TESOL Candidate Pamela Leuchtman on Academic Language and ELLs: What Teachers Need to Know

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TESOL Candidate Pamela Leuchtman on Academic Language and ELLs: What Teachers Need to Know

TESOL Candidate Pamela Leuchtman on Academic Language and ELLs: What Teachers Need to Know

By Jasmin(Bey) Cowin, Ed.D. Assistant Professor and TESIOL Practicum Coordinator, Touro College, GSE, NY

Pamela Leuchtman, TESOL Candidate, Touro College, GSE, NY

Discussion Boards (DBs) offer the opportunity to not only to reflect on readings but also contribute with peer responses to the learning process of the course cohort. It is through DBs that I meet my Touro TESOL teacher candidates in asynchronous courses and have the opportunity to interact with them.  Online discussion is defined as communication between instructors and students using interactive communication tools. Touro’s LMS Canvas offers multiple online communication tools from video, media and voice recordings to uploading of images, and chats.
Conflicting Research Results on Facilitator Presence in Discussion Boards
Research supports two interesting results that could conflict with each other in practice; that instructor presence is key to student satisfaction, and intensive interaction and too many posts by the facilitator in discussion boards can lead to reduced posting by the students (Wang and Chen, 2011). Students report greater satisfaction in courses that have facilitator presence and availability (Picciano, 2002).  On the other hand, because the instructor is considered an authoritarian symbol (Rourke & Anderson, 2002), studies found early and often postings by an instructor resulted in less frequent and shorter posts by the students (Dennen, 2005). Students need autonomy and feeling safe in expressing their views with each other before instructor interaction otherwise they write for the instructor, and not to each other (Wang and Liang, 2011).
I do not “participate” in the DB’s but interact and write to the candidates in the grading responses in Canvas.  However, I (Jasmin Cowin) let the group know that I am reading everything they write posting encouraging responses or asking a follow-up question.
My Discussion Board Guide:
  1. Copy and paste the questions and answer under them so I can see you answered to all points - a model is provided in this post.
  2. I recommend you post by Friday of each week, so you have time to give thoughtful peer responses.
  3. Please note that 2 thoughtful peer responses per discussion board are needed for meets expectations (3 points), more than 2 peer response is above expectations. - I provide a model for both the post and response below.
  4. All quotes and references must be provided at the end of your DB in a reference section. - you can use https://www.citationmachine.net/ (Links to an external site.)
  5. Please read the rubric!

Read Touro TESOL Candidate Pamela Leuchtman's reflection on academic language and ELLs. 


