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Close Reading Sample Lessons and Assessment Questions

Mary Reilley Clark's insight:

I love the lesson for Jim Murphy's The Great Fire--and most school libraries will have the book available for students who want to continue reading.  The lesson is self-contained, with all the articles and readings included.

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Hands on information, lessons plans, creative ideas for implementing CCSS/ELA.
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The Crayons Are Coming Home....And You Can Create Your Very Own Too!

The Crayons Are Coming Home....And You Can Create Your Very Own Too! | Common Core ELA | Scoop.it

Shannon McClintock Miller writes: "One of my all time favorite books is The Day The Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt.  It is the cutest little story about a box of Crayons....and the illustrations by Drew Daywalt make them all come to life. "

Mary Reilley Clark's insight:

Shannon mentions some great lesson plan ideas. I wanted to share because this is a perfect book to show teachers how using picture books can meet a variety of Common Core ELA standards:


  • Reading Anchor Standard 3: Analyze how and why individuals, events, and ideas develop and interact over the course of a text. Depending on the grade level, students could compare and contrast characters, show how characters changed over the course of the text, describe how characters respond to events and challenges.
  • Writing Anchor Standard 3: Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences. Students could write narratives for the crayons, using two unique events not in the book, write a readers' theater text creating a new experience for the characters, or write about the crayons in a genre to build a different tone or outcome (I think  juniors and seniors would love this! Imagine the crayons in space with limited access to a sharpener, or a suspenseful narrative describing the crayons' feelings as one after another crayon disappears.)
  • Writing Anchor Standard 6: Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others. Why not have students write a progressive story with students in another classroom, whether it's across the hall or the country? 
Oh, you need students to write about informational text? Again, a picture book can be an excellent jumping off point for short or extended research projects. How are crayons made? Are there regional or national differences in crayon color popularity? Just how safe are the crayons sold in the US or other countries? Let your students brainstorm the research topics. 
I'll be creating picture book lists for my teachers to use to introduce a variety of units. Looks like I found my next Donors Choose grant focus!
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Poetry and Social Justice, by Sylvia M. Vardell | Booklist Online

Poetry and Social Justice, by Sylvia M.  Vardell | Booklist Online | Common Core ELA | Scoop.it

Sylvia Vardell writes: "It’s been 50 years since the signing of the Civil Rights Act, in 1964, when discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin became against the law. It may be difficult for children today to imagine a world in which such discrimination was a common practice, but it is important that we recognize the ongoing effects of such prejudice and pause to celebrate the progress the U.S. has made as a nation. That’s where literature can be especially powerful in capturing the pain of the past, the ongoing fight for justice, and our hopes for the future."

Mary Reilley Clark's insight:

This would be a great introduction to a cross-curricular lesson! CCSS are included at the end, for those who are still worried that they can't teach poetry and literature:)

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In Search of Shakespeare: Comparing Film Adaptations

In Search of Shakespeare: Comparing Film Adaptations | Common Core ELA | Scoop.it

"The late twentieth century marked a resurgence of Shakespeare on film. Directors and actors with styles as diverse as Kenneth Branagh, Baz Luhrmann and Mel Gibson strove to popularize "Hamlet" on the big screen, and students became used to seeing adaptations of Shakespeare arrive at their local Cineplex. The tradition in teaching has been to review the play by showing the entire movie. Viewing clips of the same Shakespeare scene in different film versions offers students the opportunity to engage in close critical analysis and to compare interpretations and visual styles. This technique also inspires students to value and create their own interpretations of Shakespeare. Though this lesson deals specifically with Hamlet and its themes, many of the strategies and approaches here may be used with most any of Shakespeare's plays that have been adapted to film." 

Mary Reilley Clark's insight:

Our 8th grade ELA classes read A Midsummer Night's Dream. This lesson would work perfectly!

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5 Ways to Keep Creativity Alive in Your Common Core English Class | Edudemic

5 Ways to Keep Creativity Alive in Your Common Core English Class | Edudemic | Common Core ELA | Scoop.it

Amanda Ronan writes: "The Common Core State Standards do not have to mean the death of creative work produced by your students. If anything, the emphasis on textual analysis gives you more reason to explore interesting and creative ways for students to engage with texts. "

Mary Reilley Clark's insight:

Very useful ideas that teachers can easily implement. Amanda's two points for making the CCSS connection obvious would be a great help to teachers doing creative work, yet worried about administrators' evaluations.

