Academic Language Mastery: Grammar and Syntax in Context


David E. Freeman, Yvonne S. Freeman & Ivannia Soto

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    I would like to acknowledge each of the authors who coauthored this series with me: Margarita Calderón, David and Yvonne Freeman, Noma LeMoine, and Jeff Zwiers. I have been inspired by each of your work for so long, and it was an honor learning and working with you on this project. I know that this book series is stronger due to each of your contributions and will therefore affect the lives of so many English language learners (ELLs) and standard English learners (SELs). Thank you for taking this journey with me on behalf of students who need our collective voices!

    I would also like to acknowledge my editor, Dan Alpert, who has believed in me and has supported my work since 2008. Thank you for tirelessly advocating for equity, including language equity, for so long! Thank you also for advocating for and believing in the vision of the Institute for Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Teaching (ICLRT)!

    Also to be thanked is Corwin, for supporting my work over time as well as early contributions to ICLRT. Corwin has grown over the time that I published my first book in 2009, but they still remain a family. I would especially like to thank Michael Soule, Lisa Shaw, Kristin Anderson, Monique Corrdiori, Amelia Arias, Taryn Waters, Charline Maher, Kim Greenberg, and Katie Crilley for each of your parts in making this book series and ICLRT a success!

    Last, I would like to acknowledge the California Community Foundation, whose two-year grant assisted greatly with fully launching ICLRT at Whittier College. Thank you for believing that effective professional development over time can and will create achievement and life changes for ELLs and SELs!

    Publisher’s Acknowledgments

    Corwin gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the following reviewers:

    • Bridget Erickson
    • Teacher, Literacy Specialist
    • Oakwood Elementary School, Wayzata Public Schools
    • Plymouth, MN
    • Sara Hamerla
    • ELL Coach
    • Barbieri Elementary School
    • Framingham, MA
    • Katherine Lobo
    • ESL Teacher, President of MATSOL
    • Newton South High School
    • Newton, MA
    • Sashi Rayasam
    • Educator
    • Durham Public Schools
    • Durham, NC
    • Renee Sartore
    • Director of ELL Programs
    • Yorkville CUSD 115
    • Yorkville, IL
    • Tonya Ward Singer
    • Author and Consultant
    • Santa Rosa, CA

    About the Authors

    Dr. David E. Freeman and Dr. Yvonne S. Freeman are professors emeriti at the University of Texas Río Grande Valley. Both are interested in effective education for emergent bilinguals. They present regularly at international, national, and state conferences. They have worked extensively in schools in the United States. They have also worked with educators in Ecuador, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Argentina, Uruguay, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Lithuania, Mallorca, Taiwan, and Sweden. In 2016 they worked in Taiwan. The Freemans have published books, articles, and book chapters jointly and separately on the topics of second language teaching, biliteracy, bilingual education, linguistics, and second language acquisition. Their newest books are ESL Teaching: Principles for Success (2016) and Essential Linguistics: What Teachers Need to Know to Teach ESL, Reading, Spelling, and Grammar, 2nd edition (2014), published by Heinemann. The Freemans also edited two research publications published by EmeraldBooks: Research on Preparing Pre-Service Teachers to Work Effectively With Emergent Bilinguals and Research on Preparing In-Service Teachers to Work Effectively With Emergent Bilinguals. They also edited Diverse Learners in the Mainstream Classroom (2008), published by Heinemann. Other books written by the Freemans and published by Heinemann include Between Worlds: Access to Second Language Acquisition, 3rd edition (2011); Academic Language for English Language Learners and Struggling Readers (2009); the revised translation of La enseñanza de la lectura y la escritura en español y en inglés en clases bilingües y de doble inmersión (2009); the second edition of Teaching Reading and Writing in Spanish and English in Bilingual and Dual Language Classrooms (2006); Dual Language Essentials for Teachers and Administrators (2005); Closing the Achievement Gap: How to Reach Limited Formal Schooling and Long-Term English Learners (2002); Teaching Reading in Multilingual Classrooms (2000); and ESL/EFL Teaching: Principles for Success (1998). The Freemans are authors on Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s programs On Our Way to English and Literacy by Design as well as Benchmark Education’s Spanish reading program.

