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Use magic to teach and learn academic language in my new NY Times post that includes a student interactive and teaching ideas.

Enriching Academic Vocabulary: Strategies for Teaching Tier Two Words to E.L.L. Students is the headline of another one of my posts for The New York Times. It’s a pretty lengthy one – filled with ideas, downloadable hand-outs and links to additional resources.

This is latest in my “The Best….” series of lists. Like the resources on most of the others, the sites on this list can be helpful to both English Language Learners and native-English speakers alike. Certainly, all my mainstream students need assistance in developing a mastery of academic English.

One way this list is different from the others is that I don’t rank them in terms of which ones I like the best. They’re all pretty good, and I’ll leave it for you to decide which one works better in your situation. Most of the online activities are accessible to either high-intermediate or advanced English Language Learners, though teachers can use the information on the sites to develop their own classroom activities accessible to students with a lower English proficiency.

You might also be interested in The Best Sites Where ELL’s Can Learn Vocabulary.

Here are, in my opinion, The Best Websites For Developing Academic English Skills & Vocabulary:

An Academic Writing Module: Paragraphs is designed for student self-access, and has many interactive exercises.

Using English For Academic Purposes has a lot of good online activities. I found it a little confusing to navigate, though. This page has a lot of direct links to exercises. Also, you’ll find a more accessible index for this site on another entirely different site called Free Online Academic Reading and Writing Exercises. You’ll also see a number of other links to other resources there.

One of Sacramento’s own, Elizabeth Hanson-Smith, also has developed a nice interactive tutorial with a long name: Constructing The Paragraph: A Tutorial and Self-Testing Program For American English In Academic Settings.

Carolyn Zierenberg, a talented teacher at our school, put together a simple multilingual (English/Spanish/Hmong) glossary of academic vocabulary. She’s given me permission to share it on this blog and website.

This Glossary Of Commonly Used English Academic Vocabulary — English/Spanish/Hmong. took an incredible amount of work to complete.

Of course, a list like this is only effective as a supplement and follow-up to multiple classroom activities where these words are used in a meaningful way in context.

An article in Education Week talks about a program called Word Generation that researchers in Boston developed to help middle school students learn academic vocabulary. The program is comprised of a series of daily fifteen minute lessons, and they all appear to be freely available on their site.

They seem like decent lessons, though I’m wary of “parachuting” daily lessons into a classroom that are not connected to the ongoing curriculum. I’m more inclined to using a standard template for short lessons that can be easily adapted and connected to the thematic units that are being used in class. It’s on my “to do” list to write more in-depth about our academic vocabulary lessons in a future post, and it’ll certainly be in a book I’m writing (with my colleague Katie Hull) that will be coming out next year. That said, however, I also can’t blame busy teachers who might want to use what appears to be a high-quality series of free lessons that are all set to go. The Word Generation site also has some other useful resources, including a page on Twelve Myths of Word Learning.

Kate Kinsella is well-known for her research on helping students learn and use academic vocabulary. The California Department of Education has put a series of her videos and materials on their website.

The videos don’t at all capture her dynamism that you see in person, but downloadable “apply the concepts” materials are worth their weight in gold! And, they’re free.

One New Activity I’m Doing To Help ELLs Learn Academic Vocabulary – & Practice Speaking It

Here’s a great Academic Vocabulary List from Jim Burke.

When To Teach Vocabulary

Academic Vocabulary and Haiku Deck is from ELL Teaching 2.0.

Art and Science of Teaching / Cognitive Verbs and the Common Core is by Robert Marzano

Common Core Ratchets Up Language Demands for English-Learners is from Ed Week.

Kate Kinsella has a collection of hand-outs to assist in academic language instruction. Here are more. And one more batch.

Academic Language for English Language Learners is from Colorin Colorado.

8 Strategies for Teaching Academic Language is from Edutopia.

Here are a bunch of downloadable resources from Kate Kinsella about academic language (thanks to Judie Haynes for the tip).

Vocabulary Exercises for the Academic Word List

My colleague and co-author, Katie Hull Sypnieski, and I just published a post over at Edutopia titled English-Language Learners and Academic Language.

ELLs’ Literacy Improved Under Popular Instructional Model, Study Finds is from Education Week.

The Vocabulary of Test Directions is from Vocabulary.com, and provides links to help students learn the academic vocabulary list that Jim Burke has developed.

Lex for EFL has created some interactive academic vocabulary activities that are useful.

U.S. Department Of Ed Releases Useful Guide On Teaching Academic Language To ELLs

Academic Language and ELLs: What Teachers Need to Know is from Colorin Colorado.

Mary Ann Zehr shared an interesting article on How To Start Academic Conversations. I got tired just reading about what the researchers were having the teacher do in the classroom, but I was intrigued by their ideas of students learning simple hand gestures to reinforce academic conversation prompts.

