Stanford University's Understanding Language: Teaching Resources for English Language Arts

This resource aims to illustrate how instruction based on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in ELA can be designed to accelerate language and literacy development simultaneously with ELA content learning for ELLs at the intermediate level of English language proficiency or above.

Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
Stanford University, Graduate School of Education
Publication Year
Resource Type
Instructional Material
Product Type

Understanding Language, an initiative of Stanford University, Graduate School of Education, aims to heighten educator awareness of the critical role that language plays in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Understanding Language seeks to improve education for all students—especially English Language Learners (ELL). The available resources demonstrate ways in which students' English language proficiency and disciplinary knowledge can be developed simultaneously in the context of content instruction.

Teaching resources that exemplify high-quality CCSS-aligned instruction for ELLs in English language arts (ELA) are provided.

Benefits and Uses

This is a high-quality and well-organized resource that should help fill a much needed gap with respect to resources targeting ELLs. It offers a variety of tools that support teaching and learning aligned with the CCSS. 

The ELA resource, Persuasion across Time and Space, is a CCSS standards-aligned instructional unit on persuasion and persuasive texts. This is a high-quality detailed sample unit comprising five multi-day lessons which are designed to show how well CCSS standards can be fulfilled for ELLs. The whole unit is well organized and laid out clearly. All of the resources including the texts, are fully aligned for text complexity for grades 6-8 (CCR Level D). High-quality text dependent questions, discussion prompts, and writing tasks are provided. The alignment is to the CCSS, but it is easily adaptable for the CCR standards. The organizing principle of the resource is argument (persuasion) which is a challenging skill for any student to master in writing or to recognize the particular features of while reading. As the materials point out, this can be particularly challenging when students are also learning English. The resource directly addresses these challenges, while also offering appropriately rich and complex texts and good questions and prompts for students.

The primary audience for this resource is teachers who provide CCR-aligned instruction to ELLs. The ELA units can be used as a classroom resource, so teachers can experience what a fully aligned five-lesson unit would be like in their classrooms. The lesson may need to be modified in order to be used with adult students.

Professional developers and/or program administrators tasked with supporting teachers as they implement the CCR standards may also find these resources useful. While the materials can certainly be used directly by teachers, an effective use of the resources may be in long-term professional development or study group experiences. The ELA lesson units could serve as a model for discussion of quality lessons for ELLs that are aligned to CCR standards and of what is possible in the adult education realm. Teachers could work together to adapt these lesson for the adult education classroom.

All of the resources are useful for adult educators. In general, one of the most significant features of all of the resources is the attention paid to accommodating ELLs without sacrificing any of the rigor and high expectations for CCR standards. Whether teachers study those aspects or experience them along with their students, they will find this to be a useful set of materials. 

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