English/Language Arts CRAs

Mon, 02/10/2014 - 14:20 -- Anonymous (not verified)

This entry marks the second in a series of five blogs that will explore the College Readiness Assignments (CRAs) in each of the 5 subject areas in which they are housed.


The English/Language Arts (ELA) College Readiness Assignments (CRAs) address the TEKS and CCRS, as do all the CRAs on CRAFTx.org. In addition, they cover the key cognitive and foundational skills that students need to complete the four years of English in high school, to read difficult texts in other disciplines, and to prepare for college and careers.

One of the most important points about the ELA CRAs is that they are very adaptable! While many of the CRAs provide a recommended text for reading and analyzing, you can use the structure of the CRAs to explore any text you use in your classroom. The important feature of CRAs is the approach to learning they bring.  You can use the content you want, while still ensuring students are developing the key cognitive and foundational skills necessary for college and career.

Below, I highlight some example ELA CRAs that lay the foundation for reading, writing, and analytical skills that students will need regardless of their path after high school. I also offer some tips for how to implement these in your classroom, depending on which skills you might already have covered with your students.


Readerʼs Analysis: Author, Purpose, Audience, and Meaning

  • This CRA is appropriate for all high school and college students. It is a great CRA to start students out on, and it will likely need to be discussed in full because it introduces much of the language and necessary terms that deeper analysis requires.
  • The assignment asks students to identify and analyze the audience, purpose, and message of persuasive texts and to analyze those texts in light of their rhetorical situations. Students write a practice essay identifying and analyzing the audience, purpose, and message of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "A Letter from a Birmingham Jail" and then write an essay identifying and analyzing the audience, purpose, and message of a second persuasive text. Teachers may want to compile a selection of persuasive texts from which students can choose or allow students to research and select their own text.


Interrogating the Text: Reading Closely, Reading Critically

  • This is a great basic CRA that is key to the college experience.  For this reason, I recommend that teachers go through this entire CRA with students. In fact, once students have mastered the basic principles of this CRA, teachers can continue to use this as a model with more challenging texts.
  • In this CRA, students analyze a passage by breaking it down into its component parts and looking at how each part functions in the overall performance of that text. The goal of this assignment is for good questioning to become common practice in the classroom. Interrogating the Text is not meant to be a one-time activity. It is a method used to help students develop as active readers who critically explore the texts they read.
  • When students are comfortable with the process of analyzing a text in this way, teachers can direct students to the independent study version of the assignment.  Here students can work through the assignment online, in an adaptation of the original CRA, created by Enspire Learning.


Speaking to the Occasion

  • For this Assignment, students view, listen to, and study commencement speeches by notable figures (resources are available in the CRA). Then, they write and present their own graduation speeches. Speaking effectively in formal and informal settings is a critical skill for the 21st century, one that will benefit students in diverse situations such as interviews, college classrooms, and the workplace.
  • This CRA is perfect for teachers who must include speeches in their curriculum or who want to assign presentations as a means of student assessment. In both instances, teachers might discuss how students can effectively analyze and make sense of speeches, both those of their peers and those from great leaders.
  • For example, you could use this CRA to show students how to “listen” and respond to their classmates’ presentations so that they are engaged rather than sitting passively. It can be a challenging skill to understand what is important from a speech, so getting students to make sense of what they heard is a great activity that the you can revisit once the presentations are complete.


More Tips on Using the ELA CRAs in Your Classroom:

  • You do not need to be an ELA teacher to use these CRAs! Because the ELA CRAs are designed to develop skills like reading, vocabulary, and critical analysis, they can be used in almost any classroom. See how your content might fit with the suggested framework and assignments in the ELA CRAs.
  • A number of the ELA CRAs ask students to conduct independent research. For example, students working through Writing to Inspire or Advise will first search for existing writings that offer advice to high school freshmen. Ideally, teachers will pair such CRAs with Choosing the Best Websites to Support Your Argument. This will help students conduct effective searches for reliable material. There is even an independent study version of Choosing the Best Websites so that students can do this portion on their own.
  • To learn what other teachers are doing with the ELA CRAs, check out the comment section on each CRA’s page.  There, you can read how other teachers are adapting CRAs to work in their classrooms.


When the time comes for you to assess your students’ work on these CRAs, visit the CRAfT Resources page to learn more about how the Scoring Guides were developed and why they might look different from traditional grading rubrics. The Scoring Sheets account not only for students’ capabilities with content knowledge, they also assess the key cognitive and foundational skills taught in the CRA.  Intended to be shared with students, the Scoring Sheets will inform students of the skills they need to build on.

Remember, all CRAs on the CRAFTx.org website were field tested by high school, community college, and university faculty to ensure they are both easy for educators to use and effective in helping students prepare for college and career.

For our next installment in the Subject Area blog series, we will look at the Mathematics CRAs on February 24.