Introduce and Reinforce Academic Language
In order for academic language to be acquired, it must be introduced and reinforced. School districts and teachers can preview the text or topic and ensure that they identify vocabulary that may be new to immigrant or ELL parents. Visuals, translation, acting out, or using synonyms can help convey the meaning of certain words and terms. Asking parents to use the words can reinforce new academic language or terms in sentences to demonstrate that they have comprehended said language.
Go Beyond the Content Areas
Academic language taught to parents can include words and terms that are outside of the content area for academic vocabulary. As with learning any language, there are countless words and terms that need to be learned in order to understand the context of a language. In other words, immigrant and ELL parents must learn functional vocabulary. Immigrant and ELL parents might not feel comfortable using the new language and academic vocabulary, so it is important to encourage parents to be given opportunities to speak the language, such as during parent conferences or workshops.
In order to confirm that parents are comprehending the academic vocabulary that they are learning, it is important to access and measure their knowledge in meaningful ways. School administrators and teachers should hold one-on-one meetings or small group seminars in which they review language and concepts being learned. Meaningful assessments help school administrators and teachers directly address the objectives of learning and confirming the appropriate academic language.
The Latino Family Literacy Project offers training for school staff to work with parents to build academic language. We provide facilitators with pre- and post-questionnaires to measure the success of their program. School districts and teachers seeking guidance can consult with The Latino Literacy Project or attend a webinar or in-person training that reviews ways to better communicate with immigrant and ELL parents, as well as helping parents feel comfortable within the school setting.
Empowering Parents with Academic Vocabulary