The Six Instructional Shifts for ELA Common Core State StandardsJune 25, 2013 Laura Beltchenko
Effective Leadership Practices for Implementing the ELA Common Core State Standards
Live webinar: June 26, 2013 at 4:00pm ET
Register now for an opportunity to probe deeper into the Six Instructional Shifts outlined below, as well as other ELA practices.
As the Common Core Standards are developed and implemented, students, teachers/educators, and principals/district administration need to know that the following shifts play an important role in knowing, understanding, and “doing” these Standards. The Six Instructional Shifts for ELA are divided into three areas of responsibilities: student, teacher and principal.
· ELA/Literacy Shift 1: Balancing Literacy and Informational Text
· ELA/Literacy Shift 2: Knowledge in the Disciplines
· ELA/Literacy Shift 3: Staircase of Text Complexity
· ELA/Literacy Shift 4: Text Based Answers
· ELA/Literacy Shift 5: Writing from Sources
· ELA/Literacy Shift 6: Academic Vocabulary
To embrace these 6 Shifts in the ELA Common Core is to recognize the necessary movement from past standards to new standards that embrace a wide range of reading, writing, and speaking and listening abilities to become college and career ready students. We as educators need to embrace the nuances of these standards and transfer these practices and instruction into student learning and transferable knowledge for future use.
ELA/Literacy Shift 1: Balancing Literacy and Informational Text
This shift involves simply reading more informational text – balancing the amount of literature with informational texts. Elementary teachers are the classroom tour guides to the world – to culture, to society. Rather than telling students about what is happening out there, we need to have them read about it. Expressive understanding of literary and informational text needs to be conveyed through writing. Teachers need to place the retelling and summarizing responsibilities onto students, except when the teacher is modeling the technique and differences between the two.
ELA/Literacy Shift 2: Knowledge in the Disciplines
Students must be ready to handle more informational text. In order to do this, teachers need professional development as well as collaborative conversation with colleagues regarding literacy instruction. Instead of “telling” the students information, have them read and reread to locate information collaboratively and independently. Students must also have speaking skills to express understanding of text. There should be a balance of accessing informational text with other primary and secondary sources, including reliable web-based sources. The ELA Common Core Standards are asking that all teachers become teachers of literacy (reading, writing, listening speaking, thinking and viewing.) For example, instead of telling students about the Civil Rights Movement, teachers and students locate reliable text and documents (print/web-based) and have students investigate and research a timeline of events. The way that content should be delivered is through sources; through texts, through data, through information online. Socratic Seminar can be a vehicle to have students express their knowledge by discussing and grappling with text-based answers that may be verbally debated and thus challenged. Students should recognize and cite textual evidence but also use background knowledge as a secondary knowledge fulfillment.
ELA/Literacy Shift 3: Staircase of Text Complexity
Students must be reading in all content areas. This is especially important in science where experimental science is important but “reading science” and obtaining scientific vocabulary is equally as important. Reading varied genre with increasingly complex texts throughout P-12 is paramount to the success of an ELA CCSS aligned classroom. The Common Core is often defining grade level text complexity as texts that are 2-3 grade levels more complex than the current grade level texts in school so that they are actually prepared to access the complexity they encounter in careers and college. Appendix B of the Common Core State Standards includes a list of texts that model levels of complexity for every grade level. This is an important portion of standards that also include sample performance tasks.
ELA/Literacy Shift 4: Text Based Answers
Students need to develop the ability to engage in rich, evidence-based dialogue about a text they have read. Having students have conversations about text and teachers’ facilitation of these conversations requires a higher level of sophistication for both teachers and students. Rather than the quicker connections between text and self, teachers must now develop student inquiry and ways to stay in the text. Students need to recognize how to draw conclusions and make opinions and arguments about the text and do so through the text itself. Teachers will often ask, “Where do you find that conclusion/answer/evidence in the text? Can you locate the paragraph? What sentence? What word?” Students must begin to think and argue through texts by constantly being asked to find evidence in what they have read.
ELA/Literacy Shift 5: Writing from Sources
This shift is about finding evidence-based answers to probing questions and WRITING about what is understood in the text. As educators we are shifting away from an overemphasis on narrative writing because it is a skill not often demanded by career and college. What career and college do DEMAND is the ability to synthesize, evaluate and react to what we have read. Therefore, the Common Core asks that students, across content areas, interact with and form opinions and arguments through sources – texts, data, etc. Students must be instructed to use the evidence they collect from what they read in order to form cogent and convincing opinions and arguments in the writing they produce.
ELA/Literacy Shift 6: Academic Vocabulary
The Common Core is consistently asking us to develop students ability to use and access words that are showing up in everyday vocabulary, but are slightly out of reach for our students, thus utilizing context clues and the contextual understanding of words and domain specific terminology. Look to vocabulary development as an expansion of bridging the known with the unknown (Greek/Latin Roots, cognates, domain specific words). Isabel Beck shares in her research that Tier I words are common words usually used in everyday vocabulary. Tier II are words that are powerfully useful and frequently occurring in school learning and Tier III words are domain specific or the vocabulary that is found within a discipline such as science, mathematics or social sciences.
It is really about giving students the right tools. There are certain words that are great tools, as the students will see them in lots of context; when they read, across different disciplines etc. There are other words that are interesting and may come up in certain areas; content specific words like “amoeba;” or there are other words that are sort of esoteric and interesting but they are not words that students will confront frequently as they read. It is important to be strategic about the kind of vocabulary we are teaching. We need to consider into what category these words fall. The goal is for the students not only to know the words as a reader, but also invest in the words as a writer.