Whysaurus and the Common Core


“Students who are college and career ready…

...question an author’s or speaker’s assumptions and premises and assess the veracity of claims and the soundness of reasoning.

...use relevant evidence when supporting their own points in writing and speaking, making their reasoning clear to the reader or listener, and they constructively evaluate others’ use of evidence.

...employ technology thoughtfully to enhance their reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language use.”

- Common Core Standards for English Language Arts..., Introduction, p. 7.


Whysaurus is an effective, easy and innovative way to create tasks for students that implement several of the Common Core's central goals, specifically: evaluating and creating reasoned arguments, critical reading of complex texts, argumentative writing and digital literacy.

Below are some selections from the Standards for which Whysaurus may be applicable, using assignments like these.

If you have thoughts or questions about using Whysaurus with the Common Core, we’d love to hear from your - email education@whysaurus.com

Anchor Standards


The College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards are the central guideposts of the Common Core. Each Anchor Standard is broken out into grade-specific standards. Below are a few Anchor Standards from the Grade 6-12 English Language Arts section for which Whysaurus can be useful:

Writing

#1 “Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.”

#6 “Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others."

Reading

#8 “Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.” *

Speaking and Listening

#3 Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.


* Repeats verbatim in the standards for History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects.

Grade-Specific Standards


The Common Core provides grade-specific standards that correspond to the Anchors. Below are a few that can be implemented using Whysaurus.

    Writing: General

  • Grades 9-10:

    “Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
    a. Introduce precise claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that establishes clear relationships among claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.
    b. Develop claim(s) and counterclaims fairly, supplying evidence for each while pointing out the strengths and limitations of both in a manner that anticipates the audience’s knowledge level and concerns.
    c. Use words, phrases, and clauses to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships between claim(s) and reasons, between reasons and evidence, and between claim(s) and counterclaims….”

    “Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology’s capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically.“

    “Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience.”


    Grades 11-12:

    “Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
    a. Introduce precise claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that establishes clear relationships among claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.
    b. Develop claim(s) and counterclaims fairly, supplying evidence for each while pointing out the strengths and limitations of both in a manner that anticipates the audience’s knowledge level and concerns.
    c. Use words, phrases, and clauses to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships between claim(s) and reasons, between reasons and evidence, and between claim(s) and counterclaims….”

    “Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products in response to ongoing feedback, including new arguments or information [emphasis added].”

    “Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience.”


    Writing: History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects

  • Grades 9-10:

    “Write arguments focused on discipline-specific content.
    a. Introduce precise claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that establishes clear relationships among the claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.
    b. Develop claim(s) and counterclaims fairly, supplying data and evidence for each while pointing out the strengths and limitations of both claim(s) and counterclaims in a discipline-appropriate form and in a manner that anticipates the audience’s knowledge level and concerns.
    c. Use words, phrases, and clauses to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships between claim(s) and reasons, between reasons and evidence, and between claim(s) and counterclaims…”

    “Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology’s capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically.”

    “Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience.”


    Grades 11-12:

    “Write arguments focused on discipline-specific content.
    a. Introduce precise, knowledgeable claim(s), establish the significance of the claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that logically sequences the claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.
    b. Develop claim(s) and counterclaims fairly and thoroughly, supplying the most relevant data and evidence for each while pointing out the strengths and limitations of both claim(s) and counterclaims in a discipline-appropriate form that anticipates the audience’s knowledge level, concerns, values, and possible biases.
    c. Use words, phrases, and clauses as well as varied syntax to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships between claim(s) and reasons, between reasons and evidence, and between claim(s) and counterclaims…”

    “Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products in response to ongoing feedback, including new arguments or information.”

    “Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience.”


    Reading: Literature

  • Grades 9-10:

    “Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallacious reasoning.”

    Grades 11-12:

    “Delineate and evaluate the reasoning in seminal U.S. texts, including the application of constitutional principles and use of legal reasoning (e.g., in U.S. Supreme Court majority opinions and dissents) and the premises, purposes, and arguments in works of public advocacy (e.g., The Federalist, presidential addresses).“


    Reading: History/Social Studies

  • Grades 9-10:

    “Assess the extent to which the reasoning and evidence in a text support the author’s claims.”

    Grades 11-12:

    “Evaluate an author’s premises, claims, and evidence by corroborating or challenging them with other information.”


    Reading: Science and Technical Subjects

  • Grades 9-10:

    “Assess the extent to which the reasoning and evidence in a text support the author’s claim or a recommendation for solving a scientific or technical problem.”

    Grades 11-12:

    “Evaluate the hypotheses, data, analysis, and conclusions in a science or technical text, verifying the data when possible and corroborating or challenging conclusions with other sources of information.”


