for academic purposes (edTPA, 2013). Zwiers, 2012)
Academic language is the primary vehicle for teaching, learn-
ing and the overall intellectual development of an individual. Vocabulary
It is the formal language used in textbooks, assessments, class- In the field of physical education, academic language require-
rooms and workplaces. Thus, mastery of academic language is ments include discipline-specific vocabulary and key phrases
considered a powerful and necessary skill, not only for academic (see Figure1 for examples). Discipline-specific vocabulary can
success, but also for professional success. According to Wasik be words such as muscular endurance, agility or forward roll. It
(2006), academic language and vocabulary development appears that discipline-specific vocabulary poses no diculty
in particular is closely related to a students progress and for teacher candidates. They automatically, yet unconsciously,
achievement in school. use such discipline-specific vocabulary in their instructional
Academic language entails higher-order thinking, using tasks. With minor guidance and instruction, teacher candidates
cognitively complex concepts with more technical terms and can become aware of such practices and use the vocabulary pur-
sophisticated vocabulary. Longer sentences incorporating tran- posefully.
sition words, such as however, moreover and in addition,
are necessary to support the grammatical complexity that aca- Language function
demic language demands. One way to become more aware of The candidates uncertainty regarding academic language
academic language is to compare it to social language (Lip- appears to focus primarily on language function and discourse.

10 Strategies
Flexibility, teaching cues, lay-up, jump shot, spike, set, underhand service, skip, jump,
gallop, slide, agility, etc.

Player-to-player defense, V-cut, corner kick, free throw, penalty kick, o-side, etc.
Key Phrases
Downloaded by [West Virginia University Libraries] at 13:17 01 September 2017

Figure 1. Examples of vocabulary and key phrases used in physical education.

Table 1. Cue Words to Assist with Language Function in Physical Education

Analyze Contrast Describe Interpret Sequence Signal

Scrutinize Likewise In other words Guess At which point

Break down However That is to say Conclude that At this time

Dissect Nevertheless According to Estimate Simultaneously

Investigate Despite Specifically Speculate Subsequently

Cue Words

On the other Draw a

Determine Who, what
hand conclusion

Elements Contrary to When, where Believe

Conversely Why, how Due to


In light of

Volume 28 May/June 11
An elephant moves at a ___________ level, but a/an __________ moves at a __________ level. A turtle moves ___________.

However, a/an _____________ moves _____________.

An elephant moves at a high level, but a rabbit moves at medium level. A turtle moves slowly. However, a rabbit moves fast.

Figure 2. An example of an exit slip to prompt correct sentences.

In the edTPA K12 Physical Education Assessment Handbook tures (e.g., sentences, graphs, tables) (edTPA, 2013, p. 46). As
(2013), the words analyze, contrast, describe, interpret, syntax is closely related to sentence structure, one should also
sequence and signal are used as samples of language func- be cognizant of the dictionary definition of syntax as a ma-
tion. Language function should be seen as the breadth of lan- jor part of grammatical sentences in a language (Dictionary.
guage patterns that help communicate relationships between com). Syntax deals with the length of sentences, the complexity
Downloaded by [West Virginia University Libraries] at 13:17 01 September 2017

ideas (Sweetwater District-Wide Academic Support Teams, of verb tenses, and the utilization of transition and connective
2010). In the physical education setting, the language func- words such as however, because, therefore, yet, as, de-
tion is demonstrated when students are contrasting defensive spite, and so on.
strategies, like player-to-player versus zone defense. Another Teacher candidates should also be aware that syntax com-
example of language function is when students are asked to ex- plexity is more challenging for English-language learners
plain the how and why of a movement or when they are asked (ELL). For example, it might be easy for a native English
to engage in signaling verbally and nonverbally to classmates speaker to say, My pencil is longer than your pencil, but it
about tactics during a game (edTPA, 2013). Table1 provides is quite confusing for an ELL student who, based on his or
cue words associated with language function in physical edu- her native language syntax, may say, Pencil mine longer than
cation. pencil yours. Providing prompts and cue words such as those
shown in Figure2 can help all students use correct sentence
Syntax structure.
Syntax is defined by the edTPA as The set of conventions
for organizing symbols, words, and phrases together into struc- Discourse
Discourse is the spoken or written language used in a so-
cial context of a particular discipline. In other words, it is how
members of a discipline speak, write, generally communicate,
and participate in the construction of knowledge. Discipline-
specific discourse has distinctive linguistic features that help in-
Requiring teacher dividuals to comprehend and interpret the different discipline-
specific texts and talks. For example, the discourse of a physical
candidates to have education teacher communicating a game strategy is different
than the discourse of a mathematics teacher communicating
academic language a math-equation solution strategy. Table 2 provides examples
of academic language discourse, syntax, and possible language
objectives for each function.

lesson plan brings

the integration Strategies for Integrating Academic
Language in Physical Education
of academic What to consider
language to the The first and most important strategy for the integration of

forefront of their
academic language in physical education is to ensure that aca-
demic language is built into each and every lesson plan. Creat-

teaching tasks.
ing a separate section in the lesson plan that focuses solely on
academic language is critical. Furthermore, requiring teacher
candidates to have academic language objectives for each les-

12 Strategies
Table 2. Discourse, Syntax, Vocabulary and Possible Language Function in Physical Education
Oral Writing Reading
When: Instructing, describing, explaining When: Journals, exit slips, When: Gathering information,
How to do it, game procedures and activities, why/ cognitive tests doing homework
how/when/what is going on or should go on Possible language function: For game strategies, health
Possible language function: Describe, interpret, sequence or fitness concepts
Sequence, describe Syntax
When: Questioning and analyzing When: Goal setting and fitness When: Assessing and evaluating
Checking for understanding, examining how an planning Criteria sheets, rubrics, tests,
activity/skill works, promoting class discussion Possible language function: quizzes, exit slips
Possible language function: Sequence Possible language function:
Describe, sequence, analyze, interpret Syntax Contrast, analyze
When: During evaluation When: During peer assessments
O wn and others strengths and weaknesses, self- and and self-assessments
Downloaded by [West Virginia University Libraries] at 13:17 01 September 2017

peer-assessment, feedback Possible language function:

Possible language function: Analyze
When: Speculating, hypothesizing When: Movement skills, game
Problem solving, suggestions, opinions vocabulary, game strategies
Possible language function: Vocabulary:
Analyze signals, key phrases, symbols
When: Socializing
Effective communication skills, respectful
interactions, positive encouragement, referring own

Table 3. Suggestions for Enhancing Academic Language in Physical Education

Question Suggestions
What will help build academic language Incorporate vocabulary and spelling into tag games and other warm-up activities.
within this learning task/activity? Adopt a language function for the day
How will I (as a teacher) model Write and talk in whole, meaningful sentences
appropriate language? Expect students to use complete sentences for oral and written communications
Demonstrate how to use key physical education vocabulary
Explain motor skills, movements patterns, game play, strategies, etc., utilizing
specialized vocabulary
Use pictures alongside words for elementary students
How can I create a learning Work with partners
environment that would enhance Share ideas
academic language in my learning task? Check for understanding
Problem-solve situations
Implement timeouts for game strategies
How and when will I provide Use graphic organizers
opportunities for students to practice Exit slips, tests, quizzes, projects
academic language? Homework
End-of-class discussions/summaries

Volume 28 May/June 13
1. Word walls: In the gymnasium, create a wall or bulletin
board where specialized vocabulary words for the unit/
topic can be posted alongside language function words
such as describe or analyze. Teaching cues, key objec-
tives, cue cards, station cards, fitness graphs or strategy
diagrams, as well as pictures and charts can also be posted
on the word wall. This provides a constant reminder not
only for the students, but also for the teachers. Such
practices can enhance academic language and address the
needs of visual learners and ELLs (Kinsella, 2012; Short,
2002). See Figure3 for an example.
2. Personal or public dictionaries: Students can be encour-
aged to develop a personal dictionary where they keep
track of specialized vocabulary. At the same time, a poster
can be placed on the wall where common specialized or
functional words can be written by students. Students can
Downloaded by [West Virginia University Libraries] at 13:17 01 September 2017

