Looking deeper at Craft and Structure for Reading with Common Core Standards

Looking deeper at

Craft and Structure 

for Reading 

with Common Core Standards

Craft and Structure are numbers 4-6 in the Common Core standards.  Did you know that 10 out of 14 assessed claims are based on these standards?  Yet after some empirical data,  it has been found that most Language Arts instruction resides in standards 1-3 -Key ideas and details.  We need to be focusing more on these standards.

Let's break down each one of the craft and structure standards...

Craft and Structure Reading Standard #4
"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."

First of all, this is not about vocabulary lists and context clues.  It's more about the author and their choices.   

Some questions that should guide your lesson planning...

  • Why do you think the author used this particular word?
  • What images does the author paint when he uses the word _______?
Remember to focus on the intent of the author.

Craft and Structure Reading Standard #5
"Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole."

This can be easily confused with text structures used with informational text.  This is not that.  This is more about the authors choices in what structure the text is written in.  Is it a narrative?  A poem?  Free verse?
Then within that structure, what is the big picture?  Did the author write a long detailed paragraph to offer the most information?  Or did the author choose a one sentence or a very small paragraph to pack a punch?

Craft and Structure Reading Standard #6
"Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text."

In the past when we asked author's purpose, the answer was inform, entertain or persuade.  This standard goes much deeper than that!  Here the analysis is on the point of view of the author or the specific purpose in writing this text.

As you can see all the questions focus on the author and the intentionality in using certain words or structures in demonstrating a point of view or writing for a specific purpose.

Hope this gave you a little more clarity.  Next blog post I will use a specific piece of text or story and how we would apply these standards to it.  See you then!

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New Job = New Lens

New Job = New Lens

             So this year, I got a new job.  The week before school began, there were a lot of changes and long story short, I am the new Instructional Coach for the school.
              Over the summer I had applied for and received (I had a few donations and then I paid for the rest of a half since the other half was matched) a DonorsChoose grant for great literature.  Some of it is pictured above.
               IMHO, it's my job to serve the teachers and kids.  To that end, I spent this week, doing read alouds or stokes in every classroom.  It was amazing.  It opened my eyes to what the teachers deal with every day.  As a 30 year veteran, I thought I saw everything...nope.  It was so wonderful to share these books with the kids and teachers.  We Don't Eat Our Classmates got a lot of laughs.  Say Something made us pensive.  The Fantastic Elastic Brain taught us a lot about our amazing brain.  The Most Magnificent Thing taught us about our growth mindset.  I loved it!
                You're probably asking what's a stoke?  Stokes are activities created by the at Stanford.  They can be used to create focus, boost energy and even communicate mindsets.   That was a lot of fun and was a springboard for future work!  And if you've never heard of the, get to know it.  It's an amazing place where people come first and space and work is always utilized with that in mind.  If you're curious about Design Thinking, visit them or better yet attend a training.
              So I hope I do a good job.  But the thing to remember is story always brings us together!

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This is the time to start your year off right with an amazing close reading lesson

This is the time to start your year off right with an amazing close reading lesson

As the school year starts, this is the best time to start with close reading.  This is not something I do in Reader’s Workshop.  For that, I read aloud a novel for pleasure and we discuss quickly before kids go read independently as I confer independently or in small groups.

Close reading is done in a few steps:
1. Read aloud for pleasure and for students to hear correct phrasing and intonation.
2. Students read chorally the next day.  Again this helps with prosody especially for those readers that need some extra support.
3.  Then I give my kids the close reading sheet.  The text is on one side and the right side is blank for their annotations.  Before they start, I ask if kids need clarification of any vocabulary.
4.  Finally, I read the focus question aloud.  Kids answer the focus question after they complete annotations.  I read it first because I want them to keep it in mind as they are reading the text and completing annotations.  Then kids complete the close reading sheet with their own annotations of the text.  It could be a comment or question.  Questions cannot be about vocabulary as we’ve already clarified that!  Close reading annotations can be completed digitally or on paper.

Some amazing novels for fourth and fifth grades that I use are:

  • Wonder
  • The One and Only Ivan
  • Inside Out and Back Again
  • The Cay
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • Flora and Ulysses
  • Rain, Reign
  • Tequila Worm
  • Esperanza Rising

Don’t forget picture books too!  I like:

  • Separate is Never Equal
  • Last Stop on Market Street
  • The Day You Begin
  • Drum Dream Girl
  • Happy Dreamer
  • Dreamers
  • The Day You Begin
  • Each Kindness
  • The Junkyard Wonders
  • The Wretched Stone
  • The Wolves in the Walls
  • The Most Magnificent Thing

I hope this helps you get started with close reading this year!

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Wrapping Up the School Year

(It's the End of the Year!)

How do you wrap up your school year?  I know you're tired but I see it as a time to go out strong!  Leave your kids with amazing memories and fun stuff.  Since testing is over, it's a good time to branch out and do some really fun activities.


You can wrap up with reflective activities.  One thing we did and put up for Open House was the Wheel of Memories!  It's a simple wheel where kids can write about their favorite activities or memories from the school year.  If you'd like your own, download it here!

Digital Tools

It's also a good time to try out some new digital tools.  My kids love Quizizz.  There are a lot of pre-made quizzes or you can make your own.   Kids can also create their own which my kids loooove!  During the year, my students embedded them into their Google Slides projects.  That way they can see who was paying attention during their oral presentations!!  

Padlet is an online collaborative bulletin board.  I used it in conjunction with Schoology.  That's the learning management system our district uses.  I created a discussion with a historical image.  Kids commented with their first impressions.  Then we watched a meme-story on YouTube (Mr. Bett's is amazing!!), finally we used Padlet to share summaries about their new understandings. 

In my class, we use all things Google Suite.  One great activity is the End of Year Newspaper project on Google.   It's basically a way to remember the past year but in a fun digital format.   

How do you like to wrap up your school year?

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Test taking tips

Test Taking Tips

Here are some tips to make through this trying time!
  • Eat a mint.  A mint helps you focus and clear your mind.
  • Breathe.  Take deep breaths to help you recenter.
  • If a question has you stumped, skip it and come back to it.
  • Don't rush!  Take your time.
  • Have faith in yourself.  You are smarter and stronger than you think!
  • When finished, do some fun activities like STEM stuff!!
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Women's History Month: Great Read Alouds

Women's History Month

Are you looking for some great alouds for this month?
Here are some great picture books for you!

Get your Amazon fingers ready because you want these books in your classroom library!

I Dissent is a great book about the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court Justice.  When she grew up, girls were not expected to go to college and especially not become lawyers.

This a gentle book about the adventures of a pink hat.  It does not mention the Women's March exactly but alludes to it at the end.

This is a book written by Chelsea Clinton about 13 amazing American women who made great contributions to the world.

 This is a book another book written by Chelsea Clinton about 13 amazing International women who made great contributions to the world.

OK This is my latest and favorite title!  
Turning Pages: My Life Story is 
written by Sonia Sotomayor, Supreme Court Justice.  
It talks about the role books played throughout her life.  
As shown on the cover, the illustrator interspersed text within the pictures.

At literacy night at our school,  I read the book aloud and then we did an art activity using the text of the constitution, an image of the Supreme Court, 
an image of her face and an image of her in her judge's robes.  
Here are some examples!

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