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Seven Essential Practices for Developing Academic Oral Language and Literacy in Every Subject

Wednesday, January 14, 2015 to Saturday, June 13, 2015
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The Course

New standards (CCSS, ELD, and NGSS, etc.) emphasize developing students’ abilities to use language in academic settings for complex purposes. The new standards specifically describe the importance of understanding complex texts, critiquing the reasoning of others, and using evidence to support ideas orally and in writing. This focus on constructing and communicating complex ideas is a major shift for many schools who have focused on teaching discrete facts and vocabulary items for multiple choice tests.

This course facilitates the practical exploration and expertise-building of seven essential ALD (academic language development) practices that we have identified as being powerful for developing school language and literacy across grade levels and content areas and for supporting the implementation of new standards. The course focuses on three “high-impact” practices (Using complex texts, Fortifying complex output (written and oral), Fostering academic interactions), which are supported by four essential practices (Clarifying, Modeling, Guiding, and Designing instruction). This course looks closely at the development of “language for content and content for language.” It organizes a massive collaboration of educators who wish to support students, particularly English Language Learners, in developing their abilities to use complex language.

In order to develop complex language, educators need to be careful observers and analyzers of student language throughout a lesson and when looking at language evidence.This course asks participants to gather, analyze, and share examples of student language from their classrooms. The overall goal is for participating educators to better understand and develop the academic uses of language in school-based learning and apply what they learn in the future.

Coaching/PD Provider Component. In addition, each of the five sessions has a coaching component to help instructional coaches and professional development providers improve their coaching around these practices, with suggestions for working with teachers who are also taking the course. Coaches/PD Providers also have different but related assignments.


You do not have to be a teacher to take this course. The course may also be valuable to instructinoal coaches, teacher educators, and site and district administrators, among others. In order to fully participate in the course, however, you do need to have access to a classroom in which you can obtain student language samples and implement lessons (or collaborate with classroom teachers to obtain student language samples and implement lessons). This is because several of the course assignments require submitting language samples - either samples of student writing or brief transcriptions of students’ oral language - and reflecting on lessons.


Session 1: Shifting and Framing our Practices I (Jan 14 - Feb 14)

This first session provides a brief overview of the course and addresses the role of classroom language in learning and teaching. In this session we also address why attending to student language is vital (but often neglected), particularly if our ultimate goal is to improve the overall quality of academic learning. The tasks for this session are specifically designed to prepare the participant to gather, analyze, and reflect on samples of student language.

Session 2: Using Complex Texts (High-Impact Practice 1) (Feb 15 - March 13)

In this second session participants learn how they can use the texts in their discipline to teach the language of the discipline. This means not only helping students to “access” the texts (unrdestand the content), but also to “own” the language and content well enough to use it in novel ways to read and communicate in the future.

Session 3: Fortifying Complex Output (High-Impact Practice 2)(March 14 - April 13)

This third session provides an in-depth look at how to fortify the quantity and quality of oral, written, and multimedia output. It emphasizes building students’ abilities to use and link multiple sentences to communicate complex ideas and describe disciplinary thinking.

Session 4: Fostering Academic Interactions (High-Impact Practice 3) (April 14 - May 14)

This fourth session shows how to cultivate constructive classroom conversations through instructional scaffolding and teacher modeling. In this session course participants also will have an opportunity to teach a conversation skill, observe, and then analyze a paired student conversation.

Session 5: Designing and Teaching ALD Lessons (May 15 - June 14)

This final session pulls together what we have learned in the course to design lessons that effectively and efficiently strengthen language for and through content learning. They will design a lesson that uses one or more of the ALD teaching practices from the previous sessions. They will also answer several reflection questions on the lesson and the course.


Frequently Asked Questions

1. Will I get a Statement of Accomplishment?

Participants who complete the course requirements will receive a FREE statement of accomplishment issued through NovoEd. Please check with your employer as to whether this statement of accomplishment may be used for professional development credit. There is no fee for this course and to receive a statement of accomplishment.

2. How much of a time commitment will this course require?

The course has 5 main sessions, each one month apart. Studying course materials (lecture videos and readings) takes about 1-1.5 hours per session, while assignments will take around 6-7 hours per session. The estimated workload is around 35 hours in total.

3. Any additional textbooks or software required?


The Instructors

Susan O'Hara, UC Davis

Executive Director, REEd Center, UC Davis

Susan O’Hara, Ph.D., Executive Director of Resourcing Excellence in Education at UC Davis, has worked closely with teachers, researchers, and community leaders. An educator for 20 years, Susan began teaching mathematics and science to middle and high school students. She has a master’s degree in applied mathematics from the University of Southern California and a PhD in science and technology education from the UC Davis School of Education. Before starting her current role, she was an assistant professor in teacher education at Sacramento State University and an associate professor at Stanford University.

Jeff Zwiers

Senior Researcher, Stanford University

Jeff Zwiers is a senior researcher at the Stanford Graduate School of Education and director of professional development for the Understanding Language Initiative, a research and professional learning project focused on improving the education of academic English learners. He has consulted for national and international teacher development projects and has published articles and books on literacy, cognition, discourse, and academic language. His current research focuses on improving professional learning models and developing classroom instruction that fosters high-quality oral language and constructive conversations across disciplines.

Robert Pritchard

Professor, Sacramento State University

Bob Pritchard is Professor of Educational Leadership at Sacramento State University. A former classroom teacher and reading specialist, he is a language and literacy specialist who works extensively with school districts and county offices of education on a wide range of professional development projects. He also worked internationally for nine years as an ESL teacher and teacher trainer. He has authored and edited numerous publications related to English learners, innovative uses of technology, and professional development for teachers.

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