What to Look (Out) For If You Are Purchasing Instructional Materials for English I-IV

Stack of instructional materials; male student writing while in notebook while leaning on the stack of books.

Learning List recently completed reviews of the instructional materials submitted for state adoption in Texas for the following courses: English I-IV, Practical Writing, Reading, Journalism, English Learner Language Arts (ELLA), and College Readiness and Study Skills (CRSS).

We reviewed materials from eleven publishers for English I-IV, two publishers each for Journalism, College Readiness and Study Skills, and Practical Writing Skills, and one publisher each for Reading and ELLA (middle school). All reviews are published on the Learning List.com.

Learning List reviewers noted the following seven trends in the materials reviewed for English I-IV. We did not review a sufficient number of materials for the ELA elective courses to observe trends.

  1. To varying degrees, most materials integrate reading, writing, listening, speaking, and thinking. The strongest materials reflect an intentional design that requires students to consistently think, write, and speak about the selections they have read. There are a few materials that focus more strongly on reading or on writing.
  2. Writing instruction is embedded as an integral part of the learning experience in most materials. Instruction often stresses writing for specific purposes and audiences. Writing assignments typically require students to write in order to learn and to process their thinking through writing often embedding some form of writing in each lesson. Formal writing instruction, including modeling and use of the writing process, is part of the strongest materials.
  3. Close reading is a primary instructional strategy for many of the materials. Most publishers include a diverse anthology, although there are some publishers that do not include reading materials. Reading selections are generally a mix of classics and modern texts, across genres and time periods. Some materials include qualitative and quantitative measures of text complexity.
  4. Some of the publishers have distinguished their materials by capturing the TEKS’ emphasis on student choice and independent reading. These materials provide numerous opportunities for students to make choices about their learning, their reading selections, and their writing topics.
  5. The majority of materials provide a level of rigor appropriate for most students by including questions and activities at all levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy or DOK and a variety of options for differentiating instruction. Some of the materials include open-ended writing assignments, projects, or culminating tasks to develop and/or assess students’ critical and analytical thinking. These often require students to collaborate and to use the writing or speaking skills they are developing to present evidence of textual analysis or results of research.
  6. Most publishers have included resources to differentiate instruction. The most robust materials provide instructional resources and strategies, at point-of-use, to support teachers in meeting the instructional needs of all students (i.e., above-, on-, and below-level).
  7. Several materials include a comprehensive student and teacher dashboard that allows full digital access to the materials. In some cases, all resources are provided “at your fingertips” and are accessible on a variety of devices. 

While educators can expect to see these trends in many of the materials submitted for state adoption, they are not present in all of the materials. Learning List’s editorial reviews distinguish each material, providing a qualitative analysis of the program’s strengths, instructional model, rigor, ease of use, adaptions for student populations, and teacher resources.  A technology review accompanies the editorial review to show with which devices and operating systems each materials is compatible with and provide other critical interoperability information.

Learning List’s reviews will be published before the end of September. In October, the SBOE will release the List of Instructional Materials Eligible for Adoption Under Proclamation 2020. In Novembers the SOBE will take action regarding materials submitted under Proclamation 2020. In early December, the List of Instructional Materials adopted Under Proclamation 2020 will be posted on the TEA website.

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