“Common Language” Standards: Paraphrasing Standards and Objectives into Everyday Language

12Jan07

Standards-Based Curriculum and Instruction

In the education world, there is a slight but significant contradiction in the implementation of standards: one purpose of standards is to serve as a guide to ensure that everyone receives a comparable education—but the standards are not easily understood by all stakeholders. Perhaps most importantly, it is highly unlikely that a student given a copy of the standards for a given subject area would be able to decipher anything about what is expected of them. As there is a movement in contemporary education to adopt a practice of stating objectives clearly for students prior to a lesson this paper is an exercise in paraphrasing the third-grade writing standards for the State of California into everyday language that would be more easily understood by third-grade students. While it may be arguable that even the following can be overwhelming for third-grade students, one expected result of paraphrasing the standards in more accessible language is that students will be able to discuss the expectations more easily. The text for the original standards can be found in the appendix.

Example Handout to Students

I hope you enjoyed the writing activities you did last year. This year, I hope that you will have even more fun writing and building upon all of your great work from last year. Please take this letter home and share it with your parents.

What are some of the things we will be doing this year?

First, do you remember what you did last year? Last year you:

  1. Had to show your teacher that you could write paragraphs about one topic;
  2. Used books like dictionaries and encyclopedias to help you with your writing;
  3. Practiced writing and re-writing until your story was perfect;
  4. Wrote stories that talked about events in the order they happened;
  5. Learned how to write a short letter to a friend or relative;
  6. Had to use your best handwriting for your final version of your story.

This year, we will be doing some of the same types of things. Here are 10 things you can expect to learn this year:

  1. First, by the end of this year, you’re going to be able to impress everyone with your beautiful handwriting! We are going to learn to write in cursive! We will also spend more time making our writing look better by paying attention to things like how far apart the words are, how big the letters are, how much blank space we leave on the page and so on. Not only are you going to be writing great stuff—but it’s going to look great too!
  2. Last year, did you notice that when you wrote a report, the writing style was different than when you wrote a letter to your best friend? This year you will learn to write differently for different people. What if you had to write the words for a TV ad? Or the text for a comic book story? Because these are for different people, we often use different writing styles.
  3. Writing is much easier if you are organized from the beginning. This year, we will practice writing the “perfect paragraph.” The perfect paragraph starts off with a topic sentence and has other sentences that tell the reader more about the main topic.
  4. Last year, was using a dictionary hard? It always is at first! That’s why we are going to practice using them more this year to help us with our writing. You can use encyclopedias to find out new information or facts that we can include in a report or poster. You can use a thesaurus to find a new word to use so that your writing doesn’t use the same word over and over. When you use these books more often, you will see that once you understand how they are organized, they are actually pretty easy to use (and useful too!).
  5. As you might be able to guess, this year we are also going to learn to do research. Research helps your writing by giving you more ideas and by helping you write reports that have the correct information.
  6. We will also be writing more letters this year, but we will be writing different types of letters. What are some types of letters? Formal letters—like a letter to your teacher…. Invitations—like an invitation to your birthday…. Thank-you notes—like the notes you might have to write when grandma gives you a nice present at that birthday party…. These are all a little bit different, aren’t they?
  7. You like reading stories, don’t you? In this class we get to write our own stories. By the end of the year, we’ll be able to take all of your stories and put them together in a book that you can take home.
  8. Some of the stories we write are going to be totally made up (we call that “fiction”). Other stories we write might be like writing down the stories that we tell our friends about different things that have happened to us (we call that “narrative”—if you look up “narrative” in the dictionary, what does it tell you?)
  9. So, what makes for a good story? Descriptions—very detailed descriptions—will always make your story more exciting. Remember that birthday party that you’re going to be writing invitations to? Well, tell me about that chocolate cake…. What did you smell? What did the party sound like? Can you describe the looks on everyone’s face? What did it feel like when Johnny threw the first water balloon at you?
  10. Another thing that makes a good story good is if you tell it in the right order. If you tell it out of order, sometimes it is really confusing. In this class, we will learn how to “plot” our stories so that it makes the most sense and is fun to read.
  11. Finally, didn’t I say that I’d be telling you 10 things you’d be learning this year? Clearly I need to do some revision…. This year you’re going to get more practice making revisions to your writing so that it is better (and so that you don’t make mistakes like I did here!). Don’t worry…. I’ll always provide you with some sort of guide or checklist to help you during all your revisions, because I know it is sometimes hard to see your own mistakes when you have been working on something for a long time.

I’m really excited about all of this, and I look forward to reading all of your great writing!

Appendix

The following are the California writing standards for grades two and three. The former exercise relates to the standards for grade three.

Grade Two

  1. Writing Strategies: Students write clear and coherent sentences and paragraphs that develop a central idea. Their writing shows they consider the audience and purpose. Students progress through the stages of the writing process (e.g., prewriting, drafting, revising, editing successive versions).
    • Organization and Focus: Group related ideas and maintain a consistent focus.
    • Penmanship: Create readable documents with legible handwriting.
    • Research: Understand the purposes of various reference materials (e.g., dictionary, thesaurus, atlas).
    • Evaluation and Revision: Revise original drafts to improve sequence and provide more descriptive detail.
  2. Writing Applications (Genres and Their Characteristics): Students write compositions that describe and explain familiar objects, events, and experiences. Student writing demonstrates a command of standard American English and the drafting, research, and organizational strategies outlined in Writing Standard 1.0. Using the writing strategies of grade two outlined in Writing Standard 1.0, students:
    • Write brief narratives based on their experiences:
      • Move through a logical sequence of events.
      • Describe the setting, characters, objects, and events in detail.
    • Write a friendly letter complete with the date, salutation, body, closing, and signature.

Grade Three

  1. Writing Strategies: Students write clear and coherent sentences and paragraphs that develop a central idea. Their writing shows they consider the audience and purpose. Students progress through the stages of the writing process (e.g., prewriting, drafting, revising, editing successive versions).
    • Organization and Focus: Create a single paragraph:
      • Develop a topic sentence.
      • Include simple supporting facts and details.
    • Penmanship: Write legibly in cursive or joined italic, allowing margins and correct spacing between letters in a word and words in a sentence.
    • Research: Understand the structure and organization of various reference materials (e.g., dictionary, thesaurus, atlas, encyclopedia).
    • Evaluation and Revision: Revise drafts to improve the coherence and logical progression of ideas by using an established rubric.
  2. Writing Applications (Genres and Their Characteristics): Students write compositions that describe and explain familiar objects, events, and experiences. Student writing demonstrates a command of standard American English and the drafting, research, and organizational strategies outlined in Writing Standard 1.0. Using the writing strategies of grade three outlined in Writing Standard 1.0, students:
    • Write narratives:
      • Provide a context within which an action takes place.
      • Include well-chosen details to develop the plot.
      • Provide insight into why the selected incident is memorable.
    • Write descriptions that use concrete sensory details to present and support unified impressions of people, places, things, or experiences.
    • Write personal and formal letters, thank-you notes, and invitations:
      • Show awareness of the knowledge and interests of the audience and establish a purpose and context.
      • Include the date, proper salutation, body, closing, and signature.

References

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