Teaching ELA is hard. There, I said it. The standards are complex and incredibly broad, and they do not lend themselves to knowing exactly what is needed to teach ELA to FULL standard mastery. There is a lot of digging, researching, and analyzing to do in order to confidently teach ELA to full standard mastery.
My Poor First-Year Students
I often make the joke that I need to apologize to my first year (ok, first few years) students for the lack of understanding I had when I began teaching. Seriously, I was truly in the clouds and loved what I was doing but lacked intention in any of my planning. Data. What’s that have to do with anything? Tests. Those are given for a test grade. Standards. Those are for guidance and not meant to be exact. *Insert Facepalm* I’m sorry, students!
Fast-forward to future me who knows better. It really didn’t take me long to realize fluffy, cutesy lessons could not be the core of my classroom. Don’t get me wrong, that does not mean my lessons became boring and mundane. It simply means I am more intentional in planning. I used to see a cute idea and find ways to embed the standards, whereas, now I know to start with the standards. I have a few steps that I take when starting with the standards. It really is not a complex process, but it is so very important.
Knowing how to start with the standards seems like a “duh” concept, but I don’t think it is. I think college teaches you to start with the standards, but it doesn’t teach you what that truly looks like. What does starting with the standards entail? How do you learn to be more intentional in your teaching? I will show you what works for me! 😊
Achieving ELA Standard Mastery
When starting with the standards, there are a few important steps one must take:
- Deconstruct the Standard: Break down the standard to get the learning targets
- Look at the nouns – What are the concepts being taught?
- Identify the verbs – What do students need to be able to do with those concepts?
- Can you break the concepts down into learning targets?
- What prerequisites do you need to cover each learning target?
*** Learn more about deconstructing standards at my blog post that is fully dedicated to the deconstructing standards process
- Vertical Alignment: Compare your grade level standard to the grade below and above yours
- Which concepts are taught the previous year that you can review and not teach in-depth? What are students doing with those concepts in the previous grade?
- Which concepts will the teacher cover in the next grade level that you can teach at surface level? What are students doing with those concepts in the next grade?
- Which concepts are you teaching this year that are new to your grade level? These are the concepts you will need to teach in-depth.
- Match the Rigor: Determine the rigor of the standards and plan to meet that rigor
- What are the students having to do with each learning target? What level of thinking do they have to use to master that standard?
- Do your lessons allow students to practice at the right level of rigor?
- Are your assessments truly assessing students on the right level of rigor?
- Plan with Intention: Use your breakdown of the standard to write lessons and assessments
- Does your lesson plan teach each learning target for the standard?
- Do you have a plan for assessing student mastery for each learning target?
- Are you “covering” the standards or teaching to full ELA standard mastery?
Intentional Lesson Planning
After you’ve broken down a standard, you will then want to make sure your lesson plans reflect all components of the standard. You want activities to teach and to assess each learning target. This is how you will truly teach to the full ELA standard mastery. If you would like to read more about the curriculum development process, I have a blog post that will take you through the next steps of planning your instruction.
As you are planning, if you want some ELA activities that already align directly to the ELA Common Core Standards, I have a product line that may be just what you need. With my passion for creating products that thoroughly align to the standards, match the rigor, and cover all the elements of a standard, these products have been created in a way that breaks down the standard into learning targets then has activities that aligns to each learning target. They also include a summative assessment that covers all the parts of the standard together. You can access the 7th grade standards-by-standard product line here.
If you are going through this “Breaking Down the ELA Standards” process and have any questions, please feel free to email me. I am always up for helping get this process going because I know there is much value in it.
Happy ELA Standard Diving!