It’s Monday, It’s ELA Common Core Day! Today’s Tip: Step 4 of Unwrapping the Standards – Essential Questions

It’s Monday, It’s ELA Common Core Day! Today is a continuation of our look at Ainsworth’s (2003) work in unwrapping the standards, where we’ve focused on Steps 1, 2, and 3 (out of 5). Today’s tip is Unwrapping the Standards Step 4.   Next Monday, we will continue with Step 5 and then another look at the whole picture, looking at another standard… Today’s focus, Step 4 – Essential Questions.
Step 4 – Write at least one essential question derived from the unwrapped standard and the big idea. (steps from previous Monday posts)  Engage your students in the process and take them beyond the basic who, what, when, where, I liked it because…  (Ainsworth)
Before we jump into our topic, let’s look at a few examples of Essential Questions for possible themes/grades (Source: Common Core Curriculum Maps: English Language Arts, Grades K-5. Written by teachers, for Teachers. Jossey-Bass):
Kindergarten – How are the beginning, the middle, and the end of a story different from each other? (p. 13)
1st Grade – What can versions of the same story teach us about different cultures? (p. 107)
2nd Grade – Why should we support out opinions with reasons? (p. 167)
3rd Grade – Why do we hand stories down to the next generation?
(p. 209)
4th Grade – How does the author’s use of setting affect the plot of a story? (p. 281)
5th Grade – How does literature provide insight into a culture? (p. 361)
Secondary – How does learning history through literature differ from learning through informational text? (p. xvii)
Write one or two essential questions for a unit of study…
Kindergarten Teachers: 
Standard RL.K.2: With prompting and support, retell familiar stories, including key details.
1st Grade Teachers:
Standard RL.1.2: Grade 1 students will retell stories, including key details, and demonstrate understanding of their central message or lesson.
2nd Grade Teachers:
Standard RL.2.2: Grade 2 students will recount stories, including fable and folktales from diverse cultures, and determine their central message, lesson, or moral.
3rd Grade Teachers:
Standard RL.3.2: Grade 3 students will recount stories, including fables, folktales, and myths from diverse cultures; determine the central message, lesson, or moral and explain how it is conveyed through key details in the text.
4th Grade Teachers:
Standard RL.4.2: Grade 4 students will determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text; summarize the text.
5th Grade Teachers:
Standard RL.5.2: Grade 5 students will determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic; summarize the text.
6th Grade Teachers:
Standard RL.6.2: Grade 6 students will determine a theme or central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments.
Essential Questions… Take a moment to think about the relevance, usefulness, and benefit of teaching a particular unit.  You may think of it as the “so what” of the content covered… By the end of the unit, the students should be able to answer the essential question(s) with one of more possible answers.  

This reflective questioning helps us pave the way for increasing academic achievement.
Until next time, share a strategy!

Denise Gudwin, Ph.D.

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