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English Language Arts Blog

The home of Vocab Gal and other educational experts K–12 resources

September 22, 2016 CL Teaching Strategies Pro Reads, ELA PD - Literacy, ELA K-5, ELA Focus - Reading, ELA Resources - Assessment, Core Literacy

How to Successfully Select CCSS Literacy Strands to Focus On

It can be overwhelming trying to figure out which Common Core State Standard literacy strands your students need the most work with. There are so many different places to pull data from: state tests, your district's tests, your school's test, and then your district or school might have a variety of screening materials they have purchased from various education companies. With all these possible data sources you might not know where to begin...


Today I wanted to expand on the topic I wrote about last week in my article, Focus on a Strand; Describing Characters in a Story (RL.3.3). Even with the extensive data teachers may have at their disposal, before choosing a strand to focus on, educators need to know about their students

Before selecting literacy strands to focus on, I use my own assessments to test exactly what I want and need to know about my students.

How to Choose Language Arts Strands Using a Simple Assessment

I try to keep this pretty simple. First, I select a short reading text appropriate for the grade level I am testing. I like the text to have a clear problem and solution. I then use the CCSS as my guide. Here are some sample questions I would ask, focusing on the 'Key Ideas and Details' section of the CCSS:

RL 3.1 What was the problem in the story? How was it solved? Use specific details from the text in your answer.

RL 3.2 What is a possible lesson that can be learned from this text? Explain.

RL 3.3 Describe a character in the text and explain how his or her actions contributed to the sequence of events.

RL 4.1 What did the main character do to solve the problem? What lesson do you think the main character learned in the story?

RL 4.2 Summarize the story.

RL 4.3 Which event was most important in the story? Use specific details from the text to explain why.

RL 5.1 Describe one of the characters in the story using a quote from the text to support your thinking.

RL 5.2 Explain in detail the theme of the text.

RL 5.3 Compare and contrast this story with another story. Explain how they are alike AND different.

As you can see I used the CCSS to create questions that would work with most short stories containing a problem and solution. What I have available for you to download are each of these questions in the form of an assessment. All you need to do is pick the story you would like your students to use with these assessment questions. I like to give pre & post assessments using the same questions, but with two different texts (one text for the pre assessment & another text for the post assessment). I also use these questions as an assessment after a novel study.



What I Learned from a Simple Pre-Assessment

After I gave the pre-assessment above to my third grade students last year, I noticed they needed to work on CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.3.3

Describe characters in a story (e.g., their traits, motivations, or feelings) and explain how their actions contribute to the sequence of events.

With this information, I was able to confidently choose reading strands to focus on with my students. From there, I was able to craft activities, worksheets, and lesson plans that would support my students in learning how to successfully describe characters in a story.

In conclusion, teachers should pair all of the data and resources they recieve from their school/district with their own simple assessments! Download my Key Ideas and Details Assessment and use it to assess which CCSS literacy strands your students may need to practice.