Established in 2007, Common Core is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization formed to promote content-rich liberal arts education in America’s K–12 schools. Common Core believes that a child who graduates from high school without an understanding of culture, the arts, history, literature, civics, and language has in fact been left behind. To improve education in America, Common Core creates curriculum tools and also promotes programs, policies, and initiatives at the local, state, and federal levels that provide students with challenging, rigorous instruction in the full range of liberal arts and sciences. Click here for more information.
Common Core’s trustees are Erik Berg, a second grade public school teacher in Boston, Massachusetts; Barbara Byrd-Bennett, chief academic and accountability officer of the Detroit Public Schools; Antonia Cortese, secretary-treasurer of the American Federation of Teachers; Pascal Forgione, Jr., executive director of the Educational Testing Service’s Center on K–12 Assessment and Performance Management; Lorraine Griffith, a fifth grade public school teacher in Asheville, North Carolina; Jason Griffiths, headmaster of the Brooklyn Latin School; Joy Hakim, author of A History of Us and The Story of Science; Bill Honig, former superintendent of public instruction for the state of California; Carol Jago, high school teacher and former president of the National Council of Teachers of English; Richard Kessler, Dean of Mannes College The New School for Music and former executive director of The Center for Arts Education; Lynne Munson, president and executive director of Common Core; and Juan Rangel, CEO of Chicago-based United Neighborhood Organization.
Early on during the development of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), Common Core recognized that these influential standards would have the potential to raise student achievement if the standards were implemented with first-rate curriculum materials. We therefore set out to create tools that teachers could use to develop strong, CCSS-aligned curricula. The first tool we created is Common Core’s Curriculum for English. The curriculum provides a coherent sequence of thematic curriculum units, roughly six per grade level, K–12. The units connect the skills delineated in the CCSS in ELA with suggested works of literature and informational texts and provide sample activities that teachers can use in their classrooms. We are now at work on CCSS-based mathematics curriculum as well.
The Common Core State Standards call for the new standards to be taught within the context of a “content-rich curriculum.” But the CCSS do not specify what content students need to master, as this fell outside the scope of the standards-setting project. Here is how this is explained in the introduction to the CCSS:
[W]hile the Standards make references to some particular forms of content, including mythology, foundational U.S. documents, and Shakespeare, they do not—indeed, cannot—enumerate all or even most of the content that students should learn. The Standards must therefore be complemented by a well-developed, content-rich curriculum consistent with the expectations laid out in this document.1
Responsibility for developing such a curriculum falls to schools, districts, and states. Common Core's Curriculum for English is designed to meet the needs of the teacher, principal, curriculum director, superintendent, or state official who is striving to develop, or to help teachers to develop, new ELA curricula aligned with the CCSS. The curriculum can also serve as a resource for those endeavoring to conduct professional development related to the standards.
1. Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects (Washington, DC: Common Core State Standards Initiative), 6.
Despite the coincidence of name, Common Core and the Common Core State Standards are not affiliated. Common Core was established in 2007, prior to the start of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, which was led by the National Governors Association and the Council for Chief State School Officers.
Common Core shoulders considerable costs to maintain the integrity of the curriculum. The $25 membership fee helps us to fund those costs, which include providing comprehensive professional development, making ongoing revisions to reflect member feedback, reviewing submitted lesson plans, and maintaining the general quality, reliability, and security of the website. We are also using the funds to develop new curricula in mathematics and social studies, along with related tools and services which have been requested by our members.
In instances of financial hardship you may write to Common Core to request that the fee be waived and we will respond within 30 days.
The development of Common Core’s Wheatley Portfolio was initially funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Currently, membership fees are the key source of support for maintaining the portfolio and for creating new curriculum-related tools and services
The Wheatley Portfolio is intended to serve as a “road map” for the school year, as an aid for jumpstarting the lesson planning process. The Portfolio does not comprise a complete curriculum, nor does it prescribe how teachers are to teach the material included in the Portfolio. As a common planning tool, the Portfolio can facilitate school and district-wide collaboration. It also can become the backbone of rich, content-based professional development as teachers work together to create and then refine curricula for their particular schools and classrooms.
All standards in the CCSS are addressed at least once, if not a number of times. Each grade includes a “standards checklist” showing which standards are covered in which unit. The curriculum writers worked carefully to ensure that the content and skills in each unit would build on one another so that in the aggregate, all standards would be addressed in a coherent, logical way. They grouped standards that they could envision fitting together in one unit. For example, if a unit was focused on asking and answering questions in informational text, then standards for shared research and expository writing were included in that unit as well.
