For Staff

The following resources and tools will help staff understand effective core instruction.

Common Core in ELA Literacy: Shift 6: Academic Vocabulary ( This six-minute video by Engage NY addresses the “tiers” of vocabulary and the choices teachers need to make regarding the explicit teaching of academic vocabulary. The site includes a worksheet and suggestions for conducting professional development around the video.

Identifying and Addressing Language Demands Critical for Supporting Academic Achievement ( Edynn Sato’s PowerPoint presentation explores the intersection between cognitive abilities, language demands and academic performance. Her taxonomy can be used to inform the development of language progressions from the most basic and foundational English language skills and knowledge to the most advanced and developed language skills and knowledge relevant to accessing and achieving rigorous academic content.

CONNECT Module 6: Dialogic Reading Practices ( This comprehensive module focuses on Dialogic Reading, an evidence-based instructional practice that builds oral language development, especially for children who live in poverty or lack age-appropriate language skills, by implementing a systematic approach to shared storybook reading. The module is organized by a 5-Step Learning Cycle that begins with a dilemma of practice and cycles through questions, evidence of effective practice, instructional decision making and evaluation. It includes video clips, activities, handouts, and audio to assist teachers as they learn about Dialogic Reading and implement this evidence-based practice in their classrooms.

Realizing Opportunities for ELLs in the Common Core English Language Arts and Disciplinary Literacy Standards ( This 16-page paper emphasizes that texts are approached differently for different purposes. Students need opportunities to approach texts with these varied purposes in mind. The article also highlights how English Language Learners (ELLs) may be well served by opportunities to explore and justify their own “textual hypotheses,” even if their initial interpretations diverge from those of the teacher.

Framework for English Language Proficiency Development Standards Corresponding to the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards ( This 105-page document, aimed at English Learner stakeholders, explains the language practices that all English Learners must acquire in order to successfully master the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). It also covers practices relevant to second language acquisition in general. The framework including language practices for English Language Arts (ELA) is on page 11.

WIDA Guiding Principles webinars: This set of six 30-minute webinars from a collaboration between Minnesota Department of Education and the World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment (WIDA) consortium focuses on academic language development and standards. Access the Academic Language series by topic.

Part 1 - Academic Language (
Part 2 - ELD Standards Framework (
Part 3 - Language of Math (
Part 4 - Language of Science (
Part 5 - Language of Language Arts (
Part 6 - Language of Social Studies (

Providing Access to Common Core Language Arts Standards to Students who use Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) ( Worah, S. and Zarchen, J. This article asserts that ALL students should have equal access to use their language to communicate within the Common Core Standards. Teachers working with students who use communication devices will benefit from reading this article.


Community of Practice Reads

The following resources have been noted by practitioners across Minnesota as being helpful in understanding and improving instruction in academic language. The collections of readings are not intended to be exhaustive or all encompassing.  These selections are useful for any learners that are working to fully realize and use academic language in the content areas, even when the title indicates that English Learners are the primary focus.

Cultivating Language

Understanding Language: Language, Literacy, and Learning in the Content Areas ( This website includes teaching resources that exemplify high-quality instruction for English Learners. It has sample lesson and unit plans in three content areas: English Language Arts, Mathematics, and Science.

Bailey, Ann. The Language Demands of School: Putting Academic English to the Test (2006). This book describes the research base for academic language testing, instruction and professional development. The central focus of the chapters is the research conducted by Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards and Student Testing (CRESST) in an attempt to document the academic language demands placed on school-age learners of English. This work also applies to native English speakers who do not have the full repertoire of language skills. Teachers will find examples of learning progressions and practices that support student learning.

Johnston, Peter H., Opening Minds: Using Language to Change Lives (2012).The words that teachers choose affect the worlds students inhabit in the classroom, and ultimately, their futures. This book illustrates how to engage children with more productive talk and how to create classrooms that support students’ language development.

Zwiers, Jeff and Crawford, Marie, Academic Conversations: Classroom Talk that Fosters Critical Thinking and Content Understandings (2011). This book outlines five core communication skills to help students hold productive academic conversations across content areas. These skills are elaborating and clarifying, supporting ideas with evidence, building on and/or challenging ideas, paraphrasing, and synthesizing. This book shows teachers how to weave the cultivation of academic conversation skills and conversations into current teaching approaches. More specifically, it describes how to use conversations to build academic vocabulary and grammar; critical thinking skills; literacy skills; complex and abstract essential understandings in content areas; and an academic classroom environment that respects others' ideas, equity of voice, engagement, and mutual support. There are practical activities for working on each conversation skill, crafting conversation-worthy tasks, and using conversations to teach and assess.

Zwiers, Jeff, Building Academic Language: Essential Practices for Content Classrooms, Grades 5-12 (2007). This book explains the functions and features of academic language that every teacher should know for supporting academic reading, writing, and discussion. The book includes research-based instructional and assessment activities that content teachers can use to build students' abilities to understand and describes the many abstract concepts, higher-order thinking skills, and complex relationships in a discipline. The book emphasizes an approach that builds from students' existing ways of learning and communicating and ultimately enables them to think and talk as content area experts think and talk about math, science, history, and language arts.

Wallack, Geraldine, Language Intervention for School-Age Students: Setting Goals for Academic Success (2008).  This book provides special education teachers examples of language interventions as well as ways to “water-up the curriculum”. Teachers will find ideas for ways to increase students exposure and use of complex language structures that can be generalized to reading and writing.

Vocabulary Development

Beck, Isabel L; McKeown, Margaret G.; and Kucan, Linda, Bringing Words to Life, Second Edition: Robust Vocabulary Instruction (2013). This book provides updates and advances in research-based vocabulary instruction. It includes chapters on vocabulary and writing; assessment; and differentiating instruction for struggling readers and English language learners, including coverage of response to intervention (RtI). This newest edition includes expanded discussions of content-area vocabulary and multiple-meaning words, examples of robust instruction in action, and an appendix with a menu of instructional activities.

Johnston, Peter H., Choice Words (2004). This book demonstrates how the things we say (and do not say) have a surprising impact on what children learn and who they become as literate people. Through language, children learn more than literacy strategies: they learn how to become strategic thinkers.