SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Now to hear what those standards may sound like in action, we go to a school in Chicago. Becky Vevea of member station WBEZ has our latest postcard from a Common Core classroom.
(SCHOOL BELL RINGING)
BECKY VEVEA, BYLINE: The sixth-graders in De'Andrea Bell's class have been working all year on one, key skill - writing an argument.
DE'ANDREA BELL: So the article that you're reading today is "Cell Phones At School."
VEVEA: One of the Common Core State Standards for sixth grade English says kids should be able to write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence. It's the end of the school year at Peterson Elementary on Chicago's North Side, and Ms. Bell wants to make sure her students really understand argument and don't mix it up with persuasive writing.
BELL: OK, so I like that you use the word - it always has facts, whereas persuasive is what? Lucy?
LUCY SKOREY: Your opinion.
BELL: Your opinion. So remember when we were talking about claims sentences? If you're doing an argument, what can you never start with? Aisha?
AISHA: I or I think.
BELL: Or I think, I believe...
VEVEA: Ms. Bell surveys the room to get the kids started.
BELL: How many of you have ever had your cell phone taken away at school because you weren't thinking? Oh, just one. OK, that works.
VEVEA: And then, her students go to work in small groups, reading two, nonfiction articles.
UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT 1: A study from 2010...
VEVEA: One makes the case for phones in school.
UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT 1: Banning cell phones in school would not only limit students' learning, but also their preparation for life.
VEVEA: And against.
UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT 2: On the other hand, a 2010 study found that 71 percent of students who had cell phones had sent or received text messages during classroom time. The study also mentioned that...
VEVEA: All of Ms. Bell's 30 sixth-graders are filling out a chart to help them organize the two arguments before they start writing their own. Lucy Skorey and Hilda Grullon sit at a table at the back of the room, discussing both sides.
SKOREY: It says they want to know they can reach their children at any time.
HILDA GRULLON: So with that, we can say that, and then this line, this helps both kids and their families...
GRULLON: Also, for the drawback, we can also use the one where they use their phones to cheat.
VEVEA: When asked why they should know how to write an argument, Grullon says...
GRULLON: We might want to become a lawyer or something. It's good practice for us to learn how to make a claim and tell what we think on paper.
VEVEA: And here's Aiden Castillo's theory.
AIDEN CASTILLO: Let's say one day, you want to become a president, and then you become a president. And then, like, you want to make a law. But then, other people go against it. You have to, like, be able to, like, fight against it and say that, like, your way is better than their way.
VEVEA: And if you don't want to be the president or a lawyer, they said, it'll still be good to know how to argue with someone in a respectful way, using facts instead of opinions. For NPR News, I'm Becky Vevea in Chicago.
SIMON: And you can learn more about the Common Core if you come to the Common Core FAQ blog at npr.org.