TOURO TESOL Candidate Carmen Montoya’s contribution to EDPN 673: Methods and Materials for Teaching English as a Second Language

EDPN 673: Methods and Materials for Teaching English as a Second Language is a fully online course. Every week my TESOL candidates participate in a discussion forum answering questions on their readings and responding to their peers. This week’s DB assignment: After reading: Academic Language and ELLs: What Teachers Need to Know

Please answer the following questions:

1. 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?
2. Based on what you now know about academic language, what kinds of support do you think Carlos needs in his chemistry class? Do you have any ideas on how Mrs. Wilson can support his written academic language?

3. What are cognates?

List 10 cognates that YOU might use in YOUR classroom with YOUR student population.

Carmen Montoya is a career changer who decided to pursue a career in special education and TESOL to help better position students with special needs and language needs for academic success. As a child of first-generation New Yorkers, she started off as an English language learner herself.  Due to her background,  Ms.Montoya is familiar with the impact of special needs and linguistic limitations among others in her academic and social circles. Ms. Montoya states; “In light of these experiences, I hope to comprehensively help students overcome deficits academically as well as socially and emotionally by offering appropriate and creative supports to uniquely empower students during my teaching career.”

I am delighted to share Ms. Montoya’s contribution!

What is Language?

1. 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?

Yes, I have observed many instances where students are socially fluent and outwardly confident in their everyday English but seem at a loss when asked to apply content concepts to their written and oral assignments, such as applying the prefix sub- to root words to create and identify several other words. In this instance, students recognized some components of the exercises through their inventory of social language but remained limited and unable to complete the exercises if time and care had not been taken to expand upon this knowledge to create and implement academic language. An explanation that seemed helpful in connecting students’ social language to academic language in this instance was presented in the following manner: “How many know what a submarine or submarino is? And how about the subway?. [students answer ] Well just like we recognize that a submarine operates under water, and a subway is also located underground, we can deduce that the prefix sub, which both words share and is placed at the “beginning” of the root words marine and way, means “under”. In this example, some also recognized the word submarino, meaning a submarine in Spanish, Portuguese and Italian. This is an example of a cognate, a word that is similar in spelling and meaning in other languages as in English.” As one can see, students were able to review words they understood one way, to then use them in several other ways to ultimately expand their knowledge of content vocabulary, that can be applied to any number of subjects.
By initially guiding students through words used socially, such as submarine and subway- building “existing background knowledge,” students were better able to start appreciating how their social and academic languages are tied in together (Breiseth, 2019). Students can also begin to recognize how their everyday language and experiences can be used to many times, help decipher their academic objectives. They can extend their knowledge of a submarine and subway from “a ship” and “the train” to two words with the sub- prefix that can now help one figure out the meaning and use of other words such as submerge, submission, subvert etc. in their reading, writing and more developed dialogues.
Did anything in their language abilities surprise you?
Honestly, I approach students as vessels of untapped potential and experiences. Many English language learners may remain close to their family cultures and languages, as well as observant of the marked differences and nuances within the US culture and English language, in comparison to their native language. I am never really surprised that students tend to know and understand more than many realize. They just need help putting that ever-growing knowledge to work in the classroom. Many times, students are very knowledgeable and proficient in their first language, even able to read and write in it, so they will carry over those writing styles, or pace themselves in practicing English as they pace their speech in their first language. This observation reinforces my need to pace my own speech and to be intentional in my enunciation among students. In hindsight, I would have to say that what may most surprise me, if nothing else, is how much learners make it a point of imitating teachers in their mannerisms, pronunciation, and expressions at times. As I am very expressive in my exchanges, I have caught some of the students I have worked with, spontaneously imitating my gestures, expressions, and intonations. Although flattering and silly at times, my ultimate hope in these situations is that students learn to effectively use such elements to express themselves more effectively in English.
What are some examples that could be used to compare social and academic language in your classroom?
Recently, I facilitated a lesson with a group of fifth-graders where we had to read, discuss and interpret a poem by an author Kwame Alexander, titled “Here’s What I Remember,” to then develop a general response about what the poem was about, using the kernel writing strategy. The strategy sought to expand a simple response about this poem being about “childhood memories” (the kernel) to a more thought out, expanded response using the writing prompts: who, what, where, when, why and how (the means to create popcorn so to speak that would result from the processed kernel). When asking the prompts at first, the learners were quick to associate the purpose of the poem as being about holidays, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, childhood memories and good times (social language). It was clear that an illustration of the poem showing happy family reunions, road trips, treats and games etc. would automatically elicit from students daily associations of what they assumed was the most obvious and most important purpose of the poem, to remember good times as one is growing up. After a guided discussion that looked more closely at the poem, however, students began to develop a more critical eye and understanding of what other elements the poem was trying to transmit about the “good times,” such as the family memorabilia, amusement park thrills, as well as the less than pleasant moments of paternal discipline and bittersweet memories of loved ones at their best and after their passing etc. In this process, the parameters of students’ social language expanded into more descriptive and insightful concepts that required academic language such as childhood memories and experiences, senses such as sights, sounds and smells, reminiscing, the lessons learned in the happy and sad times etc. In this case, the final response transitioned from This poem is about childhood memories and good times into a more clear and complete response of the poem’s meaning: This poem is about the author Kwame Alexander’s (who) childhood experiences (what) on the road and at families’ homes (where) as he was growing up (when) to share his happy and sad memories (why) by describing sights, sounds and smells (how). As one can see, in the final result, learners expanded their thinking and considered a broader selection of academic vocabulary, which they were then able to use in a complete sentence which was not too long or limited in scope- they ultimately began “sounding smart” (Breiseth, 2019).

