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Implementing Language Dives

See the rigor and joy of Language Dives in a fourth grade classroom at Lead Academy in Greenville, SC. During a Language Dive, teachers and students slow down to have a conversation about the meaning, purpose, and structure of a compelling sentence from a complex text and topic, in this case, the American Revolution. Following the engaging deconstruct-reconstruct-practice routine, students play with the smallest "chunks" of the sentence, acting them out, rearranging them, or using them to talk about their own lives. For more on Language Dives and Conversation Cues, also watch Behind the Practice: Approaching Language Dives with Sarah Mitchell, Stephanie Clayton, and Sloane Young, Small Group Language Dive - Long Version, and Supporting English Language Learners through the Curriculum and Beyond.


- [Narrator] At Lead Academy in Greenville, South Carolina, classes are engaging in Language Dives with whole classes and small groups. Teachers and students follow the engaging deconstruct, reconstruct, practice process to analyze the meaning, purpose, and language structures of a sentence from a complex text. This is a flexible and fluid process, in which the parts can flow in response to student needs.

- [All Students] The war started as a..

- [Narrator] Students deconstruct the sentence overall and chunk by chunk, often connecting to the guiding question of the unit.

- American colonies.

- [Narrator] In this case, analyzing causes of the American Revolution.

- What is this first chunk telling us?

- [Narrator] Teachers and students use Conversation Cues to promote grappling and equitable discussion. These cues, and Language Dives, are critical for English Language Learners in establishing literacy skills and language acquisition.

- I agree because, as the war started, it just didn’t start for like, they didn’t start because they didn’t want the tea to be taxed. They wanted to fight for the rights of English people...

- [Narrator] Students speak different varieties of English, which are rule governed and legitimate forms of communication, but may not be utilized in the classroom. Language Dives support these students in learning additional ways of communicating in the classroom. 

- Jasmine, what is this chunk telling us? What information are we gaining?

- It’s telling us what started, like the war, instead of just saying something started and said specifically the war.

- [Teacher] What new information have we gained by reading this second chunk? What have we now learned?

- It’s telling you why the war started, and like, they started it because they wanted their rights.

- [Teacher] What were they fighting for, Keyvon?

- As they fight for, their independence.

- [Teacher] Their independence, anyone have a different phrase? Emily?

- As a fight for freedom.

- Why did the author include the preposition “as” in the text? McKenna, what do you think?

- They’re telling you, that the war had started like that.

- I’m going to elaborate on what McKenna said, I think as is a conjunction, so it connects the first chunk to the second chunk to make it, have, to make sense.

- “As” is actually a preposition, but prepositions link ideas together. They link...

- [Narrator] Teachers use grammar terms to help students make meaning, to talk about syntax and how language works.

- [Teacher] Is this second chunk a complete sentence?

- I think it’s not by itself, but maybe if you added like, the first chunk and the second chunk, it would be a complete sentence. Parts, they’re like a small part of the sentence, which is like three or five, and it’s basically a phrase. I don’t think it’s a sentence by itself because it starts with the word “as,” so it means it connects two things. You understand them more if there, if there’s words together, even though it’s not the whole thing. But it’s also good that you don’t break it up into small words.

- “Of English people,” who is fighting for their rights?

- British subjects.

- I respectfully disagree with Hans and Ellis. I think that it’s actually colonists. Cause at that time colonists were actually still loyal to Britain until they signed the Declaration of Independence.

- The person would be reading the text just maybe to get a better understanding about the American Revolution, and then they might find out about the patriots later in the text, but this full sentence and that one chunk, doesn’t really explain who the patriots were.

- [Teacher] Take a look at your note catcher on page 17, please. Use the sentence frame to paraphrase those first 2 chunks, in your own words.

- [Narrator] Students reconstruct the sentence, revisiting the meaning and purpose. [Happy Music]

- [Teacher] Alrighty, put your pencil down.

- The revolution started as a war for freedom.

- You and your partner can collaborate to figure out how you guys could put this sentence into your own words.

- The war began as fighting for independence of the patriots?

- Or the Americans.

- ...the Americans and British in the British territory.

- Whoa. Please turn your eyes to the “Questions we can Ask During a Language Dive” anchor chart. Now I want you to pick one of those questions to ask your partner.

- Will the sentence still hold the same meaning?

- [Narrator] Students sometimes remove a specific language structure to examine how it affects the meaning of the sentence.

- And I think it still makes sense ‘cause it’ll still be a complete sentence, but I don’t think it makes sense because instead of like, having more information in there, it’ll just have like, what, how the war started, and what the war, what they was fighting for.

- The war started as a fight for the rights of English people. We just added the period, it would still make sense. Keyvon said, it would be a complete sentence, but would we really know what war they were talking about?

- The Revolutionary War was fought because Britain was taxing all the colonists.

- But it just says, “The war started as a fight for the rights of English people.” Is this the only war England’s ever been involved in?

- No.

- So that “Britain’s thirteen American colonies,” like Keyvon says, helps us make that connection to the Revolutionary War. Can you arrange this sentence in a new order, so that it still makes sense? I challenge you to...

- Well would this one...

- ...for the rights of English people.

- Alrighty, so they rearranged these chunks. And will y’all help me read this out loud?

- It makes me feel proud of myself because English isn’t my first language. and I’m still helping them become better English speakers.

- [Narrator] Using sentence frames, they practice the language structure they have focused on, to speak and write about their own lives and the curriculum content.

- Because that’s not really proper grammar, to be honest.

- I mean it’s still, it’s still correct. It’s still correct.

- They probably would have said the same thing back then.

- What could we add to our language chunk wall from this Language Dive? Where could we put these chunks on our language chunk wall?

- [Narrator] Students practice and apply what they’ve learned in the Language Dive by adding chunks to the language chunk wall to use later in their speaking and writing.

- ...are all prepositions, so you could put it on the preposition.

- Is it a verb? It’s a verb.

- [Teacher] Right, it’s a verb.

- There’s certain types of word language dive, and if we add them to our language chunk wall we can use those words and it can make it be more, kinda like, in depth of what you’re writing about.

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