Academic Language Learning Strategies and Supports

Content and Language Integration

Speak Agent uses language as a means of exploring and learning about content. Why? Because concept mastery requires a multimodal language development approach that includes reading, writing, speaking, and listening, among other learning skills and modes (Graves, 2009; Nisbet & Austin, 2013). It requires interaction, collaboration, and communication among learners, rather than the kind of isolated independent practice too often promoted by education technologies. And it requires meaningful and varied oral and written contexts aligned to the curriculum (Peregoy & Boyle, 2013).

Academic Language Strategies and Supports

The Speak Agent learning model has at its foundation nine categories of evidence-based learning strategies developed based on the latest learning science. Below are 32 specific strategies that have been validated by current research in language development, literacy, neuroscience, developmental psychology, learner variability, and other fields of study. For a deeper level of detail, including more than 70 supporting research citations, please contact us to request the full report Academic Language: Evidence-Based Learning Strategies.

Active Learning  
Multimodal Composition Expressing and interpreting ideas audio-visually is as critical in today's world as textual reading and writing.
Partner Read Alouds Reading aloud together helps students to hear and practice reading and fluency skills.
Student Choice Giving students agency is critical for making learning meaningful.
Word Games with Manipulatives Actively manipulating text deepens understanding of how words and sentences are formed. 
External Memory Aids  
Common Spelling Chart Easy access to common words promotes sight word recognition.
Language Games Interactive games at the word, sentence, and discourse levels reinforce language development by activating mental processes that consolidate memory.
Word Walls A word wall helps build target vocabulary for reading fluidity.
Metacognitive Supports  
Checklists and Rubrics Checklists and rubrics help students develop their abilities to self-assess and revise their writing.
Micro-Goals and Progress Markers Goals and progress feedback helps students both manage their work and stay motivated.
Reflect on Learning Encouraging students to reflect on their prior work improves their metacognition and motivation to learn.
Self-Monitoring By monitoring their comprehension, performance, and use of strategies when reading and writing, students build their metacognition.
Modeling and Growth Mindset  
Accessible Vocabulary and Syntax Scaffolded vocabulary and syntax supports language development. 
Brief Instruction Steps Content that is provided in clear, short segments can support students' working memory.
Growth Mindset Feedback When students connect results to their own strategies and efforts that they control, it fosters self-confidence and persistence.
Model Connections to Text By making connections among texts, experiences, and the world around us, students are encouraged to reflect.
Read Alouds  Reading aloud regularly exposes students to both new and familiar vocabulary and syntax.
Multisensory Supports  
Audiovisual Texts  Read Alongs allow students to hear fluent reading and to experience books above their reading level.
Manipulative Sentence Construction Providing physical representations of parts of a sentence activates mental processes.
Sound Level and Speed Providing ways for students to adjust volume and narration speed supports individual auditory needs.
Text-to-Speech Software  Transforming written text into audio supports learning by activating different parts of the brain for comprehension.
Web-Based Dictionary A web dictionary serves as a resource for students to expand vocabulary knowledge.
Programmatic Interventions  
Dialogic Reading This interactive technique helps students become story-tellers by listening and questioning.
Whole Language By making meaningful connections to life experiences or classroom content, stories and creative writing help students apply new concepts.
Daily Review Daily review, even as little as five minutes, strengthens previous learning and can lead to fluent recall.
Guided Practice Using varied learning modes to introduce new concepts helps move content into long-term memory.
Individual Deliberate Practice Achieving multiple error-free attempts is critical for retention.
Verbal Repetition By verbally repeating information, students move knowledge from short- to long-term memory.
Visual Learning Tools  
Pictures and Visuals Visuals help students recognize relationships within words and sentences to develop reading skills.
Video Context Providing visuals to introduce, support, or review instruction activates more cognitive processes to support learning.
Word Games and Puzzles Puzzles and games help students visualize how to connect one fact to another.
Writing Supports  
Authentic Audiences & Purposes Puzzles and games help students visualize how to connect one fact to another.
Feedback on Writing Providing constructive, realtime feedback supports students' writing development by letting them know how to improve their writing.


These strategies were derived from the Learner Variability Project and implemented in part with financial support from Digital Promise


Please see our References page for a full A to Z listing of all research cited on