Ideas for Implementing Literacy Common Core in the Non-ELA Classroom

September 12, 2013
Photo credit: Gates Foundation via flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

For those of us who work in states where the Common Core is already being implemented, we all must address the Common Core Standards, even if we are not English language arts or math teachers. However, this provides a great opportunity to support the literacy work already occurring in the ELA classroom. The Common Core Standards for Literacy in the History/Social Sciences, Science and Technical Subjects are all standards that non-ELA teachers, from art to science, can target. Consider the following ideas so that you can be not only effective but intentional in teaching and assessing the Common Core Standards.

Talk to Your ELA Teachers

Although this may seem basic, the easiest step toward implementing the Common Core literacy standards is to talk with an ELA teacher in your grade level. Not only do ELA teachers have great literacy lessons, graphic organizers and the like, but they also know which standards and literacy skills students are struggling with. Through effective pre-assessment and formative assessment, ELA teachers can help you identify which literacy standards and skills you, as the non-ELA teacher, can target in your content area. Do students need to work on speaking and listening skills? Are they struggling with informative writing or summarizing informational texts? These are just some of the possibilities for effective and intentional teaching of the Common Core Literacy Standards.

Use Content as Text

The Common Core Literacy Standards are content neutral, which allows you the flexibility to work on literacy as well as teach and assess your own content area standards. We all have students read and write in our content areas, and we can continue to do so in an intentional way. Assign reading of content area material from articles and textbooks, and have students write and present about content area learning objectives in your classroom. It's a great way to ensure that your content is being addressed while still working on literacy skills.

Speaking and Listening

Let's talk! We all love discussions, from Socratic seminars to fishbowls, so let's keep doing them in our classrooms. PBL projects often culminate in some sort of presentation, so this is a great opportunity to target the Common Core Speaking and Listening Standards. We all value presentation and communication as valuable 21st century skills -- skills that are content neutral in the Common Core. Additionally, this kind of interaction is also a great opportunity for collaborative work and discussions in the classroom, which are included in the Common Core.

Text-Dependent Questions

Creating questions that require students to read complex texts can be a challenging thing to do. Luckily, there are a lot of resources and examples out there to support your work. With these questions, you can assign students content area reading, and then have them write about this content to show their learning, all while targeting specific literacy objectives. In addition, the Literacy Design Collaborative specializes in modules with these types of questions. You can use their templates to create your own modules, or use many of their already existing modules that have been juried and peer reviewed. The best part is that the templates and tasks have the Common Core hardwired into them, so you don't need to worry about figuring which standards you are addressing.

I hope these ideas will help non-ELA teachers target specific Common Core Standards, and also save them from feeling overwhelmed. Start small and consider one of two of these ideas in your implementation. I look forward to reading your thoughts and experiences about Common Core implementation in the non-ELA classroom.

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  • Assessment
  • Curriculum Planning
  • Teaching Strategies
  • English Language Arts

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