Grades 5 to 8 English Language Arts: A Foundation for Implementation

Implementation Overview: Grades 5 to 8
Planning for Instruction and Classroom Assessment
Using Learning Outcomes - Part 2

Planning with Learning Outcomes

Developing a balanced, integrated language arts curriculum is a creative process. Language arts instruction is shaped by the teaching style, resources, and strengths of each teacher, by the interests, abilities, and talents that each new group of students brings to the classroom, and by the needs of the community.

Planning a Balanced Language Arts Curriculum

Planning for a balanced language arts curriculum needs to take into account:

  • that specific learning outcomes stated are end-of-year learning outcomes; while students may reach the level of competence described by the learning outcomes at any time during the year, the learning outcomes describe end-of-year performance; educators must consider the series of instructional steps that will lead to accomplishment of the learning outcomes and achievement of the standards by the end of the year;
  • that learning is recursive and cumulative; many of the learning outcomes need to be addressed repeatedly in different ways throughout the school year; students need practice in many meaningful contexts to consolidate new knowledge, skills, and strategies; as well as developing new literacy skills and strategies, students need to review, maintain, and refine those learned previously;
  • that planning is continual and informed by needs that become evident through classroom assessment;
  • that a variety of instructional approaches, classroom management techniques, assessment practices, tools and strategies, and language arts learning experiences are essential

Some areas of balance to consider in planning are:

  • five general learning outcomes
  • six language arts: reading, listening, viewing, speaking, writing, and representing
  • seven standards of student performance
  • text types: oral, literary and media texts, (which include a variety of expository or informational, narrative, poetic, and dramatic texts; and a variety of forms and genres such as videos, magazines, letters, charts, and computer programs) (See Appendix B, Part One, Forms and Genres. In: Grades 5 to 8 English Language Arts: A Foundation for Implementation.)
  • various functions of language arts ranging from exchanging ideas and information to expressing feelings and finding aesthetic pleasure in language (See Appendix B, Part Four. In: Grades 5 to 8 English Language Arts: A Foundation for Implementation.)
  • grouping patterns: individual, pairs, small groups, large groups, whole class, heterogeneous, homogeneous, student-directed, teacher-directed
  • various learning styles and multiple intelligences
  • various rates of student learning, addressed by providing pre-teaching, review, and additional practice for some students, and challenging extension activities for others

Teachers strive for balance in their classrooms. The following diagram, Planning to Ensure Balance, illustrates the options to consider in planning instructional learning experiences and assessment tasks.

Planning to Ensure Balance

Planning for balance while ensuring sufficient instruction and practice in all the learning outcomes defined for a particular grade is a challenging task. Manitoba educators have found the Continuum for Language Arts Outcomes (in Grades 5 to 8 English Language Arts: Manitoba Curriculum Framework of Outcomes and Grade 6 Standards, Appendix D, p. 85-96) helpful in planning. The information in it may be used to create balanced instructional activities and to help define the areas in which initial teaching and practice are necessary, as well as those in which practice and maintenance are the main emphases. It is important to note that students who have not reached maintenance levels of specific skills will need to continue with scaffolded instruction at their level.

Themes, integrated units, and learning sequences provide opportunities for explicit instruction in many learning outcomes. Instructional activities such as mini-lessons are necessary to introduce, develop, or reinforce particular skills. In every planning decision, the reflective teacher asks:

  • What is an appropriate balance for my students?
  • Am I achieving that balance in my classroom, both in the short term and in the long term?
  • Is my instruction helping students achieve the appropriate learning outcomes of the English language arts curriculum?

Planning by Starting with Present Practice

As teachers become familiar with the learning outcomes, they may plan by examining their current practice to identify the learning outcomes that are being addressed and those that are not. Teachers may find that integrated, thematic units or learning sequences they have previously used can be focussed, adjusted, or extended to include additional learning outcomes.

Planning in this way gives teachers an overview of the learning outcomes for each grade. Learning outcome maps that incorporate the specific learning outcomes for each grade are useful in analyzing a previously taught unit. Enlarged to placemat size and laminated, the maps make a useful, reusable template for recording integrated themes or learning sequences.

