Conversations in ELA in Preparing for Common Core

We’ve got a team of teachers at the Summit County ESC for an ELA curricular alignment workshop led by Karen Rumley today, and there are some fantastic conversations going on. Let me see what I can capture for you as we go…

In our “10 Guiding Principles for ELA Instructional Shift” discussion….

Shift 1: Close Reading of Texts

Conversations: What is close ready and what does it do for students? A problem with close reading is when kids don’t read–how do we ensure that they read the first time in order to close read and drive them back into the text? Have we encouraged a culture of non-readers through our instructional tendency to give away so much information, or have we started giving away so much information in response to students’ non-reading?

Shift 2: All Students Need to Read Grade Level Complex Texts

Conversations: How do we prepare our students for this? How do we stretch them to the next level? We need to purposefully select resources that can fill in the gaps for students. Do we look at using common texts within a grade level, or do we provide choices of texts? How do we use texts to support skills (teaching the “reader” not the “reading”)?

Additional Conversations: What are the features of complex texts? What characteristics cause students to struggle with texts? Subtle or frequent transitions, multiple and/or subtle themes and purposes, density of information, unfamiliar settings, topics, or events, lack of repetition, complex sentences and difficult/uncommon vocabulary, longer paragraphs, structures that are non-narrative.

Shift 3: Emphasizing Informational Texts

Conversations: We’re looking at short, sustainable research that allows students to compare and contrast across mediums. They’re supposed to be able to analyze and cite evidence, which comes through in informational texts. Some teachers are doing a research component within each unit–trying to include short, sustainable research pieces on a frequent basis.

Additional Conversations: Any piece of text that is not fiction. Consider the breakdown of percentages–fiction to informational texts (70%/30% by high school). Remember this is across all contents.

Shift 4: Scaffolding That Does not Preempt or Replace Text

Conversations: Do not give away the text. If they always know they are going to get a summary of the story before, after, or during, then students learn they don’t have to read. This enables kids to not do the things we want them to do. All of this begins in the earliest levels when kids can be held responsible.

Shift 5: Extensive Research and Writing Opportunities

Conversations: What is the difference between how research has been done versus how it will be done? Instead of a 10-page, one-time, research paper. The standards themselves provide their own rubric. If you look at the writing standards, each bullet becomes it’s own rubric criteria. Research projects also allow for connections to other standards.

Shift 6: Text-Dependent Questions

Conversations: It is the requirement to refer back to the text. Students using text to support their points. It is likely that teachers are already doing a lot of this, but some teachers THINK they are doing it and they don’t. Sometimes teachers ask questions that are directed at building personal connections, and while these are valuable, they do not require students to read.

Shift 7: Regular Opportunities to Share Ideas, Evidence, and Research

Shift 8: Systematic Instruction in Vocabulary

Conversations: Some teachers are using vocabulary programs, but we’re talking about systematic instruction and schools are finding that even within departments, vocabulary instruction isn’t consistent. An emphasis in the common core on Tier 2 word (tiers are described in Appendix A). Tier 1–everyday words (ball, clock, etc.), words kids will get just fine. Tier 2–high-frequency words that appear in all contents. Tier 3–low-frequency specialized vocabulary for each content area (ex. Confederation in History class). This quick handout describes the three.

Shift 9: Explicit Instruction in Grammar and Conventions

Conversations: The old set of standards deemphasized explicit instruction in grammar–if you could bullet point and write in phrases on OAAs, then teachers do not hold students accountable for it in their classrooms. At the high school level, a lot of teachers buy into the idea that if they haven’t learned it by now, there’s no need. The ability to write structurally and correctly will be assessed on the new assessments.

Shift 10: Cultivate Students’ Independence

Conversations: This shift may speak more to project-based learning–students are working through independent choice. It’s also a way of reversing instruction–instead of giving them all the information, it’s putting the responsibility back on students to find the learning. Instead of saying “these are the themes of the text, find them,” we give students ownership by saying, “what are the themes? Prove them.”


6 thoughts on “Conversations in ELA in Preparing for Common Core

  1. Pingback: Conversations in ELA in Preparing for Common Core | CCSS News Curated by Core2Class |

  2. Pingback: Preparing for ELA Common Core by one of the best | Common Core Online |

  3. Very much appreciate your sharing this timely compilation of issues related to our new common core. I have submitted all 10 “talking points” to our administration for consideration as a guide for planning PD and including in our comprehensive improvement plans. Thank you for sharing.


  4. Whenever I read about text dependent questions, I wonder if there is a lack of knowledge about Question and Answer Relationships, something we learn in our Reading Course Work (or should have learned?). I sometimes feel like we are reinventing the wheel when I want to say, “Remember QAR?”


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