Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences and relevant connections from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

NJSLSA.R1.

Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

NJSLSA.R2.

Analyze how and why individuals, events, and ideas develop and interact over the course of a text

NJSLSA.R3.

For all intents and purposes, the New Jersey Student Learning Standards and what is already established by the Common Core are one and the same, as states may only modify up to 15 percent of the standards. The state has increased the rigour of certain standards, provided explicit encouragement of scaffolding in others, and given greater freedom of texts for districts and classroom teachers.

The first set of standards I’ll be unpacking focus on key ideas and details. These standards will be the primary driver of most teachers’ instruction at the secondary level, as the majority of question stems tend to focus on these. If you look at the question banks that most teacher use, whether they are self-made, taken from textbook and curriculum guides, or modelled after the PARCC/Smarter Balanced tests, you’ll notice that the majority of questions will fall under one of these three reading standards.

 

Anchor Standards: Key Ideas and Details

What I have listed are known as anchor standards. They are broad standards that define what students should understand and be able to do by the end of each grade. The wording is done to give districts and teachers great latitude in content and practice, all whilst ensuring rigour and focus on college and career readiness.

The state of New Jersey has mostly taken the Common Core Standards verbatim, except for the first anchor standard. New Jersey specifically added the phrase, ‘relevant connections‘, emphasising students’ use of multiple texts and their prior knowledge.

Each anchor standard is also matched with what New Jersey calls Progress Indicators, which provide additional specificity, that together with the anchor standards define the skills and understandings that all students must demonstrate. The Progress Indicators are broken down in two further categories: Literary Text and Informational Text, which are also split further into grade level standards.

Progression of Standards:

Anchor:

Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences and relevant connections from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

NJSLSA.R1.

Literary 9-10

Cite strong and thorough textual evidence and make relevant connections to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferentially, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.

RL.9-10.1.

Literary 11-12

Cite strong and thorough textual evidence and make relevant connections to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.

RL.11-12.1.

Informational 9-10

Accurately cite strong and thorough textual evidence, (e.g., via discussion, written response, etc.) and make relevant connections, to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferentially, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain

RI.9-10.1.

Informational 11-12

Accurately cite strong and thorough textual evidence, (e.g., via discussion, written response, etc.), to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferentially, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.

RI.11-12.1.

Anchor:

Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

NJSLSA.R2.

Literary 9-10

Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details and provide an objective summary of the text.

RL.9-10.2.

Literary 11-12

Determine two or more themes or central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to produce a complex account; provide an objective summary of the text.

RL.11-12.2.

Informational 9-10

Cite strong and thorough textual evidence and make relevant connections to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.

RL.11-12.1.

Informational 11-12

Determine two or more central ideas of a text, and analyze their development and how they interact to provide a complex analysis; provide an objective summary of the text.

RI.11-12.2.

Anchor:

Analyze how and why individuals, events, and ideas develop and interact over the course of a text

NJSLSA.R3.

Literary 9-10

Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme

RL.9-10.3.

Literary 11-12

Analyze the impact of the author’s choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a story or drama (e.g., where a story is set, how the action is ordered, how the characters are introduced and developed).

RL.11-12.3.

Informational 9-10

Analyze how the author unfolds an analysis or series of ideas or events, including the order in which the points are made, how they are introduced and developed, and the connections that are drawn between them.

RI.9-10.3.

Informational 11-12

Analyze a complex set of ideas or sequence of events and explain how specific individuals, ideas, or events interact and develop over the course of the text

RI.11-12.3.

Trends

One main takeaway is that while the anchor standards are the same for all grade levels, there is progressive rigour as students move up. For example, whilst Year 9 and 10 students may only need to analyze one central theme in a text, Years 11 and 12 need to explore multiple themes from one selection.

In addition, the skills when reading literary and informational text often overlap. However, the variety of informational texts also require additional reading skills that may be considered discrete from those used to read a novel or a poem. Students may not be readily proficient in demonstrating these skills, such as gathering data from a chart, using data sets to support logical arguments, and pulling relevant information from infographics.

Instructional Shifts:

From Literature to Mixed Texts

As classroom ELA teachers, our roles have a fundamental instructional shift in that we must use far more text types than we may have traditionally been accustomed to. In the past, teachers could spend a whole year covering novels, short stories, and poems. Our high school classes have often been modelled after university English courses, such as one year covering American Literature, whilst the next year tackles British lit.

However, even though our goal is to prepare students for success at the uni level, simply mirroring an English uni lecture will not do. For one, except perhaps for Literature majors, most students do read mainly informational texts. Think about your own undergraduate days. How many database articles, textbook chapters, lab reports, news clippings, philosophical essays, and myriad other works had you read in comparison to a novel?

The Common Core suggests that, by the time student enter middle school, the bulk of their reading should be informational in nature, broken down along the following percentages:

 

%

Literary Text

%

Informational Text

The truth is, few of our students will be entering uni reading English for a degree, and the sooner we expose them to varying types of texts, the better prepared they’ll be upon graduation.

Times change, and it is best to float along the current that to be swept under it.

All for One, and One for All:

If what I’ve covered so far seems overwhelming, and if you’re bristling at the thought of removing your beloved novels out of the curriculum, there is one salve to note: these percentages account for the total amount of reading that students have from all of their courses. As English is but one of their many subjects throughout the day, students can easily meet this suggested mix of literary and informational texts.

Does that mean you can get away with sticking to novels and poems? Most likely not. The only way students can meet the standards is to see teachers integrating both types of texts in their lessons. Many schools are moving towards cross-curricular instruction, which require much more collaboration from staff members to integrate content and skills from one course to another.

We often hear the idea that ‘everyone is an English teacher‘ and that notion is well-grounded. Students struggling in Chemistry will continue to do so if they cannot identify and analyze key details from their textbooks. Likewise, English teachers need help their students translate the skills of reading into their other courses, so in effect, ELA teachers must also be teachers of Maths, Science, and History.

In fact, Common Core and New Jersey both have Companion Standards attached to ELA instruction that cover History, Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects.

Again, these standards may feel overwhelming by their sheer number. But if you do feel this way, think of how our students may be feeling as their are the ones expected to demonstrate them, with their diplomas hanging in the balance. I will approach the standards step by step, and hopefully make this process as painless as possible.