Academic Language in K–12 Contexts

Authored by: Maria Estela Brisk , Qianqian Zhang-Wu

Handbook of Research in Second Language Teaching and Learning

Print publication date:  December  2016
Online publication date:  November  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138859814
eBook ISBN: 9781315716893
Adobe ISBN: 9781317508366


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Throughout the world many students are educated in a language other than their home language. English-speaking countries such as Australia, Great Britain, Canada and the United States have a tradition of receiving immigrants in their schools. Educators working with second language (L2) learners have been concerned for some time with the need to develop language that goes beyond everyday use. Cummins (1984) proposed a distinction between basic interpersonal communicative skills (BICS) and cognitive/academic language proficiency (CALP). Other researchers explored connecting content area with language instruction using either language-based content learning or content-based language learning (Crandall, 1987; Mohan, 1986). Further exploration into the various content areas revealed differences among them, leading to analyzing the specifics of the language of math (Dale & Cuevas, 1992), social studies (Short, 1994), and science (Kessler & Quinn, 1987). Since the turn of the 21st century there has been an explosion of studies investigating what is referred to as the language of schooling (Schleppegrell, 2004), academic English (Bailey, 2007), academic language (Gibbons, 2009; Zwiers, 2008), and disciplinary linguistic knowledge (Turkan, De Oliveira, Lee, & Phelps, 2014). The need to understand the linguistic demands of schooling has been exacerbated by education reforms that promote high levels of literacy in connection to subject matter content—for example, the Common Core State Standards Initiative (2010) and the Next Generation Science Standards (2013) in the United States and The Australian Curriculum: ACARA (2012) in Australia. Britain launched a series of educational reforms in 1988 with wide implications on language and literacy (Chen, 2007). In addition, language-specific standards such as the WIDA English Language Development Standards (2012) and the TESOL Pre-K–12 English Language Proficiency Standards (2006) have added to the focus on academic language (AL) instruction and proficiency.

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