Chapter 11: Introduction to Standards Guidance for English Language Arts, Literacy, and English Language Development

The California Common Core State Standards: English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects1 (ELA/Literacy Standards) and the California English Language Development Standards2 (ELD Standards) have wide-ranging importance. The ability to read, write, and communicate with competence and confidence in English across a range of personal and academic contexts expands students’ opportunities for career and college success, full and wise participation in a democratic society and global economy, and achievement of their personal aspirations. Moreover, skill in literacy and language provides individuals with access to extraordinary and powerful literature that widens perspectives, illuminates the human experience, and deepens understandings of self and others. And, because literacy and language are foundational to all learning, both sets of standards play a crucial role in ensuring that California (CA) students achieve content standards in every subject area. 

Chapter 10 provided information about digital learning in English language arts, literacy, and English language development. The purpose of Chapters 11-16 is to present standards guidance and instructional considerations for ELA, literacy, and ELD instruction that are aligned with California’s commitment to serve all students, with attention to equity and the whole child. These chapters prioritize critical areas of instructional focus for the continuum of learning from transitional kindergarten through grade twelve. Attention to these critical areas will ensure that students transition to the next grade level well prepared to learn new skills and concepts. This guidance serves as a companion resource to the ELA/Literacy Standards, the ELD Standards, and the English Language Arts/English Language Development Framework for California Public Schools: Kindergarten Through Grade Twelve (ELA/ELD Framework). The organization of the standards highlights the relationships among the standards and reflects an integrated model of instruction. The standards guidance is intended to support teachers as they implement ELA, literacy, and ELD instruction in online, blended, or in-person learning environments. 

The Big Picture of California’s English Language Arts, Literacy, and English Language Development Instruction 

The ELA/ELD Framework provides guidance on the implementation of the ELA/Literacy Standards and the ELD Standards and was the primary source for the standards guidance contained in Section C. See the ELA/ELD Framework for citations related to the research basis and state policies that informed the development of that document. This section is also informed by research and resources that have become available since the publication of the framework. See the references at the conclusion of this document, California Digital Learning Integration and Standards Guidance, for more current citations. 

The Circles of Implementation graphic shared in Figure 11.1 depicts the big picture of implementation of ELA/literacy and ELD instruction as described in the framework. 

Figure 11.1. Big Picture of California’s English Language Arts, Literacy, and English Language Development Instruction 

Diagram of Big Picture of California's English Language Arts, Literacy, and English Development Instruction. Graphic is described in the text that follows.

The outer ring displays the overarching goals. By the time California’s students complete high school, they have: 

  • developed the readiness for college, careers, and civic life; 
  • attained the capacities of literate individuals; 
  • become broadly literate; and 
  • acquired the skills for living and learning in the 21st century. 

In the center of the graphic are the grade-level ELA/literacy standards, which identify year-end expectations for student knowledge and abilities and guide instructional planning. Embedded within the ELA/literacy standards are the ELD standards. Aligned with the ELA/literacy standards, they amplify areas of English language development that are crucial for academic learning. The ELD standards help teachers support students learning English as an additional language to interact in meaningful ways with others and with complex texts, engage in and learn through intellectually challenging tasks across the content areas, develop academic English, and develop awareness about how English works so that they can use it intentionally and purposefully. Both sets of standards comprise the pathway to achievement of the overarching goals of ELA/literacy and ELD instruction. 

Circling the standards are the crosscutting themes of the standards. Instruction across the strands of the ELA/literacy standards (Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening, and Language) and the parts of the ELD standards (Part I: Interacting in Meaningful Ways, Part II: Learning About How English Works, and Part III: Using Foundational Skills) focuses on Meaning Making, Language Development, Effective Expression, Content Knowledge, and Foundational Skills. These themes, described in the chart below, highlight the interconnections among the strands of the ELA/literacy standards and the parts of the ELD standards; the themes guide ELA/literacy and ELD instruction and are considered critical areas of instructional focus. Consistent with these ideas, the ELA/ELD Framework calls for teachers to teach the language arts as meaning making processes, facilitate students’ language development, model and teach effective expression, expand students’ content knowledge, and ensure that students acquire the foundational skills. 

