How Not to Implement the CCSS ELA & Literacy Standards: 10 Cautionary Thoughts for Secondary Teachers

Student SleepingWith the emergence of the Common Core State Standards, secondary teachers are feeling the heat. For years, many teachers have relied on the English Department to teach anything that smacked of reading. Now, teaching reading and literacy skills are on every secondary teacher’s plate. With the Common Core Standards, every teacher in the building is responsible for literacy.

In a previous post for secondary teachers getting ready to face these challenges, I provided several great resources to get you started in the right direction.

Today I’ve simply compiled a list of 10 easy ways NOT to implement the ELA & literacy standards.

10 Ways Not to Implement the ELA & Literacy Standards

1.  Assign all reading for homework. All of it. For homework.

Do you really think most students are going to read the [dry] textbook at home and arrive in class eager to discuss? No, I didn’t think so.

2.  Compile a REALLY BIG packet with key academic vocabulary, REALLY GREAT comprehension questions, links to websites, and much, much more.

That’ll really build comprehension and engaged students. Go kill a tree and try it. Better yet, post it online. Now that’s 21st century integration. Uh-huh.

3.  Place students in pairs or cooperative learning groups and have them collaborate to discuss the text. With no direction, of course.

If you want students to plan the party following the Friday night game, that’s a great plan.

4.  Have students read the text during class time ask them “probing” questions on the order of… What were your take-a-ways? What did you find interesting? Do you need any clarification?

A step up from #1 albeit a tiny, baby step.

5.  Teach students as if they’re all proficient readers.

That’ll get you nowhere. Fast.

You’ve got to have a baseline of students’ reading and vocabulary proficiency. I’m sure you’re shocked to know that not all students read on grade level. A baseline assessment will help.

6.  Read aloud all the “difficult” passages in the book.

Well, that’ll do nicely. Another great way to build proficient readers.

7.  Create a Word Wall with all the key vocabulary in the course. And never refer to it. Better yet, earn bonus points for building a Word Wall online with WallWisher. Then promptly forget about it.

While it won’t accomplish much, the Word Wall will at least fill up one of those !*?* 6’ bulletin boards. And, by putting the Word Wall online you’ve integrated 21st century learning. Wow.

8.  Have students read the text orally round robin style.

That. will. definitely. create. fluent. and. expressive. readers.

Not only will unrehearsed oral reading NOT do that, it will harm readers and quite possibly become a perfect time for other students to catch up on some much needed zzzzzs . (Refer to photo above.)

9.  Develop an extensive book list for the course and assign each student a specific book to read. Be sure to have students write a 3-page book report over the assigned book. With references. MLA style.

What a great way to build strong and engaged readers. Students love it when choice is taken away and they have to read yet another assigned book. Just ask Kelly Gallagher; he has a thing or two to say about that in Readacide.

10. Seek out one of the English teachers to get help. Be sure to tell her that your students “just can’t read” or they “just don’t understand the text.”

That will be exactly what he/she needs to know to help you.

Until we can articulate more specifically what our students can do well and where they struggle (see #5), we will never move forward. Kylene Beers includes a great list that addresses specific reading issues for secondary students in her book, Why Kids Can’t Read. Read pages 26-28. So good.

By the way, I wrote a new eBook specifically addressing the benefits of creating a K-12 common literacy language. I even included key educational and literacy terms as a bonus. Wow. You can get a sneak peek here.


There you have it. 10 easy things NOT to do to meet the new secondary ELA and literacy standards.

Now, what to do. More on that in another post.


Resources to support you:

Common Core Toolkit  [Common Core Cheat Sheet, Resource List with 40+ top resources, CCSS webinar recording]

Helping Secondary Teachers Prepare for the Common Core

How to Select and Teach Academic Vocabulary at the Secondary Level

10 Characteristics of Effective Vocabulary Instruction

Top 10 Characteristics of a Literacy-Rich Classroom

21 Digital Tools to Build Vocabulary

10 Characteristics of a Highly Effective Learning Environment

15 Digital Tools that Support Project-Based Learning

Top Tips for Word Walls [26 Tips & 7 Pics]


photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography via photopin cc


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Kimberly has been a teacher, administrator, and literacy consultant who worked in districts across the country to improve student literacy achievement. She currently serves as an Educational Specialist with Solution Tree and project manager for large-scale PLC implementations. Her new book, Blended Vocabulary: Harnessing the Power of Digital Tools and Effective Instruction, was recently released in February, 2017.