Key Shifts in English Language Arts – Grade 1 – Gain Authority Now

March 1, 2022 by admin

The Common Core Standards (CSS) are developed in 1990 to provide outline of what students are expected to know and do at each grade level, and ways to assess and implement to find out whether students meet these standards in the 1990s.

With 41 out of 50 states and District of Columbia adopting the CSS, they are important national benchmark that define the core knowledge and skillsets students should know in order to be college and career ready.

The English Language Arts Standards in the CSS consists of mastery in 5 areas: reading, writing, speaking and listening, language and media and technology. While the CSS was first released in 2010, the key shifts that were called for in 2017 means changes to how language arts is taught and mastered for both English as first language and English Language Learners (ELL), who may speak more than one language other than English, whether that is their first or second, or additional language.

What do these changes mean for your child or student? We at are excited to demystify these changes, and help your child or student understand language and literacy arts the best they can. Besides our articles, we also have worksheets and workbooks so if you like them, feel free to take a look at our website ( ) and refer them to your family, friends and coworkers.

[Infographic] – Key Shifts in The Common Core Standards’ Language Arts

English Language Arts - Common Core Key Shifts
Infographic – Key Shifts on Common Core Language Arts

What are the key shifts for English language arts and literacy?

The Common Core Standards’ website states that these are the key elements that will be updated in the key shifts:

  • Regular practice with complex texts and their academic language
  • Reading, writing and speaking grounded in evidence from texts, both literary and informational
  • Building knowledge through content-rich information

In previous years, students’ writings are not required to be linked to evidence and can be heavily based on opinion pieces.

The shifts mean that instead of on 80% of literacy texts, students will be taught with 50% literacy and 50% informational texts, so they will be exposed and prepared to write more complex texts as they progress through elementary and high schools.

This shift is felt even more by ELL learners, who may have only been taught with simplified texts so they can “catch up” to that of their classmates’ levels.

While complex texts may seem a long way to go for Grade 1 students, implementation of key shifts also mean changing expectations for Grade 1 students to succeed in their first year of elementary school and beyond.

Let’s take a deep dive on these changes.

Mastering Skills and Knowledge with Content-Rich Information

While language seems to be something that we naturally do – talking to one another, the progression of CSS language arts’ standards show that children are expected to develop complex skills that involve multiple steps and critical thinking.

Indeed, the CSS states that students in Grades K-1 are expected to be able to “retell,” but by Grades 2 and 3 they are expected to “recount and by Grade 4, students should be able to summarize. All of these skills – retell, recount and summarize – involves critical thinking where students should (ideally) be aware of patterns of sequences, make connections with other stories or texts through retelling or recounting and ultimately present key points of the text by analyzing and reflecting on what’s most important.

In order to provide a language learning environment that is content-rich, this means that students will not only be exposed to stories, but also other texts, such as dialogues, non-fiction stories, news, research projects and proofreading exercises.

To ensure that Grades K-1 students are prepared for this new learning environment with contents from different contexts, we can immerse them with different types of content at home as well. Instead of only reading picture books or fictional stories, we can show them that language is used in other ways.

For example, we can discuss their last field trip or big news in the community with them and have them describe their favourite dinosaur from the museum or express their opinions for a new park in the neighborhood. However, we should also designate at least 30 minutes to talk to them so they can learn how to communicate to others in different situations and continue to learn language naturally.

Many educators and parents are confused about the difference between “retell” and “recount.” In Kissner’s book “Summarizing, Paraphrasing, and Retelling Skills for Better Reading, Writing and Test Taking “ (2006), Kissner explains that “retelling is an oral activity that helps children to process what is going on, and come to a new understanding of the events or information”, while paraphrasing can be oral or written, with written paraphrases being more complicated as students can paraphrase formally in written works or informally orally. This suggests that paraphrasing is embedded as a practice of retelling and summarizing, which in turn, prepares students to summarize by Grade 4 and beyond.

However, there is still much to wonder on what exactly is recounting. This links to the next shift about reading and writing with literacy and informational texts.

Reading, Writing and Speaking Grounded in Evidence from Literary and Informational Texts

Since The Common Core Standards’ inception in 41 states, students were mainly exposed to literary texts, such as picture stories and chapter books, and so their experiences in reading and writing may be linked to fictional works, for example writing an alternate ending to a story or opinion piece on their thoughts.

By introducing informational texts, which includes non-fiction texts to students from Grade 1 and beyond in language arts, students are exposed to more language conventions and structure, such as strong adjectives, past and present tenses and time connectives. The incorporation of non-fiction works in language arts encourage students to develop skills to recount factual information in chronological order through verb tenses and answering the 5 why and how questions.

Moreover, students are exposed to texts from other contexts, such as news and discussions, which promote opportunities for them to develop their own thoughts, analyze and reflect on information and opinion from these texts in class discussions and their written work.

