Tag Archives: Standards

What is a “BE”?

“I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.”

Yesterday, my grandson came over for dinner with his mother. With a few minutes to spare before eating, they decided to complete his Kindergarten homework for the night. Yes, that’s right, he had homework!!!! Despite his claim that he “didn’t like homework,” his mom persevered and it was completed – two sheets of handwriting practice (He had trouble with “baby m’s”) and several pages of sight words, to which I heard over and over the refrain, “I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.” I wondered what was being done so that he would now them?????

At one point Jonas remarked that he wanted his letters to be perfect because he did not wish to receive a “BE.” His mom replied, “You want to get an OT, right?” I was thoroughly confused at this point. Well…. upon further examination of system documents, an “OT” is “on target” and a “BE’ is “below expectations.” There is also the chance of receiving an “AE” “approaching expectations.” This is part of standards-based grading that is the format of the primary report card in our school system.

I supposed the idea is that these terms help to clarify the expectations of each objective or as we call them “clear targets.” But despite the fancy new language, the implication is that an “OT” is the goal = “A” and a “BE” means not succeeding = “F.” Do we really need Kindergarteners to experience the stress of success that early????

I teach 8th grade students and an overwhelming concern is student apathy. Could this be a clue? How long does it take to expect students to perform at some human made standard until they tire of it and give up?

Coincidentally a colleague shared concerns over the multiple-choice common assessments required of our ELA students. Specifically how we are asking students to choose the BEST response as decided by central office staff. Their ideas do not always correlate with ours. My peer wondered how this prepares students for the real world when they will have to reason and write out their ideas versus taking a test.

Despite my musings, Jonas will still have to try to get those “baby m’s” and sight words to an “OT” level and I will have to continue to work at getting my students to proficiency (80% or above) on common assessments. Good luck real world problems!!!

Standards, Standards, Standards: Argument Unit Part 2



Unit planning begins with the standards. The state has adopted the Common Core State Standards, so that is where I begin. The following standards pertain to the idea of reading, analyzing, and writing arguments.

Key Ideas and Details

RI.8.1 Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas

RI.8.8 Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, distinguishing claims that are supported by reasons and evidence from claims that are not.

Comprehension and Collaboration

S/L.8.3 Delineate a speaker’s argument and specific claims, evaluating the soundness of the reasoning and relevance and sufficiency of the evidence and identifying when irrelevant evidence is introduced.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas

S/L.8.4. Present information, findings, and supporting evidence, conveying a clear and distinct perspective, such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning, alternative or opposing perspectives are addressed, and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and a range of formal and informal tasks.

Text Types and Purposes

W.8.1 Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.

a. Introduce claim(s), acknowledge and distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and organize the reasons and evidence logically.

b. Support claim(s) with logical reasoning and relevant evidence, using accurate, credible sources and demonstrating an understanding of the topic or text.

c. Use words, phrases, and clauses to create cohesion and clarify the relationships among claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.

d. Establish and maintain a formal style.

e. Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the argument presented.

Phrasing copy and pasted from http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy.

Author Jim Burke has broken the standards down to help understand what is needed to produce the outcome. With this help, I created a list of objectives.

1. Define and identify the parts of an argument: claim, evidence, warrant, counterclaim, and rebuttal.

2. Define and identify types of claims: fact, values, and policy.

3. Distinguish between claims with support and those without support.

4. Define and identify some common fallacies use in argument.

5. Distinguish between arguments that are sound and those that have fallacies.

6. Define relevant/sufficient evidence and evaluate arguments based on those ideas.

7. Evaluate point of view with respect to spoken argument: subject, occasion, audience, purpose, and speaker.

8. Identify various propaganda techniques and how they may apply to a speaker’s message.

9. Evaluate a speaker’s argument with regards to claim and supporting evidence.

10. Distinguish between effective and ineffective spoken arguments and explain the differences.

Burke, Jim. The Common Core Companion, the Standards Decoded, Grades 6-8: What They Say, What They Mean, How to Teach Them. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Literacy, 2013. Print.

I then tweaked the objectives to create student clear targets in the form of “I Can” statements.

1. I can define and identify the parts of an argument.

2. I can define and identify types of claims.

3. I can distinguish between claims with support and those without support.

4. I can define and identify some common fallacies.

5. I can distinguish between arguments that are sound and those that have fallacies.

6. I can define relevant and sufficient evidence and evaluate arguments based on those ideas.

7. I can evaluate point of view with respect to spoken argument.

8. I can identify common propaganda techniques and how they apply to a speaker’s message.

9. I can evaluate a speaker’s argument with regards to claim and supporting evidence.

10. I can distinguish between effective and ineffective spoken arguments and explain the differences.

11. I can write an argument in a formal style that is logical and provides supporting details with credible references.

12. I can use words, phrases, and clauses to make my argument coherent and explain the relationships between and among claims, counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.


To Be or Not To Be – Teaching the Standards

This is the first year in teaching middle school that I have had to focus on a full schedule of ELA standards (and there are hundreds of them.) I began the year by teaching reading strategies and the craft of writing but when the first Benchmark Test scores arrives I got caught up in the teaching standards rather than application of reading and writing. I quickly discovered how to bore the children and myself and you know what? They did not get any better. After retesting some of the skills the scores actually dropped.

At that time I pulled off of the book shelf a title I had bought two years ago and began to read, “Write Beside Them” by Penny Kittle and realized that I had to resort to Oprah’s mantra – “What I Know For Sure” and that is students learn to read and write by actually participating in the activities and not by isolated skill lessons. Adults do too! I spent the Thanksgiving weekend revising my schedule and added “Quick Writes,” “SSR” and a block of time for targeting writing rather than trying to cram into the ninety minutes block two standards-based lessons. Now I focus on only one standard, looking for ways to embed it into the quick write, SSR, or targeted writing.

It’s a start. I am in no way where I want to be but I feel as if I have taken steps onto the right path on a long journey. The second benchmark scores arrived and they were a bit better (still nothing to brag about) so I believe that I have not “harmed” my children with my beliefs. Thank you to the Penny Kittle’s out there who share their classrooms and talents not realizing where or who they may influence to begin again.