Old Post: Language Revisted

Do you have that one person in your life who just “says it?”  Tells you what others haven’t—your hair is sticking up, you have toilet paper on your shoe,  or NO ONE UNDERSTANDS WHAT YOU MEAN BY THE TERM LANGUAGE.  I love my Taylorsville colleagues who keep me grounded!

It had not occurred to me but we do use the word language in various ways. Normally, I refer to language in three ways.

 

  1. Language = Student to Student Interaction and communication
  2. Language = Common Core Standards L. 1-6
  3. “Academic Language” = the words, phrases, grammar choices and author’s craft in organizing a text

 

First, language is used to refer to our students’ ability to communicate ideas and thoughts through listening, speaking, reading and writing. Increasing student to student interaction allows time for processing and for students to make sense of knowledge. The four domains of literacy (listening, speaking, reading and writing) are all interrelated and interact to affect one another.

 

Implications for our classrooms: 

  1. Students process information when they have the opportunity to interact.  Speaking helps students make sense of ideas, ask questions and begin to own their own thinking.  By putting ideas into your own words and examples demonstrates conceptual understanding of the topic.
  2. When you move students through a concept by listening then speaking and progressing to reading and writing—you are scaffolding instruction AND building conceptual understanding.
  3. Allowing students to paraphrase and put information into their own words aids students in making connections to the information on a deeper level.

Secondly, I often refer to the Common Core Language Standards as a way to “increase our focus on language.”  These standards are all grounded in the fundamentals of language and the domains of literacy and are written in a pattern that builds on prior knowledge.

 

Standard Meaning
L.1 Understanding of conventions and sentence structure
L.2 Understanding of capitalization and punctuation
L.3 Understanding why words were used and chosen and their affect within the text
L.4 Determining word meanings and phrases through context, word parts, reference materials,
L.5 Understanding figurative language, word relationships and nuances in word meanings
L.6 Determining academic and domain specific words and phrases

 

 

Implications for our classrooms: 

  1. Language comprises of about 20-25% of the Reading End of Grade Test. Knowing this fact,  a focus on context clues, figurative language, words and phrases that affect characters, setting and mood should all be MAJOR focuses of instruction.
  2. “Language” in the form of words and phrases, woven within the text,  are written to affect the reader—teach students to see subtly and question the techniques used by the author—THIS IS HOW RIGOR IS ATTAINED!
  3. Remember that you must directly teach students what you want them to do. When teaching students how to figure out words and phrases in context teach all the different strategies you might use such as look at punctuation, synonyms, antonyms, grammar, examples embedded, etc. Be explicit when you show students and MODEL what you want for them—then let them try it and apply it.

 

 

Lastly, I refer to language in the form of “academic language” which is the words, phrases, grammar choices which affect the author’s craft and organization of the text.  This can be vocabulary but is usually more subtly the structure in which the text is organized.  When our students have knowledge of how sentences are structured can help students “untangle” more complex text.  Without the grammar and punctuation, students’ prosody (expressive reading and understanding of timing, phrasing, intonation and emphasis) is not possible.

 

Implications for our classrooms:

  1. Understanding phrases, clauses, punctuation and capitalization directly affects BOTH fluency and comprehension.
  2. Grammar should be embedded in discussions of word meanings and close reading to directly teach fluency and comprehension.
  3. Text choice should include structure that includes complex text which challenges students to examine multiple levels of meaning with subtle nuances that they may miss upon first read.  Ensuring text is “complex” with levels of meaning challenges students to read closer and dig deeper.

In summation, the term LANGUAGE is a HUGE component of EVERYTHING that we do in our classrooms because it truly plays a role in all aspects of learning.  We “use language” when communicating. Authors embed language within text to share meaning and to interest the reader.  Finally we integrate language as our instructional support with listening, speaking, reading and writing. We need to infuse it and use the Common Core Language standards as the “skeleton” of our instruction for our literature and informational standards. It is by infusing the grammar, capitalization, punctuation and an understanding of sentence structure within the areas of reading that you will deepen students’ understanding and comprehension.  Language is complex and certainly not something you can check off a list to show mastery.

 

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