Over the last couple of months, my colleague and I have offered a couple of workshops around the new English Regents Exam. We would be remiss if we didn’t take a step back and make the Common Core ELA Shifts, Balancing Informational and Literary Text, Knowledge in the Disciplines, Staircase of Complexity, Text-based Answers, Writing from Sources, and Academic Vocabulary a part of the conversation. In facilitating various dives into the test, it seems that the shifts most evident in this new assessment, at least for the Part 2 (Writing Argument) and Part 3 (Writing Analysis) pieces require the movement towards utilizing text-based answers and employing evidence from sources to inform or make an argument (Shifts 4 and 5). High school teachers in a recent workshop captured the essence of those shifts on these posters:
Students need to be reminded that when writing evidence-based claims, the support for those claims should always be lifted from the text. Closely reading and annotating becomes the default when approaching informational text.
Once educators have clarity around the shifts in instruction required when approaching the writing required for the English regents exam, I find it helpful get immersed into student writing samples. The group of teachers with whom I worked recently did just that, sifting through student writing samples to make a determination around what students need to know and be able to do as they approach writing for this particular assessment, be it analysis or argument. This collection of “noticings” seen here on the sticky notes in the image to the right, reflect the shifts in instruction highlighted on the ELA Common Core State Standards. We noticed that students who approached the tasks with an eye on backing up everything they claim with vetted facts from the text succeed in this type of writing. Being able to make meaning from text and communicate this meaning is an essential skill for all students. Teachers need to take every opportunity to understand the ELA shifts as they support students in writing for college, career, and beyond.