Adapting ESL/ESOL Curriculum for Common Core

Adapting ESL/ESOL Curriculum for Common Core
The Editorial Team October 2, 2012

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Students who are learning English as a second language present a unique set of challenges for the classroom and the implementation of the Common Core Standards. Children in these situations come from a variety of backgrounds. Some may speak native languages that have some similar vocabulary to English, and these students may be able to use their reading and writing skills in their native languages to begin to learn reading and writing in English. Others may speak languages with completely different alphabets or writing systems and few if any cognates. These students may struggle more when learning English.

ESL students will also be greatly affected by their educational level in their native language. If they had received regular schooling before moving to the United States they may be able to ease into instruction in subjects like science and math without as many issues as a student who has not had regular schooling and may need to learn some basic skills before catching up to the appropriate grade.

It is with these challenges in mind that the writers who designed the Common Core Standards developed their recommendations for students learning English. The application of the Common Core Standards to the ESL curriculum is unique because the emphasis has shifted from simply learning English to learning English while learning grade appropriate material.

Creating a school to aid in ESL students’ success

Students who are learning English during their studies will present unique challenges to educators and administrators. Schools must be prepared to handle the possible challenges that arise while creating an environment that will help the English language learners to succeed. Teachers should be available for support for students to help as questions arise throughout lessons. For example, students reading on a particular level may have questions regarding grammar and vocabulary. The questions should be met in an encouraging environment that assists the student while also guiding them towards independent learning.

Teachers should also be well trained in techniques to help students display their unique perspectives, talents, and abilities to the class to ensure that they are able to participate fully in the classroom. Instruction should be given that not only emphasizes grade appropriate work but also fundamental English skills. Teachers should also be ready to demonstrate proper grammar and speech as well as help ESL students understand different English uses, such as conversational versus formal context.


Math is fortunately a subject that is nearly universal. A student who does not speak English should be able to follow basic problems and equations written on a board. Teachers with ESL students should be sure to make an effort to teach the subject using a variety of teaching methods such as objects, gestures, drawings, and more. Tying the instruction of math into real life experiences can also be extremely beneficial for students learning English. According to the creators of the Common Core Standards, research has shown that students are capable of full participation in the math classroom while they are learning English. Teachers should also place an emphasis on teaching all the students to communicate by presenting mathematical concepts through conjectures, explanations, and arguments.

Language arts

The Common Core Standards for Language Arts present expectations for all students in speaking, reading, listening, and writing to help them be prepared for either careers or higher education. Students who are learning English are able to bring a great deal of richness to this classroom. They offer unique perspectives on the material being discussed. Many will also have well developed language skills in their native tongue that can help contribute to their participation in the English language classroom.

To help ensure the success of the students learning English it is important that the teachers and administrators in the school are well equipped and knowledgeable to help the students as they progress with their studies. The curriculum should also be designed to immerse the students in language learning on a variety of platforms. The instruction should also be based around teaching foundational English while also helping the students to integrate further into the grade level classroom.

Students who are learning English while pursuing their regular course studies offer their classrooms a range of wealth and new ideas. Teachers should be able to integrate what the student brings to the table while also helping them to master English on a grade appropriate level. The goal of using these Common Core Standards for students learning English is to ensure they are equally prepared for careers and higher education and to help prevent them from falling behind their peers.

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