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
- *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
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
- 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
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
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
- 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
- Composition Strand
- 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
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
23. Use self-generated questions, note-taking, summarizing,
précis writing, and outlining to enhance learning when reading or
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
- *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
*28. Design and create coherent media productions with a clear
focus, adequate detail, and consideration of audience and
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.
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.
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.