Common Core Curriculum Rubric: Meeting the Needs of ELLs

This week we’d like to focus on taking a closer look at CCSS-based curriculum that meets English language learners (ELLs)’ needs. I was recently asked to review ESL curriculum that is being developed for a state education agency and is designed to help ELLs achieve the Common Core State Standards.

When asked to review these curricular units, I realized I needed a rubric to help me take an objective look at them and be able to share the results with the curriculum writers. Dr. Sydney Snyder and I developed the rubric below and found that it’s been helpful in framing our own thinking.


Rubric Criteria

The rubric’s criteria are mostly based on Achieve the Core’s three shifts in the CCSS for English language arts. We also added the criteria of alignment and assessment to provide a clearer picture of other elements that must be present and adapted for ELLs in order for them to be better positioned to access content lessons. We recognize that the rubric is not perfect, but we hope that it will be useful as a starting point when you co-plan content instruction with content teachers. Take it for a spin, adapt as needed, and let us know how it works!

Common Core and ELLs Rubric

The following rubric is a tool to determine the extent to which a CCSS-based lesson plan meets the educational needs of ELLs of varying language proficiency levels.  The rubric is also available as a PDF file.

Lesson Criteria and Look-ForsLesson does not meet the needs of ELLsLesson partially meets the needs of ELLsLesson meets the needs of ELLs
Alignment between lessons, tasks, CCSS, and ELD standardsThe lesson plan does not contain ELD standards or the tasks in the lesson do not align with the CCSS and ELD standards described.The lesson contains both CCSS and ELD standards. However, the lesson tasks are not fully aligned with the standards. The lesson may or may not contain student-friendly objectives, or student-friendly objectives are not well developed.

The lesson documents clear alignment between the lessons, tasks, CCSS & ELD standards. The CCSS and ELD standards and objectives are integrated into instruction. The lesson includes student-friendly objectives (e.g., Can Do descriptors)


Regular practice with complex text and its academic languageThere is limited opportunity for students to learn and practice academic language. There are few strategies to support ELL engagement and participation.The lesson contains some opportunities for ELLs to practice academic language. There are some strategies to support ELL participation and engagement. However, not all activities contain such strategies, or the strategies do not appropriately account for ELLs of varying proficiency levels.Academic language instruction is woven throughout the lessons. Each lesson activity provides scaffolding for ELLs of varying proficiency levels. Lesson includes strategies to support ELL engagement and participation (e.g., providing/accessing background knowledge, flexible grouping, sentence stems or sentence frames, visuals)
Reading, writing and speaking grounded in evidence from text, both literary and informationalThe lesson does not contain questions that require close reading and analysis of the text for a response, or the questions are not appropriately scaffolded for ELLs. The lesson does not offer opportunities for students to practice the four language domains (speaking, listening, reading & writing).The lesson contains questions that require close reading and analysis of the text, but the questions are not appropriately scaffolded for all levels of ELLs. The lesson offers opportunities for students to practice some of the language domains.The lesson contains text-dependent questions scaffolded for ELLs (e.g., use of sentence stems and/or sentence frames, unfamiliar vocabulary defined within the question). Students have opportunities to practice all four language domains throughout the course of the lesson.
Building knowledge through content-rich nonfictionBackground knowledge is not provided for ELLs. The lesson does not include a variety of strategies to support the development of ELLs’ content knowledge such as modified texts or native language support.Background knowledge is provided for ELLs but it may be too much, too little, or not concisely taught. The lesson includes some vocabulary instruction. Some modified texts or native language support may be provided. Strategies are not differentiated by proficiency level.An appropriate amount of background knowledge is concisely taught to ELLs. The lesson includes an appropriate amount of targeted vocabulary instruction. Modified texts and native language support are provided as needed. These strategies meet the needs of students at varied proficiency levels.
AssessmentThe lesson does not include formative or summative assessments of both content and language development.The lesson includes formative and/or summative assessments to assess students’ academic language and content development. However, these assessments do not take into account students’ varying proficiency levels.The lesson includes formative and/or summative assessments to effectively assess ELLs at different proficiency levels’ academic language and content development. Performance-based rubric(s) are provided.
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This a great tool. Thanks for sharing. Very concise, user friendly, and not overwhelming. I see this rubric being very helpful for teachers in planning integrated lessons for English Learners.

As an ESL teacher, I applaud the development of this rubric. It will assist all teachers in developing awareness of the the demands on English-Language Learners of acquiring new language skills and using those new skills to access demanding content in multiple academic disciplines. It will provide a base from which we can create continuity for these students, some of whom come with limited literacy skills in their home languages.

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