    Dr. Ivannia Soto is associate professor of education at Whittier College, where she specializes in second language acquisition, systemic reform for ELLs, and urban education. She began her career in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), where she taught English and English language development to a population made of up 99.9 percent Latinos, who either were or had been ELLs. Before becoming a professor, Dr. Soto also served LAUSD as a literacy coach and district office administrator. She has presented on literacy and language topics at various conferences, including the National Association for Bilingual Education (NABE), the California Association for Bilingual Education (CABE), the American Educational Research Association (AERA), and the National Urban Education Conference. As a consultant, Soto has worked with Stanford University’s School Redesign Network (SRN) and WestEd as well as a variety of districts and county offices in California, providing technical assistance for systemic reform for ELLs and Title III. Soto is the coauthor of The Literacy Gaps: Building Bridges for ELLs and SELs as well as author of ELL Shadowing as a Catalyst for Change and From Spoken to Written Language with ELLs, all published by Corwin. Together, the books tell a story of how to systemically close achievement gaps with ELLs by increasing their oral language production in academic areas. Soto is executive director of the Institute for Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Teaching (ICLRT) at Whittier College, whose mission it is to promote relevant research and develop academic resources for ELLs and SELs via linguistically and culturally responsive teaching practices.


    Series Dedication

    I dedicate this book series to the teachers and administrators in Whittier Union High School District (WUHSD). WUHSD has been a pivotal learning partner with ICLRT over the past four years. By embedding ICLRT Design Principles and academic language development (ALD) best practices into their teaching and professional development, they have fully embraced and worked tirelessly in classrooms to meet the needs of ELLs and SELs. Specifically, I would like to thank: Superintendent Sandy Thorstenson, Assistant Superintendent Loring Davies, and ELL Director Lilia Torres-Cooper (my high school counselor and the person who initially brought me into WUHSD) as well as ALD Certification teachers Diana Banzet, Amy Cantrell, Carlos Contreras, Carmen Telles Fox, Nellie Garcia, Kristin Kowalsky, Kelsey McDonnell, Damian Torres, and Heather Vernon, who have committed themselves fully to this work. I would also like to thank Lori Eshilian, principal of Whittier High School (my high school alma mater), for being willing to do whatever it takes to meet the needs of all students, including partnering with ICLRT on several projects over the past few years. You were my first and best physical education teacher and have modeled effective collaboration since I was in high school!

    —Ivannia Soto, Series Editor

    Book Dedication

    For teachers who often are not sure how to teach grammar effectively and students who find grammar either boring or irrelevant.

    —David E. Freeman and Yvonne S. Freeman

  • Epilogue: The Vision

    The vision for this book series began with the formation of the Institute for Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Teaching (ICLRT) at Whittier College, the creation of the ICLRT Design Principles, which guide the institute, and the development of an ALD book series, which can assist educators with more deeply meeting the needs of their ELLs and SELs. ICLRT was formed in 2014, and the institute’s mission is to “promote relevant research and develop academic resources for ELLs and Standard English Learners (SELs) via linguistically and culturally responsive teaching practices” (ICLRT, n.d.). As such, ICLRT’s purpose is to “provide research-based and practitioner-oriented professional development services, tools, and resources for K–12 systems and teacher education programs serving ELLs and SELs.” Whittier College is a nationally designated Hispanic-Serving Institution, and ICLRT staff have been providing professional development on ELLs and SELs for more than 15 years, both across California and nationally.

    The four books in this ALD series build upon the foundation of the ICLRT Design Principles:

    • Connecting and addressing the needs of both ELLs and SELs, both linguistically and culturally
    • Assisting educators with identifying ways to use this book series (and additional ICLRT books) in professional development settings
    • Addressing the underdeveloped domains of speaking and listening as areas that can be integrated across disciplines and components of ALD
    • Integrating culturally responsive teaching as a vehicle for honoring both home and primary languages as well as cultural norms for learning
    ICLRT Design Principles

    Here is a complete list of the ICLRT Design Principles. In parentheses are the books in this series that will address each principle.

