Designing lesson plans to fit the Common Core State Standards
for language arts and literacy focuses on two main areas: the texts students read and what students do with those texts. An English class should no longer be full of classic literature and students are expected to do more than simply recall specific details about or conduct a basic analysis of the text. The goal is to take reading further, making meaning extend beyond a text, connecting it to other texts and key subject areas.
The focus of your lesson plans
should be Standard 10, which provides guidance for choosing texts with the appropriate range, quality and complexity at every grade-level and with individual students in mind. Under standard 10, you will find a list of text types students should be exposed to in kindergarten-grade 5 and grades 6-12. You will also find suggested fiction and non-fiction texts organized by grade-level to help guide your teaching. However, it is important to remember these texts are only suggestions, not required texts.
Reading a Text
Once you have chosen the texts you want your students to read, you can begin to determine what students will do with those texts. Your activities should focus on having students analyze texts, form opinions about texts and discuss the texts. With every text, students should ask the question “how does this connect to my life and the broader world?”
While the Common Core standards break reading literature, reading informational texts, writing and speaking and listening skills standards into their own sections, they skills included in those sections are not designed to be taught separately. As you prepare lesson plans, you should combine both literature and informational texts and also incorporate writing activities and some of the standards that fall under speaking and listening skills. For example, students may read a chapter of a novel, followed by an article that shows a real-life connection to the chapter. Students would then write a short piece explaining the connections between the two pieces or engage in a whole class or small group discussion of the two pieces.
Integration is Key
One of the main goals of the Common Core standards for language arts and literacy
is to avoid teaching skills in isolation. Students should not spend an entire lesson focused solely on a particular language standard or a particular literary element. Instead, a lesson on using commas to separate coordinate adjectives should be included as part of a larger writing assignment or taught using passages of the text students are currently reading. Instead of conducting independent research projects, student research should connect to the texts students are reading or topics they are studying in their history/social studies or science classes.
When they enter college or the workforce, students are unlikely to encounter the exact texts you have taught them and will not have to use specific skills in isolation. However, by integrating different texts and skills, you will help students build a base of references and knowledge and learn how to apply that information to the task at hand.