A Closer Look at the New ELAR TEKS, Part 1: What Should I Know First?
Updated: Jan 6, 2020
In 2017, the K-8 English Language Arts and Reading (ELAR) TEKS were adopted by the Texas State Board of Education. We’ve had a year to wrap our minds around the new strands, knowledge and skill statements, and student expectations, and this school year we must begin implementing them. That can feel more than a little overwhelming, especially since new standards also bring with them new curriculum resources and a new scope & sequence, as well. But before you can dive into lesson planning, it’s important that you have a strong understanding of the literacy principles upon which these standards were written.
Where Do I Start?
I first recommend reading the introduction to the new TEKS as it gives a thorough and easy-to-understand overview of the intention of the new standards.
To the print the PDF of TEKS introduction, please click here.
The biggest takeaways from the introduction are:
1. The new TEKS specifically and repeatedly emphasize the integration of reading, writing, speaking, and listening to reinforce instructional best practice.
2. We have gone from 5 strands in the 2009 standards to 7 strands in 2017: (1) Foundational/Language Skills, (2) Comprehension Skills, (3) Response Skills, (4) Multiple Genres, (5) Author’s Purpose & Craft, (6) Composition, and (7) Inquiry & Research.
3. The importance of the reciprocal nature of decoding (reading) and encoding (writing) is stressed.
4. Oral language proficiency and its influence on all subject areas is emphasized now. In years past, these standards were located at the end of the TEKS and were often overlooked. Now, when you dig into your grade level’s standards, you’ll notice that the standards for oral language have been moved to the beginning because students must be able to communicate first through listening and speaking before they can communicate effectively through reading and writing.
5. Students should write, read, engage in academic conversations, and be read to on a daily basis! Yes! And thank you.
6. The end goal is for students “to become self-directed, critical learners who work collaboratively while continuously using metacognitive skills.” Often referred to as “thinking about thinking,” metacognitive skills enable students to take charge of their own learning to develop strategies for meeting their own learning needs.
In the 2009 TEKS for ELAR, vertical alignment of the TEKS was weak. For the 2017 TEKS, however, one of the literacy principles on which they were written was so that the alignment of the knowledge and skills from grade level to grade level within a strand actually makes sense. What?! The new structure is coherent, purposeful, and appropriately scaffolded from grade to grade. If you have not taken time to check out the TEKS vertical alignment documents, I definitely recommend doing so here. It is extremely helpful to see how the standards evolve from grade to grade so that you know what skills students are coming to you with and where they are going when they leave your classroom.
Once you understand how the TEKS were written and see how the standards are vertically aligned across grade levels, the next step is to dig further into the TEKS for your grade level and see how the new standards compare to the old ones. TEA has developed side-by-side documents to help you in this process, and though they have recently been removed from their website to update/clarify language, you can still access the previous versions here (be sure to sign up for the ELAR listserv to get updates and announcements). However, my favorite side-by-side documents to use are actually the free ones created by Lead4ward; in fact, I consult these documents pretty much on a daily basis, sometimes multiple times a day. They are presented in a much easier to understand format, spelling out important cognitive changes, what’s been added/removed/moved between grade levels, and important notes. They can be accessed on the Lead4ward.com/resources page under the Instructional Tools tab; then select the ELAR Side-by-Sides for your grade level area.
To further help educators across the state understand the new TEKS, TEA has developed an awesome resource for ELAR for the first time ever this year. The new TEKS Guides allow you to search by your grade level & subject area, strand, or keyword, to discover a wealth of information, including an overview of each student expectation, how it aligns to other grade levels, how the standard is assessed on STAAR (if applicable), important notes/explanations, videos, and links to other resources to support instruction. To take advantage of this helpful resource, just click here.
If you are a teacher in grades 3-8, one important aspect of the new standards you’ll want to know right away is how student assessment, or STAAR, is affected. This past month, TEA released key information on how the standards will be assessed in the next few years. The most important thing to note is that for grades 3-8, only the overlap standards will be assessed for school years 2019-20 and 2020-21; the new standards will not be assessed until school year 2021-22. (The overlap standards are those that are included in both the 2009 TEKS and the 2017 TEKS for ELAR.)