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Beyond words : making academic language real for secondary English learners

  • Author(s): Van Steenbergen, Suzanne Michele
  • et al.
Abstract

Meeting the needs of adolescent English Learners (ELs) requires giving focused attention to students' academic language needs. This is especially true if students are to achieve academically and have access to higher education. Using the student text Edge as a foundation, the Beyond Words project takes a balanced approach toward developing students' academic English skills, targeting each of three dimensions of academic English, including linguistic, cognitive, and sociocultural/psychological literacy (Scarcella, 2003). Beginning with explicit vocabulary instruction, Beyond Words extends students' understanding of key academic concepts by engaging them in inquiry-based activities, small group instructional conversations, and challenging tasks. Through these features, students explore the essential question, "How do the Media Shape the Way We Think?" Students become active agents in their own learning, guided by the teacher toward a shared understanding of social issues, including the causes and impacts of stereotypes in our culture, and the way media representation of minorities can influence the way we view ourselves and each other. Beyond Words was implemented in an English Language Development (ELD) classroom of 16 secondary ELs, most of whom had been learning English for approximately 3-5 years. By the end of the unit, students demonstrated progress toward mastery of select skills within each of the three dimensions of academic English as outlined by Scarcella (2003)

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