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Academic Language

Understanding Academic
Language in Your Discipline
Academic vs Social Language

 Role of social language: skill we use when

talking with each other in a social setting
Activity: Partner up with one or two other people at your table. Share an event
that has happened so far this morning using your “Social Language”. (3 min)

 Function of academic language: formal language that

has its own vocabulary in areas of study
Math example: in social terms we could say the word “average” and mean
“regular”. In mathematical terms we could say “average” as a mean, mode,
and median”
Get back with your small group at the table. Each of you jot down
some of the language that is used in your academic content area.

Talk to your table buddies to see what academic vocabulary words

they thought of.

( 3 minutes)
Strategies for using Academic language :

• Seeking • Inferring
information/informing • Justifying and
• Comparing persuading
• Ordering • Solving
• Classifying
• Synthesizing
• Analyzing • Evaluating…an
d more.
Bloom’s Taxonomy
Discourse and Syntax

 Discourse is the structure used to write and speak

about our content area so that it can be

 Syntax is how we organize the symbols, words

and phrases together into sentences, paragraphs
or graphs in our content area.
Often the syntax will determine the meaning

 Criticism or Criticize:
social language:
“I wish Sally would stop criticizing my hair! I can’t take her criticism
In the academic language of the visual arts:
“ Complete a criticism paper analyzing the messages the artist is
 Compare and contrast:
social language:

“I’m comparing the prices and functions of cell phones to get the
best deal.

In the academic language of language arts:

“Prepare an oral critique comparing and contrasting the

protagonists in A Tale of Two Cities and Faust.”
Some words that are used across all content
areas are interpret, conflict, analyze, source.
Activity: talk to your table partners to come up with other
general academic words
(3 minutes)
Examples for assessing student learning of
the academic language
 Writing exercises
 Oral reports
 Comic strips, other….

Activity: On your paper draw a picture with figures, graphs, symbols, numbers,
whatever you’re comfortable drawing. Then make them speaking cartoon
characters by adding their thoughts or comments in bubbles above so that words
and their meanings are associated with the picture.
(8 minutes)
Academic Language

 Understanding the language in your academic area

 Some strategies to help your students understand

how to use academic language
 Examples of how you can assess that they learned the


 Everhart, V.S. (2010). Moving beyond social language: How to

teach academic language. CASA Conference

 Freeman,Y.S.,&Freeman,D.E.(2009). Academic language for

English language learners and struggling readers: How to help
students succeed across content areas. Portsmouth, NH:

 Zwiers,J.(2008).Buildingacademic language: Essential practices

for content classrooms. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.