Stimulating students’ academic language: Opportunities in instructional methods in elementary school mathematics

Nanke Dokter, Rian Aarts, J.J.H. Kurvers, Anje Ros, Sjaak Kroon

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Mastering academic language (AL) by elementary school students is important for achieving school success. The extent to which teachers play a role in stimulating students’ AL development may differ. Two types of AL stimulating behavior are distinguished: aimed at students’ understanding and at triggering students’ production of AL. As mathematics requires abstract language use, AL occurs frequently. The instructional methods teachers use during mathematics instruction may offer different opportunities for AL stimulating behavior. In our first study, based on expert opinions, instructional methods were categorized according to opportunities they offer for stimulating students’ AL development. In the second study, video-observations of mathematics instruction of elementary school teachers were analyzed with respect to AL stimulating behavior and instructional methods used. Results showed that actual AL stimulating behavior of teachers corresponds to the expert opinions, except for behavior shown during task evaluation. Teachers differ in time and frequency of their use of instructional methods and therefore in opportunities for stimulating AL development. Four teaching profiles, reflecting different AL stimulating potential, were constructed: ‘teacher talking’, ‘balanced use of methods’, ‘getting students at work’ and ‘interactive teaching’. Teachers showed more types of behavior aimed at students’ AL understanding than at production.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalL1 - Educational Studies in Language and Literature
Publication statusPublished - 14 Apr 2017


  • academic language
  • instructional methods
  • teacher behavior
  • teaching profiles
  • elementary school


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