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Mary Reilley Clark's curator insight, January 22, 11:36 AM

Very useful ideas that teachers can easily implement. Amanda's two points for making the CCSS connection obvious would be a great help to teachers doing creative work, yet worried about administrators' evaluations.

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News of the World, At Every Level

Annie Murphy Paul writes: 


“A man who traveled from Liberia to visit family members in Texas tested positive for Ebola on Tuesday, marking the outbreak’s first diagnosis outside of Africa, health officials said.”

That’s a pretty standard lead-in for a news story, pitched at the level of a newspaper-reading adult. But it’s a long, rather complex sentence, and a younger reader would likely find it easier to digest if it were broken into two parts. The lead would then start off: “A man who traveled from Liberia to visit family members in Texas tested positive for Ebola on Tuesday.”

Mary Reilley Clark's insight:

In this short blog post, Annie Murphy Paul manages to give a great overview of the leveled reading approach of Newsela, address the tie-in with Common Core, and summarize the arguments of proponents and critics of leveled reading. (Yes, there's a reason it's called The Brilliant Blog, folks!)


My only concern with Newsela is that teachers will use it as a "Common Core-aligned" fill-in for AR, assigning articles and grading students on their quiz scores.


Our school has a subscription, and thankfully most teachers are using it in more creative and truly educational ways. Yesterday a class I was working with in the library received instruction on finishing Newsela assignments.  I was thrilled to hear the teacher explain that while she needed to see their quiz scores, their grades were not based on the scores, but on the megacognitive reflection students wrote about those scores.  (Newsela quizzes are labeled by anchor standard, and quiz results show specific reading standards aligned with questions. Students can clearly see their strengths and weaknesses in certain areas, such as determining central idea, or word meaning and choice.) That kind of reflection is where learning can truly take place!

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S'more about Text Complexity

S'more about Text Complexity | Common Core ELA | Scoop.it

Via Tiffany Whitehead
Mary Reilley Clark's insight:

Tracy Watanabe shares lots of great tools here!

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What We Learned | Crafting Standards-Based Lessons

What We Learned | Crafting Standards-Based Lessons | Common Core ELA | Scoop.it

 "The sum of our advice: Give teachers time to plan and talk together. Build local networks within schools and districts to create a curriculum that engages both adults and students as learners. Think creatively. Map classroom activities back to the standards. Use a range of texts to juxtapose student thinking on content."

Mary Reilley Clark's insight:

Finding ways to use the CCSS to engage students is my focus and this article does a good job highlighting some strategies to do that.

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Tales of a 6th Grade Classroom: CCSS Aligned Lessons

Lindsey Fuller writes: "I have cross-referenced my technology lessons with the ELA CCSS for 6th grade.  Although these are grade specific, the standards follow a continuum that should allow for easy adaptation to other grade levels. (Science and Social Studies alignments coming soon!)"

Mary Reilley Clark's insight:

This is a great site to share with teachers who might still be hyperventilating about how to "do" Common Core.  Lindsey has generously shared her lessons, so teachers can see how to take what they already teach, and adapt to the Common Core. Lots of good stuff on her site, so be sure to explore!

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Primary Source Sets | Teacher Resources - Library of Congress

Primary Source Sets | Teacher Resources - Library of Congress | Common Core ELA | Scoop.it
Sets of primary sources on baseball, Jamestown, Jim Crow laws, the Civil War, immigration, Spanish exploration, and the Dust Bowl from the Library of Congress including photos, maps, manuscripts, audio files, films, sheet music, and cartoons.
Mary Reilley Clark's insight:

So many great primary source sets here!  I already saw 5 that my 8th grade ELA and history teachers could use.  

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Teach Students to Build Their Own Prior Knowledge

Teach Students to Build Their Own Prior Knowledge | Common Core ELA | Scoop.it
Teachers frustrated by Common Core directions to ignore prior knowledge when teaching text analysis can show students how to do it themselves, says Laura Robb.
Mary Reilley Clark's insight:

If nothing else, modeling this may help students who are frustrated by reading material they don't understand. 

