Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Common Core Language Standards’

Cherry Picking the Common Core

One of our more flexible idiomatic expressions in English is “cherry picking.” Cherry picking can mean picking the easiest fruit on the tree or picking the best fruit on the tree, or picking just the fruit on the tree that we want and ignoring the rest.

The latter use of “cherry picking” would seem to apply to many districts and teachers as they have begun implementing the Common Core Standards. To get a bit technical, many have bought into the fallacy of selective attention, known as confirmation bias.

As elementary and middle-high school English-language Arts teachers began unraveling the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects in 2011, they tended to gravitate to the Reading: Literature, Reading: Informational Text, and Writing Strands.
Although some decried the “loss” of literature with the new focus on expository reading text, most began interpreting the Standards as “basically teaching what they already teach” with a few added tweaks. In my school district the mantra at all district Common Core trainings has been “Common Core-ize it!” In other words, keep on doing what we have been doing, but add on a few close reading strategies and some expository text and “You’re good to go!”

It’s human nature. We interpret new sensory input in light of previously acquired sensory input. Cherry picking.

Now, some of this Standards-cherry-picking does make sense. Now let me mix my food metaphors a bit. Obviously, reading (the meat) and writing (the potatoes) remain the cornerstones of literacy and should be instructional priorities. Additionally, there is some practical rationale to not introducing everything at once, so stair-stepping in the Standards would seem to be a prudent approach. However, we are in year four of implementation of the Common Core State Standards. The full dinner includes more than just meat and potatoes.

The cherries many have been avoiding would include the Language Strand and Speaking and Listening Strand. Scant attention has been paid to either of these Strands. I’ve asked countless district curriculum specialists and teachers whether they have read either of the Strands, and if they have, could they name one of the Standards in that Strand, and if they can, have they implemented any of the Standards in their district trainings or in their classrooms. You know their answers.

It’s time to set the table with a well-balanced meal.

Teachers are ready. Teachers can chew gum and walk at the same time. Teachers can implement the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects as they are designed–each part working to better the whole. I just googled “Common Core Reading Standards” and got 42,500,000 (not surprising) search results. “Common Core Writing Standards” got 27,200,00 (not surprising) search results. But these search results did surprise me: “Common Core Language Standards” got 40,600,000 results. Obviously there is significant interest in moving beyond the implementation of just the reading and writing Standards.

Now of course I am biased as well. As an educational publisher, I’m selling curriculum to address these up to this point ignored Standards. So, you would expect my own cherry picking. But I also feel that our students deserve a well-balanced diet. They need the full meal–not just the meat and potatoes. My take is that a diet of meat and potatoes can only take our students so far. Students also need the grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling, vocabulary, speaking, and listening knowledge and skills to inform and equip them in their reading and writing.

And how about cherries jubilee for dessert?

The author of this article, Mark Pennington, has written the assessment-based Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Grades 4-8 programs to teach the Common Core Language Standards. Each full-year program provides 56 interactive grammar, usage, and mechanics lessons. (Check out a seventh grade teacher teaching the direct instruction and practice components of these lessons on YouTube.) The complete lessons also include sentence diagrams, error analysis, mentor texts, writing applications, and sentence dictation formative assessments with accompanying worksheets (L.1, 2). Plus, each grade-level program has weekly spelling pattern tests and accompanying spelling sort worksheets (L.2), 56 language application opener worksheets (L.3), and 56 vocabulary worksheets with multiple-meaning words, Greek and Latin word parts, figures of speech, word relationships with context clue practice, connotations, and four square academic language practice (L.4, 5, and 6). Comprehensive biweekly unit tests measure recognition, understanding, and application of all language components.

Pennington Publishing's Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Grades 4-8 Programs

Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Grades 4-8 Programs

 

Grammar/Mechanics, Spelling/Vocabulary, Writing , , , , , , , , ,

California Common Core Language Standards

At the outset of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, the research and writing committees latched upon the California and Massachusetts state standards to serve as reference points for establishing the Common Core State Standards. Both of these states’ standards were deemed to be the most rigorous and comprehensive in the nation. Both California and Massachusetts state standards followed a similar design and degree of specificity, unlike say the detailed Texas state standards.

Some educators in California and Massachusetts feared that the end product of the Common Core State Standards would water down the high expectations of their state standards, especially in the math strands. Scores of articles urged their respective state departments of education to head off the gutting of their standards at the pass. State Department of Education officials promised to red ink plenty of revisions to maintain the rigor of their standards. However, the final product (actually the revised draft) of the Common Core State Standards that was inadvertently leaked out to the press actually maintained most of the rigor of these two sets of state standards.

Teachers in California and Massachusetts are asking plenty of questions. For example, how do the Common Core State Standards differ from those of their states. How much red ink was used before the state legislatures of California and Massachusetts adopted the Common Core State Standards in the rush to qualify for the federal Race to the Top funds? In this article, I answer that question specifically with respect to the language strand of the California ELA/reading standards. To be short and to the point—not much.

