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Navigate to: Introduction: Reimagining Language Arts Instruction

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About Me

My name is Erica Riekert. I am a graduate student at UAlbany studying Curriculum Development and Instructional Technology. I completed my undergraduate study at the College of Mount Saint Vincent where I received a BA in History with a concentration in education.

I started my career as a director of education at a non-profit. As a director, I focused on creating project-based and supplementary curricula for local school districts and on-site programming. Currently, I work at an independent school in upstate New York. I have taught in a multi-age 3rd/4th classroom and currently teach 5th and 6th grade.

My Topic and Purpose

The decisions we make as educators have a profound impact on our students. These decisions influence classroom culture, students' motivations, and their desire to learn. This mini-course reimagines language arts instruction in the classroom. The course will demonstrate how educators can shift decision-making by providing the tools necessary to empower learner autonomy.

Learning Outcomes

The learner will:

  • Understand the three areas of metacognition that provide the framework of self-reflection.
  • Implement techniques to help students self-monitor and self-check their work.
  • Provide developmentally appropriate choices in Language Arts curriculum.
  • Understand assessment empowerment.
  • Engage in responsive learning practices to better evaluate learners.

Needs Assessment


Cultivating student autonomy in the classroom starts small. Students gradually gain agency with time, practice, and teacher support. Research shows that the four C's, choice, challenge, collaboration, and control, help students build intrinsic motivation and learner autonomy. (Beebe, 2022).


According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) organization, the benefits of SEL are long-term and do not only promote social and emotional skills but can improve academic outcomes and behaviors. A meta-analysis conducted across 213 studies and more than 270,000 students involved discovered the correlation between academic success and SEL. The study found:

  • Interventions that included self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making bolstered "students' academic performance by 11 percentile points compared to students who did not participate" (CASEL)
  • Classroom behavior, self-confidence, and the ability to manage stress and depression increased in students who participated in an SEL program ("What does the research say?," 2022).

Additional analyses uncovered the long-term impact of SEL and its influence on increased levels of well-being 18 years post-intervention. An SEL program is not a "one size fits all program." SEL interventions are found effective across cultural backgrounds. According to CASEL, "An SEL approach was consistently effective with all demographic groups both inside and outside the United States. This supports the idea that social and emotional assets promoted in SEL can support the positive development of students from diverse family backgrounds and geographic contexts" ("What does the research say?," 2022).

The Gap: SEL and Academic Readiness

Many factors contribute to learning loss in the classroom, including class size, dependency on state testing outcomes, the digital divide, and the impact of COVID-19 with its increase in absenteeism. Missed instruction exacerbates inequities in the education system and overall student academic achievement. School districts nationwide have noticed the importance of integrating Social-Emotional Learning into the curriculum. SEL will help in creating autonomous learning and increasing higher education readiness.

According to the San Diego Foundation:

Many students often struggle with post-high school coursework, whether they’re in a 2-year or 4-year college program or a trade school. This is often due to a lack of the social and emotional skills needed to thrive in a higher education setting. While academic readiness is certainly important, missing out on critical SEL can contribute to a lack of preparedness for college and future career paths. (SDF, 2022)

Social Emotional Learning within the curriculum provides students with academic choices over step-by-step learning structures. Options within academics prioritize student autonomy over accomplished and compliant followers. As Kittle and Gallagher explain, "detailed instructions are part of the problem. Completing teacher-generated step-by-step work is not learning; it masquerades as it" (Kittle, et al., 2002). By involving students in their learning and giving them opportunities to make choices within reason, educators are providing students with a more engaging learning experience that will help prepare them for the demands of higher-education and the world outside of academia.

Though schools recognize the importance of Social Emotion Learning in the classroom, there is still a need for incorporating SEL and autonomy into content and curriculum. The goal of this mini-course is to help shift decision-making in language arts curriculum in order to increase student self-sufficiency and learner readiness.

Analysis of the Learner and Context

The learners in this mini-course are Language Arts instructors looking to shift their teaching practices from a traditional learning style to a more holistic student-driven approach. This mini-course will provide learners with teaching practices that promote student learning and understanding beyond task completion. The goal of this course is for participants to utilize strategies that promote metacognitive reflection and evaluation in their reading and writing instruction to improve student autonomy and self-confidence.

Performance-Based Objectives

Upon completion, participants will be able to:

  • Plan, monitor, and evaluate meta-cognitively to provide the framework for student self-reflection, assessment, and regulation.
  • Design a reading and writing lesson that is student-centered over teacher-directed.
  • Explore formative, summative, and individual assessments that inform rather than grade students' progress.

Task Analysis


  • Background in teaching reading and writing in a classroom setting.
  • Interest in incorporating metacognitive strategies and student choice into Language Arts curriculum to develop student autonomy.
  • Familiarity with pre-and post-assessments to evaluate student growth and understanding.


  • Apply metacognitive strategies to strengthen lesson planning and objectives.
  • Shifting decision-making from teacher-driven to student-driven.
  • Foster student autonomy in language arts curriculum.
  • Creating lifelong learners.
  • Using student self-reflection to set goals and evaluate student progress.

Curriculum Map

File:Curriculum Map for Reimagining LA Instruction.docx (1).pdf

Course Outline

Introduction: Reimagining Language Arts Instruction

Unit 1: Metacognition: The Framework of Self-Reflection

Unit 2: Incorporating Student Agency and Decision-Making in Reading

Unit 3: Incorporating Student Agency and Decision-Making in Writing Essays

References and Resources

Beebe, W. (2022, January 17). How to Foster Student Autonomy In the Classroom. Fly Five SEL. Retrieved September 25, 2022, from

Calkins, L., Cruz, M.C., Ehrenworth, M. (2015). Units of Study for Teaching Reading: Fantasy Book Clubs: Grade 5. Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Heinemann.

Calkins, L., Marron, A. (2013). Units of Study for Teaching Writing: Narrative Craft: Grade 5. Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Heinemann.

Calkins, L., Tolan, K. (2015). Units of Student for Teaching Reading: Building a Reading Life: Grade 3. Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Heinemann.

Cherry-Paul, S., Johansen, D. (2019). Breathing New Life into Book Clubs. Heinemann.

Fogarty, R.J.,  & Pete, B.M. (2020). Metacognition: The Neglected Skill Set for Empowering Students. Solution Tree Press and Hawker Brownlow Education.

Kittle, P., & Gallagher, K. (2022). 4 Essential Studies: Beliefs and Practices to Reclaim Student Agency. Heinemann.

Meltzer, L. (2010). Promoting Executive Function in the Classroom. The Guilford Press.

Park Hill School District. (2022-2023). Reading Curriculum (Grade 3). [Program of studies].

Park Hill School District. (2022-2023). Reading Curriculum (Grade 5). [Program of studies].

Park Hill School District. (2022-2023). Writing Curriculum (Grade 5). [Program of studies].

Social Emotional Learning and College Readiness. (2022, February 12). The San Diego Foundation.

What does the research say? CASEL. (2022, May 26). Retrieved September 25, 2022, from