Promoting Language and Literacy in the Science Classroom: Pre-service Collaboration

Introducing students to academic language is a challenge for all teachers, especially as classroom content becomes more complex with college and career readiness standards. This two-hour workshop will focus on preparing middle school science educators to meet the needs of linguistically and culturally diverse students. Through an NSF-funded grant, instructional experts on language and literacy development from the Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL) have partnered with the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) to create lesson modules related to developing language skills in the middle school science classroom. These modules, which focus on academic language development for students who are English learners or speakers of non-standard dialects, are part of UDC’s Master’s in Teaching (MAT) program for middle school science educators. Drawing on the literature surrounding the academic language of science and language development in English learners, the content of these modules was developed to be appropriate for teacher educators and science teachers at all levels.

The module content was designed around three components: linguistic understandings, critical language awareness, and pedagogical modeling. Three foundational linguistic understandings are emphasized in the program content: (1) that all students’ existing styles of language use and home language are valued and treated as resources in classrooms; (2) that students need to develop an awareness of Academic English of science and (3) that the Academic English of science should be simultaneously developed alongside conceptual understanding of science ideas. Each session was also tailored to promote critical language awareness (CLA). Fairclough (1992) defines critical language awareness as, “how language conventions and language practices are invested with power relations and ideological process which people are often unaware of” (p. 7). Throughout the module content, language is not viewed from a form-based perspective but instead is treated as a way to make meaning in a social context; those contexts are always associated with ideologies. Alfouaim (2012) writes, “[language] educators who are armed with CLA knowledge are capable to change the conventional ideology that proposes the superiority of one language over another for any reason.” Because language is so central to classroom learning, it is important for teacher candidates to critically reflect on the role it plays in teaching and learning. Finally, the module content was designed to model pedagogical approaches to teaching linguistically diverse students. Strategies and best practices are embedded into module activities so that teacher candidates can experience first-hand the types of activities that may be appropriate for teaching linguistically diverse students. Each session is intended to model a different type of pedagogical activity aimed at promoting academic language development with linguistically diverse students.

In this workshop, we will describe the collaboration between CAL and UDC, how the modules were created, observations from the delivery of the modules, and outcomes in terms of how teacher candidates applied the information and strategies directly with students. We will also introduce participants to the module content by engaging them in hands-on activities and discuss direct classroom implications and outcomes. A sample outline of the workshop is provided here:

Sample outline
• Warm-up: Anticipation Guide on academic language (10 minutes)
• Session overview and objectives (5 min)
• Defining academic language: What do experts say? Which language is academic? How is language used in the science classroom?
o Activity: Pick and Switch (25 min)
• Academic language at the word, sentence, and discourse levels
o Activities: Analyzing sample texts, video classroom observations (30 min)
• Creating language objectives to support language in science lessons (15 min)
• Advancing science knowledge while developing language skills
o Activities: Information Gaps, Generating Sentences (20 min)
• Wrap-up with Objectives and Tickets Out (5 min)

Through attending this workshop, participants will be able to meet the following objectives:
• Explain the difference between ‘academic styles’ of language use in science and ‘conversational styles’ of language use in everyday situations.
• Analyze a science text and classroom lesson at the three levels of academic language.
• Write language objectives that target academic language use in science lessons.
• Connect theoretical models of academic language to classroom instructional practices.

The workshop will highlight perspectives across the project collaboration, by including co-facilitators from CAL, UDC, and the MAT program candidates. Co-facilitators will all be available to answer questions following the workshop. Contact information will be provided along with handouts and a link to the PPT. In addition, CAL will also provide follow-up resources or technical assistance to integrating language and literacy development in the science classroom to meet the needs of linguistically and culturally diverse students.
The workshop will focus on sample activities from the modules integrating science content with approaches for language and literacy development. However, due to the comprehensive nature of this project, from developing a scope and sequence, designing the modules, delivering the modules as part of a MAT methods course, and classroom implications, participants from across the ASTE membership will find some topics of interest.

This workshop will be provided at no additional cost to participants.
Expertise of Presenters
Jillian Wendt, PhD, Assistant Professor of Science Education at the University of the District of Columbia in Washington, DC. Dr. Wendt holds a BS in Biology and an EdD in Curriculum and Instruction. She teaches in the traditional face-to-face learning environment and distance learning environment in the areas of science education, pre-service teacher education, and in-service teacher education at the K-12, undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral levels. Dr. Wendt regularly presents on research and pedagogical practices at regional, national, and international education conferences. Her research interests are in technology in education, science literacy, collaborative learning, teacher professional development, international education, and K-12 science education.
Jennifer Renn, PhD, Project Director on the project for CAL, assuming primary responsibility for CAL’s contributions to the MAT program. Dr. Renn holds a PhD in linguistics and has extensive experience researching the language development and language use of African American children. As an Institute of Education Sciences fellow in early childhood education, she studied the influence of parent and teacher language on the academic performance of African American children from pre-Kindergarten through Grade 3. Dr. Renn also has extensive experience mentoring students from study programs including linguistics, communications, speech sciences, and education, and she has taught courses at the undergraduate and graduate level for over ten years.
Annie Duguay, MA, EdM, serves as the professional development specialist for the CAL-UDC collaboration. She conducts faculty and mentor teacher training, assists with recording and refinement of modules, provides guidance about lesson planning, and will serve as a mentor and coach to teacher candidates during their student teaching and induction phase. As Director of K-12 English Learner Professional Development at CAL, Ms. Duguay assists in the oversight of the organization’s professional development efforts for teachers working with English learners in primary and secondary contexts; she has provided professional development and technical assistance to support school districts and state education offices across the country in serving English learners so that they excel linguistically and academically.
Maria Peters, is currently completing a Master of Arts in Teaching degree with a concentration in Science Education and is a Noyce Fellow. She has been teaching for ten years in the DC and Maryland areas. She graduated from the College of Notre Dame of Maryland in 2006 with an undergraduate degree in Chemistry with minors in Math, Physics, and African-American History. She started teaching as a substitute for Baltimore City School System at Maritime High School. Her first two years of teaching was with Baltimore City School System. She was later recruited to serve as seventh grade math application teacher, when she found her calling as an educator. Her primary content area specialty is science and math.
J’Aron Heard, is currently completing a Master of Arts in Teaching degree with a concentration in Science Education and is a Noyce Fellow. He graduated from Howard University in 2015 with a Bachelor of Science in biology and chemistry. J’Aron has worked with the Center for Atmospheric Sciences, Howard University Cobb Research Laboratory, the USDA in Greenbelt MD, The Smithsonian National Insatiate Research Institute and Natural History Museum. He has also had the opportunity to serve with the Health Professions Society, work with Northwest AHEC as a summer tutor at Healthwise Career Exploration gearing secondary education students in the Medical and Research fields, and as a Red Cross Volunteer.