How to interpret the Standards (Do you really need them?)

The answer is YES, you do need them. However, they are not always easy to understand.

Standards, whether you live in a state that follows the Common Core, or like me, you live in a state that has their own, are a set of guidelines that officials believe every student needs to know before they move on to the next grade. You probably have to give your kids a test at the end of the year or meet with an evaluator to show them you have met these standards with flying colors.

But do you truly understand them?

I am a licensed librarian and teacher both in the states of South Carolina and Virginia, but I currently live in South Carolina, so I'm going to use those Standards as my examples. They also happen to be a lot more confusing to understand than the ones from Virginia (and I thought that state had a lot). Here's an example of how to write the three different types of essays (persuasive, expository, narrative) in 7th grade:

That's a lot to process.

Keep in mind that I went to college for 4(+) years to get my Bachelor's in Education and an additional 2 years for my Master's in Library Science. All of that time was spent learning how to read, understand, and create lessons with these standards.


It's okay if you don't understand them. That's why I'm here!

Here's how teachers are trained to use the standards. When we are creating our lessons, we START with the standard and work backwards. We always start with the goal of what we want our students to learn. It's not about the cute lesson we found on Pinterest or TPT (although there are some great ones). It's about what we need the student to learn. Once we have that Standard in place, we then reverse engineer the lesson from there.

"I can..." or "The student will be able to..."

This means we look at each of the Standards and turn them into one of the above statements. By the end of the lesson "The student will be able to..." or the student can say "I can..." Teachers are even encouraged to put this statements on the board so that students know the objective they are working towards.

For example, above is a South Carolina Inquiry Standard for 11th Grade. First, I know that I don't need to hit all four points in one lesson! That's important to understand. Also, I'm going to space this out over a 6-week class; it's not something I accomplish in a day. I then look for the key phrases and words that really resonate with me.

  • develop a plan

  • historical, social, cultural

  • perspective, validity, & bias

  • Organize, SYNTHESIZE (love that one), communicate new learning

When I created this lesson, I already knew the book I was teaching and so I started thinking about the research project I could do that would hit those bullet points and incorporated it with the novel my student was reading.

Since we were reading The Iron King by Julie Kagawa and it was about a girl surviving in the land of Faeries, I decided my student would research the rules of the Fae and write a survival guide. Therefore this became her Objective Statement:

  • The student will be able research the historical, cultural, and social impact of Fae mythology.

  • The student will be able to organize their research and develop a storyboard for a website.

  • The student will be able to publish a travel guide for humans to visit the land of Faeries based on their research.

Currently, I am finishing up a class reading The Crucible by Arthur Miller. It's dark and creepy, and perfect for a teenage boy. This is one of the Standards I wanted to hit with this class:

I very much remembered loving The Crucible when I was in high school 20(cough) years ago and the movie starring Winona Ryder. I could easily meet this standard by having my student watch the movie after reading the play. However, just watching the movie and doing a simple compare/contrast isn't going to cut it for 11th grade English. I had to do my own research and closely analyze the book and movie myself first. That's when I found out Arthur Miller wrote the screenplay for the 1996 version of the movie. This opened up the topic of WHY the author would change his original play to a new script. I had him analyze the new screenplay for the movie, looking at how:

  • Changing the dialogue of certain characters might change their characterization.

  • Scenes Miller chose to delete in the play, he added back in. Why?

  • Camera angles are able to show reactions of townspeople, when in the play we only saw the girls. Does that change the mood?

  • The ending of the play is different than the movie. Why did Miller change it?

So to summarize..,.

Yes, the Standards can be confusing, long, and a lot of trouble to interpret. They frequently give me a headache as I try to craft amazing lessons from their long-winded, rambling, overly... you get the picture. I swear they had a lawyer write them!

But at the same time, they hold me accountable. They work like a checklist, ensuring that I've met my goals every year. I know that at the end of each grade I have created lessons that as rigorous, well thought out, and will ensure my students are ready to meet the future head on.


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