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Welcome to Common Core ELA Lessons!

Are you confused by the Common Core ELA Standards? Are you at a loss trying to find quality materials that help you address the Standards in your classroom? Whether you are looking for a quick lesson or an entire unit, you've come to the right place! We’re a group of educators who create and share both free and for-purchase materials for teaching the Common Core State Standards. Feel free to browse posts below, use the list of strands to the right to find a product for a specific grade level or grade level strand, or click the grade level you are interested in the bar at the very top of this page to see what you can find. Enjoy!

Featured Posts

Friday, August 8, 2014

Tackling the Common Core ELA Standards, Part 1: Common Core Basics

With more and more states fully implementing the Common Core State Standards in the 2014-2105 school year, you are likely facing daily the pressures of meeting the demands of administrators, parents, and peers as you weave your way through the thick of the Common Core. You may be feeling the pressure to help your students learn skills that may be different from what you learned in school.  You may feel like you are learning a foreign language, and you may feel helpless (or even hostile) having to create new materials, lessons, and assessments, all while convincing students, parents, and administrators that you are confident in your teaching abilities!

Fear not!  You are not alone. I am here to "translate" the standards into language you can understand and even appreciate.  I am here to share several years of research into the Common Core, and how to fully integrate the ELA standards into teaching.  I am here to help. (Sorry, math're on your own for now!)  Feel free to print out this information to give to parents and students so that they, too, can learn the basics of Common Core.  The more information they have, the more they may begin to understand (possibly even appreciate) the journey ahead!

Let's begin with the key points of the standards. Here are the Key Points in English Language Arts from the Common Core Standards Initiative website (  The Standards outline essential skills students should master at each grade level division (K-5, 6-8, 9-12).  The goal is to have each student ready for college or career by the end of high school.

The Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts are divided into grades K-5 and 6-12. The College and Career Readiness (CCR) Anchor Standards are broad standards that provide a general umbrella under which more specific goals are indicated for each grade or grade level. These CCR Anchor Standards give a broad framework of goals that—together with grade-specific standards—outline the skills that each student must master.  Each grade level is given specific standards over which students are required to demonstrate mastery.  These are more specific and are divided into strandsReading: Literature, Reading: Informational Text, Writing, Reading: Foundational Skills (Grades K-5 only), Speaking and Listening, and Language.

Each strand is then subdivided:  Reading: Literature, for example, breaks down into Key Ideas and Details, Craft and Structure, Integration of Knowledge and Ideas, and Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity.  These subdivisions are seen across all grade levels. Individual standards then specify the skills students must demonstrate by the end of the school year in order to stay on course for college and career readiness.  

For example, under the English Language Arts grades 6-12 College and Career Readiness (CCR) Anchor Standards for Reading, there is a section entitled “Craft and Structure,” which gives four goals of mastery.  The CCR Anchor Standard for Reading - Craft and Structure, Standard #4 states that all students must Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.  In other words, ALL students in grades 6-12 must master some aspect of this anchor standard. Specific goals for demonstration of this anchor standard are then delineated by grade level.

For example, the Grade 8 strand Reading: LiteratureCraft and Structure, Standard 4 (RL.8.4) states: Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including analogies or allusions to other texts.

As you can see, this specific standard is based upon the parent CCR standard (Craft and Structure, Standard 4) in which students determine technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.  This standard has been built upon since grade K.

Further specificity appears in sub-standards. This is extremely important in lesson and assessment planning.  Mastering the CCR standard in its most broad form may not appropriately address what students should master for their specific grade level for grade level assessments.

For example, in 5th grade, under the strand Language, sub-strand Conventions of Standard English, students are given L.5.1 (the CCR Anchor Standard) Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking PLUS L.5.1.A Explain the function of conjunctions, prepositions, and interjections in general and their function in particular sentences.

So what does that mean for you and your teaching?  This means that your fifth graders must have a firm grasp of the functions of conventions, SPECIFICALLY conjunctions, prepositions, and interjections - not only naming them, but explaining their function in context.  The L.5.1 CCR Anchor includes even more of these sub-standards, so it is crucial that teachers are not only aware of these specifics, but that they are addressing them in their lessons and assessment preparation.  If one ignores these specifics and only focuses on teaching general conventions (merely identifying nouns and verbs, for example) these fifth graders will fail in CCSS assessments.

Now that you have been introduced to the structure of the standards and how they work, it is then up to you (or whoever dictates your curriculum) to do the creative and technical work to actually teach the standards that have been outlined for you.  This is where the creation and implementation part comes in.

