Alicia Fernandez Portfolio


ETAP 623 Spring 2014 | Alicia Fernandez Portfolio | Alicia's Personal page | Alicia's mini-course


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Students need to be able to understand the academic instruction and texts they encounter in the classroom. The ability to do so is greatly facilitated by the acquisition of academic vocabulary. This is the language used in textbooks, reference resources, exams, and lectures. Most students do not come across this vocabulary outside of the scholastic environment. Much of this vocabulary is content specific and is essential to attaining deep understanding of concepts. However, there are specific terms that are used repeatedly across grades and disciplines, which are critical to the progression of literacy skills. This mini-course will serve to facilitate the integration of critical academic vocabulary instruction across the curriculum.

Learning Outcomes

This course will enable the following learning outcomes based on Gagne's theory of instruction:

  • Participants will be able to provide a general definition of academic vocabulary (Verbal).
  • Participants will be able to distinguish between instructional and subject-specific academic vocabulary (Verbal and Intellectual).
  • Participants will be able to identify and classify academic vocabulary according to tier, frequency of usage and applicability across disciplines (Intellectual and Cognitive Strategy).
  • Participants will ascertain how to incorporate tools and strategies in their pedagogy to increase academic vocabulary acquisition (Intellectual and Cognitive Strategy).
  • Participants will develop an academic vocabulary exercise to be implemented in their lesson plan(s) (Cognitive Strategy).
  • Participants will choose to implement direct instruction of academic vocabulary in their teaching practices (Attitude).

Needs Assessment

1. Instructional Problem
The College Board reported that average reading and writing scores for the high-school graduating class of 2011 were the lowest ever recorded (College Board, 2012). Numerous studies have indicated that vocabulary knowledge and reading comprehension are critical determinants of academic achievement (Kelley, Lesaux, Kieffer, & Faller, 2010). However, the scarcity of systematic and intentional vocabulary teaching is evident in the 6% of school time devoted to its cultivation (Scott & Nagy, 1997). Researchers strongly urge the direct and explicit instruction of academic vocabulary words to improve learning outcomes in all content areas.

2. What is to be Learned?
Participants will learn which words are deemed to be critical academic vocabulary. They will also be provided with tools and methods to incorporate direct academic vocabulary instruction in their pedagogy.

3. The Participants
Participants will include educators teaching in K-16 environments, literacy centers, after-school programs and tutors seeking to address the aforementioned instructional problem. The participants will have had experience utilizing Web 2.0 tools and exhibit a fair amount of technological self-efficacy. The asynchronous, self-directed course will also require that participants be self-regulated learners.

4. Context for Instruction
Participants in this mini-course will access content in an online, asynchronous modality. Access to the instructional content will require Internet connectivity, computer with ability to open and edit Microsoft Office documents, view online videos and create content to post online. ( I will list the specific software and apps required as I finalize choices.)

5. Exploring the Instructional Problem and Solution
Participants in this mini-course will learn of several successful academic vocabulary teaching programs implemented across disciplines. They will then be able to utilize to engage in activities using the tools and methods presented to determine what will be the best fit for their student population’s needs.

6. Goals of this Mini-Course
The main goal of the mini-course is for participants to develop a deeper understanding of what effective academic vocabulary instruction is and how to include it in their instructional design. By the end of the course, participants should be capable and willing to implement the strategies and tools demonstrated in the mini-course and apply them to authentic tasks to assist in the development of lifelong literacy.

Performance Objectives

By the end of the course, participants will be able to do the following:

  • Provide a verbal or written definition for the term “academic vocabulary” (Comprehension/Cognitive).
  • Delineate between different types and tiers of academic vocabulary in a matching exercise derived from the lists provided (Application/Cognitive).
  • Explain the significance of academic vocabulary’s impact on learning by citing one of the examples provided and possible applications to their own practice (Analysis - Problem Solving, Synthesis).
  • Create a lesson plan that incorporates direct vocabulary instruction to best fit their course design that incorporates at least two of the tools covered in the course (Evaluation).

Task Analysis

Unit 1

What is academic vocabulary instruction? Why is it essential to successful learning outcomes across the curriculum?

  • Participants will analyze data regarding the concept of academic vocabulary instruction and its purpose.
  • Participants will examine a list of words designated as critical instructional academic vocabulary.
  • Participants will learn to identify critical academic terms and distinguish between types and tiers.
  • Participants will review an example lesson which highlights direct academic vocabulary instruction.

Activity 1: Participants will demonstrate understanding by sorting a list of words into one of the Three Tier categories. They will have the opportunity to self-assess results with an answer key.

Activity 2: Participants will review one of their recent lesson plans to determine if the vocabulary instruction was strictly content -specific. They will post their assessment in the Discussion area. This reflective post will be revisited after Unit 2.

Unit 2

How to teach academic vocabulary across the curriculum?

  • Participants will learn how to carefully select academic terms to be taught within subject areas.
  • Participants will demonstrate ability to identify Tier 2 words in specific instructional texts.
  • Participants will learn about best practices to teach academic vocabulary including Marzano's Six-Step Strategy.
  • Participants will examine different digital tools used to teach academic vocabulary.
  • Participant will utilize a digital tool to contribute to a word wall.

Activity 3: Participants will identify Tier 2 words in the assigned instructional text. They will then post at least three words that fit the criteria for direct instruction on to the respective Padlet word wall.

Activity 4: Participants will use the digital tool, Quizlet, to access an existing vocabulary word flash card set. They will review the flash cards and then complete three brief quizzes. This will allow participants to become familiar with a tool they can apply to their own practice.

Activity 5: Participants will review their Unit 1 post and look for ways to apply the direct vocabulary strategies and digital tools to their lesson plan.

Unit 3

How can academic vocabulary instruction be implemented across the curriculum?

  • Participants will learn how to integrate Marzano’s "Six-Step" Model with judicious Tier 2 word selection into academic vocabulary instruction.
  • Participants will view brief classroom videos demonstrating the instructional strategies.
  • Participants will review example lesson plans and templates specifically using the "Six-Step Model" for academic vocabulary instruction.
  • Participants will examine several graphic organizers and templates used in academic vocabulary instruction.
  • Participants will apply the strategies and tools to their own lesson plan.

Activity 6 - Final Project: Participants will create an academic vocabulary exercise to be implemented in their existing lesson plan, following the criteria delineated in the rubric provided. The participants will submit their revised lesson plan and also their assessment of their performance as per the rubric.

Curriculum Map

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References and Resources

College Board, 2012. The SAT report on college & career readiness:2012. College Board. Retrieved from

Kelley, J. G., Lesaux, N. K., Kieffer, M. J., & Faller, S. E. (2010). Effective academic vocabulary instruction in the urban middle school. The Reading Teacher, 64, 5–14. Retrieved from

Marzano, R. J. (2009). Six steps to better vocabulary instruction. Educational Leadership, 67(1), 83-84. Retrieved from

Scott, J. A., & Nagy, W. E. (1997). Understanding the definitions of unfamiliar verbs. Reading Research Quarterly, 32(2), 184-200. Retrieved from