2. Based on what you now know about academic language, what kinds of support do you think Carlos needs in his chemistry class? Do you have any ideas on how Mrs. Wilson can support his written academic language?
To better equip Carlos in understanding and applying the content successfully, I would ensure that Carlos is able to preview the main concepts of the lesson by providing him definitions with visuals and cognate equivalents, as well as their use in the proper context. I would go over the terms and concepts orally so that he would be able to not just visually recognize them, but also grasp how the concepts sound and are spoken. Cognates would be incredibly instrumental in this case as the learner may speak Spanish and many terms in the sciences are derived from Latin. I would also allow the student to respond orally and give him credit for those responses if I observed he was really struggling with writing out his responses. I would also provide graphic organizers and sentence starters to help Carlos frame his thoughts with the proper terms and syntax, as well as pair him up with more proficient readers and writers for shared in-class assignments to allow students to scaffold each other in comprehension and language. These are examples of steps that would ensure that all four language domains would be included in Carlos’ instruction: “reading, writing, speaking and listening” (which would build upon Carlos’ strong academic speaking and listening skills) and further his academic language development. (Breiseth, 2019). Finally, I would reach out to his homeroom teacher to discuss additional ESOL supports and placement.

3. What are cognates?
Cognates are words from different languages that are pronounced similarly and written in ways that resemble each other, with close meanings. Cognates are usually derived from a similar origin, such as Greek and Latin, and at times, one cognate is derived from another-day modern language, when the word is adopted by a second language. Garden in English, for example, is derived from Garten in German, both meaning a garden.

List 10 cognates that YOU might use in YOUR classroom with YOUR student population.

I would generally use English and Spanish cognates because on a practical level, it would benefit the large Spanish speaking English language learner student population as well as easily translates for speakers who share Latin-derived vocabulary in their first language such as Italian, French, Portuguese and Romanian speakers. This, of course, is not always the case, but can be many times.
Ten cognates I would consider, as they can be applied more broadly to clarify meaning in academic language are:

English Spanish
1. communication comunicación
2. family familia
3. explore explorar
4. analyze analizar
5. element elementos
6. geography geografía
7. equivalent equivalente
8. astronomy astronomia
9. economy economia
10. multiply multiplicar

Source:. Breiseth, L. (2019). Academic Language and ELLs: What Teachers Need To Know. Colorin Colorado. Retrieved from (Links to an external site.)

Author: drcowinj

As an Assistant Professor & Practicum Coordinator for TESOL and Bilingual Programs at Touro College, Graduate School of Education my focus is on the Responsibility to Touro Students (Teaching), Responsibility to the Discipline (Scholarship), and Responsibility to Touro College and Community (Service). As the Practicum Coordinator, my Teacher Professional Practice identifies those aspects of a teacher’s responsibilities that have been documented through empirical studies and theoretical research as promoting improved student learning. In the framework, the complex activity of teaching is divided into the seven New York State Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) Standards for teacher evaluation that are clustered into four domains of teaching responsibility (as framed in the Teachscape Danielson Rubric approved by New York State). I strive to inspire students to be creative and to model the love of lifelong learning by inculcating the habits and attitudes that create agile mindsets. 21st-century education extends well beyond the classroom and incorporates online learning technologies for L2 language acquisition and current global trends in teaching English as a Second Language. I participate fully in the larger world of TESOL academic discipline as elected Vice President and Chair Elect for the New York State, NYSTESOL organization, for the 2021 conference. Ongoing research, expressed in scholarly contributions to the advancement of knowledge is demonstrated through publications (articles in Education Update), presentations, and participation in academic conferences, blogging, and other scholarly activities, including public performances and exhibitions at conferences and workshops. Of particular interest to me are The Blockchain of Things and its implications for Higher Education; Current Global Trends in TESOL; Developing Materials and Resources in Teaching English; E-learning & Micro-Methodology in TESOL; E-Resources Discovery and Analysis; and Language Acquisition and the Oculus Rift in VR.

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