Core English: Show the evidence

In Common Core English classes, students can’t pass by writing about their feelings or their personal experiences, reports the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. They must show the evidence to support their assertions.

At Moreland Hills Elementary in Pepper Pike, Ohio, fifth graders identified the themes of fables such as “The Fox and the Crow” and “The Ant and the Grasshopper.” Nothing new about that. But worksheets include a new column: “Evidence of theme.”

“Evidence,” (teacher Brad) Anderson says to the class. “It’s not enough to just say what you think the theme is. You need specific evidence.”

As students re-read their fables, identifying what they considered the main theme of each, Hastings and teaching assistants prodded the students to find specific phrases or sentences that support their choice of theme.

“If you suspect someone of a crime, they wouldn’t just be guilty,” Anderson told the students. “You need evidence.”

At Berea-Midpark High, students read and re-read the poem “Exile” by Julia Alvarez to identify themes, allusions and metaphors.

“Finding text evidence is the skill we want to develop most this year,” Berea-Midpark English Teacher Charles Salata told his sophomore English class. “Not just that you have an argument, but that you can back it up.”

The old standards mostly asked students to relate the theme of literature to their own lives, said teachers.

“Kids used to talk more about how they felt about the theme,” said Maren Koepf, an instructional coach. “It was more about their feelings than the evidence.”

When new Common Core tests start next year, replacing the Ohio Achievement Assessments, students will have to make an argument, find details in texts, quote passages accurately and put those concepts into words if they want a good score, added Mike White, another Moreland Hills teacher.

“Before, you had a chance of passing, just relating it to your prior experiences,” White said.

“I can” statements — such as “I can read and comprehend poetry” — are the latest thing.