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Academic Language and English Language Learners

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

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This webcast was 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.

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Program description

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

Program note: The video segment included in this webcast, "Beyond Survival English," is an excerpt from Launching Young Readers: Becoming Bilingual, a 30-minute PBS program hosted by Rita Moreno.

Becoming Bilingual can be viewed online or purchased from our LearningStore.


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.

Recommended resources

Academic Language and ELLs Resource Section

Professional Booklist: Academic Language and ELLs

This resource section from Colorín Colorado features strategies and suggestions for ESL, content-area, and classroom educators about academic language instruction, as well as recommended articles, professional books, and video clips.

Resources from our presenter

Other readings

Related products from LearningStore

Launching Young Readers: Becoming Bilingual

Launching Young Readers: Becoming Bilingual For a teacher who speaks only English, having students who speak another language can be a daunting prospect. How do teachers teach English language learners (ELLs) to read in a new language?
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Please visit our English language learners/Bilingual section of LearningStore to discover the best research-based practices for teaching ELLs.

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?

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