Teaching English Learners - Part 2: Supporting Language Acquisition

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Beth Melton

Beginning this year, core content educators in Colorado are required to complete ELL-specific professional learning in order to renew their license. You can read more information about these requirements here.

The Colorado Department of Education has identified 4 areas in which teachers need to be proficient in order to support English Learners. In this post, I will discuss the second standard: Educators are knowledgeable in first and second language acquisition.

Acquiring a new language is a monumental undertaking. Imagine going to school every day and trying to focus and learn when you don't understand everything that is being said and then being expected to respond in the language you are learning! The good news is that our brains are sponges for language, and we can help accelerate the process of learning language with some supports and structures. There are many ways we can think about language - in the context of school, one of the most important ways is by distinguishing between social language (often called BICS - Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills) and academic language (referred to as CALP - Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency). The resources below will help you to understand the difference and support students to develop both.

English-Language Learners and Academic Language

Increasing Exposure to Academic Language by Speaking It

Mind Your BICS and CALP: English Learners and Academic Language

How Students Acquire Social and Academic Language


Click on the links that follow to view each post in this series-- part 1: supporting culturally and linguistically diverse populations, part 2: language acquisition, part 3: literacy development and part 4: access to content