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Evaluating Instructional Materials Through the Lens of the Common Core State Standards. Session Goals. Gain a deeper understanding of the ELA CCSS and the shifts they require Examine criteria used to evaluate instructional materials effectively

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evaluating instructional materials through the lens of the common core state standards
Evaluating Instructional

Materials Through the Lens

of the

Common Core State Standards

session goals
Session Goals
  • Gain a deeper understanding of the ELA CCSS and the shifts they require
  • Examine criteria used to evaluate instructional materials effectively
  • Prepare to facilitate the evaluation and selection of instructional materials aligned to the CCSS
let s get started
Let’s get started…

If you were designing instructional materials aligned to the Common Core State Standards, what would they include?

How would they look different from the materials used today?

shifts found in the ela ccss
Shifts found in the ELA CCSS

1. Building knowledge through content-rich nonfiction

2. Reading, writing, and speaking grounded in evidence from text, both literary and informational

3. Regular practice with complex text and its academic language



text complexity
Text Complexity
  • Aligns with grade by grade complexity requirements outlined in the standards
  • Gives all students access to and support with grade-level complex text
  • Includes shorter, challenging texts
  • Includes novels, plays, and other full-length readings
  • Increases regular independent reading
features of complex text
Features of Complex Text
  • Subtle and/or frequent transitions
  • Multiple and/or subtle themes and purposes
  • Density of information
  • Lack of repetition, overlap or similarity in words and sentences
  • Complex sentences
  • Uncommon vocabulary
  • Lack of words, sentences, or paragraphs that review or pull things together for the student
  • Longer paragraphs
  • Any text structure which is less narrative and/or mixes structures
range and quality of texts
Range and Quality of Texts
  • In grades 3-5, language arts programs most often include equal amounts of literary and informational texts across the school day.
  • In grades 6-12, programs include substantially more informational text including literary nonfiction across the school day.

(55/45 in grades 6-8; 70/30 in grades 9-12)

  • The quality of the texts should be high.
  • Specific types of texts included in the standards are available.
  • Specific anchor texts are selected for especially careful reading.
text complexity activity
Text Complexity Activity
  • Read the text.
  • Using the bulleted list, determine the complexity of the text.
  • Provide textual evidence to support your claim.


video clip
Video Clip


high quality text dependent questions and tasks
High-Quality Text-Dependent Questions and Tasks
  • A significant portion of the tasks and questions are text-dependent.
  • High-quality sequences of text-dependent questions elicit sustained attention to the specifics of the text and their impact.
  • Questions and tasks require the use of textual evidence.
  • Instructional design cultivates student interest and engagement in reading rich texts carefully.
  • Materials provide opportunities to build knowledge through texts.
  • Questions and tasks attend to analyzing the arguments and information central to informational text.
non examples and examples
Non-Examples and Examples

Not Text Dependent

Text Dependent

What makes Casey’s experiences at bat humorous?

What can you infer from King’s letter about the letter he received?

“The Gettysburg Address” mentions the year 1776. According to Lincoln’s speech, why is this year significant to the events described in the speech?

In “Casey at the Bat,” Casey strikes out. Describe a time when you failed at something.

In “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” Dr. King discusses nonviolent protest. Discuss, in writing, a time when you wanted to fight against something that you felt was unfair.

In “The Gettysburg Address” Lincoln says the nation is dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Why is equality an important value to promote?

text dependent or not
Text-Dependent or Not?

1. Take the entire first paragraph and restate it as a short sentence that tells what the news was.

2. The speaker says “Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice between fellow human beings.” What had he been involved in and done that made him so famous?

3. The speaker offered a choice to the audience between greater polarization or understanding, compassion and love. Based on the word itself and its context (in paragraph 3), what does “polarization” mean?

