Functional Language

The Language of Cognition- Academic Language Needed to Express Ideas

"Developing academic language means learning content specific as well as non-content specific vocabulary and navigating the grammatical patterns of literature and informational texts. Academic language involves four domains: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. While listening and reading are receptive tasks, writing and speaking are expressive tasks, and each of these language domains is connected to thinking. Students must be able to use spoken and written English both to acquire academic content knowledge and to demonstrate their learning."

Language functions are the cognitive tasks that drive us to connect thinking and language. Language functions are used to express the cognition described in content standards. They fall along a continuum ranging from simple to complex, are determined by the situation and the purpose of the communicative task, and determine the linguistic elements needed for language production to occur.

Linguistic elements include vocabulary, syntax, and grammatical features that constitute language patterns at the sentence level and discourse patterns at the paragraph and text level. They are the tools for creating the organizational patterns of language used in cognitive processes and reading and writing complex language in academic contexts.

This instruction should be organized for and include structured language practice routines.

Example Lessons

These example lessons were collaboratively created, edited, and taught by KCUSD teachers and Instructional Coaches. The lessons are based upon the Generic Functional Language Instructional Sequences and include structured language practice routines.

For Example Instructional Sequences for functional language lessons, click here.

Cause and Effect


4th Grade

Classifying and Categorizing

2nd Grade

Picture Sort

Compare and Contrast


1st Grade

2nd Grade

Sequencing Events



Taking and Supporting a Position

3rd Grade