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Making Common Core Standards Achievable

Making Common Core State Standards


for ALL Learners


As a teacher of students with learning disabilities, CCSS can seem overwhelming and unachievable for our students.  However, the format of the standards can work to our advantage to modify curriculum and help our students meet those standards.


Below is the eighth grade Reading Informational standard under the cross grade level concept of KEY IDEAS AND DETAILS.

Key Ideas and Details:



Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysisof what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.



Determine a central idea of a text and analyzeits development over the course of the text, including its relationship to supporting ideas; provide an objective summary of the text.



Analyzehow a text makes connections among and distinctions between individuals, ideas, or events (e.g., through comparisons, analogies, or categories).

All of these standards build on the previous grade’s standards, adding to and usually including a higher level of thinking.  Here you notice all of the standards include some form of analysis.  To analyzemeans to take a concepts, break it down, identify and understand its connections to other concepts. This is a somewhat complicated task, and in eighth grade only one part of each standard is targeted.

So given this information, what do we do to support ALL students? 

Use the format of CCSS standards to “task analyze” grade level standards.  Because grade levels share the same conceptual heading (ie Key Ideas and Details) you can slide down to another grade level and see how the concept builds.

Let’s take RI8.1 and see what this looks like in 6th grade, and 4th grade.

Key Ideas and Details: 8th grade


Key Ideas and Details: 6th grade


Key Ideas and Details: 4th grade


Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysisof what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.



So for a student that has difficulty with the process necessary to analyze, we can use the information in the 4th grade standard to modify (i.e. explain rather than analyze).

We can then bridge the 4th grade and 6th grade standards, by intentionally teaching the skills necessary to analyze: break down the information and find connections to other information. Thisstrategy for modification can be used with all standards.

I have found, as an RSP teacher, that students can achieve CCSS; however, educators must familiarize themselves with the format and then modify/scaffold as necessary to ensure success.






Feedback that’s Honest, Student-Centered, and Useful


"Teach a man to fish.....:”


Teaching the Writing Process = Building Student Confidence = Improving Student Performance


Step 1: Feedback that’s honest, student-centered, and useful.

Bandura (1987), a social psychologist, conducted research on the effect significant others have on human goal setting and behavior, along with similar educationally related topics. His studies make it clear that we will strive towards a goal if we think we can achieve that goal.  How do we form these opinions of our abilities or come to the belief that a goal is achievable? Bandura’s work suggests that prior experience and the feedback of those in our environment help us create images of what’s possible and what’s not. We see our experiences through the lense of those who are important to us.  Parents’ statements of dissatisfaction with grades students achieve influence students’ perceptions of their graded performance, and depending on the content of parents’ comments, whether they can improve their performance.  Teachers and parents, are, therefore, important contributors to student confidence and perceptions of what is possible.

So, how can teachers build student confidence and, at the same time, provide them with

feedback that is both honest and valuable in terms of improving skills for written expression?  In this first blog, we address the use of student-centered feedback. The phrase, ‘student-centered feedback,’ refers to any assessment tool that identifies the individual student’s own pattern of strengths and weaknesses. This is not the same as the approach where we look for aggregates of strengths and weaknesses in the class as a whole. The ‘aggregate’ approach asks: What skills need improving for most of the students in my class? The student-centered approach asks: What are this student’s strengths and weaknesses? In the aggregate approach to classroom instruction, students respond with thoughts like “this doesn’t necessarily apply to me (and decreases motivation)”. In the student-centered approach, students respond by spontaneously asking teachers to evaluate their individual writing products (“Do mine,” they’ll say). Students feel that they are not wasting their time on unneeded tasks AND that the specifics you give them make it clear what they need to do.

Anyone who has worked with adolescents also knows that being overly generous in praise causes students to become somewhat skeptical of the advice that is given to them. A student-centered approach allows us to build our ‘advice’ credibility for students. It also provides the opportunity for students to know, or prove to themselves, that they have improved.  Therefore, there are two tasks that need to be accomplished with any feedback we give. The feedback method should: 1) Let students know how the information will help them improve even more, and 2) set-up tasks so that the student sees how much he or she has improved.  In other words, our feedback should provide a positive bent to recommendations, make credible teacher feedback, and build student confidence in their own abilities.

How do we incorporate these techniques into the classroom?  We invite you to register on our website and receive a link to our webinar discussing how to implement a student-centered approach for grammar instruction (called “Mechanics Workshop”) along with the Grammar Evaluation form that we use with students. Ideally, we want to use the same evaluation tool after the first essay the students write as well as after a quarterly essay, as this allows us to thoroughly follow students’ work on one or two of the targeted skills.

Follow our quarterly blog for more information on how to build student confidence at Email us your thoughts or interests via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Our NEXT BLOG will outline Step 2 to building student confidence: “Make Problem Solving Steps Explicit.” Tune in and email us to find out what exactly that means and how a teacher can make problem solving steps specific. We believe writing is a meta-problem solving task.


Want to learn more about what student-centered teaching means? Head to, an article on the definition of student-centered learning and how it differs from teacher-centered learning. It discusses examples of student-centered learning and explains how to implement those practices into every-day teaching as well as provides critique on the positives and negatives of this learning technique.

Another article that can give more info on the student-centered approach can be found here: . This article gives the five main characteristics of learner (or student)-centered teaching and the kinds of benefits it can provide to both students and teachers. It explains how students are more motivated, more reflective, and how they work harder with the student-centered approach as opposed to more teacher-centralized options.


OTHER RESOURCES FOR TEACHERS: provides information for teachers and parents alike who are interested in equal access to quality education for children who are learning English. is an official Discovery Channel website that has free teaching resources for writing as well as many other subjects. They offer lesson plans and worksheets as well as a multitude of story mapping techniques

Web-Based Academic Language Exercises

Direct Links to Web-Based

Academic Language Exercises

      We educators often provide parents and students with website addresses where they can further search for particular exercises; however, just the process of searching and figuring out the website organization can be disheartening. 