  • Text-dependent. This is a good practice that compels readers to take account of any complex chunk of text. It also serves to signal to the teacher if students are understanding.
  • Not text-dependent. A reader would need to tap into background knowledge to know this information and respond successfully. This is a VERY common type of question!
  • Text-specific and dependent. Pushes readers to practice standard 4, assessing the meaning of vocabulary from its context.
text dependent or not text dependent
Text-Dependent or Not Text-Dependent?

4. “I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man.” Is there anything odd about this sentence? What race do you think the person was who was talking? Explain your thinking by referring to evidence in the speech.

5. Who was the speaker’s famous brother who was killed?

6. Why was Robert Kennedy giving a speech that night in 1968 when King was assassinated?

4. Text-dependent and specific. You want the students to notice the seeming non-sequitur, which, after the information that King’s killer was white and anger was deserved because of that fact, becomes a clue. This is a challenging question that focuses students sharply on author’s choices.

5. Not text-dependent. You would have to just know this from elsewhere.

6. Not text-dependent. But does this question matter? Many adults would think it does. This needs to be carefully considered.



academic vocabulary
Academic Vocabulary
  • Academic language is vocabulary plus syntax. More complex text contains fewer common words and longer sentences.
  • Present across content areas (in contrast to domain-specific words)
three tiers of words
Three Tiers of Words
  • Tier 3 – Highly specialized, subject-specific; low occurrences in texts; lacking generalization
    • E.g., oligarchy, euphemism, hydraulic, neurotransmitters
  • Tier 2 –Abstract, general academic (across content areas); encountered in written language; high utility across instructional areas
    • E.g., principle, relative, innovation, function, potential, style
  • Tier 1 – Basic, concrete, encountered in conversation/ oral vocabulary; words most student will know at a particular grade level
    • E.g., injury, apologize, education, serious, nation
engagement select tier 2 words
Engagement – Select Tier 2 Words
  • The word is central to understanding the text.
  • The word choice and nuance are significant.
  • Students are likely to see this word frequently.
  • Students will be able to use this word when writing in response to the text.
  • It is a more mature or precise label for concepts students already have under control.
  • The word lends itself to teaching a web of words and concepts around it.
text selections
Text Selections
  • Steinbeck, John. Travels with Charley: In Search of America. New York: Penguin, 1997. (1962) From pages 27–28
  • Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451. New York: Ballantine, 1987. (1953) From Part 1: “The Hearth and the Salamander”
time to reflect
Time to Reflect…
  • What are our current practices regarding vocabulary instruction?
  • Are those practices aligned to the requirements of the CCSS?
  • Do our current practices support college and career readiness for all students?
  • Do they support access to complex text?
  • Do they support English language learners with vocabulary acquisition through complex text?
key criteria for writing to sources and research
Key Criteria for Writing to Sources and Research

Materials portray writing to sources as key tasks.

Materials focus on argumentative as well as explanatory/informational writing.

In elementary school - 30% argumentative writing 35% explanatory/informational writing 35% narrative writing

In middle school - 35% argumentative writing 35% explanatory/informational writing 30% narrative writing

In high school - 40% argumentative writing 40% explanatory/informational writing 20% narrative writing

key criteria for writing to sources and research1
Key Criteria for Writing to Sources and Research

Materials make it clear that student writing should be responsive to the needs of the audience and the particulars of the text in question.

Students are given extensive practice with short, focused research projects.

persuasion vs argumentation
Persuasion vs. Argumentation


  • Appeals to character or credentials of the writer
  • Appeals to audience’s self-interest or emotion
  • Can be based on personal opinion untethered to evidence


  • Convince because of perceived merit and reasonableness of the claims and proof
  • Supports claims with sound reasoning
  • Demands relevant, sufficient evidence, statistics, or definitions for support
  • Something far beyond surface knowledge is required
old mode of writing prompts called persuasive writing
Old Mode of Writing Prompts Called “Persuasive” Writing
  • Stand-alone prompts (not passage-based) that ask students to use real or imagined examples to support their position on the topic
  • Sample persuasive writing prompt

