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Curriculum Q & A Blog, Question 10

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    EL Education

Do you have questions about teaching the EL Education K–5 Language Arts Curriculum? We've got answers!

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Question 10: How Do I Plan When the Planning Has Been Done for Me?
Part 6: Orienting to a Skills Block Module and Cycle

To learn more about K-2 language arts curriculum, see this introductory post. To learn more about the Skills Block in particular, check out this video or read more in this document.

This is part six of a six-part series on preparing to teach the EL Education K–5 Language Arts Curriculum. In the first 4 entries, we focused on the content-based literacy components of the curriculum (K-5 Module Lessons and ALL Block and Labs). The last two focus on the K-2 Reading Foundations Skills Block (Skills Block). Last week’s post offered information about the big picture, preparing for the beginning of the year, and getting ready to administer assessments. This last post of the series will offer some guidance around planning for a module and a cycle of lessons in the Skills Block. 

As we mentioned in previous entries, preparing to teach a curriculum that has already been written requires a different kind of planning than writing lessons from scratch. But just because the curriculum is already written, doesn’t mean you don’t have to plan! It’s just a different kind of planning that requires you to think about how to make the curriculum your own and how to make it the best it can be for your students.

A Skills Block Module

Both content-based literacy components of the curriculum (K-2 Module Lessons and Labs) and the Skills Block are organized by modules. The content-based literacy modules are further broken down into units while the Skills Block is segmented into cycles (see visual below).

The Skills Block Module Overviews include important information that will help you understand the big picture goals of the module (usually found in the second or third paragraph of the introduction; see example below) and backwards plan toward those goals. The module overview also includes the following information: 

  • Details about each cycle in the module
  • Pacing considerations
  • Assessment
  • Habits of character (social-emotional learning focus for the module)
  • Texts used in the module
  • Standards taught and assessed
  • Cycles “at a glance” (brief list of spelling patterns or sounds and high-frequency words introduced in each cycle)

Excerpt of a Grade 1 Module Overview introduction. See the third paragraph for a description of the goals of the module.

We recommend that grade level teams meet at least two weeks prior to teaching a new module to internalize the goals of the module and to backwards plan based on the current needs of students. Consider using this tool to guide your planning (ending in the middle of page 244).

You might also view one of EL Education’s screencasts, each including overview information about each module. You can find a link to all available screencasts here (including screencasts for content-based literacy modules) and a link to the Module 1 Skills Block screencast for each grade level below:

A Skills Block Cycle

Once you have a grasp of the big picture of the module, you can drill down to the cycle level. Remember, each module includes 7 cycles of instruction, which are made up of of 5 lessons each (except introductory cycles which may be 10).

The Cycle Overview includes the following information:

  • Patterns or sounds introduced in the cycle
  • High-frequency words introduced in the cycle
  • Cycle Word List (see example below)
  • Cycle at a Glance (agendas for each lesson)
  • Teaching Notes for each lesson
  • Materials to prepare for the cycle

This is an excerpt from a Cycle Overview. This portion includes words that are representative of the spelling patterns taught in this cycle. This list can be used in whole group to supplement the words used in a lesson if your kids need more practice. Or you can use these words to create differentiated small group activities.  

We recommend that grade level teams meet at least one week prior to teaching a cycle. Consider using this tool to guide your planning. If you would like a full version of the planning tool, including guidance for assessments (from this post), modules, and cycles, you can download here.

As you continue to familiarize yourself with all of the planning tools available to you in the curriculum and on our website, you and your team will begin to figure out what will work best for you planning needs and styles.

If you’re looking for more information, check out our website or our book Your Curriculum Companion: The Essential Guide to Teaching the EL Education K–5 Language Arts Curriculum. If you have questions related to this blog, please email us at: