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Massachusetts Curriculum Framework

English Language Arts
ADOPTED February 1997

The Content Strands and Learning Standards
in the English Language Arts Curriculum Framework

This document groups the Learning Standards in the English language arts in four content areas, or strands. Literature, Language, and Composition strands reflect subdisciplines under the broad umbrella of the English language arts with long, rich histories of their own. (For a brief overview of the goals and content of English language arts curricula in this country, see Appendix D.) The fourth strand is entitled Media. This strand may be the least well-charted because the electronic communications are evolving and changing so rapidly. The effects of the electronic media on the development of language and thinking processes are still being debated and researched. Educators are well aware that technologies now in use and those to be developed in the future will have important effects on all modes of communication.

The Massachusetts Learning Standards have been designed with three purposes in mind:

  • to acknowledge the importance of both disciplinary content and the skills, strategies, and other learning processes students need in order to learn;
  • to help teachers create classroom curriculum and authentic assessments;
  • to serve as the basis for a statewide assessment of student learning at grades 4, 8, and 10.

Students may require support or adaptations to achieve these standards. Please note that all Learning Standards are expected to be mastered. Nevertheless, while most will be assessed in a statewide assessment, some standards are best assessed at the local level. Those standards to be assessed locally are designated by an asterisk(*).

Several of the Learning Standards provide additional examples appropriate for adult students in Adult Basic Education (ABE) or English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes.

English Language Arts Learning Standards
Standards marked * are best assessed at the local level

Language Strand
Students will:
*1. Use agreed-upon rules for informal and formal discussions in small and large groups.
*2. Pose questions, listen to the ideas of others, and contribute their own information or ideas in group discussions and interviews in order to acquire new knowledge.
*3. Make oral presentations that demonstrate appropriate consideration of audience, purpose, and the information to be conveyed.
4. Acquire and use correctly an advanced reading vocabulary of English words, identifying meanings through an understanding of word relationships.
5. Identify, describe, and apply knowledge of the structure of the English language and standard English conventions for sentence structure, usage, punctuation, capitalization, and spelling.
6. Describe and analyze how oral dialects differ from each other in English, how they differ from written standard English, and what role standard American English plays in informal and formal communication.
7. Describe and analyze how the English language has developed and been influenced by other languages.

Literature Strand
Students will:
8. Decode accurately and understand new words encountered in their reading materials, drawing on a variety of strategies as needed, and then use these words accurately in speaking and writing.
9. Identify the basic facts and essential ideas in what they have read, heard, or viewed.
10. Demonstrate an understanding of the characteristics of different genres.
11. Identify, analyze, and apply knowledge of theme in literature and provide evidence from the text to support their understanding.
12. Identify, analyze, and apply knowledge of the structure and elements of fiction and provide evidence from the text to support their understanding.
13. Identify, analyze, and apply knowledge of the structure, elements, and meaning of nonfiction or informational material and provide evidence from the text to support their understanding.
14. Identify, analyze, and apply knowledge of the structure, elements, and theme of poetry and provide evidence from the text to support their understanding.
Literature Strand
Students will:
15. Identify and analyze how an author's choice of words appeals to the senses, creates imagery, suggests mood, and sets tone.
16. Compare and contrast similar myths and narratives from different cultures and geographic regions. 17. Interpret the meaning of literary works, non-fiction, films, and media by using different critical lenses and analytic techniques.
*18. Plan and present effective dramatic readings, recitations, and performances that demonstrate appropriate consideration of audience and purpose.

Composition Strand
Students will:
19. Write compositions with a clear focus, logically related ideas to develop it, and adequate supporting detail.
20. Select and use appropriate genres, modes of reasoning, and speaking styles when writing for different audiences and rhetorical purposes.
21. Improve organization, content, paragraph development, level of detail, style, tone, and word choice in revising their compositions.
22. Use their knowledge of standard English conventions for sentence structure, usage, punctuation, capitalization, and spelling to edit their writing.
23. Use self-generated questions, note-taking, summarizing, précis writing, and outlining to enhance learning when reading or writing.
24. Use open-ended research questions, different sources of information, and appropriate research methods to gather information for their research projects.
25. Develop and use rhetorical, logical, and stylistic criteria for assessing final versions of their compositions or research projects before presenting them to varied audiences.

Media Strand
Students will:
*26. Obtain information by using a variety of media and evaluate the quality of the information obtained.
27. Explain how techniques used in electronic media modify traditional forms of discourse for different aesthetic and rhetorical purposes.
*28. Design and create coherent media productions with a clear focus, adequate detail, and consideration of audience and purpose.

Learning Standards

Learning Standards identify what students should know and be able to do across all grade levels in each strand. Each Learning Standard is elaborated into four grade-span standards that specify what students should know and be able to do at the end of PreK-4, 5-8, 9-10, and 11-12. The grade-span standards are complemented by examples of classroom activities that promote this standard. The grade-span standards and their examples reflect the increasingly complex nature of growth in the English Language Arts. They illustrate how learners at every level continue to build upon and expand their knowledge by using similar language skills with increasing sophistication, refinement, and independence. The following examples show the differences in learning at three of these levels for the concept of point of view.

Teaching the Concept of Point of View at Three Educational Levels


In Mr. Jackson's third-grade class, students read together "The Terrible Leak," a Japanese folk tale, retold by Yoshiko Uchida, illustrating third-person narration, and A Grain of Wheat, an autobiography, by Clyde Robert Bulla, illustrating first-person narration. Mr. Jackson introduces and explains the idea of point of view in literature. In small groups, students discuss the differences within the two stories because of the differences in point of view of the narrator. The children compose their own stories--one reflecting third-person narration; the other, a first-person point of view. They then share their stories in small groups to evaluate their work.

Grades 5-8

Ms. Lopez tries to broaden her eighth graders' reading horizons and help them grow in their understanding of how literature works. They read "The Tryst," by Ivan Turgenev, as an example of memoir, or observer narration. They then contrast observer narration with anonymous narration in biography by reading "Enemies," by Anton Chekhov, and "A Father-to-Be," by Saul Bellow. After this unit on point of view, students compose their own examples of observer narration and contrast it to an example of biography that they compose about a relative or neighbor.

Grades 9-12

An eleventh-grade English class is reading Amy Tan's Joy Luck Club, which explores the lives of eight Chinese-American women through the alternating perspectives of four mothers who emigrated from China and their four daughters who were raised in the United States. The reader response journals kept by individual students reveal some frustration with the novel's constantly shifting point of view. Reader response groups provide students an opportunity to discuss whether or not the shifting point of view within the same literary work is confusing, and whether or not this device adds depth to the novel. After reading and discussing the novel, the class watches the film version. Now students have an opportunity to analyze and evaluate how the film maker has responded to the shifting point of view in the novel.

Last Updated: February 1, 1997
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