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Understanding Language Objectives

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 the morphology of English, including but not limited to: prefixes, suffixes, and rcomparison, 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 aboutoot 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.

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.

Understanding Content Objectives

Content objectives consist of the grade-level skills and content that English language learners are expected to learn in a lesson. A content objective might consist of learning about weather, dividing multi-digit numbers, or Native American nations. Content objectives are derived from the state and local grade-level content standards in different subject areas such as math, science, social studies, or language arts.

Most grade-level content standards are too broad to be taught to English language learners in one lesson. Many grade-level content standards must therefore be broken up into manageable content objectives that can be taught to students in a smaller timeframe. For example, the third grade California content standard, "Students know examples of diverse life forms in different environments such as oceans, deserts, tundra, forests, grasslands and wetlands" is a broad standard and can't be taught in a single session. This standardch a will need to be broken into smaller content objectives to be taught each day, such as: "Students will learn about animals and plants that live off of the coast of California, such as.." or "Students will learn about animals and plants that live in the Atlantic Ocean, such as...".

In order to identify content objectives to be taught, teachers should first choose a grade level standard from state or local content standards. Once a content standard has been identified, they can then be examined and "unpacked" into smaller, more manageable content objectives that can be taught in each lesson. A variety of content objectives might be required in order to meet the broad grade level standard.

More Information About Content Objectives

What are content objectives?

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