K-5 Language Arts Curriculum: 3-5 Modules

How can I unpack a module?

The hour-long Module Lessons are the heart of EL Education’s Language Arts Curriculum. In grades 3-5 the modules fully teach and assess all of the ELA standards at each grade level. Each grade level includes four modules, which span a full school year. The four modules allow students to build important content knowledge based on a compelling topic related to science, social studies, or literature. Each module uses rich, authentic text throughout.

This page of the PD Pack begins with a wide lens, looking at how the modules unfold over the course of the year, and then drills down into a specific module, then further into a specific unit, and lastly into a single lesson from the curriculum. When looking at the lesson you will consider how to best meet the needs of your individual students. This is a lot of unpacking! But this kind of preparation, including understanding how the pieces build to a cohesive whole, will allow you to take an already strong curriculum and make it the best you can for your students.

"Students deserve to read beautifully written and worthy texts. If it literature, let it be great literature. If it is informational text, let it teach students new words and new ideas in sophisticated ways." -Your Curriculum Companion text

Learning Targets: 

  1. I can explain how the lessons, units, and modules in the curriculum unfold and build into a cohesive whole.
  2. I can use key curriculum documents (Curriculum Plan, Curriculum Map, Module Overviews,  Unit Overviews, and Lesson Plans) to inform my planning.

Watch: 3-5 Modules Screencast

Watch this introductory screencast on the 3-5 Module Lessons to learn about the structure, assessments, and key features of the module lessons.  As you watch, consider:

  1. How do you see “backward design” at work in the modules?
  2. How are the modules supportive of all upper-elementary students?

Try It: Orienting to the Year

In this and the following sections you will use Task Cards to orient to the curriculum, beginning with a wide lens and then zooming in closer until you unpack a single lesson.  Please note that it does take considerable time to work your way through all of these Task Cards. It’s also very helpful to inform your planning. We recommend collaborating with colleagues on these Task Cards and working on different Task Cards over time.  

Here you will use a Task Card to guide your review of two key documents that provide an overview of the yearlong content-based literacy components of the curriculum, the Module lessons and ALL Block:

The Curriculum Plan, which is the widest-angle lens, will orient you to how the four modules will unfold across the year at your grade level, as well as the grade levels that precede and follow. 

The Curriculum Map zooms a little closer into the four modules for your grade level, detailing the texts, assessments, and standards across the entire year. This document is critical to your understanding of the flow of the modules, how each module builds on the preceding module, and when and how often each standard is assessed.

Below on this page, locate the Orienting to the Year Task Card from page 130 of the text Your Curriculum Companion: The Essential Guide to Teaching the EL Education K-5 Language Arts Curriculum to guide you as you review the documents and help you see the big picture of how the curriculum unfolds across the year.  

Try It: Orienting to a Module

Now you will take a closer look at one of the four modules for your grade level.  Please go to one of the following Modules:

Below on this page, locate the Orienting to a Module Task Card to help you analyze the important overview documents for the module.  

Try It: Orienting to a Unit

Now you will dig in even further by looking at the three units that comprise a module.

Each unit contributes to the story of the module by focusing instruction around the specific literacy skills necessary to holistically study the module topic. Reviewing the Unit Overviews and the will bring more of the details into focus as you continue the process of “zooming in” closer and closer to daily lessons.

It is important to read all three Unit Overviews to get a sense of the big picture of how the three units build on each other and how they fit together to tell the story of the module. The Unit-at- a-Glance charts are an especially important component of the Unit Overviews. Most teachers reference these charts frequently to understand the arc of each unit, how lessons build toward assessments, the recommended scaffolding (including key anchor charts), the protocols used across the unit, and when each text is introduced and how much time is recommended to spend on each.  

Open the Unit-at-a-Glance chart for Module 1 of your grade level.  Then locate below on this page the Orienting to a Unit Task Card to dig into a unit. 

Try It: Orienting to a Lesson

You will now zoom into a single day’s lesson plan to see how it fits within the arc of a module and begin to prepare for teaching.   

Please open lesson number one as appropriate for your grade level (or select a lesson you are preparing to deliver):

Then locate at the bottom of the page the Module Lessons Planning Task Card to guide your review of the lesson.  We recommend collaborating with a colleague as you dig into this for the first time.

Dig Deeper

  • Students Unpack a Learning Target:  Learning targets articulate a clear vision of the intended learning and they are used in each lesson. In this video, watch as a class of fourth and fifth-grade students unpack a learning target.  
  • Close Reading: An Instructional Strategy for Conquering Complex Text: In this video, watch third grades engage in close reading, a strategy employed in EL Education’s Language Arts Curriculum.
  • Classroom Protocols in Action: Back-to-Back and Face-to-Face: In this video watch students engage in the Back-to-Back and Face-to-Face protocol, one of the many incorporated in EL Education’s Language Arts Curriculum. 
  • EL Education Protocols: Here is a compendium of protocols (structured conversations) used in the EL Education Language Arts Curriculum Module Lessons, as well as writing rubrics (opinion, informative, narrative), speaking and listening checklists, and an explanation of conversation cues. 


For Teachers

  1. Now that you have worked from the curriculum map down through a single lesson, how would you recommend that a colleague begin unpacking a module?  Where should they start, and what do they need to know about each of the documents?
  2. What is your next step as you prepare to teach a module?

For School Leaders

  1. How will you support teachers in further unpacking the modules, units, and lessons? Consider using the full Task Card (used in sections through this page) during a professional development session with your teachers in which they collaborate and learn together.

Suggested Use

Orienting To The Year Task Card

Orienting To A Module Task Card

Orienting to a Unit Task Card

Module Lessons Planning Task Card