Building Academic Language in the ESL Classroom


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From ARKTESOL 2010 Springdale presentation entitled Building Academic Language in the ESL Classroom by Elisabeth Chan. October 28, 2010.

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Building Academic Language in the ESL Classroom

  1. 1. Building Academic Language in the ESL Classroom 1 ARKTESOL 2010 - Springdale The International Center for English Elisabeth Chan Arkansas State University Building Academic Writing Activity #1: Explicitly Teach And Practice the Writing Process Activity Alternatives 1. Brainstorm Give students a topic to write about. Have students free write for 5 minutes on a blank piece of paper. Give students a choice of a couple of topics. Alter the time for free writing depending on level. Give students a topic to write about. Put students into groups of 4. Have the students take turns sharing one idea about the topic, keeping record. See above. Alter the size of the group or use pairs. Assign group jobs ex: leader, recorder, time keeper, encourager 2. Organize Using the brainstorm, have students circle their 3 best ideas. Have students write these ideas (and any accompanying details) into an outline. Depending on the scope of the writing, you may have students choose 1 or 2 ideas to develop. A graphic organizer can be used rather than an outline. Using the group brainstorm, have students discuss what the 3 best ideas were. Have the students write these ideas into an outline. See above. Use the board to share with the class. 3. Rough Draft Using the outline, have students write a paragraph together in groups. Have students each take a copy of the outline and write individual paragraphs. 4. Peer Review Have groups exchange paragraphs. Give students a list of questions or points for them to check for. Have students discuss the points and also give positive comments. Have individuals trade their paragraphs and then follow a list of questions or points for them to check. Remind them to also make positive comments. 5. Final Draft Have groups discuss what suggestions were given and how they can make the paragraph better. Have individuals use the suggestions given and write a final paragraph. Activity #2: Focus On Content Original description The movie was good. The man met a woman. They fell in love. Have students add descriptions using adjectives & adverbs The romantic movie was very good. The handsome man met a beautiful woman. They fell in love quickly. Have students use WH questions to expand their writing WHO – Who was the man? Who was the woman? WHAT – What did they do? WHY – Why was the movie very good? WHERE – Where did they meet? WHEN – When did they fall in love? HOW – How did they meet? How did they fall in love?
  2. 2. Building Academic Language in the ESL Classroom 2 ARKTESOL 2010 - Springdale The International Center for English Elisabeth Chan Arkansas State University Activity #3: Reconstructing (or Deconstructing) Academic Texts to work on Cohesion Example 1: Focus on Cohesive Paragraph Structure: Using Reference Words *As an alternative, have students write the paragraphs for step 2 with no reference words and trade with other students, so that the partner can replace subjects with reference words. Step 1: Identification Have students locate the subject of each sentence within a paragraph. Next, have them search for reference words, such as “this, these, those, hers, etc.” Finally, have students determine what these words refer back to. Step 2: Scaffolded Production Give students a paragraph without references. Next, have students find sentences with subjects that are the same. Finally, have students replace subjects with appropriate reference words. Step 3: Production Have students complete a writing assignment, in which they use reference words throughout their paragraph. Students can present their new paragraphs to each other or in front of the class. ** You can use a similar activity for conjunctions and nominalizations at the paragraph level. Example 2: Sentence Transformation: 1. Give students two sentences that are joined as a compound sentence. 2. Have students explain what makes it compound. 3. Ask students to write two separate sentences, one for each idea from the compound sentence. 4. You can repeat the example backwards, starting with two simple sentences and having students make it compound. ** You can also use a similar activity for clauses and signal words at sentence levels. Building Academic Reading Activity #1: Extensive reading 1. Give students a choice in reading material. Have a wide variety available. 2. Have students work with texts that are one level below their actual reading level. Graded readers work well for this: Pearson/Longman Penguin readers, Oxford readers etc. 3. Read as much as possible and do it silently and quickly, rarely using a dictionary. 4. Reading is its own reward, so there are no follow up questions. 5. As a teacher, be a role model for reading and read with the students. Activity #2: Engagement & motivation (Guthrie and Davis, 2003) Engagement Model of Instruction 1. Knowledge Goals – rather than test scores, have students read with the goal of understanding and communicating information that matters to them; find students’ interests and allow for some freedom of choice; alternative with a set topic: use a great deal of enthusiasm and describe why it’s interesting to you, followed by connecting it to their lives to make it relevant