      We hope this blog will help educators, parents, and students find exercises and games to help improve academic language understanding and use.  Academic language, found in content area textbooks, consists of complex sentences,   multi-syllablic words, and figurative phrases such as similes and metaphors.  Below are brief descriptions and direct links to web based exercises and games that should help with understanding and using all of these language forms.


1. Root words, prefixes, suffixes:

This website has a list of prefixes, roots, and suffixes that will help students figure out meanings of words, and includes two games Rooty and  Meany which allows students to practice using roots to define words.                    

2. Translators:    

Translators combines  world-class dictionaries, verb conjugations, video Spanish translations, and English to Spanish machine translations into one very powerful search box.


1. Grammar Practice: -

Students complete grammar exercises including complex sentence and scrambled sentence exercises. Although the site does not have pictures, it does give feedback about performance on exercises.

The user will need Flashplayer to play the online games available. 

2. Preposition Practice:

The student looks at a picture, listens, answers a question, and repeats short sentences using frequently occurring prepositions (e.g. to/from, on/off, etc.)

3. Conversation Practice:

This site features Average Daily Living Conversations:  Students can listen to, read print, and repeat functional conversations.

4. Question Practice: 

Type in a questions to ask Mike the robot, and he will answer back. 

5. Math Vocabulary: 

This site provides a multi language glossary, definitions of terms through algebra and geometry levels, and practice problems which are read aloud to the student before answering them online.

6. Basic Vocabulary:

The site features games that have students matching a word heard to either a printed word or picture. The vocabulary used includes adjectives and antonyms.

7. Vocabulary games including similes:

This website provides links for other sites that allow students to practice read, oral, and written vocabulary within games. Practice of similes are included in many of the sites.  

Blog #3



 BLOG #3

Improve Grammar Skills Using Multi-Modality  Activities: Where to Start.

      Talk/Write welcomes you to our third blog, the last in this series.   In July, we discussed how the grammar used in State standards testing is difficult for our English Learners to understand. Our next blog suggested assessments and strategies to build grammatical skills.  This blog will site some resources and how to implement them successfully with our ELL population.


Saturday, February 16, 2013
2:00 pm Pacific Time
3D's Virtual Workshop
Grammar and Mechanics
Go to to register now!

Where Do I Start?

      Start with a pre-test and a plan. This is where I recommend use of Harkins’ Conversation With Conjunctions. (See link below.)  I’ve used the program and have had  great success with both comprehension and use of conjunctions as well as compound/complex sentence forms. The program has a pretest that identifies the forms students use and don’t use. Additionally, the program allows compound and complex sentence forms to be taught using different tenses and English word order. Therefore, if a student is making errors on tense or on word order, you can target these within the context of practice with compound or complex sentences.                                                                             

Using the Program

     After pre-testing your students, follow the tasks in the program. Each task requires a product from students either verbally or in writing. The meaning of the conjunction word is defined for  students. Synonyms for target conjunctions are provided. Students listen to model sentences using the conjunction and then create their own sentences using   words pictured on cards. Students also listen to paragraphs and answer WH questions requiring them to answer in sentences using the targeted words.           
     The teacher who uses the program only needs to add a few tasks to make the lessons multimodality, i.e. for students to  use the form in listening, reading, speaking, and writing. After students complete the paragraph listening task, for example, have them read the paragraphs and write answers to the questions.  After students create oral sentences using the target conjunctions in picture description tasks, have the students write the sentences that they recall saying or hearing. 

Adding Games

       I also like to introduce challenge and speed games with targeted forms. I have students write their sentences on index cards and then cut out each word of a sentence to form a sentence scramble game. Students exchange scrambled sentences and we see who can unscramble the sentences the fastest. We also play a speed game where students scan for target conjunctions in classroom reading books or text books. Again, the winner is the one who can find the form AND rephrase the sentence or tell me the two parts joined by the conjunction.
How Do I Use Essay Writing to Provide More Functional Use of Target Forms?        
If you phrase your essay topics so you use the target form, students will be forced to use the form too. (You may also require them to use the form at least two other times in the essay.)
Here are a few essay topic forms that may help:
     Conditional: If Lincoln were president today, what would he change?     
     Exception: Science contributes to a better society, but not to__________     
     Causal or inferential: As long as there are ____________________, there will be __________  (society, economy, class,  integration, etc.)                    
     Second: Use the Mechanics format of the Talk/Write program (See link below).
    First have students write essays. Review each essay and identify the grammatical error that hurts the clarity of the essay the most.  I suggest following up by teaching students in groups, with each group devoted to working on a particular troublesome grammatical error.  Teach the target form, practice using the target form in atleast one of their own essays , then have students search for erred use of the target form and correct these using the Talk/Write Mechanics Self Correct form (available through our Virtual Workshop.)

Featured Website    

English as a Second Language
        If you haven’t used the English as a Second Language website you are in for an amazing discovery.  Rated as one of the top four websites for English as a Second Language Learners, one visit will reveal why it’s so popular.  The home page is easy to navigate, and welcomes you with a creative attribute, the talking Mike tutor: an animated robot which you communicate with in writing. This is quite a unique device to improve writing fluency while having a great time.                 
     This website includes an endless supply of leveled reading, vocabulary, grammar, writing, and tutorials for all levels of English fluency.  The “Kids” link supplies materials, games, and support for students, parents, and teachers. Podcasts, newspapers, magazines are all linked to English as a Second Language’s site as well.            
and discovery a gold mine of resources and meet the talking Mike tutor now!


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Teaching and Learning

Written Expression


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