Module 8: Developing Academic Language

writing Vocabulary development is critical for English learners because we know that there is a strong relationship between vocabulary knowledge in English and academic achievement (Saville-Troike, 1984). Students who enter school with limited vocabularies, especially English learners, often struggle to understand what they read because they are unfamiliar with many of the words they encounter. This barrier hampers their learning in all of the subjects they study. In addition to explicit vocabulary instruction, teachers should be aware of the differences between vocabulary and academic language instruction. Chamot and O’Malley (1994) define academic language as “the language that is used by teachers and students for the purposes of acquiring new knowledge and skills.”

Vocabulary vs. Academic Language Instruction

There are two aspects to vocabulary development that teachers should attend to. One involves selecting several key terms on which to focus from the lesson’s material, and the other is explicitly teaching “school language,” or the vocabulary associated with activities such as identify, define, compare and summarize- the kinds of terms that are typically used in the classroom tasks and discussions.

Directed Draw- Directed Draw is an activity that teachers use to introduce students to new vocabulary that they will be required to learn. Teachers select a picture or diagram that they will use to teach the content. As a teacher lectures about the topic, they trace over the diagram using the target vocabulary. Teachers can label the picture with the content language as they draw, or simply explain them as they are introduced. It’s helpful to keep the completed chart posted throughout the teaching of the unit so that students can access the vocabulary as they build on their knowledge of a topic.

(Example: Directed Draw)