As an educational publisher, designing a curriculum to align with the Common Core Standards can be challenging. However, there is an opportunity to connect the Common Core Standards to the literature that students are reading. Making these connections allows curricula to meet the expectations set forth by organizations like EdReports.
For example, the standard CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.3.3 requires students to describe characters in a story, including their traits, motivations, and feelings, and explain how their actions contribute to the sequence of events. While identifying a character trait may seem simple, third grade is a critical year for literacy development, as students transition from learning to read to reading to learn. Thus, to develop a high level of understanding, students must demonstrate the ability to apply the skill of character analysis on a rigorous level.
Some strategies that can be used to connect this Common Core Standard to literature are:
Using the class read-aloud, keep a character log. After each chapter reading, discuss the main character’s traits, motivations, and feelings, and explain how their actions influence the events that follow. This can be completed in many ways, including peer or group discussion, an anchor chart, or using iPads and a SMART Board for back-channeling discussion.
Mark Up the Text:
Display the text using a SMART Board, e-book, or photocopy. Have the student highlight the evidence that proves the traits, motivations, and feelings the character possesses. Next, have the student highlight the sequence of events that were caused because of the trait.
Create a Game:
Using their own texts, have students identify key character traits, motivations, and feelings, and explain how these traits influenced key events in the text. Students can record this information on index cards. The student would create several examples like this and then spread all of the cards out in front of a peer. The peer would have to match the character traits with the events.
If a student is proficient in reading but has difficulty with writing, having a one-on-one oral response may be beneficial. The teacher can ask the student questions related to character traits, motivations, and feelings, and how they contribute to the sequence of events.
Using the novel Stone Fox as an example, a third-grade response indicating a student has difficulty applying characterization analysis might look like this: “Little Willy’s character could be described as sad, and since Little Willy was sad, it caused him to enter a dog sled race.” With this type of ambiguous response, the teacher is left wondering if the student understands how to apply the standard, because key details from the plot are overlooked.
An evidence-supported third-grade answer could include something such as: “Little Willy’s character can be described as devastated and determined. He was upset because he learned that his grandfather was sick. When Little Willy learned that his grandfather’s illness was because he had no money to pay the taxes on the farm, Little Willy decided to enter a dog sled race. Little Willy hoped he would win the first place $500 and use the money to pay his grandfather’s taxes.”
By using the above strategies, educational stakeholders can help students develop a high level of understanding and demonstrate the ability to apply the skill of character analysis on a rigorous level. This, in turn, will help students meet the Common Core Standard of describing characters in a story, including their traits, motivations, and feelings, and explaining how their actions contribute to the sequence of events.