The CCSS standards for English Language Arts are designed to produce a student who has mastered skills deemed necessary to be successful in college or in the work force. There are cumulative standards and they are the same standards for every grade, just expanded at each grade level to specific and grade-level appropriate standards. What this does is point every effort toward a common goal, an educated high school graduate.
The standards are organized around these end-result standards. If you understand the goals of these main standards, it doesn’t matter if you move from one grade level to another, the goals are the same; the goals of a particular lesson will change to a grade-appropriate goal, but the overall goal of the year’s instruction is the same: move the student along the continuum toward these end-result standards.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll look at the standards in depth for Reading, Writing, Speaking/Listening and Language Standards.
Reading Anchor Standards: Key Ideas and Details
The first reading skills relate to how well a student can read for key ideas and understand details. The emphasis here is on what the text actually says; gone are references to a student’s experiences and personal connections, in favor of a “close reading.”
First, a student must understand what a text says, then determine main ideas, analyze the development of that idea and how the details relate to the big ideas.
Here are the first three reading standards:
- Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it: cite specific textual evidence when writing and speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
- Read closely. While skimming a text is a useful skill, especially for browsing on the internet, the emphasis is on a careful reading.
- Determine what the text says explicitly. The interpretation of the text is not in the hands of the reader, but the writer. What did the writer actually say?
- Logical inferences. While we’re talking about reading comprehension, the CCSS emphasizes that logical thinking is important in the college and career settings. We must develop materials and programs to teach logical thinking at every grade level.
- Cite specific evidence to support conclusions. This is another way of saying that the writer must be taken at his/her word. What is written must give enough details–specific details–to support a conclusion (the logic again). The emphasis here will be on citing evidence and the various appropriate ways to do that. For first grade, it might mean pointing to a specific word or image, but it will quickly progress to MLA or other style sheets.
- Determine Central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
- Determine central ideas or themes. After a student reads a text, one task is to generalize, to determine the overall ideas and themes. This is a particular type of reasoning, going from specific to general, or inductive thinking. (Deductive thinking goes from general to specific–oversimplification of both terms, but enough for here.) We must develop materials and programs to teach inductive thinking at every grade level.
- Analyze the development of ideas or themes. Once a main idea is identified, this standard asks students to track the idea through the text, then determine something about how or why the idea was developed this way. Analysis is another thinking skill to develop.
- Summarize key supporting details and ideas. Now, a student is moving from general to specific, or doing deductive thinking. Taking a big idea, the student must be able to give an overview of how the idea or theme was developed.
- Analyze how and why individuals, events and ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.
- Analyze how. This standard moves the student beyond merely understanding the WHAT of a text. What happened is a foundational skill; analyzing HOW something happened or developed is a higher order thinking skill. K and 1st graders aren’t asked to do these skills. By 2nd grade, they are asked, “How did the characters respond to major events and challenges?” By 8th grade, students are asked to “Analyze how particular line of dialogue or incidents in a story or drama propel the action, reveal aspects of a character or provoke a decision.” The thinking skills are obviously more developed for higher grade levels!
- Analyze why. Likewise, determining or inferring the WHY is a higher order thinking skill and progresses as students grow older.