In fact, only six additions (and no deletions) were made to the language strand of the English-language Arts/Reading Common Core State Standards. Each addition is relatively of minor concern and three reflect California’s unwavering support of penmanship.

Here are the differences:

1st Grade L.1.d. The addition clarifies pronouns as including “subject, object” in “Use personal (subject, object), possessive, and indefinite pronouns.”

2nd Grade L.1.a. The addition inserts “Create readable documents with legible print.”

3rd Grade L.1.a. The addition inserts “Write legibly in cursive or joined italics, allowing margins and correct spacing between letters in a word and words in a sentence.”

3rd Grade L.1.c. The addition inserts “Use reciprocal pronouns correctly.” Author’s Note: I am the author of a comprehensive grammar and mechanics program and I had to look these up to find that there are but two: each other and one another. Whew! Now I can teach third grade.

4th Grade L.1.a. The addition inserts “Write fluidly and legibly in cursive or joined italics.”

4th Grade L.1.b. The addition inserts “interrogative pronouns” next to the existing “relative pronouns.” Author’s Note: Interrogative pronouns stand without antecedents; relative pronouns have antecedents. Examples: What did you say? I said our car, which is old, still runs.

6th Grade L.1.b. The addition inserts “all pronouns” and “correctly” in “Use all pronouns, including intensive pronouns (e.g., myself, ourselves), correctly.”

The author of this article, Mark Pennington, has written the assessment-based Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Grades 4-8 programs to teach the Common Core Language Standards. Each

Pennington Publishing's Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)

Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand)
Grades 4-8 Programs

full-year program provides 56 interactive grammar, usage, and mechanics and include sentence diagrams, error analysis, mentor texts, writing applications, and sentence dictation formative assessments with accompanying worksheets (L.1, 2). Plus, each grade-level program has weekly spelling pattern tests and accompanying spelling sort worksheets (L.2), 56 language application opener worksheets (L.3), and 56 vocabulary worksheets with multiple-meaning words, Greek and Latin word parts, figures of speech, word relationships with context clue practice, connotations, and four square academic language practice (L.4, 5, and 6). Comprehensive biweekly unit tests measure recognition, understanding, and application of all language components.

Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) also has the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets. Each remedial worksheet (over 200 per program) includes independent practice and a brief formative assessment. Students CATCH Up on previous unmastered Standards while they KEEP UP with current grade-level Standards. Check out the YouTube introductory video of the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) program.

The author also provides these curricular “slices” of the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) “pie”: the five Common Core Vocabulary Toolkits Grades 4−8; the five Differentiated Spelling Instruction Grades 4−8 programs (digital formats only); and the non-grade-leveled Teaching Grammar and Mechanics with engaging grammar cartoons (available in print and digital formats).

Grammar/Mechanics, Spelling/Vocabulary, Writing , , , , , , ,

Common Core Language Standards

As an author of both a spelling series and a grammar and mechanics curriculum, I am constantly deluged with questions regarding the language strand of the new Common Core State Standards. Teachers are naturally concerned with such a monumental change away from district and state standards to national standards. And don’t let ‘em fool you: These are national standards with minimal variations from state to state. Irrespective of how the standards came about (the Common Core State Standards Initiative folk are adamant that this was a state-driven effort), the current status as of this writing is that 43 of the states have adopted this national set of standards.

Here are the questions teachers are asking about the language strand of the Common Core State Standards. I’ll answer with specific reference to the document itself and then follow with a quick analysis.

  • Teachers know the standards dictate what they are to teach, but teachers also want to know if the standards dictate how they are to teach.
  • Teachers want to know the philosophical stance with respect to these conventions of language, for example how grammatical instruction is linked to writing instruction.
  • Teachers have heard that the Common Core dumbs-down the standards from Massachusetts and California, but significantly increases expectations for the rest of the states, and so they ask just how rigorous are the language standards.
  • Some past state standards have been intentionally vague; others have been much more detailed. Teachers want to know how general or specific the language standards get.
  • Teachers want to know about the pacing of the K-12 instructional scope and sequence: what new stuff to they have to teach?
  • Teachers want to know what’s de-emphasized in the language standards: what stuff do they not have to teach?
  • How much, if any, review is built into the language strand?

Teachers want to know if the standards dictate how they are to teach.

“The Standards are not a curriculum. They are a clear set of shared goals and expectations for what knowledge and skills will help our students succeed. Local teachers, principals, superintendents and others will decide how the standards are to be met. Teachers will continue to devise lesson plans and tailor instruction to the individual needs of the students in their classrooms.” http://www.corestandards.org

To me, the most interesting sentence above is “Teachers will continue to devise lesson plans and tailor instruction to the individual needs of the students in their classrooms.” A tacit acknowledgement that the teacher needs to have the autonomy to differentiate instruction according to needs of her students.

