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CCSS Reading Literature

How does CCSS break down the processes of reading as thinking? As I read Pathways to the Common Core, I am able to unpack the power of these standards.

The CCSS categories for both literary and informational reading are:

  • Key Ideas and Details — What is the meaning across the whole text?
  • Craft and Structure — How does the author create meaning across the text?
  • Integrate Knowledge and Ideas — Compare how authors create meaning in different texts?

Most importantly, the CCSS expect that students look for more than one idea or theme, backing their ideas up with evidence stated and inferred across the text(s). Conversations are key — in journals, in class discussions, in book clubs, with partners. Students start with understanding what the text says, then move to how the author crafted the text for us to glean that meaning, and finally compare one text to another to discern the patterns of themes and perspectives across texts to become engaged and critical readers.

How do we read literature to meet CCSS 2-9, the rungs of the literary ladder?

First, Standards 2, 3–

Key Ideas and details

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

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

For literature, students will examine character motivation and cause/effect; they will look for logical consequences of the events. Why? For RL2 students analyze the details to support a variety of themes. For RL3, students ask, “What evidence throughout the story supports this?”

RL1 asks us to retell the story, inferring the meaning as we read.

RL2 begins with the question, “What is this story about?” to move to more embedded meanings as the story unfolds.

RL3 focuses on character interactions and reactions in events across the story, making connections that support or change their initial ideas about theme and character motivation based on what the text says. We ask, “What in the story makes us think that?”

RL1 2, 3 expect students to comprehend, infer, and synthesize. Next, Craft and Structure asks students to analyze HOW the author presents the story — the choice of words, phrases to create meaning, mood, and tone across the story to share a point of view of the author or the characters that have molded the content and developed a style.  Readers must consider meanings of words and reasons for those choices; they must analyze the events and images created as choice to help us understand a point of view or theme.

Craft and Structure

4. Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.

5. Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.

6. Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.

RL4: Consider the language choices — what words are important and what do we notice about them? Why did the author choose these?

RL5: Consider sentences and paragraphs across the story — how to they build on the theme? How do these choices guide us towards the themes and character understanding? What evidence supports your ideas about the mood, tone, character, events?

RL6: Throughout the story, how does the author create a character’s point of view? his own? or shape your (reader) point of view? How do the differences in points of view create suspense? humor? themes?

To demonstrate RL 4, 5, 6, readers must notice the author’s choice in craft and structure. If readers have already inferred and synthesized the evidence for meaning, then the task for these standards is to notice HOW the author guided us to those meanings. This is the critical thinking to understand story, the sense of story an author creates — and our students can create in their own writing.

In order to carry the understanding of story (or informative explanations or persuasion) to a deeper level, students need to compare different treatments of similar themes. They need to integrate this critical thinking into patterns of knowledge and craft that will help them whenever they pick up a story (or nonfiction) to enjoy or learn. When students compare stories or texts, they become better at analyzing craft and structure. And of course understanding craft and structure, solidifies the meaning. The CCSS build upon each other.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas

7. Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.

8. Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence. (Not applicable to literature)

9. Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.

RL7: Compare movies or scripts, stories and poems.

RL9: Compare characterization and themes in different stories.

Short stories, picture books, and novels can work together to develop conversations and lessons the guide students to comparative thinking. The Global Read Aloud last year (Tuck Everlasting) provided our reading class with common story to which we could compare characters, settings, events, and themes. We’ve already discussed this year how the Natalie Babbitt used May’s Music Box, and that perhaps our story of Ivan this year might have the toy gorilla Not-Tag as a prop that we can refer to later in the story. These standards take time to implement, and the thinking involved must start early in primary classroom discussions.

In order to teach these reading literature standards, students need to read — a lot. They need choice in what they read to become engaged in quality reading. Once students are reading, they will own their understanding and want to share. Book clubs or partner reads provide this. Last year, when we started independent reading in my class, students formed their own partnerships (“Read this book with me; we can talk about it.”) I’m going to promote more of that this year through book talks. And they need to practice the thinking that these standards require. I need to demonstrate and model the strategies and questions, and immediately ask students to do so in their own books, providing feedback to their responses. When we read our short stories or models, I must allow students the chance to find the meaning and the evidence themselves, and to work through the story for the evidence. We’ll need to compare scenes and characters, discover similar language and phrases, consider possible symbolic objects, and work together to develop interpretations. Writing will be important to deepen their engagement with the text so feedback can be provided. Our previous state standards included grade level expectations that required specific teaching of skills, and the CCSS expects that our conversations and teaching include these as students discuss their interpretations of meaning and craft. However the focus will be on thinking and understanding based on text evidence; the skills will appear in that evidence, but it will be the analysis that is the focus — not the skills. Reading will be thinking, because it is.

What will I do this week? How will I create the steps in the ladder needed to think through the story?

We in grades 6 7 8 are participating in the Global Read Aloud. Last week we read facts about gorillas to help us understand how the author may have used that information as we move into the story. We used Post-its to note traits of the main character, Ivan.

Did the students understand the story so far?

Possible questions:

1a What is the story about so far?

1b What episodes in the story support your idea?

2 What do we know about the characters? What dialogue in the story helped us understand the characters?

3 How does the setting affect the characters words and actions?

4a How does Ivan feel about his domain at the beginning of the story? What evidence supports this?

4b How does Ivan feel about his domain now? What evidence supports this?

4c Compare how Bob and Ivan feel about their domains? How do you know? What’s the evidence.

4d How does the author help us understand how Bob and Ivan feel about their domains?

5a What words did the author use to help us understand how the characters (Ivan, Stella, Bob, Julia, Mack)  feel and act?

5b Which words are most important to the story? Why? What other words could the author have used?

Create a wordle based on one of the following questions. When you create your wordle, remember that the number of times you type a word will determine its size. To keep phrases together, use the ~ (Ivan~is~patient). When you create your wordle, choose the best color to represent your ideas. Choose the layout that best displays your ideas. Choose the word arrangement that best presents your meaning. You will be asked to explain your choices — look after the questions below.

Choose one question:

1. What 10 main-idea phrases summarize the story?

2. What 10 pairs of words compare Bob and Ivan’s feelings about their domains so far in the story?

3. What 10 pairs of words to explain the lives of Stella and Ruby?

Create your wordle in a way that helps us all understand your interpretation.


Why you chose your words?

Why you chose to enlarge certain words?

Why you chose the arrangement of your words?

Why you chose the colors?

Why you chose the layout (horizontal, vertical, half and half, etc.)?

These five story questions lead us from literal and inferential evidence of meaning to how the author used language to guide us to those meanings. The wordle puts the reader into author mode, choosing the most important words from the story and presenting them in a way that demonstrates their importance.

What questions do you use to frame a story to meet CCSS?

Sheri Edwards View All

Geeky Gramma ~~
Retired Middle School Language Arts/Media Teacher ~~
Writer and Thinker~~
Art from the Heart

2 thoughts on “CCSS Reading Literature Leave a comment

    • Thanks Tracy. It’s a wonderful journey to develop lessons that address more rigor while scaffolding for student success. I’ll be checking your blog frequently to learn with you and your staff to better apply these standards. Thanks again!

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