“Write a persuasive letter to your principal to convince her that mandating school uniforms is either a good or bad idea.”

ccss mode of argumentative writing
CCSS Mode of Argumentative Writing:

Draws evidence from a text in one of three ways:

  • Students are provided with several texts that have evidence for one or both sides of an issue and are asked to make a claim about the issue using evidence from the texts.
  • Students are provided with a text(s) that makes a claim, and are then asked to argue whether the claim is well-supported by evidence in the text(s).
  • Students are provided with a text, asked to make a claim about some aspect of it, and support the claim with evidence.
which prompt demands writing to sources
Which prompt demands writing to sources?

1. After delivering the news of MLK’s death, Kennedy gives several reasons why the audience should choose peace and understanding in the face of violence against MLK. Write an essay in which you tell about an experience in which you or someone you know was faced with a similar challenge between choosing revenge or choosing compassion. Include reasons to justify the choices that were made.

2.After delivering the news of MLK’s death, Kennedy asks his audience to dedicate themselves “to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.” Write an essay in which you argue whether or not you feel that is the right choice for those listening to him to make given the circumstances. Include reasons to support your argument.

3. After delivering the news of MLK’s death, Kennedy asks his audience to dedicate themselves “to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world”? Write an essay in which you explain what this phrase means and how the argument in his speech arrives at this conclusion.

When evaluating a writing prompt (for any type of writing) for alignment to the CCSS consider the following:
  • Is the question worth asking?
  • Does the prompt ask students to include evidence from the text in their response?
  • Does the prompt provide clear guidance to students?
  • Does the prompt use the language of the standards where appropriate?
  • Does the prompt provide students with the criteria upon which they will be scored?
assessment using performance tasks
Assessment UsingPerformance Tasks

What it is…

  • Uses authentic texts and tasks
  • Requires close reading
  • Requires synthesis of multiple texts in a variety of formats
  • Requires citing relevant textual evidence
  • Cross-curricular

What it’s not…

  • Simple recall
  • Multiple choice
  • Fill in the blank
  • Skimming the text
what s in and what s out
What’s In and What’s Out?
  • Daily encounters w/complex texts
  • Texts worthy of close attention
  • Balance of literary and informational texts
  • Coherent sequences of texts
  • Mostly text-dependent questions
  • Mainly evidence-based analyses
  • Accent on academic vocabulary
  • Emphasis on reading and re-reading
  • Reading strategies (as means)
  • Reading foundations (central and integrated)
  • Leveled texts (only)
  • Reading any ‘ole text
  • Solely literature
  • Collections of unrelated texts
  • Mostly text-to-self questions
  • Mainly writing without sources
  • Accent on literary terminology
  • Emphasis on pre-reading
  • Reading strategies (as end goal)
  • Reading foundations (peripheral and detached)
putting it all together

Putting It All Together

The five strands of ELA– reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language – are meant to be woven together. This is true for instructional materials as well as for curriculum mapping.

All three shifts are meant to be in play at once.

There is no either/or here. Quality materials need all of this.

Be wary of materials and approaches that seek to segregate the standards.

it all boils down to

It all boils down to. . .

Texts worth reading and questions worth answering!

post it charts
Post It Charts
  • Text Complexity
  • Text Dependent Questions
  • Writing to Sources and Research
time to reflect1
Time to reflect…

What practices and materials are currently in place in our instructional settings to support all students in accessing appropriately complex text?

Where do we have needs (materials, PD, assessment tools)?

time to reflect2
Time to Reflect…

Do the current reading selections used in our instructional settings align to the expectations of the CCSS?

Who is engaged in conversations about text selection in our district? Is it really about text selection or standards?

How are content area teachers engaged?

contact information
Contact Information

Cathy Jones Stork

Office of Instructional Practices and Evaluations

[email protected]

(803) 734-0790

Caravan Registration:

www.mysctextbooks.com – “What’s New”