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Unpacking Standards: A Guide for 1st & 2nd Grade Teachers

Teacher Support, Tips & Hacks

Written by: Jess Dalrymple

As educators, we know that the road to effective teaching and successful student learning begins with a clear understanding of the standards we are tasked with. In this blog post, we'll delve into the crucial process of unpacking standards, and we've tailored this guide specifically for our 1st and 2nd-grade teachers. Whether you're a seasoned educator or just starting your teaching journey, understanding and unpacking standards is a fundamental skill. Let's get started!

Step 1: Identify the Standard

Where can you find the standards your state follows? Here are quick links to many of the educational standards used in the United States.

Common Core Standards

California Content Standards

Florida Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking (BEST)

Indiana Academic Standards

Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks

Nebraska State Standards

New York State P-12 Common Core Learning Standards

Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS)

Utah Core Standards

Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL)

Other State Standards: If your state is not linked above, head to your state education department website. You'll be able to access the specific standards for your grade level and subject. Look for a section related to “Academic Standards” or “Curriculum.”

Sample Standard Used for This Post:

We've demonstrated the steps of unpacking a standard with the 2nd Grade Reading Literature Common Core Standard RL.2.5:

Describe the overall structure of a story, including
describing how the beginning introduces the
story and the ending concludes the action.


Step 2: Closely Read the Standard

Now that you've found your standard, it's time to get up close and personal with it. Start by highlighting keywords and phrases that reveal the standard's essence so it's easier to understand the intent behind the wording.

Unpacking the common core literacy standard 2.5.

Notice keywords: “Describe,” “overall structure,” “story,” “beginning,” “introduces,” “ending,” “concludes,” and “action.” We highlighted the verbs (what kids have to do) in yellow and the nouns (the what) in pink.

Highlighting keywords helps to reveal what the standard is specifically asking kids to do. Standard RL.2.5 expects students to be able to describe the structure of a story, particularly how the beginning introduces the story and how the ending concludes the action.

Step 3: Break It Down

What skills, concepts and depth of knowledge does mastery of this standard require?

Unpacking the common core literacy standard 2.5.

Find more information on Depth of Knowledge levels HERE.

Step 4: Translate the Standard

Rewrite the standard in your own words AND in student-friendly terms as well. We like to use I can statements for students.

Unpacking and rewriting the common core literacy standard 2.5 in student friendly language.

Step 5: Determine Prior Knowledge

Understanding prior knowledge and prerequisite skills for each grade-level standard is essential for effective teaching. It allows teachers to tailor instruction to individual student needs, ensuring a smoother progression of learning from year to year. Additionally, it helps identify and address gaps in students' understanding, promotes differentiation, and builds students' confidence by starting with what they already know.

List out the prerequisite skills and learning progression of a standard.

Step 6: Consider Assessments

How will you measure whether or not students have mastered this standard? Before the teaching begins, take the time to plan assessments that gauge students' ability to describe the structure of a story, including identifying the beginning and ending components.

Assessments may include questions that ask students to analyze a story's structure, identify the beginning and ending, or explain how they contribute to the story.

This story map graphic organizer could work well as an assessment!

Step 7: Plan Instruction

Now for the planning! For this standard, it will be important to develop lessons that teach students about story structure. Teachers could use sample stories to illustrate how a story typically starts with an introduction and ends with a conclusion. It would also be a good idea to create activities that engage students in identifying and discussing the beginning and ending components of various stories.

Quick link to all the Lucky Little Learners resources for RL.2.5.

Search for lesson activities by standard on the All Access Site!

Step 8: Differentiate Instruction

In a perfect world, all students in class would be working on the same standard at the same time, and walk through the door with all the prior knowledge necessary to grapple with every grade level standard. But… the reality is that 2nd-grade students have widely-varying levels of comprehension and analytical skills.

So, spend a little time thinking through how you could provide additional support for students who may struggle with identifying story structure and the role of the beginning and ending.

Offer advanced activities for students who grasp the concept quickly, such as analyzing more complex stories.

All Access features resources for several standards and grade levels.

Search by standard & grade level!


Understanding and effectively implementing standards is key to fostering student success. By following this guide, you're taking a significant step towards becoming an even more impactful teacher! Happy teaching!

Additional Resources

  • Council for Exceptional Children. (2019). High leverage practices for inclusive classrooms. New York: Routledge.
  • Ainsworth, L. (2003). “Unwrapping” the standards: A simple process to make standards manageable. Englewood, CO: Advanced Learning Press. Bailey, K., & Jakicic, C. (2019).
  • Make it happen: Coaching with the four critical questions of PLCs at Work. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

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Hey there!  I’m Angie, owner of Lucky Little Learners. Our #1 goal is to support K-2 teachers.  We provide unlimited access to over 20,000 printables that are aligned to your standards.