We envision a "complete curriculum" to be a working set of documents and practices for daily instruction and assessments that teachers collaboratively develop and refine using the content and skills delineated in the Wheatley Portfolio. A "complete curriculum" would not only include the components of our portfolios as they are now, but also further guidance about differentiating instruction to suit advanced and struggling students (for example, those who are reading above or below grade level, English language learners, and students with disabilities). A full curriculum would also include a scope and sequence, samples of student work, more scoring rubrics, and—ultimately—more suggested lesson plans. It could also include pacing suggestions to guide instruction of the content and skills in ways that address specific student objectives and link them to the standards, much like our sample lesson plans do. Other levels of detail might be included, such as lists of important vocabulary words for each text, assessment blueprints, detailed pacing of grammar instruction that is integrated with the works (i.e., sentence structure and usage conventions are studied in the context of what students are reading).
Educators may view the curriculum as “road maps” for the school year, using them to jumpstart the lesson planning process. As common planning tools, these portfolios also can become the backbone of rich, content-based professional development as teachers collaborate to refine the curricula for their particular schools and classrooms.
Common Core's Wheatley Portfolio reflects the input of the many dozens of teachers who have reviewed them. In the fall of 2010 the portfolio was made available for public comment. During that period and since we’ve received hundreds of comments from teachers, superintendents, principals, curriculum directors, and many others who have taken the time to send along their reactions and suggestions and the curriculum has been enriched by their input. We were fortunate that the American Federation of Teachers was willing to convene the same panel of AFT teachers that reviewed the CCSS to review the first edition of our curriculum. The Milken Family Foundation provided us access to a dozen winners of the Milken Educator Award. These teachers, nationally recognized for excellence in the classroom, have provided considerable input and insight. We are also grateful to the National Alliance of Black School Educators for identifying superintendents, teachers, and content area specialists from across the country to review our curriculum as well.
The Wheatley Portfolio is based on the CCSS. The CCSS dictated both the goals and contours of our curriculum. In addition to the CCSS, we have consulted a wide range of model curricula and other content materials, including the International Baccalaureate course outlines, curriculum maps and scoring rubrics used by the Brooklyn Latin School, and the Massachusetts English Language Arts Curriculum Frameworks. We have tried to incorporate the best aspects of these successful programs and materials into our curriculum, such as a focus on a sequence of specific content, the inclusion of both oral and written expressions of student proficiency, and attention to the detailed aspects of genres, subgenres, and characteristics of various kinds of literary and informational texts. Whenever possible, we have suggested ways to integrate digital learning tools and resources to enhance both teaching and learning.
The Wheatley Portfolio comprises a living document that members will help to expand and improve over time. The portfolio is open for comment twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Members can rate and comment on each unit and other curriculum elements, such as sample activities, suggested works, and resources. Comments are open for view by all members. This input will be used to revise and improve the curriculum on a rolling basis. Also, members can submit lesson plans for review by a committee of teachers who will decide which ones to add to the Wheatley Portfolio site.
The Wheatley Portfolio was written by public school teachers for public school teachers. More than three dozen teachers had a hand in drafting, writing, reviewing, or revising the Portfolio. Collectively, the teachers who contributed to this curriculum bring several dozen years of teaching experience to the project. Please click here for the bios of the teachers who have contributed to the Portfolio.
Overview. This is a brief description of the unit. It explains the unit’s theme and provides a summary of what students will learn. It explains the structure, progression, and various components of the unit. It may offer some guidance regarding the selection of texts. The unit descriptions illuminate the connections between the skills identified in the standards and the content of the suggested works.
Essential question. The “essential question” highlights the usefulness, the relevance, and the greater benefit of a unit. It is often the “so what?” question about material covered. It should be answerable, at least to some degree, by the end of the unit, but it should also have more than one possible answer. It should prompt intellectual exploration by generating other questions. Here’s an example from eighth grade: “How does learning history through literature differ from learning through informational text?”
Focus standards. These standards are taken directly from the CCSS and have been identified as especially important for the unit. Other standards are covered in each unit as well, but the focus standards are the ones that the unit has been designed to address specifically.
Suggested student objectives. These are the specific student outcomes for the unit. They describe the transferable ELA content and skills that students should possess when the unit is completed. The objectives are often components of more broadly-worded standards and sometimes address content and skills necessarily related to the standards. The lists are not exhaustive, and the objectives should not supplant the standards themselves. Rather, they are designed to help teachers “drill down” from the standards and augment as necessary, providing added focus and clarity for lesson planning purposes.
Suggested works. These are substantial lists of suggested literary and informational texts. In most cases (particularly in the middle and high school grades), this list contains more texts than a unit could cover; it is meant to offer a range of options to teachers. Several permutations of the list could meet the goals of the unit. The suggested texts draw heavily from the “exemplar texts” listed in the CCSS. Exemplars are works the CCSS identified as meeting the levels of complexity and rigor described in the standards. These texts are identified with an (E) after the title of an exemplar text. An (EA) indicates a work by an author who has another work cited as an exemplar text.
