in English Language Arts
The Common Core State
Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy build on the best of existing
standards and reflect the skills and knowledge students will need to succeed in
college, career, and life. Understanding how the standards differ from previous
standards—and the necessary shifts they call for—is essential to implementing
the standards well.
The following are key
shifts called for by the Common Core:
Regular practice with complex texts
and their academic language
than focusing solely on the skills of reading and writing, the ELA/literacy
standards highlight the growing complexity of the texts students must read to
be ready for the demands of college, career, and life. The standards call for a
staircase of increasing complexity so that all students are ready for the
demands of college- and career-level reading no later than the end of high
school. The standards also outline a progressive development of reading
comprehension so that students advancing through the grades are able to gain
more from what they read.
related to text complexity and inextricably connected to reading comprehension
is a focus on academic vocabulary: words that appear in a variety of content
areas (such as ignite and commit). The standards call for
students to grow their vocabularies through a mix of conversation, direct
instruction, and reading. They ask students to determine word meanings,
appreciate the nuances of words, and steadily expand their range of words and
phrases. Vocabulary and conventions are treated in their own strand not because
skills in these areas should be handled in isolation, but because their use
extends across reading, writing, speaking, and listening.
the standards are the roadmap for successful classrooms, and recognizing that
teachers, school districts, and states need to decide on the journey to the
destination, they intentionally do not include a required reading list.
Instead, they include numerous sample texts to help teachers prepare for the
school year and allow parents and students to know what to expect during the
standards include certain critical types of content for all students, including
classic myths and stories from around the world, foundational U.S. documents,
seminal works of American literature, and the writings of Shakespeare. The
standards appropriately defer the majority of decisions about what and how to
teach to states, districts, schools, and teachers.
Reading, writing, and speaking grounded
in evidence from texts, both literary and informational
Common Core emphasizes using evidence from texts to present careful analyses,
well-defended claims, and clear information. Rather than asking students
questions they can answer solely from their prior knowledge and experience, the
standards call for students to answer questions that depend on their having
read the texts with care.
reading standards focus on students’ ability to read carefully and grasp
information, arguments, ideas, and details based on evidence in the text.
Students should be able to answer a range of text-dependent questions,
whose answers require inferences based on careful attention to the text.
forms of writing in K–12 have drawn heavily from student experience and
opinion, which alone will not prepare students for the demands of college,
career, and life. Though the standards still expect narrative writing
throughout the grades, they also expect a command of sequence and detail that
are essential for effective argumentative and informative writing. The
standards’ focus on evidence-based writing along with the ability to inform and
persuade is a significant shift from current practice.
Building knowledge through
must be immersed in information about the world around them if they are to
develop the strong general knowledge and vocabulary they need to become
successful readers and be prepared for college, career, and life. Informational
texts play an important part in building students’ content knowledge. Further,
it is vital for students to have extensive opportunities to build knowledge
through texts so they can learn independently.
K-5, fulfilling the standards requires a 50-50 balance between informational
and literary reading. Informational reading includes content-rich nonfiction in
history/social studies, sciences, technical studies, and the arts. The K-5
standards strongly recommend that texts—both within and across grades—be
selected to support students in systematically developing knowledge about the
grades 6-12, there is much greater attention on the specific category of
literary nonfiction, which is a shift from traditional standards. To be clear,
the standards pay substantial attention to literature throughout K-12, as it
constitutes half of the reading in K-5 and is the core of the work of 6-12 ELA
teachers. Also in grades 6-12, the standards for literacy in history/social
studies, science, and technical subjects ensure that students can independently
build knowledge in these disciplines through reading and writing. Reading,
writing, speaking, and listening should span the school day from K-12 as
integral parts of every subject.