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Common Core Standards Instructional Shifts

Although the Common Core Standards don’t dictate curriculum, changes in expectations for what students need to know and be able to do call for changes in the ways various skills and concepts are taught. The nature of the organization and structure of the Common Core Standards actually opens the door to a few key instructional shifts that you may notice as your child moves from grade to grade.

Student Achievement Partners, an organization founded by some of the lead writers of the Common Core Standards, has identified several key instructional shifts in both math and ELA.

Instructional shifts in math

Instructional shifts in math center on improving essential skills, deepening understanding of concepts, and making math relevant to real-world situations:

  • Focusing on essential skills and concepts: The Common Core Standards are designed to be a more rigorous set of standards that allow for greater understanding because students focus on fewer skills and concepts but explore those skills and concepts at a deeper level.

  • Creating a clearer sense of structure: The progression of skills from one grade to the next is apparent when you dig into the standards. This ensures that what a student learns in one grade will be used and built upon in the next grade.

  • Infusing rigor into practice and application: Math isn’t just about learning formulas and practicing procedures. To help students connect the dots between the theoretical and practical sides of math, the math standards include criteria that develop students’ understanding of key concepts, related procedures, and areas where they can apply content to real-life situations.

Instructional shifts in English language arts and literacy

Instructional shifts for English and literacy-based subjects raise the bar for students by challenging them to read and understand more complex texts, build vocabulary, and extract details from texts to use as supporting material in essays and other written work:

  • Emphasizing important nonfiction writings: More nonfiction and informational texts are used and are a point of emphasis in classes such as science and social studies. Literature (such as classic short stories, novels, poems, and plays) is still an important part of English and reading classes, but nonfiction plays an important role as students prepare to read texts of similar complexity to those they will encounter after high school.

  • Citing evidence from fiction and nonfiction texts: An emphasis on citing evidence from texts requires readers to pay close attention to details and supporting statements. Building readers who are accountable to the text and the details within the text is a key component of these standards and also makes for more effective writers.

  • Reading complex texts and building vocabulary: Increasing reading comprehension and literacy skills requires consistent practice reading texts that are appropriately complex for the student’s reading level. Vocabulary also plays a central role in this process, as a reader’s ability to discern the meaning of words is a critical part of understanding a text and writing effectively when using complex texts as resources.

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