  3. 3. Building Academic Language in the ESL Classroom 3 ARKTESOL 2010 - Springdale The International Center for English Elisabeth Chan Arkansas State University 2. Real World – connect reading to the real world; example: conduct surveys, read local news, books, or search the Internet, assign projects that require action outside the classroom (presenting to other classes, analyzing an aspect of their school, self-reflections, etc.) 3. Many Interesting Texts – increase access to books or other reading materials that students want to read about; alternative with a set topic: gather magazine or newspaper articles that revolve around topics in your textbook that you have to cover 4. Support Student Choice – give students at least some freedom to choose what they read; support it with time to read in class, like sustained silent reading (SSR); give students 10-15 minutes of class each day to read a book they have chosen 5. Direct Strategy Instruction – model, scaffold, guide practice with feedback, and use independent reading (See Activity #3 below) 6. Collaboration Support – use pairs and group work to help students feel more comfortable asking questions and comment on their readings Activity #3: Explicitly teach reading skills Teach students reading skills through explicit explanation, followed by modeling. Read a page of text together, and as the teacher, stop at each point in a checklist of steps. Explain to students why you’re looking at that point first, why you’re stopping there, what you’re thinking about/asking yourself when you look at each point. Example:  Look at titles and headings; what do you think the main idea is?  Look at pictures and graphs; what information can you learn from these?  Think about the topic / personalize the topic; what do you already know about the topic?  Look at bold / italicized words; what important key words are there? What do they mean?  Skim the reading, paying attention to topic sentences; what are the main ideas?  Guess vocabulary words from context; can I use prefixes/suffixes to help?  Use graphic organizers to take notes on the reading; map the main ideas and details  Follow-up; Write three questions about the reading or summarize the reading or paraphrase important parts of the reading After finishing the reading together, have students complete a short worksheet about different reading skills they have learned. Worksheet Example: What are some strategies for reading? Before you read Example student answer: look at titles As you read Example student answer: use graphic organizers Understanding word strategies Example student answer: guess words using context Using context And so on… Using prefixes, roots, suffixes Using glossaries and dictionaries
  4. 4. Building Academic Language in the ESL Classroom 4 ARKTESOL 2010 - Springdale The International Center for English Elisabeth Chan Arkansas State University Building Academic Spoken English Raise Students’ Awareness Activity #1. Using Discussion Group Questions, example: In your native language, how would you ask your sister/brother for a favor? Your parents? Your boss? Your professor? Discuss any differences or similarities. Activity #2. Listening to speeches and/or lectures and analyzing the language used; many great websites for this:; Activity #3. Analyze research or work on activities that exercise students’ use of the structures found to be more prevalent.  Swales (2005) analysis of academic English ACADEMIC WRITTEN LANGUAGE ○ Long declarative sentences ○ 20% passive verbs ○ Technical vocabulary with Greek & Latin origins ACADEMIC SPOKEN LANGUAGE ○ Most of the same features as conversational language, except for technical vocabulary! Building Academic Vocabulary Activity #1 Teach students the four parts of the chart. Provide students with the word and your definition; you can have it already on the paper or do a dictation exercise with it. Students then work alone or together to come up with their own definition of the word. Then encourage them as they draw a simple picture that reminds them of the word. Word Teacher’s definition In student’s own words Picture / Clue investigate To explore or look into something to learn more about it To study something to find what we want to know connection A link or bond between two people or events And so on…
  5. 5. Building Academic Language in the ESL Classroom 5 ARKTESOL 2010 - Springdale The International Center for English Elisabeth Chan Arkansas State University Activity #2 Students create a four-square entry into a notebook or on notecards. Use vocabulary words they have been using in class, so it is context-embedded. Have students use dictionaries and come up with a definition in their own words. Similar to the first activity, have students then use a symbol, drawing, or some other visual clue that reminds them of the word. In the last square, have students use a word or short phrase that reminds them of the vocabulary word. Example: WORD naïve SYMBOL/DRAWING DEFINITION Innocent or doesn’t have much knowledge about social skills WORD OR PHRASE THAT REMINDS YOU OF THE MEANING my sister Activity #3: Increasing Academic Vocabulary by Using a Corpus The following page is an example of how to use The Corpus of Contemporary American English as a resource in finding collocations for new vocabulary, along with example sentences. Registration is free and the site has many other flexible search features, for example, allowing you to search what kinds of verbs come after a word, and so on. Please see the file entitled “AmericanCorpus.pdf”!