What Does It Mean To Teach The Standards?


Find out how this middle school ELA Teacher gets to the nuts & bolts of the Reading Standards!

As a person who has now been teaching for 27 years, I can look back and see the evolution of instructional practice.  Can you believe that when I first began teaching there were no standards?  Not even standardized tests!  When I asked for something akin to standards, the Assistant Principal gave me a kind of curriculum guide with some suggested pacing.  That's it!  Talk about a pendulum swing to now!

But no matter if you have been teaching for a little or a long while, sometimes teaching the standards still isn't exactly clear.  One might think that if they talk about the main idea when going over a text that they have "taught" the standard.  But actually, this isn't the case.

To teach a standard, the teacher must deconstruct the standard and teach students the steps to using the standard.

So let's take that main idea standard from the common core reading anchor: "Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development;  summarize the key supporting details and ideas."

To get to the heart of the matter, I ask myself questions to define key terms and to decide on the steps that should be taken to achieve the desired result of the standard.

The questions I ask myself are:

1. What does it mean to "determine" the theme?  What are the steps?

2.  What does development mean?

3. What does it mean for a theme to develop?  How does one trace that?  What are the steps?

4. What does it mean to summarize? What are the steps?

5.  How does one find supporting details?  How does one use that in a summary?  What are the steps?

This may seem like a lot to remember, so I put this all together into a FREE checklist for Deconstructing the Standards:

In the end, when I can answer the questions in ways that I can share with students, then I know I am preparing to teach the standard.  I will most definitely use a text, but I will do much more than just talk about the theme.  I will give students a plan for determining the theme, kind of like a recipe that we will keep in our notes.  I will do the same for tracing development (although I like to do that when I focus on character development because it makes this topic easier to grasp).  And I will explicitly show students how to find supporting details and how to write that summary when we shift the focus to the non-fiction portion of the standard (central idea). 

If you're thinking that all of this deconstruction takes a lot of time, you'd be right. I've spent a considerable amount of time breaking down the first 8 Reading Anchor standards and creating vocabulary, notes, practice materials and assessments to match.  

You can try the Theme Unit for free!  You'll find it in my FREE Resource Library.

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This anchor chart shows how I broke down my middle school reading standard to teach students how to USE theme to analyze a text.  Get a free guide in this post!

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