Blogger Ben Johnson shares strategies for developing students' academic vocabulary that help decrease the achievement gap.
At a small school district, I faced the challenge as an administrator of diminishing the achievement gap in the student scores, especially in math and science. For example, we noticed that in science there was a 40-point gap between Hispanic students passing the test versus the number of white students passing. Having been in the classrooms and having observed teachers teaching, I knew that they were not treating Hispanic students any differently than the white students. So why was there an achievement gap?
Sheltered Language Techniques
We decided to increase the level of vocabulary development, primarily using many sheltered language techniques.
The results were astounding. Because of this and an intense college readiness focus, in two years, our schools went from the status of unacceptable to recognized and then the next year, exemplary.
The focus was on helping the students to better understand and speak academic language.
What this means is that when the teacher is speaking to the students, the teacher should use multiple contextual clues that provide meaning along with the spoken words. A teacher would use the words verbally, but at the same time, point to the objects being described, and also show the words in written format. Gestures, pantomime, movement, actions, sounds, pictures, graphics, and video all are additional methods that teachers have at their disposal to increase the likelihood that their students will understand the message.
Before a student can grasp the concepts being taught, the student needs a mental scaffold in which to place them.
1. Experience, first-hand or virtual, is the number one scaffold-building tool.
2. Reading is second best
3. the next best tool is intense vocabulary development prior to instruction. (Marzano)
Teachers Role: Teach the language of their content area.
"The students will leave the class being fluent in the language and culture of science or they will be able to converse in the language of math. This requires that the teacher needs to initially realize that students may not understand completely what reduce, simplify, analyze, compute, illustrate, or group means."
Visual > Verbal > Aural > Easy to Hard
Recognition of the word in context:
Reproduction of the words in context:
Written words in context: