Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Thinking About the Language Standards

On Tuesdays, Stacey at twowritingteachers.wordpress hosts the Slice of Life. Today, I am coming in at the buzzer with a slice about the Common Core language standards.

I have to admit that I have spent most of my Common Core getting to know the reading and writing standards. I have not spent as much time studying and trying to make sense of the language standards, until just recently. On the Smarter Balanced website, there is a link where the truly adventurous can go take a practice test. (Feel free to follow the link!) Over the weekend, I went re-visiting this site, paying close attention to the questions that assess students' editing and revising skills. I have copied one of the questions from the Grade 6 ELA test:

A student is writing an explanatory essay for a world language class. Read a paragraph from the essay and the directions that follow.

What is the best way to learn another language? Some people say that only living in a country where the language is spoken really works. However, for them that do not have the time or money to move to a different country there are many other options. Listening to music and watching movies in a different language with subtitles can really help, for example.

One sentence in the paragraph above contains a grammar usage and a punctuation error. Type the incorrect sentence below, correcting the two errors.

Type your answer in the space provided.

Out of curiosity, I asked my sixth-grade daughter to tell me how she would answer this question. My daughter loves to write and has done well on our state's test, so far. She is not flawless in her knowledge of punctuation, but she is above average. Additionally, we talk a lot in our house and we make sure to use correct grammar in our conversation. I share this because, even with these strengths and advantages, she struggled with this task. For almost 10 minutes, she worked to figure out the answer and I watched her, realizing all of the skills that the task required:

  • She had to read closely, because the directions said that there were two mistakes in ONE sentence. She spent a fair amount of time looking for two mistakes in the paragraph.
  • She had to accept that the last sentence was correct, even though it sounds awkward. Who ever ends a sentence with for example???  We teach children to BEGIN a sentence with this phrase!
  • She did not like the second sentence, finding it hard to understand. I'd love to speak to the author of this sentence since I'd like to teach him/her about the importance of the active voice. Ultimately, the standards want students to write in the active voice (I think this appears in 9th or 10th grade), so why are we assessing students in the passive voice?
  • She was sure that the comma was missing in the third sentence, but she still wanted to correct the last sentence. She spent time reading and re-reading the last sentence to try to find a second error, before I finally directed her to the third sentence, reminding her that it was missing a comma. "Could they have put one mistake in one sentence and two mistakes in another sentence?" she asked me. I think that, based on the directions, they could have. 
  • If she were really going to complete the task, she would have had to type the answer. Before she got to the typing, she had spent 8 1/2 minutes on this question.
The almost 10 minutes that I spent with Cecily watching her try to answer this one question really worried me, as the new testing comes barreling at us. While I feel like we are making strides to prepare students for three types of writing, and I have been impressed with some of the sample items I have seen to assess these writing skills, I definitely need to think about how we will prepare students for the questions about language, punctuation, and grammar. I would love to hear other bloggers' thoughts about the language standards and sample questions, as well as how other districts are teaching these skills to students.

Happy slicing,


  1. Interesting! There is something so "gotcha" about these tests, a randomness that is so frustrating for our kids...and us. How to teach to this sort of thing? And, does one really want to? Sigh. Thank you for the links, though - I have to check these out.

  2. Interesting! There is something so "gotcha" about these tests, a randomness that is so frustrating for our kids...and us. How to teach to this sort of thing? And, does one really want to? Sigh. Thank you for the links, though - I have to check these out.

  3. Melanie,
    I worry about the "gotcha" factor if these tests-I am also thinking about how the CCSS is "leveling the playing field" for all students-and yet I can't help but think about how disadvantaged kids will be even more so by the nature of what these assessments are asking! Many of the have barely touched a keyboard, few have access to home computers-I just worry about whether these tests are fair ways of truly assess students knowledge...

  4. "I feel that linguistic standards are critical for efficient communication across varied cultures. While language changes naturally, having a fixed standard creates a common foundation for understanding. Strategic management is an intriguing field that necessitates thorough investigation and critical thinking. strategic management thesis. requires a thorough understanding of organizational dynamics, market trends, and leadership strategies.