be encouraged or assigned to keep a notebook of new/

important words and definitions.
3. Language quilt: A language quilt is a four-box poster
placed on the wall. Teachers and students work together
to fill it out with academic language. This activity can take
place at the beginning of the lesson, when the teacher in-
troduces the academic language objective of the day, or at
the end of the lesson during closure while summarizing
the days lesson. The quilt should have at least four boxes:
a box for spelling the word, one for defining it, another
showing the word used in a sentence, and a box where the
word is translated into another language. Students should
be part of this process by either selecting the word or by
Figure 3. Word Wall Sample. contributing to the spelling, definition, translation or us-
ing the word in the sentence. The translation of the word

son plan brings the integration of academic language to the

forefront of their teaching tasks. An example of an academic
language objective could be: Students will be able to correctly
formulate movement sentences showing their understanding of Simple strategies
sequencing a basketball lay-up shot.
As teacher candidates prepare their lesson plans, they should such as word walls,
consider the following questions:
word quilts, or
W hat will help build academic language within this
learning task/activity? graphic organizers
How will I (as a teacher) model appropriate language?
How can I create a learning environment that would en- can be enjoyable
hance academic language in this learning task/activity?
How and when will I provide opportunities for students for students and
to practice academic language?
have the potential
Table 3 provides suggestions to answer these questions.
to promote
What to do
There are a few strategies that can significantly contribute
more than just
to the integration of academic language in physical education.
These are word walls, personal dictionaries, language quilts, and
graphic organizers.

14 Strategies
Translate into a Define using a picture
List the vocabulary dierent language and in writing Use the word in a sentence
Bicep arm muscle Angela likes to work on
(Greek) building bigger bicep muscles
in her arms.

The muscle that brings the

forearm toward the shoulder

Figure 4. Example of a word quilt.

Downloaded by [West Virginia University Libraries] at 13:17 01 September 2017

could be based on languages spoken by ELLs in the class to integrating language function in physical education.
or on other common languages in the community. See an For example, using a graphic organizer, such as the Venn
example in Figure4. diagram shown in Figure5, students can identify differ-
4. Graphic organizers: Graphic organizers are visual dis- ences and commonalities between two sports (e.g., Euro-
plays that delineate the relationships between facts, terms pean handball and basketball). Moreover, with the help
and/or ideas within a learning task (Hall & Strangman, of cue words, as shown in Figure6, students can write a
2002). They are
<LE5>Figure 5. often
Venn used in classroom
diagram to settings
help withto repre-
contrastingparagraph or short essay utilizing contrast as a language
two sports</LE5>
sent and organize students knowledge or ideas. Graphic function and as a way to practice their discipline-specific
organizers, however, can be quite effective when it comes vocabulary and syntax.

Commonalities Basketball
Seven players on the court Invasion games Five players on the court
Stay behind goal-area line to score Can attempt to score from any place
Game tactics
Up to three steps while holding ball No step while holding ball
Goal keeper No goal keeper
Defender between
Nets Basket hoops
offense and goal

Rectangular court

Figure 5. Venn diagram to help with contrasting two sports.

Volume 28 May/June 15
One similarity between ___________and ___________ is that both _____________ and use similar

______________ in order to score. One difference is that in ______________ a player can shoot

from______________________ in the court, while in _____________ the player must shoot from

_____________. Another difference between _____________ and _______________ is that _____________

has ______players, while _____________ has ____________players in the court. Nevertheless, both sports are

quite _____________.

One similarity between handball and basketball is that both are invasion games and use similar tactics in order

to score. One difference is that in basketball a player can shoot from any place in the court, while in handball

the player must shoot from behind the goal-area line. Another difference between handball and basketball is
Downloaded by [West Virginia University Libraries] at 13:17 01 September 2017

that handball has seven players, while basketball has five players in the court. Nevertheless, both sports are quite

competitive/popular/fun to play.

Figure 6. Cue words to help with language function contrasting.

