By Tom White
Devotees will remember that I’m writing about all the Common Core Standards one at a time, focusing on the fourth grade standards because that’s what I teach. In my last installment I finished my tour of the reading literature standards. Now it’s time to delve into the Reading Information Text Standards. So let’s get started! First, here’s the standard itself:
Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
I love this standard. It basically means having students back up what they say or write about a text by using examples from that text. Getting kids to do this is probably the single most important thing we do in schools. The academic world itself relies on practitioners using text-based evidence in their arguments. Likewise, the legal profession relies on cops and lawyers using evidence in their arguments. Doctors also have to rely on evidence when they make their diagnosis. I can’t think of a single profession that doesn’t rely on the use of evidence.
And it all starts back in elementary school, when we ask students to tell about a text and use “details and examples when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.”
But how do we do this?
The best way I know how to teach this standard is Literacy Design Collaborative units. When you write or use one of these units, you can rest assured that you’re hitting – and assessing – the important standards, including this one.
This year, for example, I created an LDC unit about Washington State geography. My kids were studying the eight region of our state, comparing their climate, vegetation, resources, major cities and important products. After slogging through our social studies textbook, we began the writing project. It involved having each student pretend to be a “Cross-State Trucker.” They had to plan and describe a round trip trucking route in which they visited three of the eight regions, picking up and dropping off products along the way. Their writing had to include descriptions of the weather and vegetation they encountered along the way.
Before they could do their writing, they had to go back to their textbooks and do research. In other words, find evidence to use in their writing. Some of it was explicit, like finding the major cities and products, but they also had to draw inferences; the text told about the climate, but my students had to pick a date for the start of the trip, which meant that they had to infer from the climate information what the weather might be on a specific date.
Their writing turned out great, even if some of them got a little carried away describing the amenities in the cabs of their trucks (hot tubs?) or the meals they had along the way (one kid managed to find an Applebee’s for every meal). What I was looking for in assessing their work was whether or not they used evidence from the text when they described their imaginary trips.
And they did!