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Academic Language and English Language Learners

In this webcast, Robin Scarcella provides an overview of academic language instruction for English language learners, as well as teaching strategies, activity ideas, and recommended resources.

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Program description

Featuring Dr. Robin Scarcella, providing an overview of academic language instruction for English language learners, as well as teaching strategies, activity ideas, and recommended resources.

This free webcast is made possible by AFT Teachers, a division of the American Federation of Teachers, as part of a Colorín Colorado partnership between AFT and Reading Rockets.


Dr. Robin Scarcella is Professor at the University of California at Irvine, where she also serves as the Director of the Program in Academic English and ESL. She has written over sixty scholarly publications on ESL teaching and L2 acquisition, edited numerous volumes, and written many methodology books and textbooks. Her articles have appeared in such journals as the TESOL Quarterly, Language Learning, Brain and Language and Second Language Research. She has presented at conferences in the United States, Canada, Central America, South America, Europe and the Middle East. In the last four years, she has provided teacher professional development workshops to over 10,000 elementary and secondary teachers. Her most recent volume is Accelerating Academic English. She received her doctoral degree in Linguistics at the University of Southern California and her masters in Second Language Acquisition-Education from Stanford University.

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Related resources

Articles and books by our presenter

  • Scarcella, R. (2003). Academic English: A Conceptual Framework. The University of California Linguistic Minority Research Institute. Technical Report 2003-1.

Other readings

  • Aukerman, M. (2007). A culpable CALP: Rethinking the conversational/academic language proficiency distinction in early literacy instruction. The Reading Teacher, 60, 626-635.
  • Brown, C. L. (2007). Supporting English language learners in content-reading. Reading Improvement, 44, 32-39.
  • Cruz, M. (2004). Can English language learners acquire academic English? English Journal, 93, 14-31.
  • Institute of Education Sciences. (2007). IES Practice Guide: Effective literacy and English language instruction for English learners in the elementary grades. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education.
  • Rubinstein-Ávila, E. (2006). Connecting with Latino learners. Educational Leadership, 63, 38-43.
  • Zwiers, J. (2005). The Third Language of Academic English. Educational Leadership, 62, 60-63.
  • Zwiers, J. (2008). Building Academic Language: Essential Practices for Content Classrooms, Grades 5-12. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Related links

Discussion questions

  1. Describe how academic English differs from the English we use in everyday life. What are some misconceptions people might have about academic language development?
  2. Does your school have an effective, comprehensive academic language curriculum in place? If not, how could you work with colleagues within your school to develop one?
  3. According to Dr. Scarcella, how might academic language instruction be designed to address the needs of both newcomer ELLs and long-term ELLs?
  4. Based on what you heard today, can you describe skills other than vocabulary knowledge that are essential to academic language proficiency?
  5. What types of professional development activities do you think would be helpful to teachers who want to learn more about effective academic English instruction?