10things to know about common core standards for ela
THINGS TO KNOW
I’m not yet an expert in the Common Core Standards. But as editor
of Storyworks (and a language arts geek), I’ve been spending much
of my free time learning everything I can about them. Right now, I’m
in the process of developing a grade-level-specific guide to using
Storyworks for Common Core goals. In the meantime, I’ve created this
“cheat sheet” for myself, a list of ten major ways I think the standards
are going to impact upper-elementary students and teachers (and how
Storyworks will help!). –Lauren Tarshis, Editor, Storyworks
students will read many
Fifty percent will be “literary texts” like stories,
myths, poems, plays, and fables. Fifty percent will
be “informational texts,” such as literary nonfiction,
history, science, and biography.
(All of these genres are in Storyworks.)
Paris train s a lonely life
es of a puzputs
d by spenCe
the inventthe sCreen
hugo CabretJohn logan, direCt ed by
idea A theme
Think about machines, can in this story is
you read. broken—and
s t o
r y w
o r k
Notice anything about
words in this poem?
Why would the author
use so many words
that start with S?
one of on
in bold nerd’s
1, 2, 3, 4
a 12-year-old (N1, N2, N3, N4)
Hugo’s father boy
a toy maker
: a profess
or of cinema
r, and welcome 1
e to Paris.
home, admirihis father sit inside
ng a mecha
nical man. cozy
gears, levers, three feet tall and
in the attic
of the museumaton. I found him
where I work.
hugo: What .
Father: You is he supposed to
up and he
Poem and Art
by Carin Berger
Wish they had sneakers
But make no mistake
With swirly green eyes
And slithery tongues
It’s a very good thing
They can’t lace up and
by Joyce Sidman.
Text copyright ©
2010 by Joyce
by permission of
Company. All rights
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Copyright ©2011 by Scholastic
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Father (smilin fix him?
clockmakers, g): We’re
N4: Father aren’t we? But .
automaton’s keyhole at the
Father: We back.
need to find
night, Hugo its key.
on the automa his
night, when it gleams.
they enjoy work on the
ed): Uncle in.
Your father’s at the
shop. It is
to live with
full of fancifuspies the station’s
l toys that
Hugo wonde owner, is a grim
make such rs how such a sad
N4: George magical toys.
s naps at
in a hidden to live
tiptoes over counter.
s for a small
N2: George mouse.
hugo: What be my assistan
s’s eyes snap
about school t.
at last, you
station must clocks in the
or I’ll call
and adjuste be cranked, oiled,
d. The Station
learns how them.
He also learnsthe clocks in the
other pocket has stolen.
tunnels inside to navigate the
left for good. go by. It
N1: George gives up his father’s and
s flips throug
h the notebo notebook.
But as long he will be put in
N2: George gs of the automa
no one will he keeps the clocks orphanage.
s’s face turns
didn’t! Give you steal this?
on the automacomforts Hugo is
me my notebo
of his father.
ton. It’s all
hugo: No! mine now.
he has left
Station Inspecthese drawings.
t o ry
ks • a
students will be challenged
in their reading.
The emphasis on texts of all kinds that will stretch
your students’ abilities is one of the most challenging
aspects of the Common Core. It’s all about “text
complexity” and teaching students to navigate many
different types of content.
(Storyworks’s high-interest topics will help students
make that stretch by engaging them from the outset.)
All answers need to be
backed up with “text
When responding to questions about a text,
students will need to use examples or details from
what they’ve read to back up their answers. Older
students will have to quote directly from the text.
(All Storyworks writing prompts and quizzes require text
You will get to know
He’s a University of Wisconsin
education professor. He created
a “depth of knowledge” (DOK)
framework for developing assessment
questions that require increasing levels of reasoning.
The bottom line: students must be “close readers,”
achieving a deep understanding of a text. To do
well on CC tests, students will have to become
experts on making inferences, analyzing
information, and drawing conclusions.
(Don’t blame Norm for all this fuss—my
son Leo goes to UW and says he is a very
smart and nice man.)
(Storyworks article structures help students
develop close-reading skills; our activities and
quizzes require higher-level reasoning skills.)
are created equal.
Most likely you’re already covering all of the
Common Core skills in some way. But Common
Core turns some skills into superstars, including:
Themes (identifying, comparing, always while
showing which details support the theme)
Comparing and Contrasting (within a text, across
texts and genres)
Main Idea and Supporting Details (Older students
need to find at least two main ideas in nonfiction
Summarizing (not only entire texts, but paragraphs,
events, and procedures described within them)
Text structures (cause/effect, problem/solution,
chronological, compare/contrast; students must
identify these structures and evaluate their
effectiveness in organizing information)
Text features (intepreting photos, captions,
headings, graphs, timelines, maps)
(These skills are already front and center in Storyworks)
The standards demand that students
be able to navigate texts with
challenging vocabulary. There’s also an
emphasis on “domain specific” vocabulary—words
relating to content in specific fields such as science,
social studies, and the arts.
(Storyworks emphasizes these skills in both in the
magazine and throughout our support materials.)
Common Core places special emphasis on
developing logical arguments in writing. You’ll be
asking students to defend their interpretations of a
poem, take stands on a current issue, or support their
claims about a scientific development, all by drawing
on text evidence.
(Storyworks debates and writing prompts offer ample
practice in opinion writing. Our persuasive-writing
essay kit guides them step by step.)
You will be connecting
ELA to science and
Common Core emphasizes core
knowledge in science and social
studies, so you will be looking
for reading content in these areas.
(Storyworks nonfiction articles are almost
always drawn from social studies and
Grammar and usage are
The Standards specify grade by grade the
conventional language skills that students need to
master, from verb tenses to quotation marks.
(Our Wordworks and Grammar Cop features reinforce
language skills, and our activity sheets provide even
10 You can get started
There are some simple ways
to start preparing yourself and your
students. The most important, in my
opinion, is getting kids used to finding
text evidence. When you ask a question
about a story or article, follow up with “how do you
know?” Always have them point to examples and
details from the text.
We’re continuing to explore the
Standards and will be sharing our
insights. If you’d like to talk to me
directly about the Standards, I’d love
to connect any time.