Vol. 6. No. 1 R-1 June 2002
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Integrating the ESL Standards into Classroom Practice

Suzanne Irujo (2000)
Virginia: TESOL, Inc.
$35.95 each (TESOL members, $24.95 each)

VolumePagesEditorISBN (pb)
Pre-K--2x + 176Betty Ansin Smallwood0-939791-84-6
Grades 3-5ix + 168Katharine Davies Samway0-939791-85-4
Grades 6-8ix + 184Suzanne Irujo0-939791-86-2
Grades 9-12viii + 164Barbara Agor0-939791-87-0


This series will be of great use to a wide variety of professionals in the ESL field. Novice and seasoned instructors will find wonderful samples of practical applications of the ESL standards. The units in each volume represent a plethora of ESL contexts, from mainstream classes to pullout and push-in classes. And, of course, there is something for everyone at each level from Pre-K through 12.

In addition, in conjunction with ESL Standards pre-K--12 (TESOL), the series is an excellent resource for administrators wrestling with the establishment of standards in both public and private schools across the U.S. Administrators need no longer face reactions similar to that mentioned by series editor, Suzanne Irujo, in Pre-K--2: "When I first saw a copy of ESL Standards for Pre-K--12 Students (TESOL, 1997), I thought 'These are very well done, but how are teachers going to use them?' " (p. vi) In creating these volumes, Irujo, the volume editors and the writers have answered this question for us: Combine awareness of the standards themselves with the practical application evidenced in the lesson plans and units contained in a series such as this. With resources like those contained in these volumes, administrators and teachers alike can face the application of standards to the classroom with confidence.


Rather than review each volume individually, I will present the components common to each. Each volume includes the following sections: Introduction, Units 1-6, Glossary of Techniques, About the Editors and Writers, and Users' Guide. [-1-]


In the introduction for each volume, the individual editor reflects on the unique qualities of the volume and places it within the overall context of the series. In each, the background of the writers, context of their units and purpose of their contributions is summarized briefly. Hence, the reader can quickly skim the introduction and get a good feel for the teaching contexts represented therein. The intros are comprehensive, reflecting the tone of each volume. The overall goals of the series and its contributors are reflected nicely in the introductory comments of each editor.

Units 1-6

Each volume contains six units comprising lesson plans and units for various ESL classroom contexts at the different grade levels. The units themselves are organized into Introduction, Context, Unit Overview, Standards, Activities and, in most units, Conclusion/Additional Information.

The introduction sets the stage with a story, often a narrative of a classroom event combined with a brief reflection on the specific motivations for the unit. This section places the unit not only within the volume and series, but also within the appropriate school and department.

Next, the reader finds a box identifying the class context--grade level, proficiency levels, L1 background, instructional focus, type of class and unit length (in terms of days or weeks). This information allows one to see immediately where they might need to adapt the materials to suit their own class situation.

In the unit overview, the writer reflects on the educational contexts and philosophy underlying the unit. The information in this section includes content, process and language goals. In addition, there is an actual replica of the unit overview for the class, showing the information structure of the unit and, in many cases, the sequence of activities for each. At this point it is worth noting that not every unit overview contained the same information or presented it in the same visual manner. While this may be a bit of a drawback for readers who prefer consistency in presentation of materials, it does reflect the styles of the individual instructors/writers and shouldn't present a great hindrance to the reading of the units themselves. [-2-]

The section on standards gives the writer an opportunity to reflect on how and to what extent the relevant standards have been useful to them in creating the unit. Depending on the extent of their own experiences with implementation of standards, readers may find this section particularly useful, as it contains reflection on an instructor's experience with standards implementation, a topic of interest to both instructors and administrators who may be facing a similar challenge, if not struggle.

The bulk of each unit is filled with detailed descriptions of activities, usually subdivided into procedure and assessment. The number of activities and depth of detail varies by unit. A nice feature of this section is the inclusion of the target standard(s) and goal(s) for each activity. This presentation reinforces the connection between theory and application. Not only are the appropriate standard(s) and goal(s) presented, but also relevant descriptors and progress indicators are listed. The following represents a selected excerpt from Unit 2, Writing for Each Other, Grades 3--5 (p. 37).