Using learning outcome maps, teachers follow a series of steps in planning from previously prepared materials:

  1. Analyze a previously planned learning sequence or theme to identify the specific learning outcomes and assessment tasks it includes.
  2. Using the prepared maps of all five general learning outcomes for a specific grade, match the learning experiences to the specific learning outcomes on each map. Highlight these learning outcomes with a coloured washable marker.
  3. Examine the learning outcomes that have not been highlighted to determine which additional learning outcomes could be addressed through adjustments to the original plan and which learning outcomes need to be the focus of subsequent learning sequences.
  4. Highlight and code the language arts (reading, writing, listening, speaking, viewing and representing) most emphasized in the learning sequence.
  5. Use the learning outcome maps to record learning outcomes cumulatively throughout the year, using a different coloured pen for each integrated theme or learning sequence.

Many learning outcomes need to be addressed repeatedly and in different ways throughout the course of the year. When used in conjunction with daily planning, tools such as learning outcome maps help teachers assess whether all learning outcomes have been addressed in sufficient depth for all students to be successful. They also assist teachers in tracking and monitoring the balance in each of the language arts. Learning outcome maps may also be used in conjunction with learning outcomes from other disciplines to assist in interdisciplinary planning.

The following example illustrates how a wild animal theme at Grade 6 might be examined for the learning outcomes and standards it addresses.

Excerpt from a Wild Animal Theme with Links to Grade Six Outcomes
Instructional ActivitiesLearning Outcomes Standards Connections
1. Class brainstorms for names of wild animals (whole class or group) 1. Outcome 1: Express Ideas; Consider Others' Ideas (1.1.1)
Outcome 4: Attentive Listening (4.4.3)
Outcome 5: Work in Groups (5.2.2)
1. Standard 1: Preparing to Learn — Connections (p. 57)
Standard 6: Working as a Community — Group participation (p. 70)
2. Each student chooses an animal for individual project 2. Outcome 1: Develop Understanding (1.2.1) 2. Standard 1: Preparing to Learn — Connections (p. 57)
Each student records prior knowledge about his/her animal. Student shares this with partner or small group and adds additional information 3. Outcome 1: Develop Understanding (1.2.1); Extend Understanding (1.2.4)
Outcome 3: Identify Personal and Peer Knowledge (3.2.1)
Outcome 4: Attentive Listening (4.4.3)
Outcome 5: Compare Responses (5.1.1); Co-operate with Others (5.2.1); Use Language to Show Respect (5.2.3)
3. Standard 1: Preparing to Learn — Connections (p. 57)
Standard 6: Working as a Community — Consider Others, Group Participation (p.70)

Excerpt from a Wild Animal Theme with Links to Grade 6 Outcomes. Note: page numbers refer to the Grades 5 to 8 English Language Arts: Manitoba Curriculum Frameworks of Outcomes and Grade 6 Standards, 1996.

Planning that Begins with Particular Learning Outcomes

When teachers determine that students require instruction in a particular area to ensure balance in the language arts curriculum, a specific learning outcome or group of learning outcomes can be the starting point for planning. Usually, specific learning outcomes will not be addressed singly but in conjunction with other prescribed learning outcomes. Care must always be taken to make sure that planning does result in learning experiences that are connected to the specific learning outcomes of the language arts curriculum.

When planning to achieve learning outcomes, it is important to read each learning outcome carefully and clarify the types of learning that are expected of the student. This will provide guidance for developing appropriate instructional experiences to help the student meet the expectations of the English language arts curriculum.

Before choosing assessment tasks, tools, and strategies, it is critical that teachers define the reasons for assessing, the audience who will use the information, and the ways results will be used. Appropriate assessment tasks must focus on tasks that allow the students to demonstrate their competence in applying learning in authentic ways.

The following four questions should be considered at the beginning of the planning process:

Questions to Guide Results-Based Planning

What do we want studentsto know and be able to do?
This question can be answered by reading the learning outcomes to determine the knowledge, skills and strategies, and attitudes or habits of mind that it includes.

What instructional methods, materials, learning resources, and strategies will help students develop these competencies?
These will be drawn from teachers’ experiences, professional resources, or instructional suggestions provided in this document.

What is the purpose of assessment? How will the assessment be used?
Various assessment audiences and purposes are suggested in the chart Principles of Assessment that Assist Learning and Inform Instruction, on page 23.

What assessment tasks will allow students to demonstrate their understanding in authentic ways?
Assessment tasks will be drawn from teachers’ experiences, professional resources, or suggestions provided in this document. The Suggestions for Assessment column of this document provides information on types of assessment tools and strategies. The Strategies That Make a Difference chapter also has suggestions for assessing the instructional strategies presented.

In choosing a variety of authentic assessment tasks, tools, and strategies, teachers assess both process and product to achieve balance.


Back to Implementation Overview: 5 to 8