In the past, many English Language Development Standards focused primarily on social and instructional language. Once students had mastered this type of language, it was presumed that they were able to keep up in content classes.
Students need to be repeatedly exposed to the vocabulary and language they are expected to use, be explicity taught the academic language, hear the academic language used in the proper context, and use the academic language themselves. How on Earth can we accomplish all of this?
You'd be surprised at how easy it is to sneak a vocabulary lesson into a content lesson. Students can acquire the language and content simultaneously if the activity is constructed properly.
Recently, my students' math teacher came to me. She was concerned because she had noticed that not only were my ESOL students mixing up their operations vocabulary with the names of the symbols (ie- How did you get that answer? I plussed it), but so were the mainstream students. She asked me if I could come up with and teach a vocabulary lesson to address the problem.
I created a word wall tiles for each of the important vocabulary that I chose: addend, addition, difference, dividend, division, divisor, minus, multiplication, obelus, operation, plus, product,quotient, subtraction, sum, times. I hung these around the room and reviewed the words with students, who repeated them after me. Students then received a definition sheet with the vocabulary words missing. They did a gallery walk to complete their definitions worksheet.
Then, students returned to their table groups and worked together to complete a vocabulary sort:
Students really gained a lot from this activity, and I have heard them using the vocabulary correctly. Plus, how many folks know that the division symbol is called an obelus? I know 90 4th graders who do and will never forget!! You can extend this activity even farther for your low level students by having them illustrate each of the terms (they can can look at your word wall examples/pictures for ideas).
I also created a Math Operations Read-and-Retell activity that requires students to read a short reading about the mathematical operations, symbols, and results of operations. Students write the bold vocabulary words on the right-hand side of the page, then fold the page over and retell what they read to a partner using the vocabulary words. Finally, students re-read the story and summarize it using the same vocabulary words again.
This activity requires students to read, write, listen to and speak the vocabulary words, all in one activity. Also included is the vocabulary sort shown above! I'm making this activity available to you for just $1 in my TpT store. Just click the button below to download!
I hope these activities can help you incorporate academic vocabulary instruction into your math time to ensure the success of your ELLs and your mainstream students!
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