A What Kind of Objective?
Content objectives are based on state learning standards and are often defined for you by your grade-level team, department, or district (though they probably don't call them content objectives, rather just learning objectives, learning targets, or something of the like). For example, one of the content objectives that I had to teach for a world history course in a former district was "Identify the four river valley civilizations and explain the geographic advantages that allowed them to be successful." This objective was defined by the department team and all teachers of this course were responsible for teaching it as part of a unit on ancient civilizations.
Now that we've cleared up the mystery of content objectives, let's move on to language objectives. Including language objectives in lesson plans is a classic strategy teachers use to support instruction for English learner students. Basically, a language objective outlines your goal for how your students will use language in your lesson. This could be certain vocabulary use, or reading for information, or participating in a class discussion, or anything else we use language for.
The content and language objectives should act as your guide to lesson planning, making sure that you give students ample opportunities to practice with both the content and language demands expected of them. Just like their content objective counterparts, language objectives should be observable and measurable. Students need to be held accountable for the language objective and you should have a plan for assessing the language objective at the end of your lesson. Done right, language objectives will help your EL students (and all of your other students) improve their academic language skills in your classroom.
Example Content and Language Objectives
Why are Language Objectives Important?
Language objectives focus your lesson on the important academic language skills needed to be successful in your content area. Every field has it's own idiosyncratic ways of using language. For example, budding scientists need to be able to write and discuss hypotheses. They need to be able to follow laboratory instructions, and then write a report. They need to be able to use technical vocabulary related to the field. All of these things can be included in lesson plans as language objectives.
Language objectives guide lesson planning, instruction, and assessment. Teachers who know exactly what their goals and objectives are for a lesson have students who know exactly what their goals and objectives are for a lesson. You can post both the content and language objectives on the board or wall for students to see explicitly. This will focus the lesson, make you a more efficient teacher and make your students more efficient learners.