Transition into the Common Core

Graphically organize and compare standards for the purpose of aligning curriculum to the Common Core.

By Dawn Dodson


Group of teachers

In the beginning, the task of transitioning to the Common Core English Language Arts standards was a bit daunting to say the least. However, I quickly learned that equipped with the right organizational tools, the task of transition is comprehensible and manageable. Using a graphic organizer and current state standards, a colleague and I were able to sort through an entire year’s worth of teaching. Our goal was to analyze the similarities and differences between the current state standards and the Common Core. We would then connect our current teaching to the new Common Core. We constructed a plan by scrutinizing the two sets of standards in order to discern curriculum changes. Although it took a long time to work our way through the current curriculum, it was well worth the time and effort it took to organize our Common Core instruction.


Establishing a Timeline

The most crucial aspect of our transition was the establishment of two timelines:

1) The year of complete implementation of the new standards.

2) The time we had left to teach the current state standards.

The full-implementation timeline was provided by our school district and was directly related to new assessment release dates. As sixth grade language arts teachers, we had to be aware of when assessments of current and new standards would occur. Likewise, the different content areas were given different implementation dates based on those assessment releases. This information helped us in establishing our own personal timeline. At that point, we had two full instructional years to learn the Common Core and revise our curriculum. Our timeline included a semester review of the current standards taught, coupled with a time for considering the resources, lessons, and assessments connected to each standard.

Graphic Organization

At the conclusion of each semester, my fellow language arts colleagues and I would meet to discuss and chart the current standards taught and assessed over the course of the semester. This time, we simply took the information from the semester review and implemented the next step. We compared the current instruction to the Common Core standards and decided what instruction was naturally aligned, what instruction needed revision, and the gaps that existed between the Common Core and current standards. All of this information was organized into the following three-columned chart. 

Semester 1

Current Standard Assessed

Alignment to Common Core ELA

Curriculum addition, revision, deletion, or no change

Acquisition of Vocabulary 6.1


L6.4 a

Current vocabulary program provides practice and assessment.










Through this process, we learned which Common Core Standards were broader (see above), and in short, were able to dissect the differences. Above you will see how our chart helped us to understand what standards we were already addressing that would conform to the Common Core requirements. The value of seeing the standards, or in some cases not seeing them, helped us address specific instructional needs and more effectively choose the resources and materials needed to build the new curriculum.

Looking Ahead

Once again, at the conclusion of the second semester, we went through the same process. With graphic organizers in hand, we created a list of materials and resources required for instruction, as well as began the task of previewing those related publications. In the end, we accomplished more than aligning instruction and building curriculum around the Common Core; we were able to reflect on our teaching. It was an opportunity to review in isolation how we were delivering instruction, and ultimately how we prepared and challenged pupils for state assessments and higher grade levels. In the end, we not only figured out how to implement the Common Core State Standards, but we also reflected upon and improved our teaching. As a result of this transition process, we are confident that we are prepared to provide an excellent educational experience that aligns with the Common Core State Standards for our current and future students.

Additional Ideas to Organize Instruction:

T-Chart Graphic Organizer

This is a traditional t-chart that can help any learner sort and organize information. Additionally, the column titles can be adapted to suit a variety of purposes.

Venn Diagram with Critical Attributes

With the specific purpose of comparing and contrasting, this graphic organizer can aid in standard comparison as well as serve as a useful classroom tool.  The color coordination and the ability for personalization make this graphic organizer easily adaptable.

Concept Definition

In consideration of constructing curriculum around the Common Core standards, this graphic organizer helps focus standards to lesson ideas and resources. The standard is the central concept with examples and characteristics helping to define the standard; focusing on what it requires for mastery.

Language Arts Guide

Dodson thumb

Dawn Dodson