Pamela Leuchtman is a French teacher in Suffolk County, New York. She has been teaching for more than 5 years, including 14 months of teaching English to students in France. Ms. Leuchtman wrote, “I love learning about new languages and cultures, and I hope to instill this passion in my students.”
Discussion Board: What is Language?
After reading: Academic Language and ELLs: What Teachers Need to Know
  • Have you had any students who were proficient in social language but struggled with academic language?
  • If so, how did their social and academic language use differ?
  • Did anything in their language abilities surprise you?
  • What are some examples that could be used to compare social and academic language in your classroom?
Pamela Leuchtman: I personally have never had an ELL student but the student population in my school district is mostly Hispanic/Latino and I know that most of my student’s native language is Spanish. I have noticed that some of my students are proficient in social language but struggle with academic language. One specific instance would be when the students were writing to me in Google classroom, Google meet or in an e-mail. The students often spoke to me as if I was their friend and they used expressions such as “lol”. This would be considered informal speech or social speech. The students didn’t understand that they shouldn’t speak to their teachers using social language (Breiseth). I’ve also noticed that some of my students are in integrated ELA classes which provide many supports, including academic language support, to the students. An example that I use to compare social and academic language in my classroom is when I teach the students that, in French, there is formal (similar to academic language) and informal (similar to social language) speech. I ask the students for examples of when and where to use which type of speech.
What changes have occurred regarding the teaching of a) pronunciation, b) grammar and c) vocabulary in the many approaches discussed in this chapter? Has there been a swinging of the pendulum in respect to the teaching of these areas? Why or why not? (refer to Celce-Murcia Chapter edition 4 Chapter 1)
Pamela Leuchtman: During the Renaissance, the formal study of grammar became popular due to the invention of the printing press. During the early 17th century, the focus on language study swung back to utility and a focus on pronunciation. The grammar-translation approach, in the beginning of the 19th century, focused on the study of grammar as well. By the end of the 19th century, the focus was on the direct method which called for a focus on communication and pronunciation rather than grammar. During the reform movement in the late 1880’s, the International Phonetic Association found that the spoken form of a language is primary and should be taught first. In the early and mid-20th century, the reading approach stated that only the grammar useful for reading comprehension should be taught and that vocabulary should be controlled at first and then expanded as proficiency level and usefulness of the vocabulary increases. The audiolingual approach was born due to World War II. The soldiers needed to able to communicate with the people that they encountered in other countries. This approach placed great emphasis on pronunciation while grammatical structures and vocabulary were controlled. The oral-situational approach focused on pronunciation with controlled teaching of grammatical structures. The cognitive approach stated that grammar must be taught, pronunciation was deemphasized and vocabulary learning was stressed. Lastly, the communicative approach emphasized pronunciation. There has been a swinging of the pendulum in respect to the teaching of pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary throughout the years due to societal changes. As evident by the many approaches to teaching a language, there are many “right” ways to teach a language (Celce-Murcia, 2013).
How is Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) related to other proficiency-based approaches to language teaching? (refer to Celce-Murcia Chapter edition 4 Chapter 2)
Pamela Leuchtman: CLT is related to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages Standards (ACTFL). ACTFL created the Five C’s model which is also known as the World Language Readiness Standards for Learning Languages. The first C is communication which includes communicating effectively in more than one language in order to function in a variety of situations and for multiple purposes. The three primary modes of communication are interpersonal, interpretive and presentational. Interpersonal communication is described as
learners interacting and negotiating meaning in spoken, signed, or written conversations to share information, reactions, feelings, and opinions. Interpretive communication is described as leaners understanding, interpreting, and analyzing what is heard, read, or viewed on a variety of topics. Presentational communication is described as learners presenting information, concepts, and ideas to inform, explain, persuade, and narrate on a variety of topics using appropriate media and adapting to various audiences of listeners, readers, or viewers. The second C is cultures which includes interacting with cultural competence and understanding. In this standard, learners use the language to investigate, explain, and reflect on the relationship between the practices/products and perspectives of the cultures studied. The third C is connections which includes connecting with other disciplines and acquiring information and diverse perspectives in order to use the language to function in academic and career- related situations. The fourth C is comparisons which includes developing insight into the nature of language and culture in order to interact with cultural competence. In this standard, learners use the language to investigate, explain, and reflect on the nature and concept of language through comparisons of the language studied and their own. The fifth C is communities which includes communicating and interacting with cultural competence in order to participate in multilingual communities at home and around the world. In this standard, learners use the language both within and beyond the classroom to interact and collaborate in their community and the globalized world (Summary of World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages). The Five C’s relate to CLT because they emphasize communicating with others, grammatical competence, and critical thinking.
CLT is related to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) because this framework is also based on communicative ability and proficiency.
CLT is related to the Canadian Language Benchmarks (CLB) which was created for adult ESL learners in Canada. CLB is related to CLT because it is based on language use and proficiency. There are also five components in the CLB: 1. linguistic competence, 2. textual competence, 3. functional competence, 4. sociocultural competence, and 5. strategic competence (Celce-Murcia, 2013).
ACTFL. (n.d.). Summary of World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages. Standards Summary. Retrieved from https://www.actfl.org/resources/world-readiness-standards-learning-languages/standards-summary. 
Breiseth, L. (n.d.). Academic Language and ELLs: What Teachers Need to Know. Colorín Colorado. Retrieved from https://www.colorincolorado.org/article/academic-language-and-ells-what-teachers-need-know.
Celce-Murcia, M. (2013). Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language. Fourth Edition. Heinle Cengage Publishing.
Dennen, V. P. (2005). From message posting to learning dialogues: Factors affecting learner participation in asynchronous discussion. Distance Education, 26(1), 127-148.
Picciano, A., G. (2002). Beyond student perceptions: Issues of interaction, presence, and performance in an online course. Asynchronous Learning Networks, 6(1), 21-40.
Pamela Leuchtman submitted thoughtful responses and analysis to the readings with  APA style references.
Rourke, L., & Anderson, T. (2002). Exploring social interaction in computer conferencing. Interactive Learning Research, 13(3), 257-273.
Wang, Y. M., & Chen, D. V. (2011). Overcoming the dilemma of instructor presence in student-centered online discussions. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia (2011), 20(4), 425-438.
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