Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Content Literacy: The Key Shifts



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Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Content Literacy: The Key Shifts

  • Professional Development Module 1

The Background of the Common Core

  • Initiated by the National Governors Association (NGA) and Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) with the following design principles:
    • Result in College and Career Readiness
    • Based on solid research and practice evidence
    • Fewer, higher and clearer

The CCSS Requires Three Shifts in ELA/Literacy

  • Building knowledge through content-rich nonfiction
  • Reading, writing and speaking grounded in evidence from text, both literary and informational
  • Regular practice with complex text and its academic language

Shift #1: Building Knowledge Through Content-Rich Nonfiction

Content Shift #1

  • Content-Rich Nonfiction
  • 50/50 balance K-5
  • 70/30 in grades 9-12
  • Students learning to read should exercise their ability to comprehend complex text through read-aloud texts.
  • In grades 2+, students begin reading more complex texts, consolidating the foundational skills with reading comprehension.
  • Reading aloud texts that are well-above grade level should be done throughout K-5 and beyond.

Building Knowledge Through Content-Rich Nonfiction: Why?

  • Students are required to read very little informational text in elementary and middle school.
  • Non-fiction makes up the vast majority of required reading in college/workplace.
  • Informational text is harder for students to comprehend than narrative text.
  • Supports students learning how to read different types of informational text.

Content Shift #1

  • Sequencing Texts to Build Knowledge
  • Not random reading
  • Literacy in social studies/history, science, technical subjects, and the arts is embedded
  • Resources
    • Page 33 in the CCSS for ELA/Literacy – The Human Body

Shift #2: Reading, Writing and Speaking Grounded in Evidence From Text, Both Literary and Informational

Reading, Writing and Speaking Grounded in Evidence from Text: Why?

  • Most college and workplace writing requires evidence.
  • Ability to cite evidence differentiates strong from weak student performance on NAEP
  • Evidence is a major emphasis of the ELA Standards: Reading Standard 1, Writing Standard 9, Speaking and Listening standards 2, 3 and 4, all focus on the gathering, evaluating and presenting of evidence from text.
  • Being able to locate and deploy evidence are hallmarks of strong readers and writers

Content Shift #2

  • In “Casey at the Bat,” Casey strikes out. Describe a time when you failed at something.
  • In “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” Dr. King discusses nonviolent protest. Discuss, in writing, a time when you wanted to fight against something that you felt was unfair.
  • In “The Gettysburg Address” Lincoln says the nation is dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Why is equality an important value to promote?
  • What makes Casey’s experiences at bat humorous?
  • What can you infer from King’s letter about the letter that he received?
  • “The Gettysburg Address” mentions the year 1776. According to Lincoln’s speech, why is this year significant to the events described in the speech?
  • Text-Dependent
  • Text-Dependent Questions

High school students read an excerpt of James D. Watson’s The Double Helix and respond to the following:

  • High school students read an excerpt of James D. Watson’s The Double Helix and respond to the following:
  • James Watson used time away from his laboratory and a set of models similar to preschool toys to help him solve the puzzle of DNA. In an essay discuss how play and relaxation help promote clear thinking and problem solving.
  • Sample Informational Text Assessment Question: Pre-Common Core Standards

From The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

  • From The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
  • Have the students identify the different methods of removing warts that Tom and Huckleberry talk about. Discuss the charms that they say and the items (i.e. dead cats) they use. Ask students to devise their own charm to remove warts. Students could develop a method that would fit in the time of Tom Sawyer and a method that would incorporate items and words from current time. Boys played with dead cats and frogs, during Tom’s time. Are there cultural ideas or artifacts from the current time that could be used in the charm?
  • Sample Literary Question: Pre-Common Core Standards

Sample Text Dependent Question: Common Core Standards

  • From The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
  • Why does Tom hesitate to allow Ben to paint the fence? How does Twain construct his sentences to reflect that hesitation? What effect do Tom’s hesitations have on Ben?

Shift #3:Regular Practice with Complex Text and Its Academic Language

Regular Practice With Complex text and Its Academic Language: Why?

  • Gap between complexity of college and high school texts is huge.
  • What students can read, in terms of complexity is greatest predictor of success in college (ACT study).
  • Too many students are reading at too low a level. (<50% of graduates can read sufficiently complex texts).
  • Standards include a staircase of increasing text complexity from elementary through high school.
  • Standards also focus on building general academic vocabulary so critical to comprehension.

What are the Features of Complex Text?

  • Subtle and/or frequent transitions
  • Multiple and/or subtle themes and purposes
  • Density of information
  • Unfamiliar settings, topics or events
  • Lack of repetition, overlap or similarity in words and sentences
  • Complex sentences
  • Uncommon vocabulary
  • Lack of words, sentences or paragraphs that review or pull things together for the student
  • Longer paragraphs
  • Any text structure which is less narrative and/or mixes structures

Scaffolding Complex Text

  • The standards require that students read appropriately complex text at each grade level – independently (Standard 10).
  • However there are many ways to scaffold student learning as they meet the standard:
  • Multiple readings
  • Read Aloud
  • Chunking text (a little at a time)
  • Provide support while reading, rather than before.

Close Analytic Reading

  • Requires prompting students with questions to unpack unique complexity of any text so students learn to read complex text independently and proficiently.
  • Not teacher "think aloud“.
  • Virtually every standard is activated during the course of every close analytic reading exemplar through the use of text dependent questions.
  • Text dependent questions require text-based answers – evidence.
  • www.achievethecore.org

Structure of the Standards

  • Four Strands: Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening, Language
  • Each strand has Science/technology and social studies standards for literacy
  • Text complexity standards are listed by grade “bands”: K-1, 2-3, 4-5, 6-8, 9-10, 11-12, CCR – College and Career Ready)
  • Strand
  • Grade-Specific Standard

Identify the Standard

  • RI . 4 . 2
  • Strand
  • Grade
  • Standard Number

Identify the Standard

  • W. 11-12. 1b
  • Strand
  • Grades
  • Standard Number


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