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Understanding Common Core ELA

Understanding Common Core ELA


In this lesson you will learn the basics of the CCSS ELA Standards

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Source: Rectangle, Pixabay,; News, Pixabay,; Globe, Clker,; Stick Figure, Clker,; Gas Station, Pixabay,; Gas Needle, Pixabay,

Video Transcription

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Hey everyone, hope you're doing well today. The lesson we are going to do is called Understanding Common Core English Language Arts. So let's get started.

The shifts that have come with Common Core remind me of something that has nothing to do with school at all. For as long as I could remember, every car I've ever owned was a Toyota and it had the gas tank on the drivers side. A few years ago, I purchased a Volkswagen. And that car has the gas tank on the passenger side. It's taken me a long time to get used to where the tank is, and I still have to think about it when I pull into a gas station. Even with the little arrow on the dashboard pointing me in the right direction, from time to time I still get it wrong. They say old habits die hard, and I guess that's true.

So here's a brief history of the Common Core State Standards. They were developed in 2009 by the governors and state commissions of education from 48 states, two territories, and the District of Columbia. They came together through the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Chief State School Officers. And they focused on skills students need to be college and career ready. You can watch a three minute video that explains all this at

The standards were divided into two distinct categories. College and Career Readiness Standards, that's what students are expected to know and understand by the time they graduate high school. And the K-12 standards, what students should know and be able to do from elementary school all the way through high school.

The implementation of Common Core forced many teachers of English Language Arts to rethink past practices and adoption some new ones. The following slides will highlight six of those shifts.

First, the notion of complex texts. Some of the elements that make up text complexity are implicit meaning, unconventional structures, use of flashbacks and flash forwards, multiple points of views, informational text may contain complex graphics, use figurative language, ambiguity, and unfamiliar language.

There are three main aspects of the text that the Common Core measures to determine it's complexity. They are in Quantitative, Qualitative, and Reader and Task. Quantitative refers to word frequency, sentence length, and text cohesion. Teachers can refer to an electronic resource like the Lexile Framework that will score a text based on an evaluation of these elements. If you'd like to find out the quantitative measure of a text, you can enter it into Lexile Measure And it will generate a score. You can visit for more information.

Qualitative measures include structure, language conventionally, clarity, knowledge demands, and levels of meaning and purpose. The qualitative measure is easier for teachers to evaluate without the help of technology, because it places text on a continuum.

Finally, reader and task considerations. The last aspect relies solely on the teacher. Common Core states that "Educators will employ professional judgment to match text to particular tasks or classes of students." Teachers have to use their professional judgment to decide what makes sense for the particular groups of students that they are charged with.

The shift to academic language refers to the language used in textbooks, in classrooms, and on tests. It is different in structure and vocabulary from the every day spoken English of social interactions. The use of academic language by teachers is also reflected in many teacher evaluation models. Students may struggle with comprehension of text because of low academic vocabulary knowledge. When students are learning a new discipline, is understood that they may not have the understanding of the technical vocabulary. However, those who have academic vocabulary are better prepared. For example, if a student of geometry is learning about platonic solids, a teacher might expect for students to know what the definition of convex is before they begin.

Text Evidence is used to support an argument or position, and comes from reading the text. It could be in the form of a quotation, paraphrase, or description. The importance lies in the detail of the evidence. Another shift is the use of content rich nonfiction. Years ago it might have been difficult to find high interest content rich nonfiction books for youngsters. That's no longer the case. Publishers have recognized the demands for such texts and have answered the call. Today not only are there books and magazines, but online resources have become the most effective source for content rich nonfiction. Because they provide the most up to date information. Also, many of these sites and services can adjust the reading level to meet the needs of a wide range of students. Some notable sites and apps are Newsela, time for kids, and News-O-Matic.

Common Core calls for a 50-50 balance between information and literary text in grades K through 5. I remember when this first came out it was met with some resistance. Teachers were very fearful to let go of some of their past practices, including books they had used in years past. However, as more and more high interest quality nonfiction books are becoming available, I see that sentiment changing. This shift has been carried through the secondary level with the greater attention to literary nonfiction texts in grades 6 through 12.

When understanding the Common Core, please consider the following. These are not national standards, and states have the option to adopt them, or not. States currently have three options for assessment. PARCC, Smarter Balanced, or state developed assessments. With states continuing to use a variety of assessments, it can be difficult to make state to state, national, or even international comparisons, as are possible with tests such as NAEP, AP, SAT, ACT, and Pisa. The SAT, AP, and ACT however, are beginning to incorporate Common Core State Standards into their assessments.

Now to summarize what was in today's lesson. We looked at an overview of the Common Core. We talked about the important shifts in English Language Arts. And we noticed some other considerations that have to do with Common Core.

And now today's food for thought. Take a look at the current text you are using with your students. Do they reflect the ELA Shifts in the Common Core? Now it's your turn to apply what you've learned in this video, the additional resources section will be very helpful. This section is designed to help you discover useful ways to apply what you learned here. Each link includes brief descriptions, so you can easily target the resources that you want.

As always, thanks for watching. Have a great day. We'll see you next time.

Notes on "Understanding Common Core ELA"

(00:00-00:11) Intro

(00:12-00:45) Gas Tank Story

(00:46-01:30) Common Core Overview

(01:31-05:34) ELA Core Shifts

(05:35-06:23) CCSS Considerations

(06:24-06:40) Summary

(06:41-07:11) Food For Thought

Additional Resources

EQuIP Quality Review Process

This Equip Rubric is for the review of math lessons and units aligned to the CCSS math standards. Currently there are many resources available with a CCSS sticker attached, yet very few of these resources are actually aligned. As an educator it can be difficult to know if a resource is aligned. The Equip rubric provides an easy to use rubric for educators to use in selecting and developing resources and lessons aligned to the CCSS.

Educators Evaluating Quality Instructional Products (EQuIP)

This is a video on how to use the Equip Rubric resource. Scroll to the bottom of page and click on tab labeled "Equip Training Materials."

Achieving the Common Core

Achieve the Core has developed a handout for educators that breaks down the components of the ELA CCSS. This fact sheet provides a high level overview of the Reading, Writing, Language, Speaking and Listening, Technology, and Literacy Standards.

Achieve the Core

This website offers information for teachers, coaches, and leaders who are implementing the CCSS in their schools and classrooms. By clicking on your role, subject and grade, you will find strategies, lessons plans, and embedded professional learning to help you integrating the standards into your curriculum and instruction.