Art, music, and media. These sections list works of visual art, music, film, and other media that reflect the theme of the unit and that a teacher can use to extend students’ knowledge in these areas. Each unit includes at least one sample activity involving the works listed under this heading. In some cases, a prompt also has been provided. ELA teachers who choose to use this material may do so on their own, by team teaching with an art or music teacher, or perhaps by sharing the material with the art or music teacher, who could reinforce what students are learning during the ELA block in their classroom. The inclusion of these works in our curriculum is not intended to substitute for or infringe in any way upon instruction students should receive in separate art and music classes.
Sample activities and assessments. These items have been written particularly for the unit, with specific standards and often with specific texts in mind. Each activity addresses at least one standard in the CCSS; the applicable standard(s) are cited in parentheses following the description of each activity. The suggested activities or assessments are not intended to be prescriptive, exhaustive, or sequential; they simply demonstrate how specific content can be used to help students learn the skills described in the standards. They are designed to generate evidence of student understanding and give teachers ideas for developing their own activities and assessments. Teachers should use, refine, and/or augment these activities, as desired, in order to ensure that they will have addressed all the standards intended for the unit and, in the aggregate, for the year.
Reading foundations. To help kindergarten through second-grade students master the skills necessary to become strong readers, Common Core offers a consolidated pacing guide of instructional goals for the teaching of the CCSS reading Foundational Skills. This guide complements our curriculum and was prepared by reading expert Louisa Moats, who also helped develop the reading standards for the CCSS.
Additional resources. These are links to lesson plans, activities, related background information, author interviews, and other instructional materials for teachers from a variety of resources, including the National Endowment for the Humanities and ReadWriteThink. The standards that could be addressed by each additional resource are cited at the end of each description.
Terminology. These are concepts and terms that students will encounter—often for the first time—over the course of the unit. The list is not comprehensive; it is meant to highlight terms that either are particular to the unit, are introduced there, or that play a large role in the work or content of the unit. These terms and concepts are usually implied by the standards, but not always made explicit in them.
Interdisciplinary connections. This is a section included only in our curriculum for the elementary grades. Here we very broadly list the content areas the unit covers and then suggest opportunities for “making interdisciplinary connections” from Common Core's Curriculum for English to other subjects, including history, civics, geography, and the arts. We hope this section will be particularly helpful for K-5 teachers, who typically teach all subjects.
Sample Lesson Plan. One unit in each grade includes a supplementary document that outlines a possible sequence of lessons, using one or more suggested unit texts to meet focus standards. Many of the texts used in the sample lesson plans are also CCSS exemplar texts. These sample lessons include guidance for differentiated instruction. Sample lesson plans can be found in the following units:
Standards Checklist. Each grade includes a standards checklist that indicates which standards are covered in which unit—providing teachers an overview of standards coverage for the entire school year.
Membership lasts one calendar year from the date of purchase and must be renewed annually.
Members are able to access the Wheatley Portfolio, and:
• Rate and comment on each of the seventy-six units.
• Rate and comment on thousands of suggested works, activities, and resources.
• Purchase print copies of the Portfolio at a 30% discount.
• Submit lesson plans for possible posting on the website.
• Receive a “first alert” for news related to the Portfolio.
• Get preferred pricing on curriculum services and tools that are under development.
Click here to gain access to the Wheatley Portfolio.
Common Core’s Wheatley Portfolio contains:
• Guidance for differentiated instruction in each Sample Lesson Plan
• Pacing guides for K-2 reading instruction
• Hundreds of writing, grammar, and research activities
• A thirteen-step process for writing a senior research paper
• Recommended informational and contemporary texts throughout
• A library of seventy digital resources
• 179 arts activities throughout all seventy-six units
• A glossary of more than 375 ELA terms
• The option to purchase suggested works at discounted prices
Click here for full details.
Yes, only members of the Wheatley Portfolio can view Common Core’s Curriculum for English online.
The price of membership is $30 per year if you are seeking access to just one grade span (K-2, 3-5, 6-8, or 9-12). Access to the K-12 curricula in their entirety is available for $90 annually. School districts and other institutions with more than five hundred users should contact Common Core to discuss institutional pricing. States, networks, co-ops, districts, or schools seeking to provide access to all English, reading, and English Language Arts teachers will receive a significant discount. It is important to Common Core that teachers continue to shape and enhance the Portfolio!
Sure. Click here to see two units and two sample lesson plans, selected from across our grades. Our complete K-12 curricula are comprised of 76 units and 13 sample lesson plans.
Yes. Wheatley Portfolio members receive a 30% discount (and free shipping) on the 3-volume print edition of our English curriculum, published by Jossey-Bass. Click here for more information.
