Register for What Matters Most: EL Education 2020 Virtual Summit
Header image

Curriculum Q & A Blog, Question 51: How Were the Three Modules per Grade Level Chosen for the EL Education Flex Curriculum: 2020-21?

  • Date

  • Author

    EL Education

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

Come back every month for the latest from the Curriculum Q & A Blog.

How Were the Three Modules per Grade Level Chosen for the EL Education Flex Curriculum: 2020-21?

Due to the widespread disruptions in schooling across the country in the 2020-21 school year, EL Education recommends facilitating three modules of content-based literacy per grade level instead of four, for the following reasons: 

  • To ensure adequate time for students to adapt to the new school community and the virtual learning environment;
  • To ensure additional time for social and emotional learning at a time when students will need it most; and 
  • To build the necessary skills to be able to demonstrate mastery in the current grade-level skills. 

EL Education has created the Flex Curriculum to meet these needs, and is providing resources for three modules per grade level. The following criteria were prioritized when selecting the three modules per grade for the Flex Curriculum.

Maintaining diversity across a grade level and grade band, considering the authors, characters, and the stories being told, and including topics that are particularly important in the current context. 

The following is a sample of the topics represented in the Flex Curriculum: 

  • Grade 3: Overcoming Learning Challenges Near and Far (2ed.)
  • Grade 5: Stories of Human Rights (2ed.); Athlete Leaders of Social Change and the story of Jackie Robinson (2ed.)
  • Grade 6: Rules to Live By and Bud Not Buddy (1ed.); American Indian Boarding Schools (2ed.); Remarkable Accomplishments in Space Science focused on Hidden Figures (2ed.)
  • Grade 7: Finding Home: Refugees (1ed.); The Harlem Renaissance, including the Jim Crow south and the great migration (2ed.)
  • Grade 8: Folklore of Latin America (2ed.); Lessons from Japanese-American Internment (2ed.) 

Eighth-graders studying Folklore of Latin America in the Flex Curriculum will read Summer of the Mariposas

Minimizing impact of the change from classroom to remote learning on students’ opportunity to gain literacy skills and meet state academic standards. 

We selected modules toward the end of the year (Modules 3 and 4) to omit as these modules practice previously taught skills rather than introducing a lot of new skills.

Ensuring content is appropriate for students in a fully remote environment where there might be significantly less support and guidance from a teacher, and where individual student/teacher interactions and communication might be infrequent.

For example, based on feedback from teachers and district leaders during the spring and summer of 2020, a module was omitted for the 2020-21 academic year if it includes references to pandemics (e.g., in Grade 4: Module 4 students read The Hope Chest, which references the 1918 Flu Pandemic). A module was also omitted if an anchor text was written for an adult audience rather than for the specific grade level, and therefore contains complex and possibly archaic language or structures, paired with content that may require more support than a teacher can provide in a remote environment (e.g., Unbroken in first edition Grade 8: Module 3B).

Unbroken requires more teacher support than virtual learning can provide, so its module was omitted from the Flex Curriculum for 2020-21

The EL Education curriculum is designed to help students develop a critical eye for implicit bias and racism in literature, even in texts that don’t explicitly address race or racism. Through prompts and protocols, teachers challenge students to interrogate the author’s point of view, critique racist language, or unpack stereotypes in portrayals of characters. These teacher-directed activities allow students to uncover different kinds of oppression—ideological, institutional, interpersonal, and internalized. However, in order for the modules to serve this purpose, students need to be guided through deep analysis with an adult, rather than left to their own devices to potentially misinterpret what they are reading, which could have more harmful consequences. 

As an example, in Grade 3: Module 3, students read Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie. This module, when guided by a teacher, supports students in analyzing the racial and gender stereotypes evident in the book, and encourages them to “right the wrongs” by rewriting a scene of the book. In the fully remote learning environment, this level of thoughtful discussion and analysis might not be possible, and therefore, in reading Peter Pan without guidance, students may think this stereotyping is appropriate and condoned by their school and EL Education, and therefore, could have harmful consequences. As a result, this module was omitted from the Flex Curriculum. 

In contrast, in Grade 5: Module 3, students read Promises to Keep, an informational text about Jackie Robinson written by his daughter Sharon Robinson. This text describes the racial discrimination Jackie Robinson faced in baseball while also clearly explaining that the way he was treated was wrong. It also describes how other people allied as co-conspirators with Jackie Robinson and therefore, provides examples for students of how to be ethical people who can work against systemic racism. As the text supports students in understanding that this behavior was unacceptable and therefore isn’t open to student misinterpretation, this module has continued to be included. 

We realize that local context matters. We suggest that schools and districts review the guidance provided by EL Education and choose to utilize modules that meet their local context and needs. In some cases, when students can be fully supported by the teacher in the way the module was intended, some of the modules selected to be omitted for 2020-21 may be important to teach, and in this situation, schools may consider a different module to omit.

For more general information about our curriculum, check out our website or our books Your Curriculum Companion: The Essential Guide to Teaching the EL Education K–5 Language Arts Curriculum and Your Curriculum Companion: The Essential Guide to Teaching the EL Education 6–8 Curriculum. If you have questions related to this blog, please email us at: