What is ELA?
When you are studying the ELA Common Core Standards, there is a lot to take in. It can be overwhelming to think about them all at once. The ELA Common Core Standards have six domains to cover, each with its own set of skills and standards to focus on. However, once you get to know your standards, it is easier to think of them as parts of a whole that all work together. The six domains within the Common Core ELA standards can seemingly intertwine and build upon one another. So, today, we will be taking a closer look at the ELA Common Core Standards.
Know Your Terminology
When you are first studying the ELA Common Core Standards, you will need to know the terminology. Firstly, you need to know the strands, which are also called domains. If you think about all of English Language Arts being broken into six “sections” or parts, these would be those domains/strands. The domains of ELA Standards are: Reading Literature, Reading Informational, Reading Foundations, Writing, Language, and Speaking & Listening.
Secondly, each domain has clusters of standards that contain skills that go together. For example, within the Reading Literature domain, there are three clusters of standards: Key Ideas and Details, Craft and Structure, and Integration of Knowledge and Ideas. In the picture above, you can see that these 2nd Grade ELA Standards are under the Reading Literature Domain. In the brackets, you can see the Craft and Structure cluster which has three standards that focus on craft and structure skills.
- Domain/Strand: The Type of ELA Skill
- Cluster: The Type of Domain Skill
- Standard: The Skill
The Importance of Spiraling
Once you understand the components of your standards, it is time to think about how to teach them. The ELA Common Core Standards are presented in an ascending level of difficulty. Moving from “asking and answering questions” to “integrating information from two texts.” But, this doesn’t mean that you have to teach the standards exclusively in order. I would highly recommend spiraling your skills throughout the year so that students can build experience and continued practice.
Additionally, the standards are vertically aligned. This means that if you look from one grade level to the next, the standards clearly build upon the previous year’s standards. From Kindergarten to Fifth grade, each RL.1 standard regards “asking and answering questions.” This makes it easier to understand what your kids know coming into your grade and what they should know leaving your grade!
Common Core’s Focus on Rigorous Texts
The skills and standards of CCSS also focus on reading high-quality texts. Subsequently, when you are planning to teach your ELA Standards, you will want to be intentional about the texts you choose as read alouds, small group texts, independent and buddy reading, etc. Students will need experience with a range of texts that allow them to apply and practice the specific skills. Text complexity can vary throughout the text collections but will need to have quality structure and vocabulary. In addition, there will need to be a variety of text levels that offer students reading fluency and challenge their reading foundational skills.
Text Collections for Standards:
- Read Alouds & Mentor Texts (Mini-Lessons & Modeling)
- On or Above-Level
- Skill-Specific Structure/Storyline (Will allow the teacher to model standard and skill practice).
- Independent Texts (Good Fit Book Bin or Independent Reading Time)
- 2-3 On-Level Texts for Fluency Practice
- 2-3 Skill-Specific Texts(Will allow the student to apply the skill).
- Focus-Specific (Specific to each small group’s skill focus).
Speaking of Reading: Expect Half Informational and Half Literature
Another thing to think about when you are building your text collections is text type. Ideally, you will want to have an even split, 50% fiction and 50% informational. However, in younger grades, as students are still building their foundational skills, students will likely see more fiction texts than informational. Many times informational texts are more difficult to read. They are structurally different and have more domain-specific vocabulary, meaning it is harder to decode. Keep this in mind, knowing that you will want to build to a more equal split between the two.
What About Writing?
When studying ELA Common Core Standards for writing, you will see that there are four clusters of standards, each structured a bit differently. In each grade level, there will be a “Text Types and Purposes” cluster listed first. This section of standards includes each of the three writing types (Opinion, Narrative and Informative) and the sub-standards that are required to produce those text types.
Next, there is a cluster for, “Production and Distribution of Writing.” These standards will focus on skills that help students produce and publish their writing. Any writing process skills, like revising and editing, will fall under this cluster. Revision and editing skills are applicable to all three types of writing, so you can see why this would fall under those standards.
Third, is a cluster titled, “Research to Build and Present Knowledge.” This is a collection of standards that have to do with collecting information to use in writing. And, finally, there is always a standard for “Range of Writing.” The main focus of the range of writing standard is to allow students a variety of opportunities to write. Students will need to be writing across content areas, time frames, tasks, purposes, and audiences.
Similar to the Reading standards, the writing standards are vertically aligned.
A Focus on Strong Language, Speaking & Listening, and Foundational Skills
Now, we can’t forget about the other domains! Language, Reading Foundations and Speaking and Listening are the other skills that you need to work into your ELA block. With Language, the standards build in each grade. Primary grades will focus on grammar conventions and foundational skills. The convention standards will build slowly but need spiraling throughout the years, even into the next grade. Speaking and Listening skills can be spread throughout your content areas, applying them from arrival to dismissal!
The best tool for you when trying to get these other domains to fit into your ELA block is going to be a pacing guide. It is easy to let these domains slip through the cracks if you aren’t intentional about their placement.
Action Steps for You
When I am studying the ELA Common Core standards, what should I do? Here are 5 actionable steps that you can take to better understand your ELA content!
- Deconstruct standards in all domains (This can be done over a summer break OR each week prior to teaching your units.) [Blog post coming soon!]
- Pace out your year to fit in each standard
- Find rigorous texts
- Ensure you have a solid range of texts
- Rework your ELA block to fit all six domains
Want a free pacing guide already made for you?
If you want a free ready-made ELA Pacing Guide for your grade level, look no further! These grade-specific ELA Pacing Guides cover every single CCSS ELA Standard. This guide will help you map out how to teach every RL, RI, Writing, Fluency, RF, and Speaking and Listening skill. Take the work out planning your ELA block! Get your free pacing guide by signing up for my email list. Click the button below and your pacing guide will be sent directly to your inbox!