Related: Continuing Education, Rashieda Gantt

CCSS: The Rigor of Unpacking the ELA Standards across Contents


by Rashieda D. Gantt, Adjunct Professor

CCSSA student in my Methods of Teaching Reading in the Content Area: Secondary class asked an unexpected question: “Why do we (content teachers) have to unpack the ELA (English Language Arts) Common Core State Standards (CCSS)?”  Prior to the task, I conducted a viewing of The Teaching Channel’s video, Think Alouds: Unpacking the Standards, with Sarah Brown Wessling.  While I pondered the question, the course participant continued with a follow-up question, “Why don’t they have experts like you (said instructor) unpack the standards for us?”  This teacher, a math teacher, had struggled with the task of CLOSELY reading and unpacking the ELA Common Core Standards.

Learning Task:

1) UNPACK the standard by identifying the important words or verbs based on what the students will have to know and do. Rewrite the standard in objective(s) using the Students will (SW) or Students will be able to (SWBAT) language.

2) Explain how would you assess the standard.

Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source.

Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric, identifying any fallacious reasoning or exaggerated or distorted evidence.

Math book

Eventually, an ELA teacher responded to the initial question, “Who else is supposed to unpack the standards except those who are teaching the standards?”  The course participant, continued to express extreme frustration and feelings of discomfort with the rigor involved with unpacking the ELA standards. He was a master of his chosen content but was astounded by the challenge of breaking down loaded words like quantitatively, evidence and evaluate as non-mathematical terms. He grappled with the goal of making connections between teaching math content and the ELA standards. It was an arduous endeavor to consider.

Rewinding the tape a bit, the course is taught with the theme in mind that all teachers are literacy teachers. Starting out, the opening question sparks great discussion, “Who is responsible for teaching reading and writing?” Hands down, everyone usually concludes that all teachers are responsible for teaching reading and writing. The next agenda item involves a conversation around data that reflects the enormous number of college students who are enrolled in remedial courses across the nation. The data speaks to the deficits of student-preparedness as it relates to literacy in reading and writing across contents. Therefore, I ask the enduring/essential question, “If everyone is responsible, then why isn’t it showing in the data? Why is the course, Methods of Teaching Reading in the Content a necessary mandate?”  Will CCSS take over where the No Child Left Behind mandates, reading in the content area, left off, replace it by starting over?

Unpacking the standards is a shift from incorporating literacy standards across content areas. No worries for you content teachers; the shifts will continue and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) integration courses are on the way.


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