Fact: While it’s true that teachers of English language arts will need to incorporate non-fiction texts into their curriculum, many of the skills required by the standards can easily be taught through fiction. Therefore, teachers can use both fiction and non-fiction when implementing the standards.
In order to give a better picture of what the standards are, I have included some samples from first grade and sixth grade English language arts:
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.1 Ask and answer questions about key details in a text.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.2 Retell stories, including key details, and demonstrate understanding of their central message or lesson.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.3 Describe characters, settings, and major events in a story, using key details.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.6 Identify who is telling the story at various points in a text.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.6.3 Describe how a particular story’s or drama’s plot unfolds in a series of episodes as well as how the characters respond or change as the plot moves toward a resolution.
Craft and Structure:
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.6.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.6.5 Analyze how a particular sentence, chapter, scene, or stanza fits into the overall structure of a text and contributes to the development of the theme, setting, or plot.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.6.6 Explain how an author develops the point of view of the narrator or speaker in a text.
You can see how the skills progress from first grade to sixth grade even as they are dealing with the same subject. For instance, while in first grade the student has to identify the point of view, in sixth grade, the student has to explain how that author developed that point of view. The intention is for the standards to slowly build a uniform scaffolding for all students to enter life after high school with a homogenous skill set. This way, all students can have what it takes to succeed.