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Common Core in Action: Teaching Online Ethics

Common Core in Action: Teaching Online Ethics | Common Core ELA | Scoop.it
In an earlier post, I wrote about both the Common Core Standards and what I call the "common sense" standards. Teaching ethical academic behavior online seems to hit both. When I talk about ethical academic behavior, I'm not talking about manners so much as giving credit where credit is due. After all, just because the kids can access information within two clicks doesn't give them the right to claim information as their own. 
Mary Reilley Clark's insight:

Once again, Heather shares a lesson that would be easy to implement  and should have a lasting impact on students.

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200 Prompts for Argumentative Writing

200 Prompts for Argumentative Writing | Common Core ELA | Scoop.it
For a coming student contest in which teenagers are invited to write on an issue they care about, we have gathered a list of 200 writing prompts on a wide range of issues.
Mary Reilley Clark's insight:

I love these prompts! Plenty of topics to grab  a student's interest. 

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Cathy Sullivan's curator insight, July 17, 2014 3:10 PM

This looks promising!  Issues to ponder that fuel the  fire to  write.

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Teaching News Writing to Teach History Writing

Teaching News Writing to Teach History Writing | Common Core ELA | Scoop.it
When I was a student, nothing helped me become more skilled at writing history than learning about journalism -- news reporting, in particular. I don't mean to undervalue my fabulous teachers in high
Mary Reilley Clark's insight:

This lesson would work well in MS/HS classes.  

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8 Strategies to Keep Informational Reading Fun

8 Strategies to Keep Informational Reading Fun | Common Core ELA | Scoop.it

John Spencer writes:  "

We are naturally inclined to find information fascinating -- to the point that we have to share it out to the world. Nobody on Facebook is getting a grade for it. They're sharing an article because they found it relevant.

As a classroom teacher, I want to see that same level of excitement as students engage with informational texts.

Mary Reilley Clark's insight:

John shares some great strategies here. I like the idea of having students review the standards before reading to identify their areas of mastery and areas they need to improve. Several of our teachers ask students to focus on meta-cognition, to recognize how they learn, and this strategy would work well with that.



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Close Reading Resources from Commonlit

Close Reading Resources from Commonlit | Common Core ELA | Scoop.it
COMMONLIT is a collection of poems, short stories, news articles, historical documents, and literature for classrooms.
  • 1 Choose a theme
  • 2 Choose a discussion question
  • 3 Choose a text
  •  Ready for Tomorrow!
Mary Reilley Clark's insight:

This looks like a promising site for teachers looking for more informational text to read and discuss in class. Right now the selections are a bit thin, but I'm assuming they are adding more in the future.

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Common Core Reading Resource: Smithsonian Tween Tribune

Common Core Reading Resource: Smithsonian Tween Tribune | Common Core ELA | Scoop.it

Catlin Tucker writes: "I’m always on the look out for great resources to support reading. While leading a training in Alaska this weekend, a participant mentioned The Smithsonian Tween (& Teen) Tribune. This free resource is a great place to grab informational and nonfiction texts written at various Lexile levels to support a wide range of reading abilities."

Mary Reilley Clark's insight:

This looks a lot like the free version of Newsela. Teachers might like another source for interesting informational text. 

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3 Go-To Close Reading Strategies

3 Go-To Close Reading Strategies | Common Core ELA | Scoop.it

Abi Frost writes: "With the shift to Common Core State Standards, there has been lots of talk of “close reading.”  As a reading specialist, my responsibility is to help my students reach toward grade level with their reading skills, which most certainly involves having them read texts closely. But, what does close reading look like? And how do you get a reluctant and struggling adolescent reader to read the same text more than once and pay close attention to the details?  It is quite a challenge, but these go-to strategies have helped me enable my students, across grades 7-12, uncover the multiple meanings of text."

Mary Reilley Clark's insight:

Some excellent strategies to share. These would be especially useful to subject area teachers who must add literacy strategies to their classroom teaching.  I love the first example of illustrating short excerpts. It's clear from the example that the student needed to read the excerpt again. By showing him the painting, he had a concrete example of how close reading matters.

