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Jessica Martorano

ED 228
Professor Brooks
September 13, 2016
Content Literacy Analysis: English-Language Arts
Academic Language and Content Literacy are two concepts that go hand-in-hand, but
what exactly do they mean? If one is to understand how best to approach, interpret, and teach
these concepts in a class one must first understand how academic language is different than just
conversational language used at home or with friends. In the context of English-Language Arts
academic language is used to acquire new understanding of abstract concepts through
vocabulary, grammar, syntax, and punctuation (Vogt, 2010, p. 3). For example, in a high school
sophomore level English class it would be expected that students understand the rhetoric of
analyzing a text or using supporting details, but the academic language that may be learned
is more content-specific such as sophisticated grammar with Greek and Latin words [ such
as] aesthetics [or] heuristic (Jones, 2014, p. 1). Content Literacy is the ability to use
academic language, in reading, writing, and speaking, in a meaningful way and in this case, in
the specific course of English-Language Arts.
So what are some meaningful ways to incorporate academic language and content
literacy into daily instruction? To start, some of the tried and true ways are actually the
opposite. According to Nell Duke, doing vocabulary lists where students write definitions and
use the word in a sentence doesnt build vocabulary as well as techniques that actively engage
students in discussing and relating new words to known words, for example through semantic
mapping (2016, p. 2). To make better use of academic language and vocabulary in the
classroom, introducing the words that are relevant to the text naturally in the lesson allows for
students to hear the correct usage of the word in an understandable way, plus repetition is helpful

in building schema (Finley, 2014, pp. 1-2). The best way for students to expand their academic
language is to actually use it! After hearing certain phrases or words used by an educator,
students begin to understand that in the classroom setting it is also expected that they should be
using this elevated sort of language. [F]or students to develop proficiency in language,
interpret what they read express themselves orally and in writing, participate during whole-group
and small-group instruction, and explain and defend their viewpoints and answers, they need
opportunities to learn and use academic language (Vogt, 2010, p. 7).
After making use of the ways previously listed for introducing new academic language,
what are some ways to make sure students are content literate and using this newfound academic
language? The SIOP model recommends that students be given [f]requent opportunities for
interaction with and discussion between teachers and students and among students, [a]mple
opportunities for studenets to clarify key concepts (Vogt, 2010, p. 7). It is important to
acknowledge that the SIOP model was primarily created for English as a second language
learners, but if one is to keep in mind the universal design model, but that does not mean it cant
benefit all of the students in a given classroom. Though there is no direct mention of academic
language or content literacy in the Indiana Academic Standards for English/Language Arts:
Grades 6-12, they do have standards regarding the interpretation and understanding of texts, as
well as vocabulary necessary to perform at the college and career readiness level necessary to
meet state standards. Thus, depending on the grade level there are necessary quotas to be met
(English/Language Arts, 2014).
In English-Language Arts the short story The Lottery by Shirley Jackson is a fairly
common text used by educators. The very first page of the text is laced with academic language
and potentially unfamiliar vocabulary. In the first sentence the flowers are described as

blossoming profusely (Jackson, 1948, 1) which a student may be able to pick up the
understanding due to context clues, but is still a potentially difficult word. Even structurally the
sentences are complex, They stood together, away from the pile of stones in the corner, and
their jokes were quiet and they smiled rather than laughed (Jackson, 1948, 1). This is where the
analytical aspect of reading comes in, because the reader/student must interpret what mood the
author is portraying through the actions of the characters. They need to compare and contrast
how the adults behavior contrasts with the fresh warmth of a full-summer day and how young
Bobby Martin had already stuffed his pockets full of stones, and the other boys soon followed
his example (Jackson, 1948, 1).
This is in addition to another set of new vocabulary including boisterous, reprimands,
jovial, perfunctory, and interminably (Jackson, 1948, 1-2). And that is only on the first two
pages! Since the climax of the story is not until the last paragraph, the reader needs to begin
drawing conclusions as to what the lottery itself means, making them problem-solve and
interpret the mood of the text. Lastly, at the close of the book comes the highest-level of
Blooms taxonomy used, which is evaluation. To make a judgement on the characters, their
actions, their beliefs, and how that effects the students beliefs in regard to the lottery and all it
stands for. The last line and then they were upon her (Jackson, 1948, 6) leaves a lasting
impression and forces the reader to evaluate their own morals in comparison to the morals
presented in the story. The final lines of the story as well as the morality/judgement aspect are
what I would really want to focus on when it comes to writing and reading. Concerning the
academically linguistic and literacy aspects of the text it is important to be interpreting it and
analyzing how the structure and vocabulary are important to the overall story.

After performing all of this research and using it to analyze The Lottery I feel as if I
have a deeper appreciation for the preparation necessary in finding the aspects of a text that
should be given extra focus. Something as simple as using new vocabulary in a natural way as
class begins allows for a familiarity with it for the students to slowly be introduced to.
Furthermore, it reinforced the idea that vocab lists with definition and using the word in a
sentence are not the most ideal or even close to ideal way to better understand language.
Treating academic language like any other new language i.e. just using it in the classroom and
having the expectation of students using it in the classroom allows for the most natural and
correct result of students picking it up.

Duke, N. K. (2016, June 03). What Doesn't Work: Literacy Practices We Should Abandon.
Retrieved September 14, 2016, from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/literacy-practices-weshould-abandon-nell-k-duke
English/Language Arts. (2014, October 6). Retrieved September 14, 2016, from
Finley, T. (2014, January 02). 8 Strategies for Teaching Academic Language. Retrieved
September 13, 2016, from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/8-strategies-teaching-academiclanguage-todd-finley
Jackson, S. (1948). Retrieved September 14, 2016, from
Uccelli, P., Phillips Galloway, E., Barr, C. D., Meneses, A., & Dobbs, C. L. (2015). Beyond
Vocabulary: Exploring Cross-Disciplinary Academic-Language Proficiency and Its
Association With Reading Comprehension. Reading Research Quarterly, 1-7.
Vogt, M., Echevarria, J., & Short, D. (2010). The SIOP model for teaching English-language
arts to English learners. Boston: Pearson, 1-15.