What Are WIDA Standards?

Instructor: Bill Sands
WIDA standards are designed to help measure the academic progress of English language learners. Keep reading for more information on these standards and how they are used in the classroom.

WIDA Standards

In an effort to provide quality education to English language learning students, the World-Class Instructional Design & Assessment (WIDA) consortium has developed 5 English Language Development (ELD) Standards to help students understand English in both a social and academic context.

Most recently updated in 2012, these standards focus on general and specific language areas and are organized by domain, grade cluster, and framework.

The first WIDA standard (Social & Instructional Language) focuses on building communication skills required for basic social and instructional interactions in an English-speaking classroom.

After learning the most fundamental components of the English language, students will next be expected to use these skills to acquire knowledge in various subject areas. Standards 2-5 cover the following:

  • #2: The Language of Language Arts
  • #3: The Language of Mathematics
  • #4: The Language of Science
  • #5: The Language of Social Studies

Standards 2-5 focus on the language of instruction as it pertains to specific content and subjects. This can include vocabulary, speaking conventions, structures, and a more formal register.

Language Domains

To better ensure the quality of education and measure a student's academic progress, WIDA standards are broken down into four language domains, each of which focuses on a certain facet of the English language. Each of these domains includes skills specific to that particular branch of language:

  • Reading: For this category, students are expected to use their language skills to interpret and understand written text.
  • Writing: ELL students must use their language skills to express their thoughts and opinions through written communication. This domain is highly varied and requires students to write for a number of different situations and audiences.
  • Speaking: Perhaps the most important domain, this component focuses on a student's ability to communicate verbally.
  • Listening: Similar to the Reading domain, this skill area focuses on the use of passive skills as students hear, process, and interpret spoken words and commands.

Grade Clusters

WIDA standards organize students according to their grade. Kindergarten through 8th grade features a unique group for each grade, while high school students are grouped into two clusters: grades 9-10 and 11-12

Model Performance Indicators (MPIs)

In order to provide examples of what is expected of students, WIDA standards include Model Performance Indicators, also known as MPIs. These indicators are only meant to be examples, not rigidly defined guidelines.

Every MPI includes three strands: integrated, expanded, and complementary. The integrated strand demonstrates how units of instruction incorporate all four language domains. The expanded strand shows how characteristics of academic language can be used in all academic settings, including reading classes and content subjects such as math and science. The complementary strand focuses on the application of language learning in all settings both formal and informal. These strands include:

  • The Language of the Humanities
  • The Language of Technology and Engineering
  • The Language of Visual Arts
  • The Language of Music and Performing Arts

Resources for ELL Students

For ELL students who may need additional support outside of the classroom, Study.com has a number of online courses to help these students brush up on their skills and reinforce important ideas. For example, this Grammar Resources for ELL Students course reviews essential grammar concepts. There's also these Grammar Flashcards, which students can use to confirm their knowledge and get ready for important assessments. This Activities for Teaching English Language Learners course can also provide helpful advice for reaching and connecting with your students.

These self-paced lessons contain plenty of helpful learning tools such as short videos and interactive quizzes. The lessons also include written transcripts that serve as companions for the recorded lessons.

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