Continues with Part 2...
Tackling the Common Core ELA Standards, Part 2 - Common Core Basics: Breaking Down a Standard (coming soon!)

Source: Common Core State Standards Initiative © Copyright 2010. National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and Council of Chief State School Officers. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Common Core Aligned Literature Guide for Because of Winn-Dixie

This Because of Winn-Dixie Literature Guide has been written to focus on time-tested best practices for teaching, and is aligned to the Common Core State Standards, the NCTE/IRA English Language Arts Standards, and the Texas TEKS for grades 3 and 4. 133 pages

This Because of Winn-Dixie Literature Guide has the rigor you are looking for, while helping your students enjoy the story itself. Your students will walk away with a love, enjoyment and understanding of the literature and a grasp of the skills required for state and national testing.

*List of Pre-Reading Ideas and Activities

*Reading: Informational Focus article and corresponding CCSS-aligned Comprehension Check questions on Grief and Loss

*Pre-Reading Activity on Visual Discovery, using Google Art Project and culminating in a writing activity and discussion about the symbiotic relationship between humans and dogs (covers numerous and varied CCSS standards)

*Reading: Informational Focus Biography on author Kate DiCamillo, followed by corresponding CCSS-aligned Comprehension Check questions

*Vocabulary Lists: one with, and one without definitions

*Comprehensive defined list of Allusions, Unique Terminology, Sayings, and Slang from the story

*Active Reading Double Entry Log for active reading note-taking, including summarizing the plot, asking questions, and making connections to the students' own lives

*Chapter Questions located throughout, focusing on numerous and varied Reading: Literature CCSS

*Chapter-by-Chapter CCSS Reading: Literature Focus activities and lessons, including those on Point of View (RL.3.6; RL.4.6), Character Analysis (RL.3.3; RL.4.3), Setting (RL.4.3), Supporting Characters (RL.3.3; RL.4.3), Theme (RL.3.2; RL.4.2), Compare & Contrast with Gus Bowles (RL.3.5, RL.3.6; RL.4.6, RL.4.9), Inference and Character Changes (RL.3.1, RL.3.3; RL.4.1, RL.4.3), Inference and Conflict (RL.3.1, RL.3.3; RL.4.1, RL.4.3), Elements of Plot (RL.3.5; RL.4.5)

*Chapter-by-Chapter CCSS Writing Focus activities and lessons, including those on Concrete Words & Sensory Details (W.4.3.D), Research Project (helping dogs through thunderstorms) (W.3.6; W.3.7, W.3.8; W.4.6, W.4.7, W.4.8), Writing Compare and Contrast (RI.3.1, RI.3.3, RI.3.6, W.3.6; RI.4.1, RI.4.3, RI.4.6, W.4.9), Writing Narratives (W.3.3; W.4.3), Theme (RL.3.2, W.3.2; RL.4.2, W.4.9)

*Chapter-by-Chapter CCSS Language Focus activities and lessons, including those on Quotations (L.3.2.C), Capitalization (L.3.2.A; L.4.2.A), Homophones (L.3.2.F), Run-Ons and Fragments (L.3.1.H; L.4.1.F)

*Reading Quizzes

*Vocabulary Quizzes

*Two Final Test options for differentiation
- Final Test #1: 25 questions at mid- and high-level questioning, mid- and high-level rigor
- Final Test #2: 25 questions, completely Multiple Choice at low-level of questioning and low-level rigor
* Post-Reading and Extension Ideas

* Essay and Writing Prompts

* Teacher Agenda, including notes about this Guide

* Summary of the Book

* Rubric for assessing Narrative Writing

* General Writing Rubric

* Complete Answer Key

ISBN: 978-1-938913-52-5
Item No. LG13525

©2012 Elementary Solutions

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Secondary Solutions Launches SmartFlip™ Common Core Reference Guides for Grades 3-12

The first of their kind, SmartFlip Common Core Reference Guides give teachers a smart tool for creating Common Core aligned lessons and assessments. 

RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif., June 18, 2014 /PRNewswire/ Secondary Solutions®, ( known for superior-quality standards-based Common Core Literature and Writing Guides for Grades 3-12, today announced the release of the entire line of SmartFlip Common Core Reference Guides for English Language Arts for grades 3-12.   These handy spiral-bound flip books include the Common Core State Standards in their basic form along with each standard broken down into easily understandable, “translated” guidelines for CCSS skill mastery, culminating in hundreds of question stems and prompts, standard-by-standard, designed to enable teachers to easily create lessons and assessments with the question types required by Common Core standards, and found in PARCC and Smarter Balanced Assessments.
"When we evaluated our own products for Common Core alignment, we found that there were very few resources available that enabled our writers to specifically address the standards and raise the rigor in our Literature Guides. Since we knew that we were having trouble finding resources to help us create our materials in line with Common Core, we knew teachers were in the same predicament when trying to design their own lessons and assessments.  We decided to create our SmartFlip Common Core Reference Guides for teachers of grade 3 and up to help fill that need, and so far, the response has been overwhelming!  Teachers are thrilled!" said Kristen Bowers, President and owner of Secondary Solutions.
To visit Secondary Solutions, go to     
SmartFlip™ Common Core Reference Guides for grades 3-12 are available HERE

Secondary Solutions’ SmartFlip™ Common Core Reference Guides:

  • are available as a handy “flip book” reference guide for the Common Core English Language Arts standards
  • provide accessible and understandable Annotated Standards that break the standards down into teachable “chunks”
  • give you HUNDREDS of CCSS-Aligned Question Stems for lesson planning and assessment preparation
  • are in-line with PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) and Smarter Balanced (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) assessments
  • help you assist your students in preparing for the revised SAT® test
About Secondary Solutions
Since 2005, Secondary Solutions and sister company, Elementary Solutions have specialized in high-quality Literature and Writing Guides that are based on time-tested best practices and research.  Since 2010, Secondary Solutions and Elementary Solutions have worked to provide English Language Arts materials aligned to the Common Core State Standards. For more information, visit
Kristen Bowers

CCSS (Common Core State Standards), PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers), Smarter Balanced (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) and the SAT test (College Board) are registered trademarks and rights are reserved.  This product is not commissioned nor endorsed by any entity.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The House on Mango Street CCSS Literature Guide NOW Available in PDF!

The highly requested Common Core Standards-Based Literature Guide for The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros is now here!

Everything you've ever wanted in a unit plan is in this Guide! This Secondary Solutions Literature Guide for The House on Mango Street includes 122 pages of student coursework, activities, quizzes, tests, and more aligned with the Common Core State Standards for ELA as well as the NCTE/IRA National ELA Content Standards in English for grades 9-12. This The House on Mango Street Literature Guide is the solution to your lesson planning and CCSS stress!

Click here to VIEW sample pages of this The House on Mango Street Literature Guide


Friday, February 22, 2013

Presidents' Day Isn't Over Yet!

Ever notice how many car dealerships extend Presidents' Day throughout the whole month of February?  Well, that's what I do in the classroom!

February is incredibly busy, and I want to give the presidents the amount of time they're worth!  

I've been teaching the children about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.  
We've spent a couple of days talking about the strengths and qualities of both presidents. 

Here is one of the Writing Common Core Standards for Second Grade:  
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.2.1 Write opinion pieces in which they introduce the topic or book they are writing about, state an opinion, supply reasons that support the opinion, use linking words (e.g., because, and,also) to connect opinion and reasons, and provide a concluding statement or section.

Check out Elementary Matters to find this freebie on opinion writing we'll be using to address this Common Core standard.
Happy Presidents' Month!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Snowmen Literacy

We just love the Snowmen books!  Doesn't matter which ones; we still love them!  Students just get lost in their imaginations thinking about what their snowmen might be up to running around at night.  

Snowmen at Night (Storytown Library, Grade K, Story 8)Snowmen at Work

Since we love these books, I aligned some reading activities and a couple of writing units to the common core and we were ready to have some fun while learning!

I included a bubble map so students could compare the snowmen characters in the two stories.  I also included an are, can, have chart and even a blank one so students can come up with their own characteristics to plug in on the chart.  

Lots of comprehension cards for both books are in this unit so students can get practice remembering details from the stories.  And I put in a making words lesson to work on phonics and phonemic awareness skills.

Reading Comprehension activities

Students need lots of writing experience for the common core.  I have included a narrative writing unit and and explanatory writing unit so students can get more writing practice and have fun doing it!  I included writing rubrics for grades 1 & 2 to help you out!

writing unit and rubrics

I hope that your students enjoy this Snowmen Literacy Unit!  It does cover several common core standards and is a lot of fun at the same time.   

Thanks for letting me visit with you again.  Drop over to my blog sometime and visit!

Conversations in Literacy

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Common Core Reading Standards Themes

I created this Common Core theme packet for teachers who need a generic theme sheet and student friendly rubric they can use with any book or story. I've been receiving very positive feedback from teachers, because to create Common Core student worksheets for every book or story, would be very time consuming!  This aligns with grades 4 and 5, but can be used with other grades.

photo of Common Core Reading Standards Themes, PDF, reading, Common Core, Ruth S.