    • ICLRT believes that the commonalities between ELL and SEL students are more extensive (and more vital to their learning) than the differences between the two groups.
      • ELL and SEL students are at the same end of the learning gap—they often score at the lowest levels on achievement tests. They also rank highly among high school dropouts (Culture in Context).
      • The academic progress of ELL and SEL students may be hindered by barriers, such as poor identification practices and negative teacher attitudes toward their languages and cultures (Culture in Context).
      • ELL and SEL students both need specific instructional attention to the development of academic language (Grammar and Syntax in Context, Conversational Discourse in Context, and Vocabulary in Context).
    • ICLRT believes that ongoing, targeted professional development is the key to redirecting teacher attitudes toward ELL and SEL student groups.
      • Teacher knowledge about the histories and cultures of ELL and SEL students can be addressed through professional development and professional learning communities (Culture in Context).
      • Teachers will become aware of the origins of nonstandard language usage (Culture in Context).
      • Teachers can become aware of and comfortable with using diverse texts and productive group work to enhance students’ sense of belonging (Conversational Discourse in Context).
      • The ICLRT Academic Language Certification process will provide local demonstration models of appropriate practices and attitudes (Conversational Discourse in Context).
    • ICLRT believes that ELL and SEL students need to have ongoing, progressive opportunities for listening and speaking throughout their school experiences.
      • The typical ELD sequence of curriculum and courses do not substantially address ELL and SEL student needs for language development (Conversational Discourse in Context and Vocabulary in Context).
      • The ICLRT student shadowing protocol and student shadowing app can provide both quantitative and qualitative information about student speaking and listening (Conversational Discourse in Context).
      • The ICLRT lesson plan design incorporates appropriate speaking and listening development integrated with reading, writing, and/or content area learning (Conversational Discourse in Context).
      • Strategies for active listening and academic oral language are embedded in ICLRT’s ALD professional development series (Conversational Discourse in Context).
    • ICLRT believes that its blending of culturally responsive pedagogy (CRP) with ALD will provide teachers of ELL and SEL students with powerful learning tools and strategies.
      • The six characteristics of CRP (Gay, 2000) heighten the already strong effects of solid ALD instruction (Grammar and Syntax in Context).
      • The storytelling aspects of CRP fit well with the oral language traditions of ELLs and can be used as a foundational tool for both groups to affirm their rich histories (Culture in Context).
      • Both groups need specific instruction in the four essential components of ALD, including SDAIE strategies (Grammar and Syntax in Context, Conversational Discourse in Context, and Vocabulary in Context).
      • The inclusion of CRP and ALD within the ICLRT lesson planning tool makes their use seamless instead of disparate for each group (Culture in Context).

    Sources: Gay (2000), LeMoine (1999), and Soto-Hinman & Hetzel (2009)

    Additional ICLRT Professional Development Resources

    This ALD book series is one of the research-based resources developed by ICLRT to assist K–12 systems in serving ELLs and SELs. Other ICLRT resources include the following Corwin texts: The Literacy Gaps: Building Bridges for ELLs and SELs (Soto-Hinman & Hetzel, 2009); ELL Shadowing as a Catalyst for Change (Soto, 2012); and Moving From Spoken to Written Language With ELLs (Soto, 2014). Together, the three books, and their respective professional development modules (available via ICLRT and Corwin), tell a story of how to systemically close achievement gaps with ELLs and SELs by increasing their academic oral language production in academic areas. Specifically, each ICLRT book in the series addresses ALD in the following ways.

    • The Literacy Gaps: Building Bridges for ELLs and SELs (Soto-Hinman & Hetzel, 2009)—This book is a primer for meeting the literacy needs of ELLs and SELs. Additionally, the linguistic and achievement needs of ELLs and SELs are linked and specific ALD strategies are outlined to comprehensively and coherently meet the needs of both groups of students.
    • ELL Shadowing as a Catalyst for Change (Soto, 2012)—This book is a way to create urgency around meeting the academic oral language needs of ELLs. Educators shadow an ELL student, guided by the ELL shadowing protocol, which allows them to monitor and collect academic oral language and active listening data. The ethnographic project allows educators to experience a day in the life of an ELL.
    • Moving From Spoken to Written Language With ELLs (Soto, 2014)—This book assists educators in leveraging spoken language into written language. Specific strategies, such as Think-Pair-Share, the Frayer model, and Reciprocal Teaching, are used to scaffold the writing process, and the Curriculum Cycle (Gibbons, 2002) is recommended as a framework for teaching writing.

    Please note that professional development modules for each of the texts listed are also available through ICLRT. For more information, please go to

    The ALD book series can be used either after or alongside of The Literacy Gaps: Building Bridges for ELLs and SELs (Soto-Hinman & Hetzel, 2009); ELL Shadowing as a Catalyst for Change (Soto, 2012); and Moving From Spoken to Written Language With ELLs (Soto, 2014) as each book introduces and addresses the importance of ALD for ELLs and SELs. The ALD book series also takes each ALD component deeper by presenting specific research and strategies that will benefit ELLs and SELs in the classroom.


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