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Overview of Content Standards

Overview of Content Standards

Author: Jody Waltman

In this lesson, students explore the subject area content standards, locate standards for their content areas, and evaluate the connection between the CCSS ELA standards and the CCSS Literacy Standards for Social Studies, Science, and Technical Areas. Additionally, students connect standards to outcomes, objectives, competencies, and I Can Statements.

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In this tutorial you'll get an overview of accessing, and working with content standards. We'll begin by defining the concept of standards, and we'll discuss the use and process of working with standards. You'll learn how to locate and access your content standards. And we'll clear up a common misconception about the Common Core Standards. Let's get started.

First, what are standards? Standards are defined as the knowledge and skills that students are expected to master. So the purpose of standards, then, is to guide the teachers as we plan our instruction. Let's talk about what that process might look like, and how we can effectively use our content standards. Remember that the standards should guide your planning at all levels, from an individual lesson or unit map, to the curriculum map that displays your entire year. Teachers should break the standards down into smaller pieces. Then, identify what students should know, and what students should be able to do in scaffolded steps that lead students to mastery of each standard throughout the course.

We can begin this process by identifying the high-level outcomes and competencies that we want students to have mastered at the end of the course or unit. From there, we can identify the unit targets, and finally the lesson targets. In order to help students understand, and access the learning targets, and to take ownership of their own learning, we can rewrite the standards in kid-friendly language. These statements are commonly called "I can" statements, because they begin with the phrase "I can." And they describe for students exactly what they will be able to do at the end of the lesson or the instruction.

Here's another way to picture this process. Start with your curriculum map, which contains all of the standards that you want your students to meet over the course of the year. From the curriculum map, select the "End-of-course outcome or competency" that you're currently going to be working towards. From there, identify the specific unit objective that you want to focus on. And from that unit objective, pinpoint the specific lesson target, and use that lesson target to write and "I can" statement in kid-friendly language.

Looking at it this way helps us to see the increasing specificity as we progress from the standard, to the outcome, to the objective, to the lesson target, and "I can" statement. It's important for you to know how to access the content standards that relate to you. Let's begin with the Common Core Math Standards.

Common Core Math Standards were developed in 2010 by a group of educators and state leaders from all around the United States. These standards outline what students should know, and be able to do in mathematics. Both to prepare them for the next grade level, and to prepare them for college and career readiness. The Common Core Math Standards also outline some standards for mathematical practice, and mathematical habits of mind that students should be able to demonstrate in order to increase their success in mathematics. The Common Core Math Standards can be accessed at

Next, let's look at the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts. These standards were also developed in 2010 by a group of state leaders and educators from around the United States. Like the Common Core Math Standards, the Common Core ELA Standards aim to prepare students both for the next grade level, and for college and career readiness. These standards address the areas of reading, writing, speaking, and listening. In grades K through 5, there's an emphasis on foundational reading skills. With an equal emphasis on fiction and informational text. In grades six through 12, the focus is on reading, writing, speaking, listening, and research. And there's more of an emphasis on nonfiction at these grade levels than on fictional text. You can access the Common Core ELA Standards at

The content standards for science teachers are called the Next Generation Science Standards. These standards were published in 2013, and were the product of a collaborative effort between state leaders and educators from all around the United States. The Next Generation Science Standards use a three-dimensional framework that outlines science practices, disciplinary core ideas-- including science content, the physical sciences, life sciences, earth and space sciences, and engineering technology and applications of science-- and cross-cutting concepts-- including patterns, similarity in diversity, cause and effect, scale, proportion, and quantity, systems and system models, energy and matter, structure and function, and stability and change.

These standards also include a greater emphasis on engineering standards than in previous science standards. The Next Generation Science Standards can be located at

Next, let's look at the Historical Thinking Standards. These standards were developed in 1996 by the University of California. They were designed in order to complement existing history standards, and to be used with students in grades 5 through 12. To help them think like historians. The standards are divided into five areas, chronological thinking, historical comprehension, historical analysis and interpretation, historical research capabilities, and analysis and decision-making in the context of historical issues. These standards can be located at

Finally, the World's Language Standards. These standards were published in 1996, and were the result of a collaborative effort of an 11-person team that was funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. These standards emphasize language, communication, and culture, within the context of world language skills. The world language standards can be accessed at

You've now seen how to access the content standards for many major content areas. But it's important to note that your district, state, or content area, may have additional or differing standards. Be sure that you are familiar with the standards that you are supposed to be working towards, and familiarize yourself with how to access them.

Finally, let's address a common misconception about the Common Core Standards. The misconception is that specific Common Core Standards have been created for science and history. The reality is that Common Core Literacy Standards exist for secondary-level science and history, but no Common Core Content Standards have been developed in these areas. The intent is for these literacy standards to be used in addition to the history and science content standards. The purpose of these standards is to identify the skills that will be necessary, for both college and career readiness, in the areas of reading, writing, speaking, and listening.

In this tutorial, we defined "standards," and discussed the use and process of interacting with content standards. You learned how to locate some of the more common content standards. And we addressed a common misconception about the Common Core Standards. So here's a chance for you to stop and reflect. Do you know how to access the content standards that apply to you? For more information on how to apply what you learned in this video, please view the additional resources section that accompanies this video presentation. The additional resources section includes hyperlinks, useful for applications of the course material, including a brief description of each resource. Thanks for joining me today. Have a great day.

Notes on "Overview of Content Standards"

(00:00 - 00:21) Introduction

(00:22 - 00:36) Definition of "Standards"

(00:37 - 02:20) Use and Process

(02:21 - 03:11) Math Standards

(03:12 - 04:10) ELA Standards

(04:11 - 05:16) Science Standards

(05:17 - 06:02) Historical Thinking Standards

(06:03 - 06:51) World Language Standards

(06:52 - 07:27) Common Misconception

(07:28 - 07:42) Review

(07:43 - 08:10) Stop and Reflect

Additional Resources

Common Core State Standards

This is the official web site for the Common Core ELA and Math Standards. This web site is an easy to navigate portal that includes the ELA Anchor Standards, Standards by Grade, Literacy Standards for History and Social Studies, Literacy Standards for Science and the Technical Areas, Math Practice Standards, and Math Standards by Grade. In addition to the complete set of standards, this site provides the appendices to the standards, which include student work samples, suggested texts, implementation guidance, and instructional strategies.

Common Core State Standards: Implementation Tools and Resources

This document provides resources on teaching with the Common Core State Standards, which are great implementation tools for teachers who are integrating Common Core Standards into their lessons and instruction. This handbook provides an overview of available videos, presentations, and documents designed to support CCSS implementation. Each resource includes a brief overview to assist you in finding the best tools to meet your needs. Most videos present clear rationales and strategies for implementation.