What are ELA Standards Anyhow?

An intimidating spiral bound pink booklet was my initial exposure to English  Language Arts Standards. Twelve years ago when I entered my teacher training program my professor handed each student a set of standards, one for each content area since we were Childhood Education majors. The professor passionately explained to us that this was our guidebook to follow and that everything, yes, EVERYTHING, we teach should be related to a standard! (This statement itself is ground for another conversation.) As a novice to the world of education, I eagerly embraced my stacks, prepared to take on the challenge!

Experiences in the field

I studied my New York State Standards, jumping right into the English Language Arts Standards, carefully designing lesson plans during my student teaching assignments. Like a craftsman, I whittled away, detailing each lesson, including the benchmark and standard. However, when I graduated I decided to move to Colorado, in which I had an opportunity to teach third grade at a brand new school. That first year involved an extended amount of time and effort creating literacy curriculum and aligning the content to Colorado’s English Language Arts Standards. So, those pastel books remained on a book shelf coated with dust while I embraced Colorado’s standards (which were based on state standards at the time). Though those standards were less
intimidating this time around, I still feverishly coddled my 1.5 inch standards binder.

When I moved to Minnesota to begin my fourth year of teaching, learning standards were like a second child: I felt comfortable with them, none of the awkward what if I do x, y, or z wrong type of moments. Instead, I had an aha moment:

A standard is a standard

Yes, depending on whether you’re in a state that has it’s own set of standards, or a state that focuses on Common Core Standards, there’s varying degrees of interpretation, just as a child is a child. Please amuse me for just a moment as I present my analogy: my child might like sweet potatoes, while your child dines on crinkled carrots, both children are getting Vitamin A.

children lying on the grass

The same goes for standards, throughout my career whether I’m referring to the New York State Learning Standards, Colorado State Standards, or Minnesota’s Common Core English Language Arts Standards, the function is the same. Standards are a guide to ensure I’m meeting the expectations of what my students are expected to learn.

Though in my writing pieces I refer to the Common Core English Language Arts Standards, please keep the following in mind:



The strategies can easily be applied to the same content area for another state standard



The experiences I discuss in my writing pieces are based on my work from multiple states, each having it’s own set of standards.

Taking a Closer Look 

After all, summarize central ideas and literary ideas from the text, which is an evidence based outcome for Colorado’s CCSS third grade English Language Arts Standards, and Texas’ Essential Skills and Knowledge outcome for third grade, which is to sequence and summarize the plot’s main events and their influence on future events, both teach students to apply higher level thinking skills, requiring a dissection of the text. While the emphasis in certain content areas may differ, English Language Arts standards have the same unifying goal: teach our children to inquire and think critically.

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