Teaching Academic Vocabulary to English Language Learners (ELLs)


  • Liping Wei University of Houston-Victoria




English language learners, academic vocabulary, strategies, principles


Confronted with dual learning tasks—learning English as a 2nd language and grade-level content, English Language Learners (ELLs) in K-12 are often found struggling to become fluent in English and falling behind in academic studies. It is commonly recognized that academic vocabulary is strongly related to academic achievement. Academic vocabulary is of critical importance in content learning and key to classroom interactions as students are engaged in learning activities using academic language. This article will zero in on the challenges students encounter in learning academic vocabulary. It will start with the importance of teaching ELLs academic vocabulary, followed by a classification of academic vocabulary, and an elaboration of the characteristics of academic language. Teacher candidates will explore why sheltered instruction is indispensable for the learning of vocabulary and how the two main sources of word learning—incidental learning and explicit instruction, facilitates vocabulary development. The focus will be placed on the specific strategies to help students develop a rich academic vocabulary inventory. It is hoped that teacher candidates will walk away with some guiding principles on teaching academic vocabulary and find these principles helpful in their classrooms with ELLs.

Author Biography

Liping Wei, University of Houston-Victoria

College of Education and Health Professions


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