    Speaking and Listening

  • Grades 9-10:

    “Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.”

    Grades 11-12:

    “Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric, assessing the stance, premises, links among ideas, word choice, points of emphasis, and tone used.“


The Special Place of Argument in The Standards


The text below is excerpted from the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts.


While all three text types are important, the Standards put particular emphasis on students’ ability to write sound arguments on substantive topics and issues, as this ability is critical to college and career readiness. English and education professor Gerald Graff (2003) writes that “argument literacy” is fundamental to being educated. The university is largely an “argument culture,” Graff contends; therefore, K–12 schools should “teach the conflicts” so that students are adept at understanding and engaging in argument (both oral and written) when they enter college. He claims that because argument is not standard in most school curricula, only 20 percent of those who enter college are prepared in this respect. Theorist and critic Neil Postman (1997) calls argument the soul of an education because argument forces a writer to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of multiple perspectives. When teachers ask students to consider two or more perspectives on a topic or issue, something far beyond surface knowledge is required: students must think critically and deeply, assess the validity of their own thinking, and anticipate counterclaims in opposition to their own assertions.

The unique importance of argument in college and careers is asserted eloquently by Joseph M. Williams and Lawrence McEnerney (n.d.) of the University of Chicago Writing Program. As part of their attempt to explain to new college students the major differences between good high school and college writing, Williams and McEnerney define argument not as “wrangling” but as “a serious and focused conversation among people who are intensely interested in getting to the bottom of things cooperatively”:

Those values are also an integral part of your education in college. For four years, you are asked to read, do research, gather data, analyze it, think about it, and then communicate it to readers in a form . . . which enables them to assess it and use it. You are asked to do this not because we expect you all to become professional scholars, but because in just about any profession you pursue, you will do research, think about what you find, make decisions about complex matters, and then explain those decisions—usually in writing—to others who have a stake in your decisions being sound ones. In an Age of Information, what most professionals do is research, think, and make arguments. (And part of the value of doing your own thinking and writing is that it makes you much better at evaluating the thinking and writing of others.) (ch. 1)

In the process of describing the special value of argument in college- and career-ready writing, Williams and McEnerney also establish argument’s close links to research in particular and to knowledge building in general, both of which are also heavily emphasized in the Standards.

Much evidence supports the value of argument generally and its particular importance to college and career readiness. A 2009 ACT national curriculum survey of postsecondary instructors of composition, freshman English, and survey of American literature courses (ACT, Inc., 2009) found that “write to argue or persuade readers” was virtually tied with “write to convey information” as the most important type of writing needed by incoming college students. Other curriculum surveys, including those conducted by the College Board (Milewski, Johnson, Glazer, & Kubota, 2005) and the states of Virginia and Florida, also found strong support for writing arguments as a key part of instruction. The 2007 writing framework for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) (National Assessment Governing Board, 2006) assigns persuasive writing the single largest targeted allotment of assessment time at grade 12 (40 percent, versus 25 percent for narrative writing and 35 percent for informative writing). (The 2011 prepublication framework [National Assessment Governing Board, 2007] maintains the 40 percent figure for persuasive writing at grade 12, allotting 40 percent to writing to explain and 20 percent to writing to convey experience.) Writing arguments or writing to persuade is also an important element in standards frameworks for numerous high-performing nations.

Specific skills central to writing arguments are also highly valued by postsecondary educators. A 2002 survey of instructors of freshman composition and other introductory courses across the curriculum at California’s community colleges, California State University campuses, and University of California campuses (Intersegmental Committee of the Academic Senates of the California Community Colleges, the California State University, and the University of California, 2002) found that among the most important skills expected of incoming students were articulating a clear thesis; identifying, evaluating, and using evidence to support or challenge the thesis; and considering and incorporating counterarguments into their writing. On the 2009 ACT national curriculum survey (ACT, Inc., 2009), postsecondary faculty gave high ratings to such argument-related skills as “develop ideas by using some specific reasons, details, and examples,” “take and maintain a position on an issue,” and “support claims with multiple and appropriate sources of evidence.”

The value of effective argument extends well beyond the classroom or workplace, however. As Richard Fulkerson (1996) puts it in Teaching the Argument in Writing, the proper context for thinking about argument is one “in which the goal is not victory but a good decision, one in which all arguers are at risk of needing to alter their views, one in which a participant takes seriously and fairly the views different from his or her own” (pp. 16–17). Such capacities are broadly important for the literate, educated person living in the diverse, information-rich environment of the twenty first century.



National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers, Title: Common Core State Standards, ELA Appendix A, Publisher: National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers, Washington D.C. Copyright Date: 2010

© Copyright 2010 National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and Council of Chief State School Officers. All rights reserved.