Teaching Academic Content and Literacy to English Learners is a website collecting all the resources, including PowerPoints and materials, from a big conference on this topic in July, 2014.

Teaching Academic Listening (and transferral to the General English classroom!) is by Lizzie Pinard.

New video series: Engaging ELLs in Academic Conversations is a Colorin Colorado post about a useful Teaching Channel resource.

How To Start Academic Conversations is a useful article.

Teaching academic vocabulary: a guide for beginners is an exceptional post by Adam Simpson.

How Using First Language Supports Can Propel Academic Content in English is from Teach Learn Grow.

Purposeful Partner Talk to Close the Academic Language Gap is from ASCD.

Academic Language Function Toolkit is from the Sweetwater School District and looks very useful.

A Simple Game Using Academic Language

Other Academic World Lists By Grades/Subject:

Grades K-6 Tier II Vocabulary Lists – Hyde Park School District

Academic Vocabulary – Berkeley School District

Academic Word Lists by Subject and Grade – Tennessee Department of Education

Tier Two Vocabulary List for High School

Here is a great series of Quizlet online exercises for the New Academic Word List.

Cognitive Verbs and the Common Core – a list by Robert Marzano

15 Academic Vocabulary Resources is from TESOL.

Interesting Study On Teaching Vocabulary



WordSift Is Back & It’s Better Than Ever!

Tier 3 Words: Teaching Content-Specific Vocabulary is from Empowering ELLs.

The Backseat Linguist has speaks some truth about a new study: Academic Vocabulary Instruction: Does Word Generation Really Teach You Two Years’ Worth of Words in 22 Weeks?

Academic Vocabulary Instruction II: Learning 1 Word in 5 Hours Shouldn’t Count as a Success is from The Backseat Linguist.

Here are some nice collections of printable academic sentence-starters:

26 Sentence Stems For Higher-Level Conversation In The Classroom is from Teach Thought.


Sentence Frames is from Miss Hultenius.


Another school district’s downloadable list.


Dangers of (starting with) definitions is from The Science Teacher and offers helpful advice about vocabulary instruction.

Introducing the New Academic Word List is important information from ATLAS.

8 Strategies for Teaching Academic Language is from Todd Finley.

Teaching Academic Vocabulary to English Learners: A Q&A with Sydney Snyder is from Education.com.

Thinking/Sentence Frames for All Content Areas is from EdTech Nut.

English Learners Need to Use Academic Language is by Valentina Gonzalez.

A new study has found what many others studies have also found:

… although both emergent bilingual and English monolingual students improved on words that were explicitly taught, only English monolingual students improved in their knowledge of words that were incidentally taught.


6 Ways to Enhance English Learners’ Academic Oral Language is from Jana Echevarria.

The Academic Phrasebook is a good source for learning academic language.


Questions about pre-teaching vocabulary (PTV) is from Adaptive Learning in ELT.

Developing & Refining Academic Vocabulary for ELLs and other learners

Research in brief: Critique of BICS and CALP is from ELT Planning.

I’ve been trying to do some more explicit work on academic language in my two ELL classes, using some of the strategies I’ve written about at English-Language Learners and Academic Language. In addition to the word lists I refer to in that post, I’ve been using these Social Studies lists in my History class: SOCIAL STUDIES ACADEMIC VOCABULARY from Middletown Public Schools and this Marzano list for various subjects.

Pile of Words: Drive Deeper Engagement with Vocabulary at the Beginning of a Unit, Text, or Project is from Dr. Catlin Tucker.

14 Ways to Learn Vocabulary and Explore Language With The New York Times is from The NY Times Learning Network.

Vocabulary Teaching is by Timothy Shanahan.

8 Ways to Grow Students’ Vocabulary is from Cult of Pedagogy.

Elizabeth Emmons created these great visualizations of academic vocabulary words. Here’s a PDF version.

Wordcraft is a vocabulary game focused on the Latin and Greek roots of words.

Knoword is an interesting online vocabulary learning site.

April Vocabulary Challenge: Create a Word Field Note is from The NY Times. It’s a nice idea to use anytime.

6 Quick Strategies to Build Vocabulary is from Edutopia.

Helping Multilingual Students Have Productive Academic Conversations is from The English Learners Success Forum.

Build Strong Math Vocabulary Skills Using These Simple Strategies is from Edutopia.

Teach Vocabulary with the ‘Diglot Weave’ Story Method is from The Barefoot TEFL Teacher.

The study in this next tweet seems pretty interesting, though appears to be written in more “academese” than even the typical dense academic paper. I was struck by this line:

Students do need extensive practice, about seven opportunities per component of knowledge.

I do wonder if this might be able to be applied to often disputed number of times a student has to be exposed to a new word before it’s learned?

3 Ways to Help Students Master Academic Language is from Edutopia.

Please let me know if you have any other suggestions for adding to this list, or what you think about the ones already there.

Also, drop me a line if you have ideas about other topics for future “The Best…” lists.

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