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2020 CAS - Family and Community Guide for High School Reading, Writing, and Communicating

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Working Together: To support families, communities, and teachers in realizing the goals of the Colorado Academic Standards (CAS), this guide provides an overview of the learning expectations for students studying high school reading, writing, and communicating. This guide offers some learning experiences students may engage in at school that may also be supported at home.

Why Standards? Created by Coloradans for Colorado students, the Colorado Academic Standards provide a grade-by-grade road map to help ensure students are successful in college, careers, and life. The standards aim to improve what students learn and how they learn in 12 content areas while emphasizing critical thinking, creativity, problem solving, collaboration, and communication as essential skills for life in the 21st century.

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Reading, Writing, and Communicating for High School

The reading, writing, and communicating standards in the high school grades ask students to be critical readers of complex literary and informational texts. The standards require that students develop the writing skills necessary to convey their experience in the world, to produce thoughtful analyses of academic and real-world topics, and to develop well-reasoned arguments on relevant topics in their lives. The standards foster opportunities for students to work collaboratively with others as they develop the literacy skills to be academically successful and prepared for life after high school. One noticeable change to the 2020 Colorado Academic Standards for high school is the banding of grade levels (i.e., 9-10 and 11-12). This change was made to create greater local flexibility for districts and schools in purchasing curriculum and resources in reading, writing, and communicating.

Expectations for Ninth-Tenth Grade Students:

  • Oral Expression and Listening:
    • In ninth grade, students speak and make strategic use of multimedia to strengthen claims and add interest while delivering information, findings, and supporting evidence clearly, concisely, and logically; evaluate a speaker's point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric; identify any deceptive reasoning or exaggerated evidence; evaluate the credibility of sources; collaborate in discussions by using credible resources, asking questions, and giving feedback to group members.
    • In tenth grade, students speak and make strategic use of multimedia to present information with a clear claim, supporting evidence, precise vocabulary, and a logical structure that is easy to follow; demonstrate credibility; evaluate a speaker's point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric; identify deceptive reasoning or exaggerated evidence and source credibility; contribute to collaborative discussions; listen actively to other group members and pose questions, build on ideas, and demonstrate leadership in group settings.
  • Reading for All Purposes:
    • In ninth grade, students read a variety of literary, informational, and argumentative texts; analyze themes, complex characters, plots, and central ideas, people, and events; analyze the meaning and impact of words on an author’s tone or message; examine how an author’s choice in sequencing a narrative creates suspense or tension; analyze how a text is structured to convey meaning; understand how a particular point of view is reflected in works of world literature; examine how different versions of an event or topic may be represented in different forms (drama, screen versions, visual arts).
    • In tenth grade, students read a variety of literary and nonfiction texts; summarize and analyze themes and central ideas by exploring complex characters, plots, and ideas; examine how an author’s sequencing creates mystery or tension; determine the meaning of words and phrases and their impact on understanding the text; articulate how a particular point of view is reflected in literary and nonfiction texts; explain how rhetoric and structure are used; analyze how different versions or interpretations of an event (or subject) may be presented through different forms (films, visual art, drama); use evidence from a text to support an analysis.
  • Writing and Composition
    • In ninth grade, students use technology to produce, publish, and update grammatically correct and organized writing that makes an argument or explains complex ideas supported by well-chosen facts and quotations; address counterarguments or opposing views; write narratives of real or imagined experiences by depicting a problem or observation, establishing one or multiple points of view, and using narrative techniques like multiple plot lines, flashbacks, and effective figurative language.
    • In tenth grade, students write for authentic, targeted audiences using technology to produce and publish a written piece that makes an effective argument or explains a complex idea; organize content around important connections and distinctions and use well-chosen facts and quotations; write narratives conveying real or imagined experiences by presenting a problem or observation, establishing one or multiple points of view, and using techniques like multiple plot lines.
  • Research Inquiry and Design:
    • In ninth grade, students conduct short research projects to answer a question and generate additional focus questions; gather information from several sources; use search terms effectively; assess the credibility of sources; follow a standard format for citation; evaluate the soundness of reasoning and the relevance/sufficiency of evidence.
    • In tenth grade, students conduct short and long research projects to answer a question or solve a problem; use advanced search to find a variety of evidence (expert testimony, analogies, anecdotes, statistics) that has been evaluated for reliability and validity; avoid plagiarizing by following a standard format for citation; analyze the logic (including assumptions and beliefs) and the use of evidence by two or more authors who are presenting similar or opposing arguments.

Throughout Ninth Grade, You May Find Students:

  • Engaging in inquiry around a question such as “What contributes to the effectiveness of a piece of writing and what gets in the way of effectiveness?”; reading relevant works of literature along with nonfiction writing to explore a complex issue; using collaborative groups (literature circles) to increase comprehension of complex texts; writing a literary analysis as part of a class “literary magazine” devoted to a theme or topic.
  • Using close reading strategies (questioning, summarizing, making connections) to deepen understanding of challenging works of world literature; participating in discussions (Socratic seminar) that rely on inquiry and the use of textual evidence to foster thoughtful analysis.
  • Studying a Shakespearean play and writing an analysis comparing themes, tone, or the language of the original against a contemporary interpretation.

