Activity Directions: Shared Understanding of Grade Level Standards and Benchmarks

This activity provides an opportunity for teacher groups to conduct close readings and collaborative discussions of standards and/or benchmarks as a necessary step to improving instruction and curriculum. Close reading is used to challenge current thinking, reveal misunderstandings, and identify discrepancies between current instruction and the expected rigor of standards and benchmarks.

Learning Objective

Learn a process that can be used as part of ongoing efforts to develop shared understanding of standards and benchmarks.


30-60 minutes or more depending on the standards and benchmarks being addressed


1. Select the specific standard(s) and benchmark(s) to be explored.

2. Prepare for digital access to or paper copies of the standards and benchmarks that will be explored during this activity. The official academic standards documents for each content area can be found on the Academic Standards page within the Standards-based Education Portal.

3. Provide highlighters and/or sticky notes for each individual or group, if using print copies.

4. Determine strategies for grouping participants.

5. Adapt and prepare for digital access to or paper copies of the discussion questions provided in number 4 of the directions.

6. Determine and have access to a method(s) for collaborative record keeping.


1. Organize participants so that everyone is working in collaboration with at least one other person at or near grade level.

2. Introduce the context, process and scope of work by addressing the following:

a. What are the purpose and outcome(s) for the day?

b. How does this work fit within the larger process of standards implementation?

c. What are the methods of close reading that will be used?

d. How will pairs/groups share out their work in the large group?

e. What methods will be used for ongoing record-keeping of collective thinking about these standards and benchmarks?

3. Ensure that all participants have access to the standards and benchmarks and supporting materials such as highlighters and Post-its.

4. Ask pairs or groups to closely read each standard and/or benchmark and consider the following:

a. What did you notice about the standard or the benchmarks?

b. What is the big idea(s) in this standard?

c. What is the relationship between the standard and its corresponding benchmarks?

d. Why are the concepts and skills within these standards and benchmarks important?

e. What is challenging for students?

f. What misconceptions may need to be addressed?

g. How does this standard/benchmark fit with the learning progression from previous and to later grades?

h. What will it take to meet instructional needs of diverse students for this standard or benchmark and ensure appropriate challenge for each student?

i. What are appropriate performance tasks or assessments of this learning?

5. Ask each group to select a representative to summarize and share the group’s thinking with the larger group. Include differences of opinion and areas of consensus.

6. Summarize the responses from the pairs or groups to keep an ongoing record of thinking.

7. Gather feedback on specific needs identified through discussions and share next steps.