6th Grade ELA BEST Standards

by | May 29, 2021 | Reading, Teaching Strategies, Uncategorized, Writing | 0 comments

What can sixth grade teachers expect from the new Florida BEST Standards for language arts? How do they compare to the LAFS standards? What are sixth grade students now expected to learn?

In this post, I will quickly analyze the changes and how they will affect your classroom. By the end of this post, you will have a clear understanding of how the standards will change with the adoption of the new sixth grade ELA BEST standards.

How are the BEST Standards organized?

BEST standards are divided into 11 subcategories, while the LAFS had 7:

  • Reading Prose & Poetry – Previously Reading: Literature
  • Reading Informational Text
  • Reading Genres – I really don’t understand this category. It includes standards that were previously included with either Literature or Informational Text.
  • Vocabulary – These standards were in Reading and Language subcategories in LAFS.
  • Foundational Skills
  • Oral Communication – Previously Speaking & Listening
  • Writing
  • Researching – These were in LAFS Writing.
  • Technology – These were in Writing and Speaking and Listening.
  • Conventions – Language
  • ELA Expectations – I believe these are meant to be similar to the LAFS Reading standards, which were overarching from K!2. However, they don’t work the same way. More on this later.

The BEST standards also include suggested books for each grade level. I will discuss these book lists in detail later in this post.

The Changes

Some of the changes made to the standards should be an improvement, while others make it more difficult for teachers to easily find what they are to teach. In this post, I will explain most of the changes, and point out some potential issues.

Reading

Up until fifth, the reading standards were largely similar to what was in LAFS, except for the standards that were omitted completely. In fifth, there is very little carryover from the 5thgrade LAFS and many of the new ELA BEST standards for fifth seem similar to LAFS standards from third or fourth grades. Sixth grade builds off of many of the fifth-grade standards, often by switching to a higher-level skill, such as analyze.

Prose & Poetry

For literature, some of the BEST standards connect to the sixth grade LAFS:

LAFS.6.RL.1.2 – “Determine a central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details. Provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments” has changed to ELA.6.R.1.2 – “Analyze the development of stated or implied theme(s) throughout a literary text” and ELA.6.R.3.2 – “Paraphrase content from grade-level texts.”The big change here from LAFS is the word paraphrase.

LAFS.6.RL.1.3 – “Describe how a particular story’s or drama’s plot unfolds in a series of episodes as well as how the characters respond or change as the plot moves toward resolution” has changed to ELA.6.R.1.1 – “Analyze how the interaction between characters contributes to the development of a plot I a literary text.”

Figurative language continues to be a focus in sixth in ELA.6.R.3.1 – “Explain how figurative language contributes to tone and meaning in text(s).” In LAFS, the standard under Language just had students understanding figurative language.

Students continue to be expected to determine the meaning of words in a text using various strategies. Greek and Latin roots and affixes have been added to sixth grade vocabulary expectations, but students work on them from third grade on.

New standards for Prose and Poetry in sixth grade:

ELA.6.R.1.3 – “Explain the influence of multiple narrators and/or shifts in point of view in a literary text.” This is similar to a standard in LAFS for 5th grade, which was similar but was focused on “a” narrator, not multiple narrators.

The poetry standard for sixth grade is ELA.6.R.1.4 – “Describe the impact of various poetic forms on meaning and style.”

Many Literature skills were removed from LAFS to BEST. The omitted skills slowly increased students’ reading skills, so leaving them out may cause problems when students need to read, understand, and analyze texts in higher grades. Teachers may want to continue instruction of some of the former standards as well as covering what is in BEST.

Informational Text

There is a lot of continuity in the sixth-grade Informational Text standards.

LAFS.6.RI.2.5 has become ELA.6.R.2.1 – “Explain how individual text sections and/or features convey meaning in texts.”

LAFS.6.RI.1.2 is now ELA.6.R.2.2 – “Analyze central idea(s), implied or explicit, and its development throughout a text.”

LAFS.6.RI.3.9 is now ELA.6.R.2.3 – “Analyze authors’ purpose(s) in multiple accounts of the same event or topic.”

LAFS.6.RI.3.8 – “Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, distinguishing claims that are supported by reasons and evidence from claims that are not.” is now ELA.6.R.2.4 – “Track the development of an argument, identifying the types of reasoning used.”

Again, the vocabulary expectations have largely remained the same in informational texts.

There are two new informational text standards for sixth grade:

ELA.6.R.3.3 – “Compare and contrast how authors from different time periods address the same or related topics.” (I am guessing this is to teach how theories change over time? I think it is important to show students how science and historical facts change with new evidence, but do we want them reading entire articles on past ideas that we now know are incorrect? If someone has more insight on how to teach this standard, I would appreciate the information.)

ELA.6.R.3.4 “Identify rhetorical appeals in a text.” Rhetorical appeals are ethos, pathos, and logos. If you know information on this topic, Press Books has a great article.

Writing

The other good news is that the Writing standards are largely the same. Argumentative writing has been moved to seventh grade, so sixth grade continues to work on supporting a claim with evidence from multiple sources. (Research has been separated into its own category – see below.)

Technology

There are now separate Technology standards. In sixth grade, there are only two BEST standards in this category:

ELA.6.C.5.1 –  “Integrate diverse digital media to enhance audience engagement in oral or written tasks.”

ELA.6.C.5.1 –  “Use digital writing tools to produce writing.”

