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…
Question
Question
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.

It’s Monday, It’s ELA Common Core Day! Today’s Tip: Unwrapping the Standards Step 3 and Looking at the whole picture.

It’s Monday, It’s ELA Common Core Day! Today is a continuation of last week’s look at Ainsworth’s (2003) work in unwrapping the standards, where we focused on Steps 1 and 2 (out of 5). Today’s tip is  Unwrapping the Standards Step 3.  We also want to take a moment and look at the whole picture.  Ainsworth’s whole 5-step process is a very good way to get to know the Common Core Standards, so next Monday, we will continue with Step 4 and then Step 5 the following Monday, but today we are focusing on Step 3 – Determine the Big Ideas.

Step 3 – Determine the Big Ideas… What do they need to already know?  What type of literacy skills will they need to use? Is this important for my students to learn?
Need to Know
Skills to Use
How will this help my students?





First, here are the standards.  Then look below for our focus discussion:

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.

Take a moment to think about what your students will “need to know” to do this…   what “skills will they need to use?”  and always, the bottom line is “how will this help my students?” Ask yourselves the questions that are pertinent to your grade level, your students’ levels and the needs of your group… For example:

What do they need to know?
  • Do they need to know what retell or recount means?
  • Do they need to know how a folktale is organized?
What skills will they need to use?
  • Do they need to be able to retell or recount?
  • Do they need to be able to listen to a story, to use their listening comprehension skills?
  • Do they need to know the difference between major details and insignificant ones?
How will this help my students?
  • Will this help them during your instructional time?   
  • How?
  • How will retelling, recounting, determining theme, identifying major details help them with their achievement in reading?

And finally, let’s look at the whole picture… go back and look at how the standard builds from one grade to another, look at the Kindergarten one, and the first grade, and second grade, all the way to sixth grade or above.  It is important to see where our students are going, not just having tunnel vision looking at our current grade only.  We can see how the learning is layered.  We will look at this whole picture more in-depth in a future post, with another standard.

“ ‘Unwrapping’ the academic content standards is a proven technique to help educators identify from the full text of the standards exactly what they need to teach their students.  Unwrapped standards provide clarity as to what students must know and be able to do.  When teachers take the time to analyze each standard and identify its essential concepts and skills, the result is more effective instructional planning, assessment, and student learning  (Ainsworth, L., 2003).

Until next time, share a strategy!

Dr. Denise Gudwin 

It’s Monday, It’s ELA Common Core Day! Today’s Topic: Unwrapping the Standards – Beginning with Steps 1 and 2

Ainsworth gives us 5 steps to follow when Unwrapping the Standards. Today we will look at Step 1 – Code It, and Step 2 – Unwrap It, with one sample standard. Next Monday, we will dive into Step 3 – Determine the Big Ideas..  The whole 5-step process is a very good way to get to know the Common Core Standards. (Steps 3-5 are my favorites, but let’s start with #1 and #2.)

Step 1 is easy.  All you do is Code It! – Highlight or underline the verbs and then highlight or circle the nouns.  It’s just a way to start the whole unwrapping process. After you do that, complete Step 2 – Unwrap It!  Identify the concepts and skills in the standard, to determine what students need to understand and do… You may want to rewrite them separately, to help them stand out.  (For example, one of the standards below has as many as 7 separate concepts and skills embedded in it – read your grade level(s) and identify each concept and skill in your standard.)

Choose your grade group(s):

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.

Enjoy getting to know this one standard. This is just the beginning of the 5 Step Process. Next Monday, we will dive into it a little deeper. 

Until next time, share a strategy!
Dr. Denise Gudwin