Primary Sources and the Common Core standards for English Language Arts


In 2010, the state of Wisconsin adopted the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts. The Common Core standards in English Language Arts provide a vision of what it means to be a literate student in the 21st century. The skills and understandings that the Common Core promotes are:

  • Close, attentive reading to understand and enjoy complex works of literature
  • Critical reading to pick carefully through the staggering amount of information available today in print and digitally
  • Wide, deep, and thoughtful engagement with high-quality literary and informational texts that builds knowledge, enlarges experience, and broadens worldviews
  • Cogent reasoning and use of evidence that is essential to both private deliberation and responsible citizenship in a democratic republic
  • Creative and purposeful expression in language

Recollection Wisconsin supports the Common Core standards for English Language Arts by providing a vast database of primary sources for students to research, read, write about, and reflect upon. The activities suggested here incorporate just some of the College and Career Readiness (CCR) Anchor Standards, which are skills that prepare students to enter the workforce and post-secondary education.

Select CCR Anchor Standards — Reading

Key Ideas and Details: What does the text say?

Related standards
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
This standard stresses multiple skills and strategies that help students determine what a text says. Students need to read closely to detect what a text says as well as what it doesn’t say. They also need to comprehend the literal and explicit meaning while inferring the implied and implicit meaning of a text. Finally, students must use textual evidence when drawing text-based conclusions.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.2 Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
In this standard, students are asked to figure out what a text is primarily about. Furthermore, this standard requires that students determine which details and ideas support the text’s central ideas and themes, or how an author develops these central ideas and themes.

Related activities
• Predict the Headline
• Pull Quotes

Craft and Structure: What does the text mean?

Related standards
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.5 Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.
An effective way to support this standard is to expose students to a variety of texts. Students should read novels, articles, columns, poems, primary source documents, and other texts to determine how the structural features of each of these types of texts shape meaning and message.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.6 Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.
This standard addresses how an author’s attitude or viewpoint affects the way he or she writes. Use multiple accounts, perspectives, and genres to help students assess different points of view and subsequently the content and style of a text.

Related activity
• A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas: What does the text do?

Related standards
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.9 Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.
Teachers can get creative in the texts that students read in order to address this standard. A multi-genre approach allows students to read texts that are topically related or thematically related in order to either build knowledge or to compare authors’ approaches.

Related activity
• Reading Across Genres

For more information, see College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Reading from the Common Core State Standards Initiative and “The CCR Anchor Standards in Reading” from Teaching the Core.

Select CCR Anchor Standards — Writing

Text Types and Purposes

Related standards
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.
According to the Common Core, narrative writing may take the form of creative fictional stories, memoirs, anecdotes, or autobiographies. The objectives of narrative writing are to provide visual details, to depict actions such as movements and expressions, to use dialogue to develop characters, and to create tension and suspense. Students should write narratives to inform, instruct, persuade, or entertain.

Related activities
• Thought Bubbles
• Visual Writing Prompts
• Share Your Story

Research to Build and Present Knowledge

Related standards
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Some basic steps for students to meet these research-based standards include:
• Understanding a research question
• Formulating a research strategy
• Assessing the reliability of a source
• Translating findings into a written form

Teachers might ask students to reflect on their research upon completion in order to demonstrate understanding:
• What have you learned from your research that you didn’t know before?
• How did you research your topic? What were some of your strategies? What worked and what didn’t work?

In order to help students integrate information without plagiarizing and meet the second part of the standard CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.8, teachers should focus on using quotations accurately, paraphrasing effectively, and citing sources. Two great resources for help with these important issues are Copyright and Primary Sources from the Library of Congress and Teaching Copyright from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Related activity
• Gathering Multiple Sources

For more information, see College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing from the Common Core State Standards Initiative and “The CCR Anchor Standards in Writing” from Teaching the Core.

Select CCR Anchor Standards — Speaking and Listening

Comprehension and Collaboration

Related standards
 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

It is important that teachers incorporate many opportunities for students to speak with and listen to one another in the classroom, both individually and in group settings.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.3 Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.
Students must practice their ability to evaluate someone else’s claims or point of view.

Related activity
Family Stories and Oral Histories

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas

Related standards
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
In order to be effective speakers, students need to deliver material in a way that their peers understand. Speakers must evaluate their audience, their purpose in delivering their information, the quality of their sources, and the means of communication.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.5 Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.
Presenting information in a multi-media format allows students to keep in line with our changing visual culture. By creating visual and multi-media presentations, speakers reach a wider audience by presenting information that will appeal to a great number of people.

Related activity
Presenting Ideas in New Ways

For more information, see College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening from the Common Core State Standards Initiative and “Speaking and Listening Anchor Standards” from Shmoop.