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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Common Core Reading: Informational Text Standard 3

College and Career Readiness Anchor Standard for Reading 3 (CCRA.R.3) asks students to "analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text." The Common Core State Standards have some specific directives for middle-grade students in regard to this anchor standard.

Third graders (RI.3.3) must "describe the relationship between a series of historical events, scientific ideas, or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text, using language that pertains to time, sequence, and cause/effect." This relates to W.3.1c, W3.2c, and W.3.3c, which ask students to use connecting and temporal words when writing.

Over the past few months, we have explored dozens of standards, some with very detailed expectations. At this point, you may be wondering how you'll be able to add one more thing to your plate! The beauty of the Reading: Informational Text standards is that you can easily integrate them into your social studies, science, and health curricula.

When reading history or biography, third graders can create timelines then explain the sequence of events (orally or in written form) using order and cause/effect words.


Flow charts work can be used to organize science and health concepts. The life cycle of an insect or the progression of a disease, for example, may be mapped out on a graphic organizer.

RI.4.3 tasks fourth graders with explaining nonfiction content. While  similar to RI.4.2, which asks students to summarize, RI.4.3 requires students to understand what happened and why, as well as explain it to someone else. Fourth grade teachers need to ask, "How did this happen?" and "Why did this happen?" often, and kids must be accountable for thinking then sharing. Journaling and think-pair-share work well for this. Additional methods to ensure student engagement can be found in the book Total Participation Techniques: Making Every Student an Active Learner by Persida and William Himmele. I highly recommend it.

To assess students' learning, why not introduce essay tests in fourth grade? If a student can explain an event or process, it's his forever!


In my fourth grade class, an essay answer is normally worth five points, and most history tests have four questions. It's a lot for nine-year-olds, but with guidance, they can handle it. At the beginning of the year, the four questions are announced in advance, and we discuss what types of information would be appropriate to use. If you were a fly on the wall, you would hear advice like this:
  • Answer the question with a topic sentence that uses question parts.
  • Add important details that tell who, what, where, when, and why or how.
  • If you're writing about a war, include who won.

RI.5.3 asks fifth graders to "explain the relationships and interactions between two or more individuals, events, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text." This ratchets the expectation up one more notch. Questions for journaling, discussion, and tests must now include two or more components and how they interact(ed). Here are some examples of the shift from fourth to fifth grade:

Historical
Fourth Grade: Describe the Battle of Tippecanoe.
Fifth Grade: Describe the interactions between William Henry Harrison and Tecumseh.

Scientific
Fourth Grade: What is an anemone?
Fifth Grade: Explain the relationship between anemones and clownfish.

Technical
Fourth Grade: Explain the force that allows an airplane to fly.
Fifth Grade: Explain how multiple forces affect an airplane in flight.

These questions address the standards, but what about higher-order questioning? Here's a great opportunity to get your students thinking! Try some like this, especially with your high ability learners:

Analysis
*To what could you compare the relationship between William Henry Harrison and Tecumseh? Why?
*What conditions allow the symbiotic relationship of the anemone and clownfish?
*Draw a diagram that clearly labels and explains the forces working on an airplane in flight.

Synthesis
*If you were President Madison, what might you have said to William Henry Harrison to avoid the Battle of Tippecanoe?
*Select two other organisms that might benefit from symbiosis. Explain how their relationship would work.
*Research the difference between airplanes with propellors and those with jet engines. If a plane had both types of engines, how could each be used effectively to maximize thrust?

Evaluation
*Whose perspective do you favor, Harrison's or Tecumseh's? Why?
*Which of these three examples of symbiosis is most effective: anemone/clownfish, coral/algae, or bees/orchids? Why?
*Rank these malfunctions from least to most dangerous when flying an airplane: reduced engine power, loss of rudder, loss of flaps. Explain why using the terms lift and thrust.

This was a great standard to review as I head back to school next week. It reminds me of the importance of asking thoughtful questions, providing students with time to ponder, and insisting that all  respond.