Introduction for Texas English/Language Arts and Reading Instructors

A curriculum does not consist solely of the books we teach; rather, a curriculum consists of the skills students should master and concepts students should understand, organized thoughtfully and logically in such a way that provides a scaffold for learning. In his book, Developing a Quality Curriculum, Allan Glatthorn (1994) suggests that the goal of curriculum alignment is the unity of four curricular aspects that complement one another:

While the TEKS for English/Language Arts and Reading offer a framework of learning objectives, it should be the responsibility of teachers within a school—or among schools within a particular system—to define and align these objectives in a way that fosters and facilitates student growth. The Pre-AP* and AP* expectations should serve as a starting place for these curricular discussions, encouraging all teachers to begin specifying and clarifying the skills and knowledge their students need to master to achieve to their full potential.

In my practice as a K-12 English/Language Arts Curriculum Coordinator for a school district in Texas, I found that when educators are active as decision makers and creators in designing the units and materials to support a curricular framework, what results is a thoughtful, creative, and relevant curriculum. And when educators across grade levels join forces, they can shape programs that clearly align skills and content and create seamless bridges between courses.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to work with teachers in grades 5-12 to identify the skills most essential to their grade levels and to demonstrate the power of the interconnectedness and vertical alignment of these skills. To illustrate the specific objectives students should learn in each grade, I asked teachers to use the same piece of literature as a basis for creating both a reading and writing lesson for their respective grade level. The result was phenomenal. Even though the teachers used the same piece of literature, the focus for each reading and writing unit was markedly different. At the same time, the lessons were meaningfully connected to those of the previous and subsequent grade levels. Teachers could see clearly that the skills students learned in eighth grade provided the foundation for the skills they would need to master in eleventh grade.

As educators, one of our highest rewards is to receive students who not only are eager to learn, but also are prepared to do so. When a student has mastered essential skills of reading, writing, and critical thinking, it is usually due to teachers who, since kindergarten, have been thoughtfully and purposefully teaching those fundamental skills. I encourage you to use the materials in this guide as a framework for your own learning and understanding. May you be inspired and encouraged to work together with your colleagues to create rich teaching and learning opportunities that will serve you, your students, and your school.

Tolly Patterson Salz
Teacher of the Arts of the English Language, Episcopal School of Dallas

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