Module #2: Shifts & Alignment

The Maine Department of Education recognizes that implementation of standards remains entirely a local decision. These resources may help educators understand what alignment means and how to align curriculum and practices to the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts/Literacy (CCSS for ELA/Literacy), which is included in the Maine Learning Results. After developing an initial understanding of the materials and concepts in the CCSS, this module may help educators unpack the standards, determine whether their current practices and resources match the CCSS, find where they may have gaps in curriculum and develop strategies for implementation


  • Issues of Alignment Webinar: CCSS in Maine. In an effort to support the transitioning work, Maine DOE ELA specialists have prepared this presentation, which explores the topic of alignment to standards, provides definitions of what it means to be aligned and suggests methods for determining degree of alignment in your school or classroom. Several resources for supporting curriculum work and standards transition are offered.
  • Shifts in Practice Webinar: Maine Learning Results to CCSS. Although the standards documents themselves present very similar content, local districts may decide implementation would benefit from shifts in curriculum, instruction and assessment.

Text Complexity

Determining complexity is a primary focus of initial implementation efforts. Students must have the opportunity to read texts of appropriate and consistently increasing complexity. Complexity levels developed in accordance with CCSS reflect a staircase relative to development. Within each level (or grade band) is a span that represents what a student should be able to comprehend independently and the “stretch” reaching for the next band. Curriculum should include texts across the band for each grade level and ensure that instruction and tasks are also consistently increasing in complexity.

Understanding Text Complexity

Learn about the considerations that inform the determination of text complexity. 

Tools to Determine the Complexity of Texts

Working collaboratively with specialists in several states, the following tools were developed as a protocol for determining the level of complexity of a text and placing that text in the appropriate grade/grade band. When the template is printed on large paper, it takes on the appearance of a placemat and has thus been dubbed the Placemat Protocol. 

You may want to begin by comparing your texts to those listed in Appendix B. Use this Graphic Organizer (PDF) from CCSSO to help you evaluate your complexity alignment.

Examples from Appendix B

Finding Appropriately Complex Texts

  • contains research, guides and many instructional resources that include sample texts which support instruction with appropriately complex texts.  All of the resources provided on the site are free. 
  • Reading Rockets contains links to a number of resources related to selecting appropriately complex text as well as suggestions for planning instruction with complex texts. 
  • provides educators with free access to research-based units, lessons, and authentic, leveled non-fiction and literary passages.
  • Reading A-Z (available by subscription) contains many literary and informational pieces of text that can support text sets and units of study.

Standards in Context

The following activities lead you through a process of understanding the standards in context: horizontal alignment; vertical alignment; connecting to information and resources in the appendices; and using other relevant supporting information to build content comprehension. While the ELA team has not presented an activity for every one of the 32 ELA standards, they have provided several organizers of selected standards for you to study and a blank template. They also present a few model responses. Do not be concerned if the activity begins with a look at a standard outside your grade level. It is provided simply as a starting point; you will be taken to your grade level during the process. As you do the unpacking of an individual standard, remember to identify gaps in your knowledge and in your curriculum. Once you have identified your gaps or priority transition topics, determine how to fill those gaps.


Sample Completed Task

Cognitive Demand

"Cognitive demand" refers to the expectation of student thinking relative to standards, instruction and assessment. Educators in Maine often use the model of cognitive demand called "Depth of Knowledge (DOK)," developed by Dr. Norman Webb at the University of Wisconsin.

Additional Modules