Conclusion negative. The reality, however, is that by integrating academic

language into the physical education curriculum, educators can
Academic language is not a new concept in the field of ed-
provide a significant language-enriching experience for all stu-
ucation. Even before schools widely existed, individuals who
had good language skills and the ability to clearly articulate
their thoughts and ideas were considered sophisticated and
educated. Academic language may not always have been pur-
posefully and/or consciously integrated into education, but it References
has always been an essential characteristic of who is considered (n.d) Retrieved from
educated. Today, however, educators are asked to consciously browse/syntax?s=t
and systematically incorporate academic language into their Education Teacher Performance Assessment. (2013). K12 physical ed-
specific disciplines to make certain that the 21st-century gener- ucation assessment handbook. Retrieved from https://lms.manhattan.
ation acquires the necessary skills for academic and professional edu/pluginfile.php/142283/mod_resource/content/0/k-12-
success. Some may argue that the need for academic language physical-education---assessment-handbook.pdf
Hall, T., & Strangman, N. (2002). Graphic organizers. Retrieved from
skills is even more important today than ever before. The cell
phone texting practice that has captivated the younger genera- Hundley, M. (2012). Academic language, edTPA TM [PowerPoint
tion does not promote proper language use, as texting is highly slides]. Retrieved from
informal and riddled with abbreviations that can be ambiguous edTPA_AcademicLanguage_NY_12_12_12.pdf
or understood by few. Kinsella, K. (2012). Disrupting classroom discourse: Preparing English
Understanding the importance of academic language skills learners for Common Core academic language demands [PowerPoint
and purposefully training preservice physical education teach- slides]. Retrieved from
ers to integrate all language demands discipline-specific learners/files/2012/11/kinsella_az_oelas_keynotehandout.pdf
vocabulary, language function, discourse, and syntax into Lippincott, A., & Hill-Bonnet, L. (2008). Academic language. What is
their practices is a basic yet necessary step. Simple strategies it? How do I know if I see it? [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from
such as word walls, word quilts, or graphic organizers can be
enjoyable for students and have the potential to promote more
OHara, S., Pritchard, R., & Zwiers, J. (2012). Identifying academic
than just vocabulary. Assessment tools such as exit slips or language demands in support of the Common Core Standards.
quizzes, when purposefully designed, can also provide valu- ASCD Express, 7(17). Retrieved from
able information about students academic language skills. The express/vol7/717-ohara.aspx
edTPA and its academic language requirement have definitely Short, D. (2002). Language learning in sheltered social studies classes.
caused reactions among physical educators, both positive and TESOL Journal, 11(1), 1824.

16 Strategies
Sweetwater District-Wide Academic Support Teams. (2010). The aca-
demic language function toolkit. Retrieved from http://www.cojusd. 1 O O % O N L I N E
Wasik, B. A. (2006). Building vocabulary one word at a time. Young
Children, 61, 7078. S

Phoebe Constantinou ( is an associate professor

in the Department of Health Promotion and Physical Education at Ithaca
College in Ithaca, NY.


Wellness & Fitness Rehabilitation Science
Sport Performance Training Wellness Coaching
Sport Psychology NASM certifications in PES,
CES and/or CPT
Downloaded by [West Virginia University Libraries] at 13:17 01 September 2017


Four degree tracks


NASM certifications in CPT

CALL 1-866-595-6348 OR

isionary health and physical education (HPE) teacher education programs
are preparing teacher candidates to meet the needs of 21st century schools
and students.

The SHAPE America 2015 Physical Education Teacher Education (PETE) and Health
Education Teacher Education (HETE) Conference is your opportunity to connect with
the educators who are leading the strategies, and effectively implementing successful
PETE/HETE programs across the nation.

Conference topics will focus on exemplary practices and practical applications in the
following areas:

Professional Preparation for Multi-Component Approaches

Collegiality & Collaboration in PETE & HETE

Save the date!
Whether you are a teacher educator,
Preparing for 21st Century Students researcher, or graduate student in health
and/or physical education, this conference
Preparing for 21st Century Schools
offers something for you. This event only
Advocacy and Policy Change happens once every three years. #SHAPEhighered

Volume 28 May/June 17