Skip to content Skip to navigation

Meeting the Common Core State Standards for ELA Part One – How Does the C3 Framework Align to the Common Core

This investigation is designed to answer the compelling question of “Why should teachers integrate literacy (using ELA CCSS) and social studies instruction (C3 Framework)?” Just as the C3 promotes inquiry-based learning, this investigation will similarly support you as teachers AND learners to use disciplinary concepts, tools, and sources to communicate your conclusions to this question so that you can take informed action in planning and utilizing the C3 in your school and classroom.


As a result of participating in this investigation, you will:

  • Evaluate sources to develop claims and cite convincing evidence to explain the rationale for integrating social studies and ELA instruction 
  • Align the concepts and skills presented in the CCSS and C3 Framework to evaluate their commonalities and particularities 
  • Describe the instructional shifts resulting from the C3 Framework and analyze their presence in effective lesson planning/design and implementation

This investigation has three parts: InvestigateCreate, and Connect. Please be sure to do all three sections.


Engagement One: Introduction & Rationale

Begin by viewing the Web seminar, Meeting the Common Core State Standards for ELA, presented by the author of this Investigation, Tina L Heafner, Ph.D.  Access PowerPoint slides used for the Web seminar here

Let’s pause to think for a moment about this compelling question (“Why should teachers seek to align/integrate social studies instruction to/with literacy instruction?”).  Discuss these supporting questions with your team:
  • How does this question reflect an enduring issue in the field of education? Why is it important [to ask this]?
  • What points of agreement and disagreement can you expect to uncover? 
  • What concepts are integral to understanding and answering this question?
  • What sources will be helpful in answering this question?
View The Collaborative Classroom: An Interview with Linda Darling-Hammond (video length: 8:49). This video features an interview with educational expert Linda Darling-Hammond, in which she presents the roles of teachers as citizens and schools as institutions in providing such quality instruction and integration of learning.  While you are watching and listening, consider the reasons she gives that might help you form an argument for our compelling question. 
Reflect and Discuss: How does this source help you formulate an argument to our compelling question? Analyze, interpret, and cite specific evidence from the video. What points did Linda Darling Hammond make that perhaps you had not previously considered?
As a team, read: Authentic Pedagogy: Its Presence in Social Studies Classrooms and Relationship to Student Performance on State-Mandated Tests by John Saye & Social Studies Inquiry Research Collaborative (SSIRC), Theory & Research in Social Education, 41:1, 89-132, published online: 28 Feb 2013.  
As you are reading, identify evidence in the reading that addresses our compelling question: “Why should teachers seek to align/integrate social studies instruction to/with literacy instruction?”  Note questions in the margins that emerged as you were reading.  Discuss in teams your text evidence and questions.  Formulate a conclusion in how your team would respond to the compelling question guiding our collaborative investigation.  
Engagement Two
As you and your team start to unpack what this integration and alignment mean for our approach to social studies instruction and practices, dig a little deeper with some supporting questions that will help you put this pedagogy into practice. First, collaboratively discuss what you already know takes place during social studies instruction in your classrooms today. Since you are inside buildings the most, take a moment to share: 
  • How are you currently using your Social Studies instruction to support ELA development? 
  • What components of Social Studies easily lend itself to alignment to ELA standards? 
Keeping this in mind and the information shared in the Web seminar, as a team investigate a supportive question that will result in further understanding and explanation: 
  • How was the C3 Framework developed to support ELA development? OR 
  • How does the C3 Framework support ELA development?
  • AND  How was the CCSS developed to support social studies instruction? 
Use pertinent ELA CCSS Anchor Standards and the C3 Framework to complete the matrix on Handout #1. First, you’ll cite the vocabulary and big ideas that are present in the CCSS and C3 separately. Next, you’ll analyze those key words and concepts to uncover commonalities in both documents. Finally, you’ll consider the particularities, or unique attributes for learning, that are evident in social studies. Let’s take a look at the example together.  
The first page of your Alignment Matrix looks at Dimension 1. In your C3 Framework, this is specifically pages 26-27, so turn to those now. It was designed to support R1 of the CCSS.
  • Let’s look at the first box of your Alignment Matrix. What are the big ideas of CCSS R1? What are key terms? 
  • Next, take a moment to read your C3 Framework, pages 26-27. What is expected by the C3?
  • So, what commonalities are we seeing? 
  • What particularities are unique to social studies instruction? 
Reflect & Discuss
After unpacking these two documents and uncovering some detailed explanations, revisit our compelling question: “Why should teachers seek to align/integrate social studies instruction to/with literacy instruction?”  Reflect as a team on how your newly acquired knowledge might influence the conclusions you are drawing. Consider these questions: 
  • Which alignments did you uncover that seem most significant in helping students master ELA CCSS? 
  • Which commonalities or particularities helped provide a better understanding of what your social studies instruction will look like? 


