Skip To Main Content

English Language Arts

image of books of ShakeSpeare

Director of English Language Arts

Dr. Nicole Chiesa


The English Language Arts Department is committed to the presentation of materials and skills acquisition through a broad range of study: research skills, the reading of quality and diverse literature; the development of writing skills that ensure an appropriate finished product; spelling and vocabulary development; oral language; listening; grammar and usage, and reasoning. Since writing is a reflection of thinking, students are expected to respond to literature as well as to generate writing from their own ideas.   Diversity, equity, and inclusivity are critical components of all aspects of the Medford Public Schools English Language Arts curriculum.  

Guiding Principles

The following are the English Language Arts’ guiding principles, as outlined by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education:

  • Students should receive explicit instruction in skills, including phonics and decoding. Explicit skill instruction is especially important in narrowing opportunity gaps.
  • To become successful readers, students need to develop a rich academic vocabulary and broad background knowledge.
  • Educators should help students develop a love of reading by:
    • Selecting high-quality works of literature and nonfiction.
    • Reading aloud in class.
    • Providing students with ample opportunity and encouragement for sustained independent reading, both for school and on their own.
  • Students should be exposed to complex and challenging texts at their grade level and above, with extra support and scaffolding as needed, reflecting high expectations for all students.
  • Students should read a diverse set of authentic texts balanced across genres, cultures, and time periods. Authentic texts are intact and unadapted texts in their original complexity; they are texts composed for purposes other than being studied in school.
  • Students should have frequent opportunities for discussing and writing about their readings in order to develop critical thinking skills and to demonstrate understanding.
  • Reading well-crafted texts is an essential foundation for developing effective writing skills.
  • Developing the ability to write well demands regular practice across multiple forms and genres of writing and opportunities to write for a variety of audiences, including expository, analytical, persuasive, narrative, and creative writing, as well as explicit instruction in vocabulary and standard English conventions.
  • Educators and families should view each other as resources who are both invested in supporting students’ skills in reading, writing, speaking and listening.
  • Social and emotional learning can increase academic achievement, improve attitudes and behaviors, and reduce emotional distress. Students should practice recognizing aspects of themselves in texts (self-awareness), struggling productively with challenging texts (self-management), tailoring language to audience and purpose (social awareness), grappling vicariously with choices faced by others (responsible decision making), and collaborating respectfully with diverse peers (relationship skills).
  • Educators should select works of fiction and nonfiction that instill in students a deep appreciation for art, beauty, and truth, while broadening their understanding of the human condition from differing points of view. Reading, discussing, and writing about high-quality prose and poetry should also help students develop empathy for one another and a sense of their shared values and literary heritage, while learning about who they are as individuals and developing the capacity for independent, rigorous thinking.

In addition, these guiding principles of the English Language Arts curriculum is to enable students with the tools to:

  • Demonstrate independence.
  • Build strong content knowledge.
  • Respond to the varying demands of audience, task, purpose, and
  • discipline.
  • Comprehend as well as critique.
  • Value evidence.
  • Use technology and digital media strategically and capably.
  • Understand other perspectives and cultures.

Curriculum Overview

High School Grade 9-12

At the high school level, the complexity of reading and communication instruction and expectations increase.  Through specific and detailed pacing guides, high school students continue to focus on the following standards as outlined by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education at a rigorous pace:

  • Reading Standards
    • Reading Standards for Literature
    • Reading Standards for Informational Text
  • Writing Standards
  • Speaking and Listening Standards
  • Language Standards

Secondary instruction follows thematic units with specific writing sequences. Each unit is highly comprehensive with multiple genres of writing and includes each of the ELA strands (reading for informational, reading for fictional, language, writing, speaking and listening.  Each unit includes informational text, fictional stories and/or novels, and additional excerpts.  A specific focus on infusing diverse voices has been a primary goal of the department. Examples of these units include (1) Social Commentary: Coming of Age; (2) Literary Analysis; (3) Literary Heritage; (4) Historical Perspectives; (5) Art of Voice; (6) Language of Literature and (7) Literary Movement.  More explicit explanation with a variety of college preparatory, honors and advanced placement offerings can be found in Medford High School’s Program of Studies.