The field inside the outer ring and surrounding the crosscutting themes represents the context in which instruction occurs. Instruction reflects an integrated model of literacy, that is, the strands of the language arts—reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language—are closely intertwined with one another and integrated into every discipline. Instruction in English language development is integrated with and amplifies learning in English language arts and all content areas. Instruction is motivating and engaging; it draws upon and expands students’ experiences and interests, is authentic and relevant, allows choice, and promotes active engagement. Instruction is respectful of all learners; it values and capitalizes on their funds of knowledge, promotes positive relationships, fosters a positive self-image, and is culturally relevant and sustaining. And instruction is intellectually challenging for all students. 

Crosscutting Themes of ELA/Literacy and ELD Instruction 

At every grade level, instruction focuses on the following:

Meaning Making 

Meaning making is at the heart of ELA/literacy and ELD instruction. It is the central purpose for interacting with text, composing text, engaging in research, participating in discussion, speaking with others, and giving and listening to and viewing presentations. It is the reason for learning the foundational skills and for expanding language. Meaning making includes literal understanding but is not confined to it at any grade or with any student. Inference making and critical reading, writing, and listening are given substantial and explicit attention in every discipline. Among the contributors to meaning making are language, knowledge, motivation, comprehension monitoring, and in the case of reading and writing, the ability to recognize printed words and use the alphabetic code to express ideas. 

Language Development 

Language is the cornerstone of literacy and learning. It is with and through language that students learn; think; and express information, ideas, perspectives, and questions. The strands of the ELA/literacy standards—Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening, and Language—all have language at the core, as do the parts of the ELD standards—Interacting in Meaningful Ways, Learning About How English Works, and Using Foundational Literacy Skills. Students enrich their language as they read, write, speak, and listen; interact with one another and learn about language; and engage with rich content in all disciplines. The foundational skills provide access to written language. 

Effective Expression 

Each strand of the ELA/literacy standards and each part of the ELD standards includes attention to effective expression. Students learn to examine the author’s craft as they read, analyzing how authors use language, text structure, and images to convey information, influence, or evoke responses from readers. They learn to effectively express themselves as writers, discussion partners, and presenters, and they use digital media and visual displays to enhance their expression. They gain command over the conventions of written and spoken English, and they learn to communicate in ways appropriate for the purpose, audience, context, and task. 

Content Knowledge 

Content knowledge, which includes literary, cultural, and domain knowledge, is a powerful contributor to comprehension of text and other sources of information and ideas. It also undergirds the ability to write effective opinions/arguments, explanatory/informational text, narratives, and other types of text; engage in meaningful discussions; and present ideas and information to others. It contributes significantly to language development, and it is fundamental to learning about how English works. Both sets of standards ensure that students can learn from informational texts, can research questions of interest, and can share their knowledge as writers and speakers. An organized independent reading program contributes to knowledge building. Content knowledge has a powerful reciprocal relationship with the development of literacy and language. 

Foundational Skills 

Acquisition of the foundational skills enables students to independently read and use written language to learn about the world and themselves; experience extraordinary and diverse works of literary fiction and nonfiction; and share their knowledge, ideas, stories, and perspectives with others. Their achievement is crucial, warranting high priority instructional attention in the early school years and thereafter as needed(See CDE’s Resource Guide to the Foundational Skills.3) Students who know how to decode, develop automaticity with an increasing number of words, and become fluent users of written language are best positioned to make significant strides in meaning making, language development, effective expression, and content knowledge. At the same time, attention to those themes provides the very reason for learning about the alphabetic code and propels progress in the foundational skills. 

An Important Note Regarding Students Who Are English Learners 

Students who are English learners (EL) participate fully in the ELA/literacy and other content curriculum at the same time as they are learning English as an additional language. Teachers use the ELD Standards to support students in meeting both goals: achievement in ELA/literacy and other content curriculum and learning English. It is important to note that even as they are learning English, California values the primary languages of its students and encourages their continued development. This is recognized by the establishment of the State Seal of Biliteracy. In addition, California takes an additive stance to language development for all children. California views the “nonstandard” dialects of English (such as African American English or Chicana/Chicano English) that linguistically and culturally diverse students bring to school from their homes and communities as valuable assets—resources in their own right and solid foundations to be built upon for developing academic English. 

