Common Core Standards: ELA
ELA: KINDERGARTEN - GRADE 12
LITERACY: GRADES 6 - 12
L.9-10.6. Acquire and use accurately general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.
In each grade, the Common Core Standards encourage students not only to learn age-appropriate ways of using language, but also to work on putting their skills together into a workable whole. For example, a student who doesn’t recognize the word “citation” isn’t going to get very far in using the MLA Handbook, even if he or she knows how to choose a style guide and look things up in it just fine.
This standard, therefore, is about putting information together to create and develop knowledge. It requires students to think about what they already know and use it to get information and knowledge they don’t yet have. The lecture format may still be popular in schools, but in advanced studies and in the job world, the people who can formulate questions and find the answers are the ones who get ahead.
Sample Activities for Use in Class
1. Fill In the Blanks
Give students a copy of the following passage, or another passage of your choosing:
The Nellie, a cruising yawl, swung to her anchor without a flutter of the sails, and was at rest. The flood had made, the wind was nearly calm, and being bound down the river, the only thing for it was to come to and wait for the turn of the tide.
The sea-reach of the Thames stretched before us like the beginning of an interminable waterway. In the offing the sea and the sky were welded together without a joint, and in the luminous space the tanned sails of the barges drifting up with the tide seemed to stand still in red clusters of canvas sharply peaked, with gleams of varnished sprits. A haze rested on the low shores that ran out to sea in vanishing flatness. The air was dark above Gravesend, and farther back still seemed condensed into a mournful gloom, brooding motionless over the biggest, and the greatest, town on earth.
The Director of Companies was our captain and our host. We four affectionately watched his back as he stood in the bows looking to seaward. On the whole river there was nothing that looked half so nautical. He resembled a pilot, which to a seaman is trustworthiness personified. It was difficult to realize his work was not out there in the luminous estuary, but behind him, within the brooding gloom.
--Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
Have students read the passage to themselves. When they come across a word or phrase that they don’t understand or doesn’t seem to make sense in context, they should write the word or phrase on a list (on a separate sheet of paper and/or on this handout) and underline the unknown word or phrase. Once everyone has completed their reading and list, choose one or two students to read the passage aloud. However, instead of saying the words or phrases they don’t recognize, students should insert a “zzz” noise whenever they come to an underlined word or phrase.
Once students are done reading, ask them, and the class as a whole, what they think is going on in the passage. Then, have students look up their confusing words and phrases in a dictionary or on the Internet. Next to each entry on their lists, they should write a few words or a phrase that explains to them what the confusing word or phrase means. Once students have looked up the words or phrases they don’t recognize, have one or two students read the passage out loud, inserting the definition for each confusing word or phrase. The discussion of what’s going on in the passage should go much more smoothly after this exercise.
2. Know Your Jargon
Split students into two or more groups, and give each group several print or online specialty dictionaries and other reference materials. Each group should use these materials to create five to ten flash cards that have the word printed on one side, but nothing written on the back. Instead, have the students write down the words and their definitions on a separate sheet of paper - their “answer key.” Once each group has finished making its flashcards, have the groups swap cards.
Each group now takes its new deck of cards and dives into its research materials to find the definition of each word, which should be written on the back of the card. Groups may not ask one another where the word comes from, what it means, or which reference they should use to find out what it means. Instead, students should examine the words and discuss with one another which references are most likely to contain the words.
Once the groups are finished defining the words, have each group read its vocabulary words and the definitions the group found out loud. The group that originally made the cards should follow along with its “answer key” to see how closely the second group came to getting the definitions right. Discuss as a class which definitions are right or wrong, which words have more than one definition, and how to decide which reference works are best for finding out what certain words mean.
Quiz 1 QuestionsHere's an example of a quiz that could be used to test this standard.
Questions 1-10 are based on the following passage from Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations.
My father's family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip.
I give Pirrip as my father's family name, on the authority of his tombstone and my sister - Mrs. Joe Gargery, who married the blacksmith. As I never saw my father or my mother, and never saw any likeness of either of them (for their days were long before the days of photographs), my first fancies regarding what they were like, were unreasonably derived from their tombstones. The shape of the letters on my father's, gave me an odd idea that he was a square, stout, dark man, with curly black hair. From the character and turn of the inscription, "Also Georgiana Wife of the Above," I drew a childish conclusion that my mother was freckled and sickly. To five little stone lozenges, each about a foot and a half long, which were arranged in a neat row beside their grave, and were sacred to the memory of five little brothers of mine - who gave up trying to get a living, exceedingly early in that universal struggle - I am indebted for a belief I religiously entertained that they had all been born on their backs with their hands in their trousers-pockets, and had never taken them out in this state of existence.
Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea. My first most vivid and broad impression of the identity of things, seems to me to have been gained on a memorable raw afternoon towards evening. At such a time I found out for certain, that this bleak place overgrown with nettles was the churchyard; and that Philip Pirrip, late of this parish, and also Georgiana wife of the above, were dead and buried; and that Alexander, Bartholomew, Abraham, Tobias, and Roger, infant children of the aforesaid, were also dead and buried; and that the dark flat wilderness beyond the churchyard, intersected with dykes and mounds and gates, with scattered cattle feeding on it, was the marshes; and that the low leaden line beyond, was the river; and that the distant savage lair from which the wind was rushing, was the sea; and that the small bundle of shivers growing afraid of it all and beginning to cry, was Pip.
"Hold your noise!" cried a terrible voice, as a man started up from among the graves at the side of the church porch. "Keep still, you little devil, or I'll cut your throat!"
A fearful man, all in coarse grey, with a great iron on his leg. A man with no hat, and with broken shoes, and with an old rag tied round his head. A man who had been soaked in water, and smothered in mud, and lamed by stones, and cut by flints, and stung by nettles, and torn by briars; who limped, and shivered, and glared and growled; and whose teeth chattered in his head as he seized me by the chin.
"O! Don't cut my throat, sir," I pleaded in terror. "Pray don't do it, sir."
"Tell us your name!" said the man. "Quick!"
"Once more," said the man, staring at me. "Give it mouth!"
"Pip. Pip, sir."
"Show us where you live," said the man. "Pint out the place!"
Quiz 2 QuestionsHere's an example of a quiz that could be used to test this standard.
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