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Dave Stuart Jr. on Using Article of the Week

Dave Stuart Jr. on Using Article of the Week | Common Core ELA | Scoop.it
Dave gives a great explanation of how to use Kelly Gallagher's Article of the Week assignment. This is an area where librarians can support teachers--help find articles, recommend Newsela, etc. Key features I liked from Dave's approach:

~Mark your confusion. Showing students that figuring out what they don't know or understand is key to eventual comprehension. It helps to model this, too:)

~ Annotate. Here's your proof of close reading. And annotate means commenting, not smily faces or excl...
Mary Reilley Clark's insight:

I love everything Dave Stuart writes about the Common Core! So sensible, so immediately useful, and so non-freaked out:)

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Scottsboro Boys and To Kill a Mockingbird: Two Trials for the Common Core

Scottsboro Boys and To Kill a Mockingbird: Two Trials for the Common Core | Common Core ELA | Scoop.it
Application of Common Core State Standards comparing observations, characters and closing arguments from two trials using non-fictional accounts dealing with the Scottsboro Boys trials of 1931 and 1933 and the fictional trial narrative in To Kill a Mockingbird.
Mary Reilley Clark's insight:

Great lesson here, and an opportunity for collaboration between language arts and history classes. 

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Student Created eBooks

Student Created eBooks | Common Core ELA | Scoop.it
Innovative teachers are using eBooks as projects, allowing students to gain Common Core skills while letting their creativity to shine.
Mary Reilley Clark's insight:

A good summary of how to jump into ebook creation, with links to lots of great resources.

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Jacqueline Weber's curator insight, December 2, 2014 1:26 PM

I would like help teachers utilize this with their students

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Close Reading Resources: The What, Why and How | MiddleWeb

Close Reading Resources: The What, Why and How | MiddleWeb | Common Core ELA | Scoop.it
Educators are responding to the close reading mandate with strategies that help students better understand complex texts. Our resource roundup has the links.
Mary Reilley Clark's insight:

Loads of resources here to share with teachers!

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Sharrock's curator insight, April 29, 2014 10:39 AM
Mary Clark's insight:

Loads of resources here to share with teachers!

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Turning documents into conversations

Turning documents into conversations | Common Core ELA | Scoop.it

NowComment is fast, powerful, and feature-rich: you can sort comments, skim summaries, create assignments, hide comments, reply privately, and much more.


Via Nik Peachey
Mary Reilley Clark's insight:

While much of this can be done in Google docs, there are several features which can extend the conversation.  Teachers do need to share documents via email.  

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Volkmar Langer's curator insight, April 25, 2014 5:41 AM

That sounds really good :-)) 

CECI Jean-François's curator insight, February 16, 2:20 AM

Intéressant outil pour faire du commentaire social (débat électronique) sur un document, avec des possibilités de tri et de tracking ... Parfait pour l'hybridation de cours

Murielle Godement's curator insight, February 16, 2:52 AM

Le pendant de VoiceThread à l'écrit. NowComment permet de commenter / débattre par écrit sur des documents du web en mode privé ou public. Le mode public ne propose pas de filtre de langue, difficile donc pour le moment de proposer des activités FLE de contributions à des débtas ouverts essentiellement en anglais. 

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Common Core in Action: 10 Visual Literacy Strategies

Common Core in Action: 10 Visual Literacy Strategies | Common Core ELA | Scoop.it
Do you wish your students could better understand and critique the images that saturate their waking life? That's the purpose of visual literacy (VL), to explicitly teach a collection of competencies
Mary Reilley Clark's insight:

This is what I was aiming at with my lesson plan for using primary source images.  Here's a link to that lesson.  You'd need to log in to see the Common Core Standards it addresses, as well as the graphic organizers and rubrics:  http://aasl.jesandco.org/content/picturing-historyanalyzing-and-researching-primary-source-images

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10 Strategies To Reach The 21st Century Reader -

10 Strategies To Reach The 21st Century Reader - | Common Core ELA | Scoop.it

"Like thinking, reading in the 21st century is different than in centuries past, endlessly linked in an increasingly visible web of physical and digital media forms.

So in this context of media abundance, what does the modern, 21st century look like? How can we appeal to their interests?"

Mary Reilley Clark's insight:

So much to ponder here! Ignore Terry's advice about skipping to the bottom of the article for the strategies, and take the time to read the article itself.  And the strategies are great--what I'm thinking of when I envision Common Core-aligned assignments!

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What's in a Word? On Vocabulary Instruction

What's in a Word? On Vocabulary Instruction | Common Core ELA | Scoop.it
What’s In a Word? On Vocabulary Instruction by Kathleen Stern As a middle school reading teacher, I constantly find myself thinking, “If my students knew the meaning of more words, they would be be...
Mary Reilley Clark's insight:

Concrete examples for middle school teachers.

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