I had the pleasure of speaking to Courtney Morgan of The All Access Classroom last night on Instagram live. I say pleasure because I honestly felt like I was sitting on her grandpa's porch with her in Florida; I was outside by my irises and the weather was just perfect!
After talking about her trailblazing grandpa, we discussed all things language objectives- how to write language objectives and why language objectives are so important. We also talked about her freebie organizer to help you gather your LO ideas, and if you are into Google Slides drag and drops, I've got one here for you too for language objectives.
Here are some of the key takeaways from our evening chat:
1. There are three parts of a language objective. And they always start with the content or your standard. The two go hand in hand! After you have your content, think about which language domain you want to focus on (speaking, writing, reading or listening). It doesn't necessarily mean that that is the only domain you will use in your lesson, but it means it will be your main one.
Then, pick your domain verb. For example, if you are focusing on reading, some reading domain verbs for your language objective are analyze, infer, evaluate, and compare and contrast (these are just a few). Next, the fun part is picking your strategies and tasks to go along in your lesson. This language domains strategy guide will give you a jump-start to some ideas because it has lists and lists for you to choose from!
Next is your scaffolds. Your scaffolds will be different based on the level of your Emergent Bilinguals, or English Learners. And there you go! You're done! Here's a language objective example from a Romeo and Juliet lesson of mine this week:
I can listen (language domain verb) to a video about a modern-day Romeo and Juliet (content) and respond using sentence frames, a word bank (scaffolds), and repeated audio.
2. Scaffolding is what helps students access the content. And let me add here that this, to me, is the magic of a language objective. It's where teachers can really personalize learning for students and set them up for success with the content. What do I mean? Well, scaffolds will be different depending on the student's language level. Scaffolds for newcomers and beginners will look different from an advanced level student.
It's extra helpful when you are teaching a class of mixed level students, too. So you may divide students into two different language objectives to give them a focus. Going back to the earlier LO, maybe your beginner to intermediate students will be able to have repeated audio for questions and a word bank, but advanced students do not get it repeated and do not need a word bank. Whatever scaffolds you choose, they should be at the correct level and help make your content comprehensible for them.
3. All teachers are language teachers and all students are learning language. Yep, that's right! But Susan and Courtney, I teach MATH! Yes, we know, but aren't you teaching the language of math too? Aren't there specific math words students need to know? Integer, axis, slope? Aren't there words that students need to use to discuss these concepts? Academic words such as analyze, conclude, and evaluate?
ALL students are learning these words and all teachers have words specific to their content. That is why language objectives are needed in every class and for all students. Yes, we know it's one more thing to do, but content and language are connected, my teacher friends. Always has, always will be.
I'm going to end on a quote from Courtney: If you went on a road trip, would you need your car? Yes! (Okay, this quote may not be word for word, sorry Courtney, but we get the picture, right?;) The car is what delivers you to your destination. Language is what delivers your students the content and it's what they use to show you they understand and to produce output.
I'd love for everyone to share their grade level and language objectives in the comments below!
To learn more about language objectives and strategies for incorporating language into your lessons, check out my course, My EL Mentor: Creating a Language-Rich Classroom!
I support middle and high school teachers through monthly lesson plans, coaching, and guest speaker offerings in our Secondary ESL Teacher Membership.