Yes. Common Core has received numerous requests for maps in other subjects, including mathematics. In response to your requests, we have begun a similar project in mathematics. We will release more details about this effort soon.
While literature is of course a vital component of the standards, some standards in the CCSS address the arts as well. Because Common Core promotes the importance of all students studying the arts, we have highlighted places where ELA instruction could be enhanced by connecting a work of literature or an objective of the unit to art, music, or film. For example, students might compare a novel, story, or play to its film or musical rendition. Where a particular period of literature or the literature of a particular region or country is addressed, works of art from that period or country may also be examined. We suggest, for example, that students study self-portraiture when they are encountering memoirs. In each case, connections are made to the standards themselves. The inclusion of these works in our English curriculum is NOT intended to substitute for or infringe in any way upon instruction students should receive in separate arts and music classes.
Recitation requires close reading and therefore nurtures deeper levels of students’ understanding. Students also benefit from the satisfaction of making a poem or piece of prose one’s own for life. In addition, many teachers observe that memorization and recitation help develop a student’s experience and confidence in public speaking, which could help students marshal evidence and make effective arguments in other contexts. Keep in mind that our suggestions for memorization activities are not meant to be mandatory in every unit.
Aside from the inclusion of a scoring rubric for high school seminars, the Wheatley Portfolio does not provide sample student work or scoring rubrics. We expect to develop such additional tools as teachers and curriculum developers use and customize the curriculum, and as we conduct ongoing professional development.
Many of the texts listed as exemplars in the CCSS Appendix B are included in the Wheatley Portfolio. These texts take priority in our units and indeed shape unit themes. Like the exemplar texts themselves, the additional texts suggested in our curriculum include literary works and informational texts that have stood the test of time, as well as excellent contemporary titles. The suggested texts include novels, short stories, poetry, essays, speeches, memoirs, biographies, autobiographies, fables, folk tales, and mythology. Teachers will find texts written by authors of wide-ranging diversity: young and old, living and dead, male and female, American and foreign. In the early grades, the Portfolio prioritizes students’ exposure to traditional stories and poetry, Mother Goose rhymes, and award-winning fiction and nonfiction chosen for quality of writing and relevance to themes. They also emphasize concepts of print, phonological awareness, phonics, and text reading fluency. In upper elementary and middle school grades, students read a variety of fiction and nonfiction on science and history topics, as well as diverse selections of classic and contemporary literature. High school begins by establishing in ninth grade a common understanding of literary and informational genres, subgenres, and their characteristics. Grades ten through twelve each focus on a different literary tradition, both American and international. Along the way, the Portfolio highlights numerous points of connection with history, science, and the arts.
The Wheatley Portfolio is not tailored to any specific reading instruction method or management technique. It is up to local school districts and teachers to determine how reading will be taught. The sample activities and assessments reflect a mix of teacher- and student-centered instruction, but emphasize eliciting evidence of student understanding through authentic assessments.
Under the “Reading Foundations” sections for the K-2 curriculum (and embedded into the curriculum for grades 3-5) is a pacing guide for reading instruction. This guide is aligned with the CCSS reading “Foundational Skills.” The guide paces instruction in reading foundations logically across the grades. Concepts of print, phonological awareness, phonics, and text reading fluency are all addressed and woven into a developmental progression that leads to word recognition and text reading. Accomplishment of these milestones can be achieved with daily practice and brief activities that would require thirty to forty minutes of instructional time per day. A sample of those activities is also provided. Explicit, sequential, and cumulative teaching of these skills in no way should detract from, substitute for, or prevent the teaching of the oral language, comprehension, and literature-focused instruction, also described in the units.
The unit themes grew organically out of the process of selecting which standards would be the focus of each unit and consulting the list of exemplar texts. The teachers who wrote the curriculum intentionally chose themes that would resonate with students, as well as lend coherence to the skills and content addressed. Some of the themes introduced in the early elementary grades, such as courage, re-emerge in later years. We have done so in a deliberate attempt to invite students to wrestle with some of the “great ideas,” a hallmark of a liberal education. We hope that as students progress through school, they will consider the themes at greater levels of depth.
Our citations for the standards follow the format established by the CCSS (found in the upper right hand corners of the pages in the CCSS ELA document): strand.grade.number. For example, the first Reading Literature (RL) standard in grade four would be cited as: RL.4.1. You will find our citations in the front of each focus standard and at the end of each sample activity/assessment. Where standards clearly corresponded to lessons listed under “additional resources,” standards also have been cited.
Yes. Wheatley Portfolio members receive a 30% discount (and free shipping) on the 3-volume print edition of our English curriculum, published by Jossey-Bass. Click here for more information.