The 2010 Minnesota K-12 Academic Standards for English Language Arts have a strand dedicated to language development. These anchor standards articulate what students need to be able to do with language in order to meaningfully engage with the content standards. Students need extensive opportunities to practice and improve their language skills. They need facility with various ways of structuring a sentence so they can effectively communicate an idea at the phrase, sentence, and extended-discourse levels. This will help them engage meaningfully with the concepts, manipulation, and extended thinking required in the content standards.
In addition, students need to understand how language can carry a variety of meanings in both informal and formal situations so they can assess context and audience to make informed choices in reading, writing, listening, and speaking. It is important to bridge students’ existing language experiences to formal experiences. Again, bilingualism can be an asset in mastering academic language.
Students need sufficient exposure to how formal academic language is used in school and workplace settings. ALL school staff can contribute to creating an additive impact across the school day to help students rapidly acquire and expand their conceptual understanding, and build increasingly complex and deep understandings of abstract ideas. Language standards should not be “taught” as a separate from the other standards; instead, they should be embedded in all content areas and social interactions.
Brown’s Stages of Language Development (http://www.speech-language-therapy.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=33:brown&catid=2:uncategorised&Itemid=117). This resource is an introduction to how language develops from birth through age five. Brown’s model is a standard in the field of early childhood development and this resource clearly summarizes what can be expected as a child develops language before entering a school setting.
Building Language Skills (http://www.asha.org/uploadedFiles/Build-Your-Childs-Skills-Kindergarten-to-Second-Grade.pdf). Though written for parents, this PDF contains a useful, brief explanation of the language skills students should be developing in an academic setting as they progress from kindergarten to second grade.
Oral Language Development--a Foundation for Literacy (http://education.state.mn.us/mdeprod/groups/communications/documents/unzip/052023/index.html). In this 50 minute webinar, Corrine Eisenhart, a former principal and current professor at Shippensberg University, presents examples of practical language development practices from kindergarten through grade three for teachers to view and use. Examples include selecting vocabulary and instructional routines that provide opportunities to play with language. The instructional routines described are teaching conversational expansion, promoting word consciousness, and interactive read-a-louds.
Meaningful Differences in the Language Learning Environments of Young American Children (http://www.childrenofthecode.org/interviews/risley.htm). This webpage includes a link to Dr. Todd Risley’s book, Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experiences of Young American Children and a link to a videotaped interview with Dr. Risley, also available in transcript format. Dr. Risley’s work focuses on the way that children acquire language. It also covers how language development is critical in the acquisition of academic language.
Identifying Academic Language Demands of the Common Core Standards (https://cset.stanford.edu/publications/journal-articles/identifying-academic-language-demands-support-common-core-standards). This brief article outlines recent research on the achievement gap between English Learners and native English-speaking students. It emphasizes the importance of academic language for success. Administrators could also use this resource with cross-disciplinary work groups to discuss the implications for native English speakers.
The Challenge of Advanced Texts: The Interdependence of Reading and Learning (http://www.childrenofthecode.org/library/MJA-ChallengeofAdvancedTexts.pdf). This 38-page article examines language development and its interdependence with reading and learning with particular emphasis on using formal language to gain meaning from print. This article may be used to educate staff about why a greater focus on language development is necessary to improve reading comprehension.
Framework for English Language Proﬁciency Development Standards Corresponding to the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards (http://www.ccsso.org/Documents/2012/ELPD%20Framework%20Booklet-Final%20for%20web.pdf). This 105-page document explains the language practices that al English Learners must acquire in order to successfully master the Common Core State Standards. Administrators may want to convene a cross-disciplinary work group to discuss the benefit of such practices for native English speakers, as well.
Exceeding the Common Core Speaking Standards: Improving the Oral Communication of All Students (http://ascd.org/professional-development/webinars/erik-palmer-webinar.aspx). This one-hour webinar from ASCD provides an overview of the requirements of the Common Core State Standards and introduces a practical framework for understanding and teaching the skills involved in all effective oral communication.