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Friday, July 26, 2013

Common Core Language Standard 3

Career and College Readiness Anchor Standard for Language 3 (CCRA.L.3) states: "Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening. In Grades 3 (L.3.3), 4 (L.4.3), and 5 (L.5.3) students must "use knowledge of language and its conventions when writing, speaking, reading, or listening." Here are a few ideas for how you can address specific grade level expectations in your class.

Third Grade

According to L.3.3a third grade students should "choose words and phrases for effect" when speaking and writing.

It's time to start using the thesaurus! Students can use print, digital, teacher-made (like the one below), or student-made thesauruses. For a quick student-made thesaurus, simply list words that will be used for a writing project, assign one word to each group of students and have them generate a list of synonyms, and share.

Children are now ready to start thinking about whether a synonym is appropriate for a situation. For example, when using the pumpkin thesaurus above, would it be okay to say "chop a pumpkin" instead of "carve a pumpkin?" 

Activities that focus on synonyms used for specific situations will help your students gain a better understanding of this concept. Which word(s), for example, would work well in these situations?
  • A doctor telling her patient to stop smoking (cease)
  • A policeman ordering a suspect to stop running (halt)
  • A boy telling his dog to stop because a car is coming (heal)
  • A speaker telling an audience that his speech is about to stop (conclude)
  • A volunteer telling citizens that they were able to stop a flood (block)
  • A boss telling his employee that he will have to stop working there (terminate)
  • An FBI agent telling the President that she was able to stop a bomb (deactivate)
  • A parent telling his children that they will need to stop the vacation early (cut short)
  • A sign telling you that production of a certain product will stop (discontinue)
  • A newscaster telling the audience that experts had been able to stop a disease from spreading (prevent)
You can give students situations and have them come up with synonyms that would work or vice-versa. Have some fun with this! Students can work in groups, act it out, make posters, play charade-type games to get others to guess the appropriate word, etc.

L.3.3b says, "Recognize and observe differences between the conventions of spoken and written standard English." What does this mean? After doing a bit of research, I'm still not sure, but I'll take a stab at it. (If I'm wrong, someone can set me straight.) This part of the standard was meant to help students discriminate between the types of language we use in different contexts. In third grade, writing is more formal than speaking. "Walk slow!" might be okay for spoken language, but in written language we'd need to say, "Walk slowly!" Lots of kids say, "Me and my friends are going to the park," but writing this would never fly. In any case, third grade teachers need to discuss when to use more formal and less formal language with their students.

Fourth Grade

For L.4.3a students must "choose words and phrases to convey ideas precisely." Using specific language is also addressed in W.4.2d and W.4.3d; it's alluded to in SL.4.6. Take a look at my July 16th post for resources I previously recommended.

Students in Grade 4 need to work on word choice whenever they write, but there's one form of writing that really focuses on word choice: diamante poetry. In order to complete these poems, students must apply knowledge of related terms, parts of speech, denotation, and most importantly, connotation. Here's a set of generic sheets for planning diamantes in your classroom.

 You can use diamante to write about any type of change: seasons, growing up, feelings, etc. Take, for example, this simple poem documenting the change from summer back to school:

Even more powerful, though, is the use of diamante with subject-matter vocabulary. Students can write about changes from one time period to the next; the rock cycle; life cycles of plants, insects, or animals; photosynthesis; erosion or mountain formation; etc. They can compare and contrast characters, settings, or events in literature. Or maybe they could document their growth in a certain subject, such as what it takes to move from novice to master in fourth grade math (or the differences between third and fourth grade math). Just think how this can reinforce concepts and vocabulary!

L.4.3b asks students to "choose punctuation for effect." I found a cool Punctuation Pyramid that explains each type of punctuation and how it's used. Fourth graders love adding hyphens, ellipses, and parentheses to their writing! 

The English Club offers explanations and ideas for this in How to Teach Formal and Informal Language. This piece applies to L.4.3c, which deals with differentiating "between contexts that call for formal English and situations where informal discourse is appropriate."

Fifth Grade

For L.5.3a, students are expected to "expand, combine, and reduce sentences for meaning, reader/listener interest, and style." Check out Sentence Length: The Power of Placing Periods from Writer's Relief for insight about this. While this part of the standard can be practiced in isolation, it's much better when applied to students' writing.

Finally, L.5.3b asks students to "compare and contrast the varieties of English (e.g., dialects, registers) used in stories, dramas, or poems." You can reinforce this with most books and stories. Right now, for example, I'm working on a unit on The Black Stallion. Let's take a look at the speech of several characters:
  • Captain Watson: "Well, m'boy, you're on your way home."
  • Pat: "For the love of St. Patrick, he's just a boy!"
  • Joe: "I'm Joe Russo of the Daily Telegram. I'd like to take a few pictures and get your story."
  • Tony: "Si, that's-a right. I ver' busy make-a better the harness sore on my Nappy when I look-a up and see heem."
  • Henry: "Never liked this business of retiring, anyway. Not too old---still have plenty of good years left in me. This life's okay for the Missus---she's got enough to do to keep her busy, but I need action."
Comparing and contrasting the speech patterns of each character uncover information about him and his background. (And later students can employ this strategy in their own writing!)

Third, fourth, and fifth grade students are now discovering the nuances (and power) of words. As Tom Stoppard wrote:
“Words... They're innocent, neutral, precise, standing for this, describing that, meaning the other, so if you look after them you can build bridges across incomprehension and chaos. But when they get their corners knocked off, they're no good any more... I don't think writers are sacred, but words are. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones in the right order, you can nudge the world a little or make a poem which children will speak for you when you're dead.” 

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