Where did my thinking begin?
When I started exploring topics that interested me for this Touro program, I thought I was going for strategies to help English Language Learners. My school is getting an increasing number of language learners from very diverse populations. I also knew that the achievement gap between language learners and English speakers is a growing concern at our school and throughout our nation. So I had a research idea...strategies to help EL students.
Two things happened that altered my research path. First, I watched a video on Edutopia based on a school in England called School 21. The video is about increasing Oracy or academic oral language. It was inspiring and ignited some curiosity deep with. However, it didn't really fit my research plan, so I moved on.
Then, the second thing that happened was that I participated in a district protocol called ELL Shadowing. In this protocol, teachers are assigned an English Language Learner to observe. They take notes every five minutes about who is talking, the teacher or the EL student? If the student is listening, are they listening to the teacher, listening to a small group or are they off task? I was amazed to see how little student talk in class. As we looked at the school and district data I couldn't help but remember the Edutopia video about the importance of talk.
I started questioning....
Why don't we assess oral language?
Is it possible that students kids can't read fluently...because they don't speak fluently?
How will they learn to speak fluently if we don't systematically teach academic conversations?
Is it possible that speaking about a topic...could increase your learning and knowledge about a topic?
I had more and more questions. And I really wanted to find out the answers. And that is how my research project was born.
What Standard is Academic Language?
All of them. Just kidding. But not really. The Common Core anchor standards for Listening & Speaking directly relate to academic conversations and are listed below.
However, if you count the number of times students are asked to discuss, explain, elaborate, speak, describe etc. in the Common Core Standards, the number is 694 times. And that is a low estimate. Academic language and conversations are vital to student achievement.
CC Listening & Speaking Anchor Standards
Comprehension and Collaboration:
Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
Evaluate a speaker's point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.
Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:
Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.
Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.
What's on this site?
Increasing academic language has so many benefits, but it is not easy to do. It requires teachers to break the ingrained habit of doing all of the talking, and give more opportunities for students to talk and learn. To find out how to increase academic language and increase student achievement. Look below to the links to find lessons, standards, assessments and more.
Click here to download the infographic.
Tech to Support Academic Student Talk
Click on the video to see how to use the digital tools listed below to increase student talk.
Toontastic- Cartoon storytelling. Student record their voice over the story. Toontastic gives student basic story elements like characters, setting, problem and solution. Kids can pick different backgrounds and add "stickers" as characters. They record their story and dialogue to make a mini movie. This is a great way to get kids to orally create a story first, then they can write out their story from their Toontastic movie.
Fluency Tutor for Google- Teachers can send student reading passages. Students can record, re-record and listen to their own fluency. Students can turn in their recording to their teacher using Google Classroom. This would help support Dibels assessments and Reading fluency in all grades.
Socrative- Similar to Kahoot. Students team up to answer questions collaboratively and watch their space ship race others.
Padlet- Create collaborative "bulletin boards" with your class. Add pictures, text, video or any content and have students reply on the board. Great collaboration & communication tool. Again, this was not designed specifically to increase academic language. However, if used in partners and/or teams it is a great engagement tool to spark conversation. Teams can discuss their answers, type their answers onto the Padlet. Their answers are shared with the class.