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K-5 Language Arts Curriculum: Overview

What makes the EL Education K-5 Language Arts Curriculum fundamentally different?

EL Education’s curriculum is fundamentally different from- and better than- most published curricula. It was created to support your students to build skills and content knowledge, to meet college- and career-ready standards, and, at the same time, to become more confident and collaborative learners. It also was created to help you become a stronger teacher:

  • Our curriculum was written by teachers, for teachers.
  • Our curriculum is offered as a free, open resource.
  • Our curriculum is designed to help teachers become even better in their practice.

We designed our curriculum based on what teachers told us they needed: a curriculum that is comprehensive, that provides everything you need to teach and assess ELA standards; that engages students in meaningful content; that helps students become strong learners and people; that empowers them to create high-quality work that matters; and that is compelling, engaging, and joyful. We provide detailed lessons for almost every single day of the year that fit this bill, and we offer guidance for how to execute those lessons effectively. When you first encounter our curriculum, you may incorrectly assume that it is prescriptive, since every lesson is described down to the smallest detail. It is descriptive, but it is not intended to be prescriptive. It is a thinking teacher’s curriculum; it is not designed to be followed mindlessly. (Woodfin, L. & Plaut, S. N., (2017) Your Curriculum Companion: The Essential Guide to Teaching the EL Education K-5 Language Arts Curriculum. New York, NY: EL Education Inc.)

We invite you to use this PD Pack as a resource as you further explore the EL Education K-5 Language Arts Curriculum (second edition). This first page of the PD Pack offers an overview of the EL Education K-5 Language Arts curriculum, and subsequent pages delve into more detail on each of the components.

Note: For more information on EL Education’s Grades 3-8 ELA Curriculum (first edition), please click here.

“The curriculum as a whole… it’s almost like this equal composition of learning how to become a better teacher...and watching your students become better learners.” -Richard Finn, Teacher, Boston

Learning Targets

  1. I can describe the principles and research that underlie the EL Education K-5 Language Arts Curriculum.
  2. I can describe how the EL Education K-5 Language Arts Curriculum elevates student achievement.

Review: K-2 and 3-5 Comprehensive Literacy Curriculum

Our K-5 curriculum offers either two or three hours of literacy instruction per day, depending on the grade level. The Grades K-2 curriculum offers two hours per day of content-based literacy (module lessons and K-2 Labs) plus one hour of structured phonics (K-2 Reading Foundations Skills Block). All together, these three hours of curriculum are considered comprehensive, meaning that they explicitly teach and formally assess all strands and standards of the Common Core English language arts (ELA) standards for each grade level.

The Grades 3-5 curriculum offers two hours of content-based literacy instruction per day (module lessons and the Additional Language and Literacy [ALL] Block), with an additional optional companion Life Science Module, which accompanies Module 2 for a third hour of instruction lasting eight to nine weeks. With or without the Life Science module, the two hours of content-based literacy are considered comprehensive.

At the heart of the curriculum, at all grade levels, are the hour-long module lessons. 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. 

Please review the diagram of the EL Education Language Arts Curriculum below and note the structure and components for grades K-2 and grades 3-5.

Watch: Curriculum Design: The 4 Ts

In creating standards-aligned content-based literacy curriculum, EL Education used the framework of the 4 Ts: topic, task, target, and text. The video below features members of EL Education’s curriculum design team and teachers working together to design curriculum.  As you watch the video, consider the following questions: 

  1. How would you explain each of the 4 Ts to someone unfamiliar with this framework?
  2. How do the 4 Ts interact to create a strong curriculum?

Read: Principles Underlying the EL Education K-5 Language Arts Curriculum

Read the section “What principles underlie the K-5 Language Arts Curriculum?” on pages 2-5 of the K-5 Language Arts Guidance document.  As you read, reflect:

  1. How does the curriculum focus on equity and supporting all learners?
  2. How does the curriculum empower students, teachers, and families?

Read: Elevating Student Achievement

Grades K–5 teachers have a crucial role, particularly when it comes to building the literacy skills upon which students’ entire academic lives will rest. New, more rigorous college- and career-ready standards are an opportunity, and a provocation, to think more expansively about the capacities of all of our students. Students can and should be reading more challenging texts, presenting opinions and arguments with evidence, challenging ideas, and promoting divergent perspectives. They should be engaged in high-level thinking and discourse, analysis, and synthesis. This shouldn’t be the aim of education only for elite scholars; all students deserve an education that gives them a chance to reach their full potential. Our curriculum is designed to provide all students, from all backgrounds, with the skills and knowledge they need to be literate and confident students. Our curriculum is comprehensive, and includes content-based and phonics for grades K-2. (Woodfin, L. & Plaut, S. N., page 9) 

At the bottom of this page, locate the excerpt of pages 11-14 of Your Curriculum Companion: The Essential Guide to Teaching the EL Education K-5 Language Arts Curriculum, a text from EL Education written to provide you with an orientation to the curriculum, to be a guide to the instructional practices embedded in the curriculum, and to act as a coach. As you read, consider these questions:

  1. How does EL’s Dimensions of Student Achievement resonate with your experience in education?
  2. How does content-based literacy drive student learning of both content and skills?

Review: Research and Strategies to Close the Literacy Achievement Gap

The EL Education K-5 Language Arts Curriculum is grounded in research to provide a strong foundation for students. Lower on this page, locate the excerpt of pages 20-23 of Your Curriculum Companion. Please review the table and consider:

  1. How does EL Education’s curriculum address the five elements of literacy instruction most critical for addressing the literacy achievement gap; vocabulary, knowledge-building, syntax, fluency, and decoding?
  2. How does EL Education’s curriculum combine a structured phonics program with content-based literacy?

Dig Deeper


For Teachers: 

  1. After reviewing the 4 Ts, the principles underlying the curriculum, the dimensions of student achievement, and the research behind the curriculum, what do you think makes the EL Education curriculum fundamentally different?

For School Leaders:

  1. How will you communicate to teachers, parents, and students about what makes the EL Education curriculum fundamentally different?  What resources will you share?
  2. How will you begin create the conditions of success for implementing the curriculum at your school?

Suggested Use

Your Curriculum Companion Pages 11 14

Your Curriculum Companion Pages 20 23