How To: Create Core-Ready ELA Lessons
Teacher-tested ideas to help you meet the new
Common Core anchor standards.
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8
The College and Career Readiness anchor standards are the heart and foundation of the Common Core. “The anchor standards give you goals of what kids should know and be able to do by the time they leave high school,” says Brenda Overturf, cochair of the International Reading Association’s Common Core State Standards Committee.
These vital literacy skills are boiled down to 34 anchor standards—10 for reading, 10 for writing, six for speaking and listening, and six for language. Corresponding standards are offered at every grade level—making it easy to trace what’s expected of students from kindergarten through 12th grade. Think of it this way: In the race to prepare students for college and careers, the grade-level standards are the mile markers and the anchor standards are the finish line.
“It’s really important for teachers to know they are part of the entire system,” says Overturf, who is coauthor of The Common Core: Teaching K–5 Students to Meet the Reading Standards. “They’re not just teaching the isolated standards at their grade level.”
Although each anchor standard addresses an important skill for students to acquire, Overturf emphasizes that any one standard should not be taught in isolation: “The standards document is really clear that you have to integrate standards … not teach a standard and check it off a list.” She believes that the best instructional tasks are developed by using multiple standards across the strands.
Sherida Britt, who serves as project director of ASCD’s Tools for Teachers, agrees that integration is key in developing quality instruction. “The standards are presented in an organized way that supports solid lesson planning,” she explains. But the focus, she says, should be to reference the standards efficiently and mold them into meaningful, robust lessons.
How do the standards translate into classroom practice? Turn the page for some sample lesson ideas. We’ve suggested a book to try out with each idea, but the activities are designed to work with any appropriate reading selection.
We have chosen to highlight lesson ideas for three key anchor standards. Although each example focuses on a specific standard, each also addresses multiple standards across the ELA strands.
ANCHOR STANDARD R.1
Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
In the primary grades, the Core emphasizes students’ ability to ask and answer questions. First-grade teacher Lyssa Sahadevan of East Side Elementary in Marietta, Georgia, first establishes exactly what a question is. (Read a few from National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Why to distinguish questions and answers from lengthy personal anecdotes!) Then her class makes “question bracelets” using pipe cleaners and beads. Students circulate the room to ask questions of their classmates; they receive a bead to add to their bracelets each time they form a question. Students could also make question bracelets when they ask and answer questions about a text.
Hilary Lewis of College Wood Elementary in Carmel, Indiana, deepens students’ understanding of questioning by introducing “thick and thin” questions to her second graders. (Try the Magic Tree House Fact Tracker series for excellent examples of thick questions, which require “big picture” or inferential thinking to answer.) Lewis writes thick question stems, such as Why did _____?, on slips of paper and attaches them to metal rings for students to reference during reading activities such as book clubs.
Beginning in fourth grade, students are expected to answer both explicit and implicit questions about texts. These skills can be addressed in Close Reading lessons (see bit.ly/Clos_Read). Though use of the Close Reading approach varies, students typically read a short text multiple times over the course of several class periods. (Scholastic Classroom Magazines feature stories perfect for close reading.) During these readings, which are done both independently and as a class, students ask and answer text-based questions that draw off other standards (e.g., using context clues to determine the meaning of unfamiliar words).
ANCHOR STANDARD R.10
Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.
There is no expectation for students in kindergarten and first grade to conquer complex texts (and rightfully so). Instead, the focus of standard 10 centers on actively engaging with age-appropriate texts. Consult Common Core’s Appendix B for text exemplars that might be used in these activities (Hi! Fly Guy by Tedd Arnold made the list). Teachers should use the exemplars as a guideline but feel free to choose the titles they find most appropriate.
Jennifer Jones, a reading specialist at Lake Myra Elementary in Wendell, North Carolina, recommends using a two-column chart to help students grapple with complex texts. In the left column, students write the words from the text; in the right column, they record their interpretation. Model this strategy while reading aloud a book such as The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant, then release students to practice the strategy on their own.
Fourth-grade teacher Meg Anderson from Susie C. Alt-mayer Elementary in De Pere, Wisconsin, glues the poem “74th Street” by Myra Cohn Livingston (found in the collection below) to chart paper. Students also glue it in their notebooks. They read the poem and make notes. Anderson then has small groups discuss their ideas. As groups share their ideas, Anderson writes them on the chart paper. Students zero in on the poem’s meaning and later craft their own poems.
ANCHOR STANDARD W.1
Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
“One thing first graders are not lacking is an opinion,” says Sahadevan. She develops the skill of opinion writing through persuasive letters. “It feels so purposeful and audience driven,” she says. Students identify one way to improve their school and three reasons to support their opinion. They then draft a letter to the school’s principal. To introduce the idea
of persuasion, read I Wanna Iguana by Karen Kaufman Orloff.
ASCD project director Sherida Britt suggests having students craft an opinion or argument essay about why it’s important to play music or sing. They can consult texts about jazz music or famous musicians (try Skit-Scat Raggedy Cat: Ella Fitzgerald by “Using the close reading model, students pull out information critical to understanding the text,” Britt explains. They use the workshop model to revise and edit their essays. The result is
“a rich product—opinion pieces that cite evidence from the research gathered.”