Understanding Academic Language


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Why This Strategy is Needed: As children mature, they develop the ability to comprehend and produce spoken and written language. Unfortunately, the writers of academic textbooks often use complex language structures that are very different from the everyday speech patterns that students actually use. Thus, many learners find academic text extremely difficult to understand. In order to improve their understanding, students must understand how words and phrases are arranged to create wellformed sentences. They must also understand the role that active and passive voice play in creating comprehension, how connectives are used to signal relationships between ideas, and the importance of pronouns. Built around the four-step TEXT Strategy, this manual provides a framework that teachers can use to convey this information.

Who Can Benefit from Instruction: While the information in this manual is valuable to all learners, instruction was created specifically for students with language issues, including students with disabilities and English language learners. In particular, instruction is best suited for high school teachers working in small group settings, such as Tiers 2 and 3 of Response to Intervention (RtI). Overview of the Manual This manual is organized into six lessons plus four appendices. The lessons outline the procedures for conducting the pretest and posttest, and also the procedures for teaching the TEXT Strategy. For the convenience of the individual using this manual, hyperlinks have been created between the lessons and the instructional materials located in the appendices.

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Please note that professional development, coaching, and infrastructure support are essential components to effective implementation of SIM instructional tools and interventions. It is highly recommended that you work with a SIM professional developer. See the SIM Event list for sessions or email simpd@ku.edu to learn more.


Author(s): Frances Ihle, Jacqueline Schafer

Publication Info: University of Kansas, 2014



Research on Understanding Academic Language includes studies involving high school students in classes designed to improve their reading and writing skills. Initial research took place in three high schools. Data were collected from three experimental (N = 24) classrooms and three comparison (N = 25) classrooms. The strategy was taught in the experimental classes whereas the teachers delivered instruction as planned in the comparison classes. Pretest and posttest results indicated that the students who learned the strategy increased their average performance by 28% (Effect size = 1.96) when answering questions about a 400- word social studies passage. A smaller study was conducted in a high school special education setting. The experimental class (N = 12) improved by answering 18% more questions correctly as compared to an average improvement of 2% by the comparison class (N = 8).