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Content Standards

Along with standardized assessments and classroom-based needs assessments, you may also rely on your program’s own materials to identify the instructional content appropriate for your learners. Your state or program may use adult ESL content standards and benchmarks, such as the following from Massachusetts (, that reflect a communicative approach in setting goals for students’ language development:

  • Listen and understand short, connected statements and questions on familiar topics when spoken at a moderate rate
  • Distinguish between yes/no and information questions
  • Request and provide information with elaboration beyond the minimum
  • Express ideas and develop them in an organized manner

These benchmarks and other collections of content standards can provide you with additional guidance in determining the speaking and listening needs of your students. By comparing the performance benchmarks at lower levels to those at higher levels, they can also be helpful in getting a longer range view of how language proficiency develops. (Visit the Adult Education Content Standards Warehouse website to view examples of state adult ESL content standards:


Take a moment to reflect on how you currently gather information about your adult ESL studentsí goals for learning English, and how that information impacts your teaching. All answers are anonymous.

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Students talking

Information iconSee the Massachusetts Curriculum Framework and other adult ESL state standards documents for speaking and listening here: Adult Education Content Standards Warehouse

Information iconUnderstanding Adult ESL Content Standards Adobe PDF icon

Information iconUsing Adult ESL Content Standards Adobe PDF icon