Researching

The Researching standard in BEST is specific in different ways from the LAFS standard. In LAFS Writing, it said: “Conduct short research projects. Gather relevant information from multiple sources. Quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism. Write a bibliography.”  That standard now says, “Conduct research to answer a question, drawing on multiple reliable and valid sources, and refocusing the inquiry when appropriate.”

This standard remains the same from third through sixth, outside of adding valid in fourth and reliable in fifth and refocusing the inquiry in sixth. My questions are: When are students expected to take notes appropriately? Write a bibliography? I did not see either of these skills specifically noted in the standards through eighth grade.

Oral Communications

Speaking and Listening skills have been nearly eliminated in grades 2 – 6. Oral Communications focuses on presenting information. However, teachers can easily continue to work on other speaking and listening skills by integrating them into lessons.

Foundational Skills

This section ended in fifth grade in LAFS. While we know there are a number of students who continue to struggle with decoding and phonics in middle school, I think removing the science and history standards for foundation skills doesn’t make a lot of sense. The ELA BEST standard in fourth and fifth basically push students to master phonics and decoding skills.

(If students haven’t mastered them by fifth, an intervention should be done. If you have followed me for a while, you know I feel strongly about the lack of identification and therapy for students with issues like dyslexia and vision processing issues. Those interventions should be done much earlier, when students begin to show signs of difficulty in reading. That would be much more beneficial than adding Foundational Skills standards in middle school.)

ELA Expectations

Let me begin with saying I don’t think the expectations themselves are a problem. My concern is the lack of connection between the ELA Expectations and the rest of the standards.

In CCSS and LAFS Reading, the overarching reading standards are the foundations for the rest of the reading standards. For example, Standard 1 deals with making inferences. In every grade level, reading standard 1 deals with inferences – the expectations increase a step in difficulty as the student moves through school.

In ELA BEST, there is no connection that I can find. In fact, there seems to be a disconnect between the two. In the ELA Expectations, it asks students to make inferences. I did not see inference mentioned in any other standards – it is just randomly in this general section without having specific inference goals at each grade level.

Teachers need to be aware of this change, as before the general reading standards really weren’t new skills, rather the overarching skills. The specific subskill was explained in Literature and Informational Text. Teachers need to make sure they are covering the standards in this subsection.

Conventions

Let me begin with this: I don’t think I can name one language arts teacher that believes students are learning grammar effectively. My brother teaches high school, and he told me they just expect students to not know any grammar or write well. Now, I know I taught grammar in elementary, and so did my teammates. The reality is that kids aren’t learning it. So, this is one area that could be improved.

Unfortunately, I cannot figure out the reasoning behind Conventions in the BEST standards at all. There is no obvious progression as to what is taught in each grade. In fact, the new standards in fourth grade were formerly standards in grades 3 – 8. There is very little carryover from LAFS to BEST. (For this reason, I am not detailing all the changes here.)

Conventions standards are all over in every elementary grade. Unfortunately, I think teachers are going to have to use standards in this subsection loosely and instead base instruction on students’ skills and needs (which is what should be happening anyway.)

Book Lists

The state had the idea of including book lists at each grade level for fiction and nonfiction, as well as poems and civics books. Speeches are added in sixth grade. Although this idea had potential, the execution has some problems. On the positive side, the sixth-grade book list is mostly on grade level.

I spoke with my teacher friends, and it seems like the lists are suggested and not mandatory. That’s a good thing, because many of the suggested books are out of print.

The fiction book list has some books that connect to Ancient history, the social studies standards.

Some of my critiques of the book list (disclosure: This list includes a number of books that are new to me, so I am using what I learned about the books on the internet):

  • From what I can tell, the books are not very diverse in protagonists.
  • The genres are not well-covered either, with most of the suggested books being historical fiction and fantasy.
  • The nonfiction list is short. I am confused by the lack of connection to science and history standards in sixth grade.
  • There is a giant civics trade books list, as well as Supreme Court cases. These have no relevance to the sixth-grade standards – but they do to seventh. It doesn’t make sense to have students read books on US government when they are studying Ancient history, with the exception of specific connections between ancient government and laws. The civics list would have been more helpful had it focused on those connections.

Takeaways

While the Information Text standards in sixth grade are similar to LAFS, the Literature standards aren’t. Teachers will need to evaluate their literature lessons to see what can be edited and what needs to be completely reworked. Teachers will need to include the few new reading standards in their lessons, but there aren’t that many new skills.

Teachers may want to continue covering reading skills that have been omitted in BEST, as many were removed completely.

Writing hasn’t really changed, other than students are no longer expected to write argumentative papers until seventh grade. Students are expected to begin paraphrasing.

Teachers should easily be able to integrate the Oral Communication and Technology standards in lessons.

Research expectations have changed. It is unclear when students are expected to start creating bibliographies, as I didn’t see it in any of the middle school grades.

Teachers will have to focus on their students’ ability levels to teach Conventions, as the grade level standards may or may not match their skills. Teachers should assess individual needs and pulling students for small group instruction.

Foundational Skills have been added to sixth grade, but students should have mastered these skills. Students who are struggling with those skills in sixth grade should be screened for underlying issues, such as dyslexia, vision processing, etc.

The book lists may give you some ideas, but the lists are limited in scope and lack diversity (from what I can tell.) The nonfiction books do not connect to what students learn in sixth grade. I recommend asking your librarian for other suggestions. The Sunshine State Booksare a great source for fiction books.

Standards Resources

My standards posters and checklists are being updated (and improved!) If you previously purchased my Florida Standards resources, you get the updates for free – just check your My Purchases area in TPT.

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