Engagement Three: Understanding Instructional Shifts
Finally, let’s start to examine this planning and pedagogy in action. We’ll consider:
  • What instructional shifts will teachers employ in their lessons? 
  • How will their pedagogical practices look different than they do currently?

Use this chart to take notes while watching the following videos:

View video: Close Reading, US History (9 minutes). While watching this lesson the first time, note the practices the teacher employs to integrate social studies and ELA objectives. 
View the following two videos as instructional comparisons.  Discuss examples of C3 and CCSS literacy instruction in each lesson.
Read C3 Framework: Instructional Shifts by some  of the C3 Framework contributing authors: Kathy Swan, John Lee, and S.G. Grant to gain a better understanding of the instructional shifts that are necessary to implement the C3 Framework
With this new understanding, look back at your notes from the video: Close Reading, US History.  What shifts were evident in the teacher’s lesson? Watch the video again, this time focusing on ways the lesson could be adapted to include the shifts we have discussed.
Discuss & Reflect
Reflect on your learning of the instructional shifts suggested by the C3 Framework and revisit our compelling question: “Why should teachers seek to align/integrate social studies instruction to literacy instruction?”
  • How might these types of instructional practices and lessons support your students’ learning of social studies? of ELA standards? 
  • What shifts do you anticipate being the easiest to make in your instruction? The most difficult? 
Summarizing Post:
After gathering sources, analyzing information, and evaluating a number of perspectives, you now have significant information to help you draw conclusions to our compelling question.  Take a moment to gather your resources—your notes/draft of an argument you constructed in Engagement One, the matrix you completed in Engagement Two, and your notes from analyzing the video and close reading of the instructional shifts—and begin to think about the most compelling conclusions you want to communicate to your colleagues, administration, and/or legislature. As a team, make an outline or number the main points on these documents that you want to include in your collaborative final product for demonstrating C3 and CCSS alignment. Post this as a summarizing blog in your group space. Include the topic tag "C3 and CCSS Alignment." 


Your team’s final step is to take informed action based upon your learning.  Choose your action based upon what is needed in your school building and professional learning community. Some examples include: 
  • Create an action plan (but look below at questions that were asked in first investigation—need to make this action plan something very specific); potentially an action research proposal. You might consider using a template to guide your planning.
  • Peer review a lesson that you have “adapted” or designed to integrate C3 and CCSS (a resource collection with a rubric for assessing unit plans is available here)  
  • Create a video/PowerPoint/visual advertisement building excitement and advocating for the use of the C3 (think about your audience: what appeals and influences teachers? A short, Letterman-style top 10 reasons list presented as a video with visuals?)
  • Write a letter to district or state leaders arguing the need for support of this type of learning (citing the evidence you’ve accrued from the investigation)
  • Create a social studies action group at your school for teachers and students who want to promote this learning
  • Develop civically minded lessons that engage learners in using cross-disciplinary literacy to take informed action  (a resource collection with a rubric for assessing unit plans is available here)
  • Engage with ELA and other literacy colleagues in developing an action plan to integrate shared literacy responsibly modeling C3 and CCSS standards 
Post the artifact that you create along with a description of why you chose this task and how you envision putting it into practice as a new blog post. Apply the topic tag "C3 and CCSS Taking Action."


In this investigation, you had the opportunity to learn about 
  • the rationale for integrating social studies and ELA instruction
  • the alignment to ELA CCSS contained in the C3 Framework
  • the instructional shifts needed to fully execute this type of pedagogy
Now, spend some time thinking about your team’s learning and start to develop some plans for action based upon the opportunities and context in your site.   
  • What? What now are my goals or intentions for utilizing the C3 Framework to strengthen the rigor of social studies education to meet the Common Core State Standards and prepare students for civic life? 
  • So What? What have I learned that would help me work with other educators to (a) reflect upon my current instructional practices for social studies? (b) apply the inquiry arc to my teaching?
  • Now What? What do I need to implement the C3 Framework in my classroom? 
Consider the support mechanisms needed from:
  • School administrators
  • Parents and families
  • Community members
Who should I talk to as I develop a plan for action? 
View video: Breaking Bad Social Studies (video length: 12:27)
Pay close attention to instructional shift #4 (9:19-9:59).  It is our shared responsibility to teach literacy.  The C3 is an extension of the CCSS and uses foundational literacy skills to advance student civic preparedness.  


ELA CCSS Anchor Standards

C3 Framework -

“Implementing the C3 Framework: Monitoring the Instructional Shifts,” NCSS Social Education, September 2014, pages 165-169.

C3 Framework: Instructional Shifts by C3 Framework contributing authors: Kathy Swan, John Lee, and S.G. Grant 

Videos featured in Web seminar: 

Video clips from David Coleman, one of the contributors to the CCSS: