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Ways of adding language awareness to all content areas

Language Conscious Teaching

Espoo, Finland
Language consciousness means being mindful of the features of texts and language as well as situations where language is used. This method especially supports first and second generation immigrant students by paying attention to how language is used in class.
Introduction

What is it all about?

“Language awareness plays a key role in understanding what abilities students from an immigrant background have to use and understand language at school.”

Elisa Repo, PhD student and teacher for language and culture groups

The aim of language conscious instruction is to promote equity in education. People are more frequently than ever moving from one country to another, and schools have a key role in integrating people to society. When the language used in school is different from the student’s mother tongue, teachers have to pay special attention to the language used in class.

Language has a big role in learning. The aim of language conscious teaching is to help teachers pay attention to how language is used when they are teaching – in other words, improve their language awareness skills.

Language consciousness means being mindful of how language works in different situations, text and speech. From the teacher’s point of view, language awareness clarifies the typical ways of how language is used in different content areas to the student. Language that is specific to content areas includes, for example, key vocabulary that acts as a gateway to knowledge acquisition. From the student’s point of view, language conscious instruction encourages them and gives them tools to think about how language is used in familiar situations.

One of the core ideas of language conscious instruction is making metaknowledge apparent: How does a class proceed? How do you write a long answer on an exam? What does a definition mean? How do you find important vocabulary from the different genres of each content area? In what order do negotiations proceed? What kind of language is used in customer service?

Every student benefits from language conscious teaching. It especially benefits classes that have big differences in reading, writing and other language skills. Students’ skills and motivation towards language differ depending on how language and texts are used at home and in their social circle.

Language conscious instruction also benefits classes for language learners, as first and second generation immigrants tend not to perform as well at school as native students. The same phenomenon has been observed all over the world. Language conscious instruction aims to decrease the gap between the learning results of students from immigrant backgrounds and others’.

This article presents five ways to practice language conscious instruction in your own class. You can implement one or several of them depending on your group’s needs.  

PhD. student Elisa Repo talks about her PhD. study about language aware teaching.

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Innovation Overview
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Target Group
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Children/Users
1
Country
2016
Established
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Organisation
503
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Innovativeness

The innovation helps uncover the unspoken ways school works and changes them in a way that benefits students from an immigrant background.

Impact

Language aware instruction helps immigrant students understand how language is used differently in different contexts. This promotes integration.

Scalability

Every teacher is effectively a language teacher for the language used at school and there are students from different language groups everywhere.

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Steps

Inspired to implement this? Here's how...

01
Content specific texts
Look at the texts of the content area you teach and think about how language is used in them.
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02
Lesson structure
Clarifying lesson structure will help students understand and observe the lesson.
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03
The multilingual school day
The goal is to get students to realize that everybody speaks several languages.
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04
Using language differently in different situations
What kind of language is used in the newspaper, your history textbook, Facebook-chats, with the cashier at the store, or in a job interview?
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05
Assessing language awareness
Reflect on the learning process and put what you have done into words.
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