Using informational texts in language arts does not mean that literary texts are less important. In fact, educators are encouraged to continue teaching language to students through fiction, but they may want to consider including literary works that are written in a different structure, such as poetry, diaries and short stories. By introducing Grades K-3 students to a variety of literary works progressively, they can learn to use and adapt to different conventions depending on the type of literary text, and later on, recall and present information from these works.

For example, Kindergarten and Grade 1 students may be introduced to keep track of patterns and steps involved, as well as character or events that are different or interesting in a story, and eventually move onto making predictions for a story’s beginning or end and constructing or continuing another story based on the one they read. Ultimately, they will be ready to analyze and evaluate themes, characters and plots, with references to different parts of the texts in oral and written activities, including drama and reports.

Regularly Practice with Complex Texts and Their Academic Language

By incorporating both informational and literary texts that are content-rich, students will have many opportunities to practice with more “complex” words and texts. While it may seem to be a long way before a Grade 1 student encounter “complex texts”, they may have already begun their journey to exploring various genres and texts in language art classes and activities. Indeed, Grade 1 students learn the differences between a diary and a story when they are introduced to both types of work by their teachers and take part in class activities that require a deeper understanding and knowledge of language by putting their imagination in words in picture prompts and voicing their opinions of characters or the story’s ending in discussions.

This shift is particularly important for ELLs, who may only be exposed to simplified texts and grammar exercises as educators hope that they can understand the primary language of instruction and be able to communicate with teachers and students as quickly as possible. Including more “difficult” texts in language arts and English as a Second Language classes means that they also have opportunities to understand and practice with complex texts that are less direct and requires more thought, which helps them to understand that there are also different types of texts for various contexts in English and apply their language skills as they learn to recount and analyze information from these texts.

For students whose mother tongue is English but also speak another language(s) at home, the Common Core Standards’ key shifts in language arts may also encourage them to explore different kinds of texts in the other languages that they understand and find ways to apply their critical thinking and writing skills in English to another language.

What about English Language Learners (ELLs)?

For Grades K-5, the shift involves incorporating both informational and literary texts, in which educators are expected to scaffold informational texts and apply strategies to teach “through” and “with” informational texts so students will build knowledge in different disciplines by Grades 6-12 and be able to progress to a “step” of growth on the “staircase” to more complex material by the end of each grade level.

These shifts have important implications for ELLs as they need to be involved in learning and taking part in a manner that allow them to experience hands-on and student-centered learning. If they are only able to watch how other students interact, they are relegated to being observers, and that does not maximize their time spent in the classroom.

Since students learn best by doing, working in cooperative groups or peer tutoring are two strategies that can involve students in their learning progress. However, while collaborative learning is beneficial, ELLs must also be accountable for their own learning. Educators should design a supportive environment and ways that enable them to take risks and grapple with real-life situations, as well as solve problems as they will be expected to do so at college level or on the job.

In additional to English language arts, educators in other subjects can also incorporate reading, writing, speaking, listening and language in their subject areas so content and literacy are taught simultaneously, providing opportunities for ELLs to strength their literary skills while acquiring subject specific knowledge.

Parents can also ensure that individualized and collaborative learning takes place at home. For example, they can read different kinds of English texts, such as fiction books and news individually or together. Furthermore, parents can encourage their children to share their interests in other subject areas, such as science and history to them through show and tell or other ways of presentation, such as a diorama or comics that require students to present the content in English (and perhaps in their native or other language as well so students can strengthen their literacy skills in both languages).

These strategies expose ELLs to a variety of texts and develop their skills to share content knowledge of other subjects in English, so they are prepared and well-equipped when they are introduced to informational texts in English Language Arts and are able to build on their ability to analyze and translate key themes and inferences in informational and literary texts.

Parents of ELLs can also bring collaborative learning to home by incorporating discussions and sharing in their daily routines. For example, family members can talk about their thoughts on what will happen next in the upcoming episodes of their favorite TV shows, or current affairs in English and their native language. These discussions create a supportive environment where ELLs have the opportunity to voice their opinions and agree to disagree with others in a friendly and familiar space.

In conclusion, while the key shifts in English Language Arts mean that educators and parents need to rethink and restructure how they can best develop language skills for kindergarten and elementary students in the short term, these changes can be beneficial to students with a more balanced variety of English texts, and opportunities to be use their literary skills to solve problems and present content knowledge in other subject areas.

Here are links to Grade 1 English Language Arts to help you get started:

[Worksheets] – Grade 1 – English Language Arts

Print all upper- and lowercase letters.

Use common, proper, and possessive nouns.

Use singular and plural nouns with matching verbs in basic sentences (e.g., He hops; We hop).

Use personal, possessive, and indefinite pronouns (e.g., I, me, my; they, them, their, anyone, everything).

Use verbs to convey a sense of past, present, and future (e.g., Yesterday I walked home; Today I walk home; Tomorrow I will walk home).

Use frequently occurring adjectives.

Use frequently occurring conjunctions (e.g., and, but, or, so, because).

Use determiners (e.g., articles, demonstratives).

Use frequently occurring prepositions (e.g., during, beyond, toward).

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