A Guide to the edTPA's Central Focus and Academic Language Sections, With Examples

Updated on May 13, 2017
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Drew is a Photoshop wizard and someone who has millions of ideas, but no paper or pencil to jot them down.

What's New?

In order to be more in line with Common Core standards, the edTPA decided to shift some things around in their lesson plans. Some items were completely removed while others were changed or updated. This article will focus on two new additions to their lesson plans—Central Focus and Academic Language—and how to write them effectively.

What Is the Central Focus?

The Central Focus in a lesson plan is a description of what the lesson or unit is trying to accomplish. It conveys the core concepts that you want students to develop in the learning section of the lesson plan. The Central Focus should go beyond simply listing skills students will acquire. Instead, it should align with content standards (or Common Core standards) and learning objectives. Last, but not least, the Central Focus should address the subject-specific components in the learning segment.

So, the Central Focus should describe the following:

  1. What you are teaching your students.
  2. The purpose of teaching this content.
  3. How the implemented standards or planned learning objectives apply to a learning strategy that you used, any skills that are acquired during the lesson, and any content-area connections.
  4. How this lesson plan will work with other lesson plans in a unit to help students make these connections between the skills they develop and your essential strategy (or composing text in meaningful contexts).

Central Focus Example

The following is a complete example that has all the elements for success.

The purpose of this lesson is to build upon the student’s previous knowledge of plotting points and graphing. The students will learn the slope-intercept equation and display how to use it successfully in graphing problems. This lesson will also serve as a building block for future solving of algebraic expressions and graphing as well as real-life uses. Graphing is used today in a variety of magazines and websites that students will need to know how to interpret and understand.

Feel free to use this example as a guide for writing yours.

Common Core Standards

So far, Common Core has been implemented in 42 states. The idea was to create a standard for education that was universal for all U.S. students at the same grade level. If your state has adopted the Common Core standards, ensure that your Central Focus aligns with them. This does not mean you have to rewrite your learning objectives; however, a broader perspective should be given.

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What Should Be Included in the Academic Language Section?

When I first looked at the description for what the Academic Language section required, I was a bit confused too. Breaking it down into smaller pieces helped me to understand it. Essentially it is the writing or speaking that a student does to let you know they understood what you taught them. So what should the Academic Language section contain?

  1. Language function is the verb used to describe what is to be learned. This could be a variety of words like identify, analyze, summarize, define, explain, conclude, justify, compare.
  2. Language demand is the assignment the student is to complete. This can be anything that you assign such as an essay, writing a paragraph, sentence, speech, lab write-up, graphing an equation, or answering DBQ's. Your choices are not limited to the aforementioned assignments. There are many more options.
  3. Vocabulary means any of the words the student should know in order to define and comprehend the content of the lesson. These words may be restricted to a particular content area (Internment-Camp in Social Studies) or just general words that are used in all/most concentrations (e.g., list, display, characteristics, inference, analyze).

Learning Objective Example

Students will be able to display their understanding of the content by graphing six lines using the slope-intercept formula and labeling the different graphs with the proper equations.

Academic Language Example

Look at the learning objective above. The following is what describes it:

The language function is to display. The language demand is to graph (a line on a graph). Vocabulary includes slope-intercept formula (mathematics-specific) and equation (general). Adding adjectives such as six enables efficient assessment of whether students have achieved the learning target.

So, the Academic Language section should look like this:

Students will be able to display their understanding of the content by graphing six lines using the slope-intercept formula and labeling the different graphs with the proper equations. The language function is to display. The language demand is to graph (a line on a graph). Vocabulary includes slope-intercept formula (mathematics-specific) and equation (general). Adding adjectives such as six enables efficient assessment of whether students have achieved the learning target.

You simply rewrite your learning objective or Common Core standard and explain it.

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© 2014 Drew Overholt

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