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What Are Language Objectives?

Using Language Objectives to Promote Language Development

Language objectives are lesson objectives that are specifically designed to promote students' language development through all four language domains: reading, writing, speaking and listening. Language objectives can be taken from state or district language arts or ELD/ESL standards, or can be created based on student need. Language objectives often accompany a content objective when teaching content areas such as math, science or social studies. For example, the following content objectives and language objectives can be integrated within a lesson:

  • Content Objective:  Students will compare and contrast the physical adaptations that whales and sharks have that aid in their survival.
  • Language Objective: Students will write a compare and contrast paragraph, using vocabulary associated with the language function of compare and contrast after completing a Venn Diagram with a partner.
The following categories can be used as language objectives within lessons:
One example of a language objective that can be included in a lesson is vocabulary. One type of vocabulary that can be emphasized is content-specific vocabulary that is associated with a topic, such as the words "plant", "seed" and "germinate" when studying about plants. A second dimension of vocabulary consists of teaching about language functions, or words that are associated with the purpose for using language. For example, language is used to compare, contrast, sequence and other language functions. When focusing on comparison, contrast, or another language function, specific vocabulary associated with the language function must be explicitly taught and practiced by students. A third aspect of vocabulary is teaching about the morphology of English, including but not limited to: prefixes, suffixes, and root words. For additional information about teaching vocabulary, please visit the academic language section of this website.
Language Functions
One example of a language objective that might be emphasized during a lesson are language functions. As mentioned in the vocabulary section, language functions are specific purposes that we use language for. Examples of language functions include: compare, contrast, sequence, persuade, retell, summarize, asking for help, making suggestions, and other language functions. Specific vocabulary and sentence structures are associated with each language function. Additional information about language functions as well as examples of vocabulary and sentence structures associated with each language function can be found by clicking here
Grammatical and Language Structures (Forms)
Grammatical structures, which are sometimes also called "forms", can be an example of a language objective to be taught in lessons. Grammatical structures can be emphasized in a lesson, such as: adjectives, sentence structure, verb conjugation, and other aspects of grammar. The following is an example of a content objective with a corresponding language objective that focuses on grammar:
  • Content Objective: Describe the daily activities of Native Americans in a California mission.
  • Language Objective: Using regular and irregular past tense verbs (i.e, grammar), orally describe the daily life of a Native American.
  • Language Objective: After orally describing life in the mission, students will write a paragraph about daily mission life that includes regular and irregular past tense verbs.
Literacy Skills
Another type of language objective that can be included in lessons are literacy skills, which include reading, writing, speaking and listening. Reading skills such as main idea/detail, paraphrasing, monitoring/clarifying, and comprehension skill instruction can be emphasized. Writing skills such as paragraph writing and sentence structure might be another example of a language objective. 

Additional Resources:

Language objectives are specific, measurable and must be explicitly taught and practiced with students. If language objectives are paired with content objectives when teaching science, social studies, math and other content, language development will be able to be emphasized with students throughout the entire instructional day. Teachers can pick similar language objectives to be taught between subject areas in order to maximize language development. For example, when focusing on sequencing in language arts, teachers can also find opportunities to emphasize the language function of sequencing when teaching math, science or social studies. 

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