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Using the MA Curriculum Framework for ELA in ESL Classrooms

Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

This lesson explores how teachers in Massachusetts who instruct English learners plan their instruction around specific language arts standards. You have a practical example that illustrates how the instruction planning works.

Framework as a Guide

Let's begin by introducing you to Cynthia. She is a teacher of English language learners (ELL) in Massachusetts. Cynthia's job as an ELL teacher involves a lot of responsibility. She not only instructs students so they become proficient in English (this includes vocabulary, grammar, sentence structure, etc.) but also designs lessons that include academic language her students need in order to succeed in subjects like math, literature, science, etc.

To do this, Cynthia follows the guidelines in the Massachusetts English Language Arts (ELA) and Literacy Framework, which is the basic guide that defines how to implement instructional practices in the classroom to help students succeed in school. Let's look at the relevant aspects of this framework for ELL teachers.

ELA in ESL Classrooms

The Massachusetts English Language Arts and Literacy Framework proposes an integrated model of literacy. In the integrated model, reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills allow students to make connections between the language they use to communicate on a daily basis with the academic language used in content subjects.

To illustrate, as per the ELA and Literacy Framework, Cynthia plans to teach words like 'work,' 'do,' and 'make' in her ELL classes. Cynthia also wants her students to learn words like 'analyze,' 'compose,' and 'research' since these are words students use in an academic context. Now, how does Cynthia plan her instruction to integrate the ELA and Literacy Framework? Let's see.

Collaboration Among Teachers

The ELA and Literacy Framework states that collaboration between educators is often helpful for providing students with the knowledge they need. Let's take a practical example. Cynthia teaches third-grade English learners. Collaboration means that Cynthia often communicates with the third-grade teacher in order to determine the academic needs of students.

The grade-level teacher interacts with English learners in math, science, and reading, and thus, the teacher is able to see what specific needs the students have. The teacher can then inform Cynthia of those needs so that Cynthia can more precisely target her instruction. Similarly, Cynthia collaborates with the teacher by informing her about the progress her English learners are making and even by giving some tips to the teacher regarding working with English learners.

Implementation of Standards for Grade Level

Now, let's move on to specific planning for the classroom. As Cynthia reviews the standards for math, she realizes that her English learners need to be able to use vocabulary such as 'half,' 'denominator,' 'number line,' etc. This is vocabulary for third graders as they study fractions. Thus, Cynthia plans on a vocabulary lesson in which her English learners will be not only learning this vocabulary but using it in context. Each content subject has its own framework teachers can consult depending on the grade level. For instance, for math there is the Massachusetts Curriculum Framework for Mathematics.

Connection to Language Development Standards

The ELA and Literacy Framework specifically states that this framework should be used in conjunction with the language standards that serve to lead students toward proficiency in English. The state of Massachusetts has the WIDA (World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment) standards.

WIDA is a consortium that specializes in defining standards and designing tests that monitor the proficiency levels of English learners. As per the WIDA standards, English learners develop their reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills. These skills are the basis for the five standards, which include the following:

  • language for social and instructional purposes
  • academic language for the area of language arts
  • academic language for the area of math
  • academic language for the area of science
  • academic language for the area of social studies

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