The Major Literacy Changes in the Common Core

30 Aug

Earlier in August, I posted the article:  9 ways the Common Core will change classroom practices but in looking for ways to support my teachers’ understanding from a literacy standpoint, I’d like to share this list of major literacy changes in the Common Core as we jump into the new school year. This list is based off of the Six Shifts from the people at Engage NY and compiled by Wake County Public Schools Literacy Department and friends.

1. Balancing informational and literary texts with students reading an equal amount-50%- from each.

2. Grades 6-12-Building knowledge in the disciplines. While primarily a 6-12 shift, elementary teachers should consider how students are taught to read and comprehend in all the core content areas.

3. Staircase of Complexity – This is a big shift for elementary teachers because they are going to have to balance the need to move students to read grade level texts while also providing opportunities for students to read independently in appropriate level texts. Teachers must model using the complex texts and support students in gaining access to these texts. However, they must not shift to just grade level texts because if we want to build lifelong readers, students must have opportunities in to read in texts at their level.

4. Text-based answers – This shift focuses on drawing the student’s attention to the text read to support the answers to their questions. It is about thinking more deeply about text and using the text to affirm their answers.

5.Writing from sources – While narrative writing is still present in the standards, there is a shift to more informational/explanatory and opinion writing. Based on the work expectations in college and career, students need to be able to write based on sources such as texts, research, and presentations. Beginning in Kindergarten, students will write about their opinions (a favorite book, friend, or toy) as well as create informational or how-to texts.

6. Academic vocabulary – Since the standards span grades K-12, the introduction of academic vocabulary is critical to student success. Students need to learn the vocabulary of the content area so that they can build their skills in each subject. Teachers must teach and use the correct terms, such as main idea, theme, plot, noun, or verb, to support their students in this work.

What will the new State assessment measure in reading?

The distribution of questions across the standards is below:


Grade 3

Grade 4

Grade 5

Reading for Literature




Reading for Information




Reading Foundational Skills








Speaking and Listening












Keep in mind, the Language Strand is new in the Common Core and the expectation is that questions for this strand will focus on vocabulary and conventions usage in authentic text. For example, a question may be, Why did the author choose this “word” in paragraph 4?, or what is the best meaning for the “word” in paragraph 5? DPI is expected to release some sample items after the field testing of the new text, to help schools move forward.


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