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Why Teach Academic Language?

Every day in American schools, teachers welcome more students whose first language is something other than English. According to the Pew Research Center, this demographic trend will only grow exponentially in coming years. In fact, Pew estimates up to 93% of our population will come from immigrant populations and their children by the year 2050. What do these numbers mean for schools? Here's the short answer: schools will need better ways to teach language generally, and academic language in particular. Why the importance? When students don't master academic language, they're at greater risk for falling behind or even dropping out of school. The Language of Textbooks Learning to speak, read, and write in English can be challenging enough. But without knowing academic language (e.g., general-instruction words like "summarize," math words like "times" as another way to say "multiplied by," or science words like "hypothesis"), English language learners can quickly fall behind in their progress.
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