K-12 English/Language Arts Curriculum Standards Overarching Big Ideas

Standards for the English Language Arts

Sponsored by NCTE and IRA


The vision guiding these standards is that all students must have the opportunities and resources to develop the language skills they need to pursue life's goals and to participate fully as informed, productive members of society.  These standards assume that literacy growth begins before children enter school as they experience and experiment with literacy activities—reading and writing, and associating spoken words with their graphic representations.  Recognizing this fact, these standards encourage the development of curriculum and instruction that make productive use of the emerging literacy abilities that children bring to school.  Furthermore, the standards provide ample room for the innovation and creativity essential to teaching and learning.  They are not prescriptions for particular curriculum or instruction.  Although we present these standards as a list, we want to emphasize that they are not distinct and separable; they are, in fact, interrelated and should be considered as a whole.  

1.  Students read a wide range of print and non-print texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
2.  Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.
3.  Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
4.  Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.

5.  Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
6.  Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and non-print texts.
7.  Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and non-print texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
8.  Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
9.  Students develop an understanding of and respect for diversity in language use, patterns, and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, geographic regions, and social roles.
10.  Students whose first language is not English make use of their first language to develop competency in the English language arts and to develop understanding of content across the curriculum.
11.  Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
12.  Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).


Related Information:

·  Standards for the English Language Arts (http://www.ncte.org/store/books/standards)


Massachusetts Guiding Principles and General Standards

[From Massachusetts English Language Arts Curriculum Framework  June 2001  http://www.doe.mass.edu/frameworks/ela/0601.doc ]







Guiding Principles



The following principles are philosophical statements that underlie every strand and standard of this curriculum framework. They should guide the construction and evaluation of English language arts curricula.

Guiding Principle 1

An effective English language arts curriculum develops thinking and language together through interactive learning.

Effective language use both requires and extends thinking. As learners listen to a speech, view a documentary, discuss a poem, or write an essay, they engage in thinking. The standards in this framework specify the intellectual processes that students draw on as they use language. Students develop their ability to remember, understand, analyze, evaluate, and apply the ideas they encounter in the English language arts and in all the other disciplines when they undertake increasingly challenging assignments that require them to write or speak in response to what they are learning.

Guiding Principle 2

An effective English language arts curriculum develops students’ oral language and literacy through appropriately challenging learning.

A well planned English language arts instructional program provides students with a variety of oral language activities, high-quality and appropriate reading materials, and opportunities to work with others who are reading and writing. In the primary grades, systematic phonics instruction and regular practice in applying decoding skills to decodable materials are essential elements of the school program. Reading to preschool and primary grade children plays an especially critical role in developing children’s vocabulary, their knowledge of the natural world, and their appreciation for the power of the imagination. Beyond the primary grades, students continue to refine their skills through speaking, listening, viewing, reading, and writing.

Guiding Principle 3

An effective English language arts curriculum draws on literature from many genres, time periods, and cultures, featuring works that reflect our common literary heritage.

American students need to become familiar with works that are part of a literary tradition going back thousands of years. Students should read literature reflecting the literary and civic heritage of the English-speaking world. They also should gain broad exposure to works from the many communities that make up contemporary America as well as from countries and cultures throughout the world. Appendix A of this framework presents a list of suggested authors or works reflecting our common literary and cultural heritage. Appendix B presents lists of suggested contemporary authors from the United States, as well as past and present authors from other countries and cultures. A comprehensive literature curriculum contains works from both appendices.



In order to foster a love of reading, English language arts teachers encourage independent reading within and outside of class. School librarians play a key role in finding books to match students’ interests, and in suggesting further resources in public libraries.

Guiding Principle 4

An effective English language arts curriculum emphasizes writing as an essential way to develop, clarify, and communicate ideas in persuasive, expository, narrative, and expressive discourse.

At all levels, students’ writing records their imagination and exploration. As students attempt to write clearly and coherently about increasingly complex ideas, their writing serves to propel intellectual growth. Through writing, students develop their ability to think, to communicate ideas, and to create worlds unseen.

Guiding Principle 5

An effective English language arts curriculum provides for literacy in all forms of media.

Multimedia, television, radio, film, Internet, and videos are prominent modes of communication in the modern world. Like literary genres, each of these media has its unique characteristics, and proficient students apply the critical techniques learned in the study of literature and exposition to the evaluation of multimedia, television, radio, film, Internet sites, and video.

Guiding Principle 6

An effective English language arts curriculum provides explicit skill instruction in reading and writing.

In some cases, explicit skill instruction is most effective when it precedes student need. Systematic phonics lessons, in particular decoding skills, should be taught to students before they try to use them in their subsequent reading. Systematic instruction is especially important for those students who have not developed phonemic awareness — the ability to pay attention to the component sounds of language. Effective instruction can take place in small groups, individually, or on a whole class basis. In other cases, explicit skill instruction is most effective when it responds to specific problems students reveal in their work. For example, a teacher should monitor students’ progress in using quotation marks to punctuate dialogue in their stories, and then provide direct instruction when needed.

Guiding Principle 7

An effective English language arts curriculum teaches the strategies necessary for acquiring academic knowledge, achieving common academic standards, and attaining independence in learning.

Students need to develop a repertoire of learning strategies that they consciously practice and apply in increasingly diverse and demanding contexts. Skills become strategies for learning when they are internalized and applied purposefully. For example, a research skill has become a strategy when a student formulates his own questions and initiates a plan for locating information. A reading skill has become a strategy when a student sounds out unfamiliar words, or automatically makes and confirms predictions while reading. A writing skill has become a strategy when a student monitors her own writing by spontaneously asking herself, “Does this organization work?” or “Are my punctuation and spelling correct?” When students are able to articulate their own learning strategies, evaluate their effectiveness, and use those that work best for them, they have become independent learners.

