New Standards for English Class — and for Reading and Writing across Subjects and Grades

  • The ability to understand written words is essential for success in all walks of life. And the ability to express ideas and information clearly and effectively is key to getting a good grade in school or college courses, and for moving up the ladder in most careers.

    The Common Core State Standards new window (on which the Maryland's College and Career-Ready Standards are based) were written to recognize the central place of reading and writing in all subjects. Here are some ways that these standards can help students achieve.

    Reading fiction and nonfiction — across subject areas

    Lots of storybooks are read in the early grades, and later, in English class, students read many works of fiction, poetry and drama. These things will still happen in classrooms, and the Maryland's College and Career-Ready Standards emphasize nonfiction and "information text."

    Even in kindergarten, students will read to learn new information and gather new facts. In middle and high school, teachers in all subjects will be making sure that students can read and learn from the complex writing found in science, history, economics and other areas of study and in 21st-century workplaces.

    Reading to learn

    Of course, students need to recognize letters, know the sounds they make, and be able to recognize and sound out words — and they need to learn how to do these things automatically, to become "fluent" readers. But although these skills are a big part of reading, they aren't what reading is really all about.

    Under these standards, learning from reading takes center stage. Even in the early grades, children will be thinking, talking and writing about what their reading means. And because reading will involve both fiction and information texts, students will be learning through reading in social studies, science and other subjects outside of reading or English class.

    More challenging and sophisticated texts, earlier

    Maryland's College and Career-Ready Standards focus on quickly developing young children's reading skills, so they can start spending time on meaning, learning from reading and thinking about and analyzing what they read. And they'll be building both skills and comprehension by reading texts that challenge them — not only the "just right" books that match their current reading level or ability.

    So, a book that might have been read in 4th grade in previous years could be brought home by a 2nd-grade students this year. And high school students will be reading lots of things that college freshmen might also find on reading lists.

    Finding evidence in reading

    Along with the strong focus on reading to learn comes using that learning to form and support opinions and ideas. Students will be asked to defend their positions by drawing on what they've learned in texts. Not only does this teach students to think deeply about what they read, but it teaches important academic skills like identifying key ideas and finding supporting evidence.

    A strong focus on writing

    Clear and effective writing is a big part of college courses and many jobs. The Maryland's College and Career-Ready Standards are designed to make sure that students can express themselves well in writing of different types — including informational or explanatory texts, narratives, opinions and arguments. With arguments, particularly, students will be taught important academic skills of writing based on information found in credible sources.

    Broader and richer vocabulary

    With reading no longer confined to the English language arts classroom, the Maryland's College and Career-Ready Standards highlight the importance for students of learning the specialized, complex language of subjects like physics or economics or geography. You can expect even young learners to understand and use words that may in the past have been familiar only to professionals in a particular field.