Academic Language Mastery: Vocabulary in Context


Margarita Calderón & 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!

    —Ivannia Soto, Series Editor
    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
    • Gary Lee Frye
    • Development and Grant Coordinator
    • Lubbock-Cooper ISD
    • Lubbock, TX
    • Katherine Lobo
    • ESL Teacher, President of MATSOL
    • Newton South High School
    • Newton, MA
    • Valerie C. Ruff
    • Middle Grades Teacher
    • Druid Hills Academy
    • Charlotte, NC
    • Kerri Whipple
    • ELL Director
    • South East Education Cooperative
    • Fargo, ND

    About the Authors

    Dr. Margarita Calderón, is professor emerita senior research scientist at Johns Hopkins University School of Education. Since 2004, she has been conducting research studies funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. She has conducted longitudinal studies on English learners’ language and literacy development in elementary, middle, and high schools and is now focusing on professional development designs for adopting evidence-based instruction. The author of more than 100 articles, chapters, books, and teacher training manuals, Dr. Calderón’s most recent professional book is Teaching Reading to English Language Learners, Grades 6–12. She also developed Reading Instructional Goals for Older Readers (RIGOR), a series of intervention resources for older students reading at preliterate through Grade 3 levels. RIGOR is being used in New York City, Boston, Houston, Louisville, Salt Lake City, and other major cities. Dr. Calderón has worked as an English as a second language (ESL) high school teacher, a professional development coordinator for San Diego State University, and a bilingual director for the University of California at Santa Barbara. She presents frequently at conferences of major education organizations, including the International Reading Association, Teachers of English as a Second Language, and the National Association of Bilingual Educators. Born in Juárez, Mexico, Dr. Calderón was educated in Mexico and the United States, receiving her BA in English and MA in linguistics from the University of Texas at El Paso, followed by a PhD from Claremont Graduate School in Pomona, California.

    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 up of 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 Standard English Learners (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

    I dedicate this book to all the educators in California who implemented and contributed to our work over the years. This includes the County Offices of Education that implemented the Multidistrict Trainer of Trainers Institutes where we piloted promising practices for integrating language, literacy and content back in the 1980s! A special thanks to Riverside and San Bernardino County teachers who participated in my study of Coaching and Its Impact on Teachers and Students (1984). These preliminary efforts have led to further refinements and training of thousands of teachers and administrators throughout the country with great outcomes.

    I also dedicate this book to my dear friend Dan Alpert who has always believed in my efforts and helps me put them to print.

    —Margarita Calderón
  • 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 guides 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 development (Grammar and Syntax in Context, Conversational Discourse, 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 student 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 does 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), along with the procedure of contrastive analysis, 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, 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; 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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