Part II: Bridging Content and Language for Academic Success

There are times when creating measurable and meaningful standards for English learners seems daunting or even impossible.

As a multilingual specialist, I understand the unique challenges that come with designing standards-aligned lessons for English learners. It’s not just about teaching the content; it’s about ensuring that language acquisition is integrated seamlessly into every aspect of the lesson. At times, this task can indeed feel daunting or even impossible.

However, it’s essential to remember that with creativity, flexibility, and an understanding of both content and language standards, we can overcome these challenges. One effective approach is to braid together content and language standards, weaving them into a cohesive tapestry that supports both academic growth and language development. 

Take for example, you’re a middle school ML specialist eager to support your newcomer students in a 6th grade science class. They’re delving into the fascinating world of ecosystems, but their developing English skills might seem like a hurdle. The content standard students are learning focuses on evaluating competing design solutions for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services. How can you design a lesson that tackles both scientific concepts and language acquisition in a way that’s rigorous and engaging?

Create effective language objectives, of course!

First, let’s discuss what is an effectively written language objective. An effectively written language objective:

  • Stems from the linguistic demands of a standards-based lesson task
  • Focuses on high-leverage language that will serve students in other contexts
  • Uses active verbs to name functions/purposes for using language in a specific student task
  • Specifies target language necessary to complete the task and;
  • Emphasizes development of expressive language skills, speaking and writing, without neglecting listening and reading (Kinsella & Ward, 2011)

Jump to resource download


Language Function

In crafting language objectives, it’s crucial to pinpoint the specific language functions that students will engage in to achieve the desired learning outcomes. These language functions are articulated through active verbs, which identify the cognitive processes students will perform with language. Most language functions are provided in the content objective as shown in this NGSS standard:

MS-LS2-5. Evaluate competing design solutions for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services

By identifying these functions, educators can ensure that language objectives align closely with the linguistic demands of the lesson tasks, thus providing students with targeted language instruction tailored to their academic needs.

Below you will see a list of active verbs that can be used for expressive language functions.

Language Targets

With a learning objective identified, consider using a graphic organizer to provide measurable language targets. A graphic organizer scaffolds the language objective built around the learning objective. Furthermore, a graphic organizer like the one provided here, supports students in connecting the active verb(s) in the learning objective with the necessary language and vocabulary needed to meet the learning objective. 

With this strategy, students have a tangible tool (the graphic organizer) that guides them through the process of evaluating the learning objective. By completing the graphic organizer, students demonstrate their ability to meet the learning objective by utilizing the language objective(s) in a measurable way. 

Some additional scaffold supports for constructing effective language objectives include:

  • Sentence frames: Provide students with partially completed sentences to support them in expressing their ideas using the target language.
  • Vocabulary banks: Offer students a list of key vocabulary words or phrases related to the lesson topic to assist them in formulating their responses.
  • Language sentence stems: Provide students with sentence starters or sentence stems that they can use to structure their oral or written responses.
  • Peer collaboration: Encourage students to work in pairs or small groups to discuss and formulate their ideas together, providing peer support and scaffolding.


Language Objective Frames

As mentioned previously, an effective language objective uses active verbs to name language functions and scaffolds to create measurable language targets. Here are the frames for writing a language objective along with an active verb word bank for the language function:

Students will (function: active verb phrase)+ content standard by using (language target).

Students will use (language target) to (function: active verb phrase)+ content standard.


Sample Language Objective:

Students will be able to evaluate competing design solutions for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem services by using a graphic organizer to identify active verbs in the learning objective and necessary language to address the learning target. 

Now that you are armored with knowledge about language functions, language targets, and the language objective frames, you are able to create an effective language objective.



Crafting effective language objectives is a critical component of designing standards-aligned lessons for English learners. By leveraging language functions, language targets, and language objective frames, educators can create objectives that not only address the linguistic demands of the lesson but also support students’ academic growth and language development.

The sample language objective and graphic organizer provided demonstrate how to integrate language skills seamlessly into content instruction, fostering rigorous and engaging learning experiences. By empowering students with the language tools they need to succeed, educators can ensure that English learners are equipped to navigate the complexities of academic content while advancing their language proficiency.



Kinsella, K., & Ward Singer, T. (2011). Linguistic Scaffolds for Writing Effective Language Objectives.

Next Generation Science Standards. (n.d.). MS-LS2-5: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics. Retrieved from 

WIDA Consortium. (2020). WIDA English Language Development Standards Framework, 2020 Edition: Kindergarten-Grade 12. Retrieved from

Picture of Gwendolyn Quadri

Gwendolyn Quadri

Gwendolyn is a nationally recognized English Language Specialist with over 12 years of experience in ESL and English Language Arts. She is certified s in ESL, English Literature, and School Administration and is deeply passionate about assisting schools in accommodating the needs of Multilingual Learners. Gwendolyn's expertise encompasses WIDA standards, SIOP, Exc-ELL, Title III Compliance, curriculum design and edtech.


Download the State Language Assessment Checklist

Fill out this short form and we’ll send you the State Language Assessment Checklist for quick reference.