If there is one way that you can begin implementing the writing and speaking/listening portions of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in a simplified, manageable, high bang-for-your-buck fashion, it’s simply this: have students argue.
Whether you teach science, social studies, technical subjects, ELA–even math–argument is a dependable path to enlivening your classroom, promoting long-term student flourishing, and pwning the heck out of a large chunk of Common Core literacy standards.
But don’t just take my word for it. In an article back in 2011, gurus Jerry Graff and Mike Schmoker (their books Clueless in Academe, They Say / I Say, and Focus have hugely shaped me) warned that, though the CCSS held promise, especially compared to the preceding generation of state-created wish lists, there was still too much fluff. Their fear was that the high impact standard of argument might get watered down amongst the rest.
Separate and way not equal
Even though the research appendix discusses the “special place” of argument in the CCSS (p. 24), the only hint of such importance outside of the appendices is that the “argument standard” (W.CCR.1) comes first.
This is problematic; many will not read the appendices and, as a result, will likely spread their curriculum too thin by trying to equally teach all 10 of the basic writing anchor standards. The simple problem with trying to equally teach all 10 is that, frankly, it can’t be done well, at least not by an average teacher like me.
And honestly, it’s not just a teacher thing. Students enjoy becoming excellent at the biggies and spending less time on minutiae.