While the inclusion of these standards within the prose context of each activity is extremely useful, the addition of a chart summarizing the standards and goals for each level would also be very helpful. Including such a chart of the inner cover of each volume would allow readers to get a comprehensive overview of the standards themselves. In addition, such a chart could serve as a useful reference for administrators and/or instructors who are interested in implementing the standards in their own schools and classes.

My primary concern in reviewing both the unit overviews and the activities for many chapters was that, while there is a timeline for the entire unit, there were often no specific guidelines on the time allotments for each activity, or even groups of activities within the unit. Acknowledging that different classes and groups of students will move through materials at very different speeds, I still maintain, given that we are presented so much context for the class being discussed, specific times for activities would have been very helpful. Some units, such as Unit 4, The Underground Railroad, Grades 3-5, include replications of the teacher's plan book. This type of detailed, time-specific information proves extremely useful in following the sequence of activities and reflecting on ways in which they might be adapted to fit other classroom contexts. In other units, mentions of timeframes are included within the prose discussion of each activity. This also proves useful, although an overview in chart form would probably go further in helping the reader visualize the flow of the class from day to day and week to week.

In any case, the details in the activities are wonderful. In most units, the writers have included not only discussion of the steps in each activity, but also copies of both handouts and actual student work. In addition, as in Unit 5, Community: Exploring How We Live, Grades 6-8, the writers often include rubrics that could be used in assessment for specific activities. In some units, the writers were team teachers, ESL specialist matched with content specialist, as in the case of Unit 3, Investigating How Much: Linear, Volume and Mass Measurement, Grades 6-8. This combination provides instructors and administrators with a look at how ESL and content can be effectively combined. [-3-]

Finally, most units end with concluding remarks tying the lessons together and reflecting on the successes and continuing challenges the class faced. In fact, as I read through the units, I found myself missing those remarks in the units that had no concluding sections. Even though many of the concluding remarks were quite brief, they provided a sense of closure for the unit. In addition, particularly in the units in Grades 3-5, the conclusions allowed the writers to reflect on the more personal benefits they had experienced. As noted by Jim Hughes in Unit 2: Writing for Each Other, Grades 3-5, "This unit, the impetus for which was my desire to get to know my students, turned into much more. It became a means by which I got to know families and could show that I valued their livesŠ The unit was foremost about building a community, largely through written communication, that included students, their families, and me." (p. 51)

Glossary of Techniques

The glossary in each volume includes descriptions of teaching techniques used in units throughout the volume. This section is a handy reference for instructors who may not be familiar with all of the techniques referenced in the activities of a unit. In addition, the inclusion of this section removes the necessity of repeating explanations of common techniques in the text of the units themselves.

About the Editors and Writers

This section gives very brief biographical sketches of the writers who contributed to each volume. Since it is generally accepted that an instructor's background will inform many of the decisions they make in the classroom, it is useful to have some insight, combined with the information each writer has provided in their individual units, into the backgrounds of the people who have created these units. I did, however, find it odd that this section is presented between the Glossary and Users' Guide. It seems to interrupt the appendices directly related to the content of the lessons and unit. Perhaps having this section follow the Users' Guide would improve the flow of information.

Users' Guide

The Users' Guide provides charts detailing the following information organized by volume and unit: the grade levels addressed, language and proficiency levels, program models, language and content areas, standards (by number only), teaching and learning strategies targeted and themes and topics. These charts serve as great resources for getting an overview of what the units cover and for identifying units that may be most useful or relevant for a given reader.


Overall, this series stands as a great example of application of theory to practice in language learning and content classrooms. While the differences in style and content in each unit might make the content somewhat more challenging to absorb, they reflect the individuality of instructors and show respect for the uniqueness of approach to the teaching profession. The editors and writers involved in this project present a product that can serve as a model for both instructors and administrators who are facing the challenge of identifying and/or implementing standards in their own schools.

Andrea Word-Allbritton
University of Alabama in Huntsville

© Copyright rests with authors. Please cite TESL-EJ appropriately.

Editor's Note: Dashed numbers in square brackets indicate the end of each page for purposes of citation..

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