Guiding Principle 8

An effective English language arts curriculum builds on the language, experiences, and interests that students bring to school.

Teachers recognize the importance of being able to respond effectively to the challenges of linguistic and cultural differences in their classrooms.


They recognize that sometimes students have learned ways of talking, thinking, and interacting that are effective at home and in their neighborhood, but which may not have the same meaning or usefulness in school. Teachers try to draw on these different ways of talking and thinking as potential bridges to speaking and writing in standard English.

Guiding Principle 9

An effective English language arts curriculum develops each student’s distinctive writing or speaking voice.

A student’s writing and speaking voice is an expression of self. Students’ voices tell us who they are, how they think, and what unique perspectives they bring to their learning. Students’ voices develop when teachers provide opportunities for interaction, exploration, and communication. When students discuss ideas and read one another’s writing, they learn to distinguish between formal and informal communication. They also learn about their classmates as unique individuals who can contribute their distinctive ideas, aspirations, and talents to the class, the school, the community, and the nation.

Guiding Principle 10

While encouraging respect for differences in home backgrounds, an effective English language arts curriculum nurtures students’ sense of their common ground as present or future American citizens in order to prepare them for responsible participation in our schools and in civic life.

Teachers instruct an increasingly diverse group of students in their classrooms each year. Students may come from any country or continent in the world. Taking advantage of this diversity, teachers guide discussions about the extraordinary variety of beliefs and traditions around the world. At the same time, they provide students with common ground through discussion of significant works in American cultural history to help prepare them to become self-governing citizens of the United States of America. An English language arts curriculum can serve as a unifying force in schools and society.

 General Standards

Language Strand


Standard 1: Discussion

Students will use agreed-upon rules for informal and formal discussions in small and large groups.

Standard 2: Questioning, Listening, and Contributing

Students will pose questions, listen to the ideas of others, and contribute their own information or ideas in group discussions or interviews in order to acquire new knowledge.

Standard 3: Oral Presentation

Students will make oral presentations that demonstrate appropriate consideration of audience, purpose, and the information to be conveyed.

Standard 4: Vocabulary and Concept Development

Students will understand and acquire new vocabulary and use it correctly in reading and writing.

Standard 5: Structure and Origins of Modern English

Students will analyze standard English grammar and usage and recognize how its vocabulary has developed and been influenced by other languages.

Standard 6: Formal and Informal English

Students will describe, analyze, and use appropriately formal and informal English.

Reading and Literature Strand

Standard 7: Beginning Reading

Students will understand the nature of written English and the relationship of letters and spelling patterns to the sounds of speech.

Standard 8: Understanding a Text

Students will identify the basic facts and main ideas in a text and use them as the basis for interpretation.

Standard 9: Making Connections

Students will deepen their understanding of a literary or non-literary work by relating it to its contemporary context or historical background.


Standard 10: Genre

Students will identify, analyze, and apply knowledge of the characteristics of different genres.

Standard 11: Theme

Students will identify, analyze, and apply knowledge of theme in a literary work and provide evidence from the text to support their understanding.

Standard 12: Fiction

Students will identify, analyze, and apply knowledge of the structure and elements of fiction and provide evidence from the text to support their understanding.

Standard 13: Nonfiction

Students will identify, analyze, and apply knowledge of the purposes, structure, and elements of nonfiction or informational materials and provide evidence from the text to support their understanding.

Standard 14: Poetry

Students will identify, analyze, and apply knowledge of the themes, structure, and elements of poetry and provide evidence from the text to support their understanding.

Standard 15: Style and Language

Students will identify and analyze how an author’s words appeal to the senses, create imagery, suggest mood, and set tone, and provide evidence from the text to support their understanding.

Standard 16: Myth, Traditional Narrative, and Classical Literature

Students will identify, analyze, and apply knowledge of the themes, structure, and elements of myths, traditional narratives, and classical literature and provide evidence from the text to support their understanding.

Standard 17: Dramatic Literature

Students will identify, analyze, and apply knowledge of the themes, structure, and elements of drama and provide evidence from the text to support their understanding.

Standard 18: Dramatic Reading and Performance

Students will plan and present dramatic readings, recitations, and performances that demonstrate appropriate consideration of audience and purpose.

Composition Strand

Standard 19: Writing

Students will write with a clear focus, coherent organization, and sufficient detail.

Standard 20: Consideration of Audience and Purpose

Students will write for different audiences and purposes.

Standard 21: Revising

Students will demonstrate improvement in organization, content, paragraph development, level of detail, style, tone, and word choice (diction) in their compositions after revising them.

Standard 22: Standard English Conventions

Students will use knowledge of standard English conventions in their writing, revising, and editing.


Standard 23: Organizing Ideas in Writing

Students will organize ideas in writing in a way that makes sense for their purpose.

Standard 24: Research

Students will gather information from a variety of sources, analyze and evaluate the quality of the information they obtain, and use it to answer their own questions.

Standard 25: Evaluating Writing and Presentations

Students will develop and use appropriate rhetorical, logical, and stylistic criteria for assessing final versions of their compositions or research projects before presenting them to varied audiences.

Media Strand

Standard 26: Analysis of Media

Students will identify, analyze, and apply knowledge of the conventions, elements, and techniques of film, radio, video, television, multimedia productions, the Internet, and emerging technologies and provide evidence from the works to support their understanding.

Standard 27: Media Production

Students will design and create coherent media productions (audio, video, television, multimedia, Internet, emerging technologies) with a clear controlling idea, adequate detail, and appropriate consideration of audience, purpose, and medium.


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