Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Post for the week of February 4, 2013

Post for the week of February 4, 2013

One of the key terms in the Common Core movement is "academic language" or "academic vocabulary."  But what is it?

I think the language needed to understand a content area is not "academic language" per se.  "Academic language" crosses content boundaries.  They're the words and concepts you need to know to work within an academic environment.  For example, alliteration is an important word in an English classroom, but not in history or science.  Cause and effect has the capacity to appear anywhere.

A great place to find "academic language" is appendix B.  This document lists texts that could be used to meet the CCSS for literacy in multiple disciplines.  Remember, there are literacy standards for math, social studies, and science.  Appendix B also features sample assignments, which, I would argue, are treasure-troves of academic language. 

For example, here are a few sample assignments:

Students compare George Washington’s Farewell Address to other foreign policy statements, such as the Monroe Doctrine, and analyze how both texts address similar themes and concepts regarding “entangling alliances.” [RI.9–10.9]

Students explain how the specific image of a soap bubble and other accompanying illustrations in Walter Wick’s A Drop of Water: A Book of Science and Wonder contribute to and clarify their understanding of bubbles and water. [RI.2.7]

List the concepts you have to know to be able to approach these questions:

compare
analyze
texts
address
themes
concepts
explain
illustrations
contribute to
clarify
understanding

Some people would argue that these assignments are not real; they're meant for the teacher, not for the students.  They're not in "student-friendly" language.  But I feel otherwise.  If students can understand and break apart assignments like these, they will be in good shape for college and career readiness.

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