Teachers support acceleration by providing explicit, intensive and extensive instruction in oral language and skills (depth and breadth of vocabulary, listening comprehension, discourse practices, as well as grammatical structures) and by ensuring EL students have many opportunities to participate in extended conversations. Teachers engage EL students in challenging curriculum and apprentice them into successful uses of academic language; teachers make the features of English transparent in order to build proficiency with and critical awareness of the features of discipline-specific academic language. Teachers invite EL students to use their language resources in English and/or native language as they engage in learning experiences. Planned and “just-in-time” scaffolding is provided based on daily assessments of EL students’ receptive and productive practices. Guidance on welcoming, understanding, and educating the diverse population of students who are English learners attending California public schools may be found on the CDE website.4 Refer to Meeting the Needs of English Learners in Chapter 1 to learn about more strategies. 

An Important Note Regarding Students with Disabilities 

Students with disabilities, a diverse group of children and youth with varying needs and abilities, have a right under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to an intellectually rich and engaging curriculum. Teachers work closely with education specialists, students, and families to provide access to grade-level curriculum with appropriate supports and services, including accommodations and modifications as needed. Support for students with diverse learning needs should begin with high quality first instruction and be augmented through any additional identified necessary supports outlined in Individual Educational Program (IEP) or 504 Plans. Some students need assistive technology, which is provided in all settings, including both virtual and in-class environments. Difficulty reading is the most common type of specific learning disability, and some students are diagnosed with dyslexia. It is important to note, however, that students experiencing difficulty reading do not necessarily have a learning disability. There are many causes of reading difficulties, including inadequate curriculum, instruction, and learning support. Special consideration should be given to students who are also learning English as an additional language, as this can make diagnosing learning disabilities more complex. Guidelines may be found about both dyslexia5 and support for EL students with disabilities6 on the CDE website. Refer to Meeting the Needs of Students with Disabilities in Chapter 1 to learn about more strategies. 

Abbreviations and Numbering of Standards 

ELA/Literacy Standards are abbreviated according to the following list: 

  • RL = Reading Literature 
  • RI = Reading Informational Text 
  • RF = Reading Foundational Skills 
  • W = Writing 
  • SL = Speaking and Listening 
  • L = Language 
  • RH = Reading in History/Social Studies (grades 6-12 only) 
  • RST = Reading in Science and Technical Subjects (grades 6-12 only) 
  • WHST = Writing in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical subjects (grades 6-12 only) 

Standards are designated by grade and standard number. For example, RI.3.1 refers to Reading Informational Text, grade 3, standard #1. 

ELD Standards are abbreviated according to the following list: 

  • PI = Part I: Interacting in Meaningful Ways 
  • PII = Part II: Learning About How English Works 
  • PIII = Part III: Using Foundational Skills 
  • Em = Emerging (English proficiency level) 
  • Ex = Expanding (English proficiency level) 
  • Br = Bridging (English proficiency level) 

Standards are designated by grade and standard number. For example, ELD.PI.8.3.Ex refers to Part I: Interacting in Meaningful Ways, grade 8, standard #3 at the Expanding English proficiency level. 

Identification and Organization of the Standards 

All ELA/literacy and ELD standards support students’ attainment of the overarching goals of ELA/literacy instruction described in the 2014 ELA/ELD Framework and the increased attention to informational text, textual evidence, and text complexity called for in the adoption of the standards in 2010/13. These standards reflect critical areas of instructional focus, that is, the five crosscutting themes of meaning making, language development, effective expression, content knowledge, and foundational skills. Some standards have been identified as “key standards” in this document. These standards are likely to require significant instructional attention, and many provide an instructional context in which several standards can be addressed simultaneously due to their interrelationships or overlapping nature. They are also critical to the integration of literacy—the communication processes of reading, writing, speaking and listening, and language—in all academic disciplines. 

