ESL Curriculum Development

Instructor: Marquis Grant
This lesson will highlight ways in which curriculum can be developed for English as a Second Language. A short quiz will follow to test your knowledge of concepts and ideas.


The primary goal of English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction is to provide support for those students who have limited or no exposure to the English language. ESL curriculums should be designed to provide student the foundation needed to access the content area curriculum while they work towards mastering the English language.

Because the needs of ESL students are varied, it is necessary for teachers to differentiate or find different ways to make instruction meaningful for all learners in the classroom. Developing ESL instruction requires educators to be aware of the problems that ESL students have in the classroom and be aware of research-based practices that been proven to be effective.

Standards and Objectives

Standards provide the foundation for what students at each grade level should be able to do. In most cases, there are sets of standards for each content area (math, language arts, science and social studies). Some of the skills that are addressed through the standards include reading, writing, speaking and listening.

Standards are very important to the development of ESL curriculum. Whenever content area lessons are created, teachers must use state standards as their guide to ensure that students are learning what they should based on grade level expectations.

Many states are following the Common Core State Standards, which aligns curriculum and instruction for all content areas for all grade levels so that they are the same for every state and district across the United States. Other states have their own set of standards for curriculum and instruction. Before creating curriculum for ESL, it is important to know which set of standards are being used in your district.

In addition to standards, there will be a need to create objectives for the curriculum. Objectives address the learning outcomes that students are expected to achieve once a lesson is over. In the case of ESL students, there may be a need to have additional objectives that address both their ability to successfully apply content related knowledge and become proficient or masters of the English language.

Developing ESL curriculum requires:

  • Clear application of the state standards for each content area.
  • Explicitly defined learning objectives.
  • Inclusion of materials and resources that will support each ESL learner based on his level of English language mastery.
  • Differentiated instruction so that all students benefit from the lesson.
  • Meaningful instruction that is not 'watered down' or over simplified.

Incorporating a variety of classroom activities where students can work independently or in groups, and receive help from the teacher when necessary, can help differentiate instruction

Curriculum and Instruction

When teaching ESL students, instruction should be explicit or thorough and supportive of each student's needs. A variety of instructional strategies should be used so that the lesson is understandable and appropriate for each ESL student's English language mastery level.

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