The Treasure Hunter

A blog by Joanne Yatvin

Are the Student Tasks Suggested in the CCSS Age-Appropriate?

on January 27, 2016

I am sorry that this post is two days late. But, actually, that’s a miracle. The work I just completed should have taken me a week. For the first time I went through Appendix B for the English Language Arts which is one of the supplements to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). I had looked at it at the time of the CCSS publication, getting an idea of the texts suggested for grades K-12, but I had never read through the examples of student tasks until now.

What I had hoped to find in going carefully through Appendix B to the CCSS were examples of Informational readings and assignments for students that I could recommend to teachers for use in their classrooms. Unfortunately, both the lists of texts and tasks were too long for me to cover in this format. (Appendix B is 183 pages in length.) To do them all justice I would need to write a book. In addition, I think it would be unfair to mention the titles of only a few of the texts that appear appropriate when so many looked good to me, and I haven’t read any of them. So, what I will do here is to give only the examples of what I consider “age-appropriate ” and “ age-inappropriate” tasks for each grade level by marking each one with an “A” or an “I”. For today, I will cover only the elementary school grades.

Grades K-1

(A) Students identify the reasons Clyde Robert Bulla gives in his book A Tree Is a Plant in support of his point about the function of roots in germination.

(A) Students identify Edith Thacher Hurd as the author of Starfish and Robin Brickman as the illustrator of the text and define the role and materials each contributes to the

(A) Students (with prompting and support from the teacher) read “Garden Helpers” in National Geographic Young Explorers and demonstrate their understanding of the main idea of the text—not all bugs are bad—by retelling key details.

(I) After listening to Gail Gibbons’ Fire! Fire!, students ask questions about how firefighters respond to a fire and answer using key details from the text.

(I) Students locate key facts or information in Claire Llewellyn’s Earthworms by using various text features (head- ings, table of contents, glossary) found in the text.(A) Students ask and answer questions about animals (e.g., hyena, alligator, platypus, scorpion) they encounter in Steve Jenkins and Robin Page’s What Do You Do With a Tail Like This?

(A) Students use the illustrations along with textual details in Wendy Pfeffer’s

From Seed to Pumpkin to describe the key idea of how a pumpkin grows.

(A) Students (with prompting and support from the teacher) describe the connection between drag and flying in Fran Hodgkins and True Kelley’s How People Learned to Fly by performing the “arm spinning” experiment described in the text.

Grades 2-3

(I) Students read Aliki’s description of A Medieval Feast and demonstrate their understanding of all that goes into such an event by asking questions pertaining to who, what, where, when, why, and how such a meal happens and by answering using key details

(A) Students describe the reasons behind Joyce Milton’s statement that bats are nocturnal in her Bats: Creatures of the Night and how she supports the points she is making in the text.

(A)Students read Selby Beeler’s Throw Your Tooth on the Roof: Tooth Traditions Around the World and identify what Beeler wants to answer as well as explain the main purpose of the text.

(A) Students determine the meanings of words and phrases encountered in Sarah L. Thomson’s Where Do Polar Bears Live? such as cub, den, and the Arctic.

(I) Students explain how the main idea that Lincoln had “many faces” in Russell Freedman’s Lincoln: A Photobiog- raphy is supported by key details in the text.

Grades 4-5

(A) Students explain how Melvin Berger uses reasons and evidence in his book Discovering Mars: The Amazing Story of the Red Planet to support particular points regarding the topology of the planet

(I) Students identify the overall structure of ideas, concepts, and information in Seymour Simon’s Horses (based on factors such as their speed and color) and compare and contrast that scheme to the one employed by Patricia Lauber in her book Hurricanes: Earth’s Mightiest Storms.

(A) Students interpret the visual chart that accompanies Steve Otfinoski’s The Kid’s Guide to Money: Earning It, Saving It, Spending It, Growing It, Sharing It and explain how the information found within it contributes to an understanding of how to create a budget

(A) Students explain the relationship between time and clocks using specific information drawn from Bruce Kosci- elniak’s About Time: A First Look at Time and Clocks.

(I) Students determine the meaning of domain-specific words or phrases, such as crust, mantle, magma, and lava, and important general academic words and phrases that appear in Seymour Simon’s Volcanoes

(I) Students compare and contrast a firsthand account of African American ballplayers in the Negro Leagues to a secondhand account of their treatment found in books such as Kadir Nelson’s We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball, attending to the focus of each account and the information provided by each.

(A) Students quote accurately and explicitly from Leslie Hall’s “Seeing Eye to Eye” to explain statements they make and ideas they infer regarding sight and light.

(A) Students determine the main idea of Colin A. Ronan’s “Telescopes” and create a summary by explaining how key details support his distinctions regarding different types of telescopes.


I would appreciate responses from those of you who strongly agree or disagree with any of my opinions on a student task.





3 responses to “Are the Student Tasks Suggested in the CCSS Age-Appropriate?

  1. Don Bellairs says:

    Thank you for your hard work, Dr. Yatvin. A lot of professional expertise went into creating the standards you have shared. The answer to whether or not they help us evaluate a particular age group can only become apparent over a period of time, when we can observe a flattening bell curve because no one or everyone in that age group is able to perform the required tasks. Certainly the process needs to be tweaked, when people are finally able to focus on using the tests to improve the way schools work, rather than defending them from attacks by the “teachers” unions and the Tea Party.
    And my only experience in teaching 6-, 7-, and 8-year-olds is limited to summer camp programs, but these look like concepts that can be explained to kids in those age ranges. Is there an argument from somewhere that these standards are too high, or too low?


    • writerjoney says:


      In my post today I explain that the people who created the CCSS were private consultants. None of them were practicing teachers. What “professional expertise” are you referrring to? You should also search for Sandra Stotsky’s critique of the develoment of the ELA standards. I don’t have the link, but I will send you an email with the attachment.


  2. I think that even when a standard is developmentally appropriate, the idea that all students will “master” a given standard by a given time (a problematic concept in itself) is a huge problem, because we know that in any given class students are in various stages of development and concept attainment. If standards were merely reference points that teachers could use judiciously, instruction could be better tailored to students’ questions, interests, current needs, and developmental level.


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