Key standards and closely related additional standards in ELA/literacy have been identified for each of the five themes—or critical areas of instructional focus—for every grade. The organization of the standards highlights their relationships to one another, to key supporting ELD standards, and to one or more crosscutting themes. For example, in the table for the theme of meaning making in kindergarten, RL/RI.K.1 (“With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about key details in a text”) and SL.K.2 (“Confirm understanding of a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media by asking and answering questions about key details and requesting clarification if something is not understood.”) are interrelated and can be addressed at the same time instructionally, and so they are clustered together in a table cell. These, along with ELD Standard PI.K.5.Ex (“Demonstrate active listening to read-alouds and oral presentations by asking and answering questions, with oral sentence frames and occasional prompting and support.”) are noted in the left-hand column. Bulleted comments are included in the right-hand column to clarify, contextualize, or emphasize an aspect of the standard(s) identified in the left-hand column or highlight instructional considerations. Related standards—those that can be addressed in the context of the key standard(s) or subsumed within it—are also included in these bullets as relevant. This is in keeping with the integrated model of literacy instruction. 

The standards are presented as follows: 

  • Key ELA/literacy standards are listed according to the theme(s), or critical areas of focus, with which they are most closely aligned. 
  • Many key standards are repeated across themes because of the important role they play in supporting progress in the themes. Color coding is added to highlight this repetition. For example, Writing Standards 1-3 are strongly related to meaning making, effective expression, content knowledge, and foundational skills. These repeated key standards are also highlighted in purple in each of these theme charts. 
  • Some standards are presented in their full form, some are abbreviated, and some are merged as appropriate to convey the key ideas. 
  • Some substandards (e.g., RF.1.4a; RF.1.4b; RF.1.4c) are presented separately due to their distinctive nature and the special instructional attention they require. 
  • Key ELD standards at the Expanding proficiency level are included in cells where appropriate. They highlight and amplify language demands of the ELA/literacy standards and promote EL students’ opportunities and capacities to interact in meaningful ways during instruction and build EL students’ knowledge about how the English language works in different contexts to achieve specific communicative purposes. The ELD standards are addressed during integrated and designated ELD instruction. 
  • Related standards in ELA/literacy and ELD are identified in parentheses in bulleted comments in the right-hand column. It is important to note that standards from different strands—reading, writing, speaking and listening, and language—are identified in nearly every chart, highlighting the integrated nature of the language arts. 

Decision Making: Synchronous and Asynchronous Instruction 

Teachers must be thoughtful in determining what instruction to provide synchronously and what to provide asynchronously. Synchronous time may be quite limited, so it must be optimally used. Priority for synchronous instruction should be given to the learning content that most requires teachers’ and/or peers’ “in-the-moment” presence. Guidance for deciding whether learning experiences should be provided synchronously or asynchronously follow. 

Choose synchronous delivery when the content is such that: 

  • students work toward understanding concepts or acquiring skills likely requires immediate feedback or clarification to avoid misunderstanding; 
  • “just-in-time” scaffolding to support learning should not be delayed;
  • the teacher’s next instructional moves are crucial for student learning and can best be determined by close observations of students’ real-time performance; and 
  • student learning is enriched by real-time interactions, collaboration, and discussion. 

Choose asynchronous delivery when the content is such that: 

  • the likelihood of students misunderstanding the content is low; 
  • students benefit from time to engage in learning experiences and explore concepts and resources at their own pace; 
  • students benefit from the opportunity to revisit content, such as instructional videos or comments posted asynchronously by peers; and 
  • delays in responses from teachers or peers will not serve as roadblocks to learning. 

Organization of the Chapters 

The following chapters are organized by the grade-level spans presented in the ELA/ELD Framework: transitional kindergarten through grade one; grades two and three; grades four and five; grades six through eight; and grades nine through twelve. A brief overview is provided for the span. An interview featuring a California educator engaging in distance learning is provided in one elementary grade span (grades two and three) and in the middle and high school spans. The span overviews are followed by grade-level discussions. 

For each grade level, an introduction highlights important learning in the five crosscutting themes, as well as offers comments regarding synchronous and asynchronous instruction. The introduction to the grade level is followed by the presentation, by theme, of the key and related standards in ELA/literacy and ELD and instructional considerations. Each grade level concludes with a class spotlight, which provides an example of literacy instruction within a digital environment. Although the teachers and children named in the spotlights are fictional, the practices are authentic.