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Teaching & Learning: Curriculum - English Language Learners


Introduction - Changes Units

Context for Curriculum Design for standards-based instruction of English Language Learners Spring 2007

The nature of the ELL student populations involves mobility across countries, towns, and schools. Specifically for this reason, programs need to maintain current and visible assessments and curriculum documents for ELL and general education staff so that instructional time is not lost in locating student language and academic levels or gaps in knowledge or skills. Interestingly, some students may arrive in the district with strong math or science backgrounds, and will need only language that matches their experiences or interruptions in schooling. For these students, the ELL curriculum may need to offer content from earlier grades through a careful language-based design.

The elementary curriculum work done by the ELL staff in 2006-2007 is designed to provide a variety of grade content selections from the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks. ELL teachers may select content topics based on the context and timelines, for example, select to juxtapose ELL activities with classroom content work or elaborate on current content through supplemental activities that provide substantial language use for the ELL's. In addition, the ELL curriculum provides inquiry experiences for those children who may have prior content knowledge but need to accelerate language learning through interaction in project settings. Some ELL children will not have experienced the content (eg., apple-picking) in ways assumed by their new culture.

The design represented in the planning done in 2006-2007 by the elementary ELL staff in Arlington is influenced by current state compliance conditions in addition to general and current "best practices" for this population. Specifically:

  • Articulated English proficiency levels for all ages in listening, speaking, reading, and writing for all stages of language learning (English Language Proficiency Benchmarks and Outcomes, DOE, 2003)

  • "High-stakes" assessments tied to the standards related to the DOE-identified proficiency levels and the extent and rate of proficiency attainments;

  • The current regulatory expectation that ELL teachers are teachers of "language through content". While this definition does not assume full responsibility for content learning will fall on the shoulders of ELL teachers, it does transform ELL assessment, instruction, and content at all grade and proficiency levels, particularly beginning-early intermediate levels.

Balanced with this expectation is the assumption that content classroom teachers with ELL students will be competent in "sheltered English immersion" approaches and strategies so that sustained instructional settings in all content areas meet the language AND content needs of ELLs in the district.


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