Throughout Tenth Grade, You May Find Students:​

  • Reading and analyzing historical documents (speeches, laws, news accounts) as they relate to specific literary works written either during or about the time-period; working collaboratively to deepen their understanding of a text through group discussions (Socratic seminar, literature circles).
  • Reading multiple texts by one author to examine how an author draws on personal experiences and cultural influences to write about contemporary themes and topics in a variety of ways (autobiographical, poetic, and fictional).
  • Developing multimedia presentations to convey experiences or to express understandings of the world around them.
  • Talking with peers and others about a draft piece of personal writing and revising their writing based on ideas and feedback from that conversation.


Expectations for Eleventh-Twelfth Grade Students:

  • Oral Expression and Listening
    • In eleventh grade, students speak and make strategic use of multimedia to clarify information, strengthen claims, and add interest; present a distinct perspective so that listeners can follow the reasoning, build their understanding, and consider responses to alternative or opposing perspectives; accurately evaluate a speaker's point of view, reasoning, use of evidence, and rhetoric; assess the ideas, word choice, points of emphasis, tone, credibility and accuracy of a speaker’s sources; participate in group discussions by being prepared, actively listening, and contributing to the discussion.
    • In twelfth grade, students develop and deliver a speech for a specific purpose and audience (making strategic use of multimedia and appropriate technical/specialized language); deliver information expressing a central idea, addressing opposing or alternate viewpoints, and conveying a clear and well- reasoned perspective; evaluate a speaker's point of view, reasoning, use of evidence, and rhetoric; participate with peers in civil, democratic discussions to make decisions, set goals, and establish roles for group success.
  • Reading for All Purposes:
    • In eleventh grade, students read a variety of texts, including foundational literary and historical texts from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries; summarize and analyze themes and central ideas; examine the impact of an author’s choices regarding complex story elements; determine the meaning of words and their impact on tone and message; understand an author’s point of view by determining what is stated (and meant) and by analyzing multiple versions of the text; analyze and evaluate reasoning in nonfiction and argumentative texts, explaining how an author’s use of structure and evidence contributes to the writing.
    • In twelfth grade, students read a variety of texts, including important texts from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries; summarize and analyze themes, plots, and characters in literature or central ideas, events, and people in nonfiction; compare/contrast text characteristics and authors’ perspectives in different texts; examine the impact of an author’s choices regarding story elements; evaluate how literary components impact meaning (symbolism, irony, extended metaphor); analyze argumentative and informational texts to understand how style, rhetoric, and content contribute to the text’s power and persuasiveness.
  • Writing and Composition:
    • In eleventh grade, students write for authentic, targeted audiences and respond to ongoing feedback; make an effective argument or explain complex ideas; organize content and make important connections supported by significant facts, definitions, details, and quotations; use simile, metaphor and analogy to increase impact; write narratives to express real or imagined experiences and using narrative techniques to create an engaging story.
    • In twelfth grade, students write for targeted audiences, using technology and a range of elaboration techniques (questioning, comparing, connecting, interpreting, analyzing, or describing); argue a position by providing a sophisticated claim, addressing counter-arguments, developing a logical structure, and providing relevant evidence, facts, quotations, and examples; write narratives that develop context, character/narrator motivation, problem/conflict and resolution, and provide descriptive details to support  and express a theme; manipulate elements of imagery, tone, and point of view.
  • Research Inquiry and Design:
    • In eleventh grade, students conduct short and long research projects to answer a question or solve a problem; demonstrate understanding by bringing together authoritative sources through the use of advanced searches and by assessing the strengths and weaknesses of each source; integrate important information into a research project; avoid plagiarism and overreliance on one source; follow a standard format for citation; examine the reasoning in significant U.S. texts, including the application of constitutional principles and the use of argument and legal reasoning in works of public advocacy.
    • In twelfth grade, students define, narrow, and design research projects; bring together authoritative sources through the use of advanced searches (evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of each source); selectively integrate and synthesize information, avoid plagiarism and the over-reliance on one source, and follow a standard format for citation.

Throughout Eleventh Grade You May Find Students:

  • Comparing past and contemporary author’s use of setting and characters to understand how societal influences impact an author’s writing.
  • Using a variety of sources (academic, literary, historical) to research and evaluate claims made by others on a major social issue, such as censorship, in order to write a commentary that argues a specific stance; using evidence from research to support an argument, and using examples from past and/or current events and works of literature to illustrate and clarify an argument.
  • Working with partners to develop texts (a class literary magazine, blog, video) to present multiple perspectives on an issue or theme.

Throughout Twelfth Grade You May Find Students:

  • Creating digital portfolios that analyze and critique various works (poetry, visual art, editorials, historical and literary documents significant in U.S. history); producing original compositions of various genres or types of writing on a specific topic or theme relevant to various literature.
  • Researching topics of personal relevance and interest and presenting findings to school or community audiences or to an online audience (via Prezi, VoiceThread, or other platforms).
  • Working as a member of a collaborative team to analyze various literary and nonfiction works and to develop a whole-class presentation demonstrating multiple perspectives on a topic or theme; working in a team to generate a discussion forum (Socratic seminar, round-table discussion, debate teams) round relevant themes or topics.