Implementing CCSS in the Secondary Grades

Angela Orr, Washoe’s Teaching American History Project Director, shared the following for those interested in bringing the CCSS into the secondary grades. (Important tools are linked at the bottom of the post.)

In an effort to scale the work of the Core Task Project into the secondary grades, over 230 middle and high school social studies teachers from Washoe and 60 social studies teachers from other Northern Nevada counties were invited to attend a  2-day workshop to learn and practice the Instructional Shifts and the Close Analytical Reading method.  The workshops were offered during the Spring and Fall semesters of 2012 and were attended by multiple social studies teachers from every single WCSD middle and high school and five other Districts.  During the workshops, teachers were asked to continuously reflect on the changes and shifts they would make to meet the expectations of Common Core with their students. Overwhelmingly, by the end of the workshops, the social studies community united around a few core ideas, which included a general understanding that the teachers had originally underestimated their students’ abilities to persevere when encountering difficult text and that the teachers’ role in building literacy would require a great deal of preparation and planning as well as a true commitment to better facilitation of learning experiences around reading and writing for and about content.

After implementing the close analytic reading method with their classes, teachers were eager to engage in creating further close reading samples.  The request for exemplars was coupled with a need for in-depth instruction in creating high-level text dependent questions on rich and complex text.  Teachers from around the District had many of the same concerns: Where can I find good examples of rich and complex text? How will I properly excerpt longer documents in order to find high-power passages to spend time on with students? What makes a good question? What method will best allow ALL students an equitable access of the text? How will I ensure that my students are understanding not just the overt and “right there” pieces of the text but are also accessing and struggling with the nuanced and inferential areas?

In order to build initial capacity around creating close analytic reading exemplars, a cohort including 30 social studies teachers and Implementation Specialists is currently working together to inquire further into the process of close reading and to create six social studies exemplars for every grade 7-12 based on the accepted units of study in those grades.  The cohort is currently hard at work constructing and vetting these exemplars and will be inviting others to view and provide feedback in the coming months.

A few resources provided to teachers engaged in this work can be accessed from the following links. These guides may provide further help to others in ELA or the core content areas who are trying to implement close reading with text dependent questions.   These documents are intended to facilitate discussion in PLCs and to forward the work with Close Analytical Reading. Please contact Angela Orr with any questions or suggestions at

About Aaron Grossman

I am a 5th grade teacher at Roy Gomm Elementary in Reno, Nevada. I started working with elementary students as part of the Montana Reads program and AmeriCorps. In 2001, after graduating from the University of Montana and moving to Reno, Nevada, I student taught at Rita Cannan Elementary before receiving a 6th grade position at Veterans Elementary. I moved out of the classroom to be a Literacy Coordinator, then an Instructional Coach, and finally a School Improvement Program Coordinator. In 2011, I began working on the Nevada Academic Content Standards in the district’s Curriculum & Instruction Department. I returned to the classroom for the 2015-2016 school year to teach 4th grade at Huffaker Elementary. Before returning to the classroom, I helped develop the Core Task Project that has been featured by National Public Radio, the Gates Foundation, American Radio Works, Eduwonk, the Fordham Institute, Vox, and the Center for American Progress. In 2014, I received the Leader to Learn From Award for my teacher-centered initiative and work to bring college, career, and civics ready outcomes into Northern Nevada classrooms (here). In 2015, I was appointed by Governor Sandoval serve on the Statewide RPDP Council. The same year, Nevada’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction Steve Canavero placed me on the state’s State Improvement Team. This year I will be part of the National Council on Teacher Quality’s Teacher Advisory Group. I am Google Certified Educator and a Nevada Teacher Ambassador. I believe strongly that teaching content is teaching reading and I make sure my students have ample opportunities to work with social studies, history, science and art outcomes. I do what I can to blend the learning for my students and this blog is part of that effort. You can contact me at
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