Teachers want to know how want to know how grammatical instruction is linked to writing instruction.

“To build a foundation for college and career readiness in language, students must gain control over many conventions of standard English grammar, usage, and mechanics as well as learn other ways to use language to convey meaning effectively… The inclusion of Language standards in their own strand should not be taken as an indication that skills related to conventions, effective language use, and vocabulary are unimportant to reading, writing, speaking, and listening; indeed, they are inseparable from such contexts.” http://www.corestandards.org

I find a nice balance between focusing on the correctness of usage and application to writing. The standards go out of their way to assert that grammar, mechanics, and spelling are best taught within the context of reading, writing, speaking, and listening. However, it is noteworthy that language does have its own strand, apart from writing and the standards do emphasize the necessity of mastering “standard English grammar, usage, and mechanics…”

Examples of Language Standards Emphasizing Correctness

  • Ensure that pronouns are in the proper case (subjective, objective, possessive). L.6.1.
  • Recognize and correct inappropriate shifts in verb voice and mood. L.8.1.

Examples of Language Standards Emphasizing Application to Writing

  • Vary sentence patterns for meaning, reader/listener interest, and style. L.6.3.
  • Maintain consistency in style and tone. L.6.3.

Teachers ask just how rigorous are the language standards.

Examples of Language Standards Emphasizing Rigor

  • Produce and expand complete simple and compound declarative, interrogative, imperative, and exclamatory sentences in response to prompts. L.1.1
  • Form and use comparative and superlative adjectives and adverbs, and choose between them depending on what is to be modified. L.3.1.

Examples of Language Standards De-emphasizing Rigor

  • Explain the function of phrases and clauses in general and their function in specific sentences. L7.1 (Clauses are not introduced until seventh grade.)
  • Explain the function of verbals (gerunds, participles, infinitives) in general and their function in particular sentences. L8.1 (Verbals are not introduced until eighth grade.)
  • Parallel structures are not introduced until ninth grade.

Clearly the levels of rigor are hit and miss.

Teachers want to know how general or specific the language standards get.

Examples of Vague or General Language Standards

  • Spell correctly L.6.2-L.12.2.
  • Use correct capitalization. L.4.2.

Examples of Specific or Detailed Language Standards

  • Use a comma to separate coordinate adjectives (e.g., It was a fascinating, enjoyable movie but not He wore an old[,] green shirt). L.7.2.
  • Form and use verbs in the indicative, imperative, interrogative, conditional, and subjunctive mood. L.5.2.

Teachers want to know about the pacing of the K-12 instructional scope and sequence.

The http://www.corestandards.org site lays out the language strands by elementary and secondary groupings of both bullet points and scope and sequence charts.

Without getting lost in the specificity, the language strand clearly places the largest burden of grammar, mechanics, and spelling instruction on primary (first, second, and third) grade teachers. At the macro level (after deleting the vocabulary components from the language strand): first, second, and third has three pages of language standards; fourth and fifth has one page; sixth, seventh, and eighth has one page; and ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth has only half of a page.

Teachers want to know what’s de-emphasized in the language standards

Most notably, spelling gets short shrift in the Common Core State Standards language strand.

After third grade, here are the spelling standards:

  • Spell grade-appropriate words correctly, consulting references as needed. L.4.2. and L.5.2.
  • Spell correctly L.6.2.-L.12.2

It’s great to know that all American school children will require no spelling standards after third grade. Just wave the magic wand, I guess.

How much, if any, review is built into the language strand?

The following skills, marked with an asterisk (*)  are particularly likely to require continued attention in higher grades as they are applied to increasingly sophisticated writing and speaking.

A considerable number of skills are marked with the asterisks throughout the K-12 language strand. To me, this indicates a basic acknowledgement of the cyclical nature of grammar instruction and the necessity for review and differentiated instruction in grammar, mechanics, and spelling.

The author of this article, Mark Pennington, has written the assessment-based Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) Grades 4-8 programs to teach the Common Core Language Standards. Each full-year program provides 56 interactive grammar, usage, and mechanics and include sentence diagrams, error analysis, mentor texts, writing applications, and sentence dictation formative assessments with accompanying worksheets (L.1, 2). Plus, each grade-level program has weekly spelling pattern tests and accompanying spelling sort worksheets (L.2), 56 language application opener worksheets (L.3), and 56 vocabulary worksheets with multiple-meaning words, Greek and Latin word parts, figures of speech, word relationships with context clue practice, connotations, and four square academic language practice (L.4, 5, and 6). Comprehensive biweekly unit tests measure recognition, understanding, and application of all language components.

Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) also has the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets. Each remedial worksheet (over 200 per program) includes independent practice and a brief formative assessment. Students CATCH Up on previous unmastered Standards while they KEEP UP with current grade-level Standards. Check out the YouTube introductory video of the Grammar, Usage, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) program.

 

Grammar/Mechanics, Spelling/Vocabulary, Writing , , , , , ,