Tag Archives: CCSS

Education Week: Common Core Thrusts Librarians Into Leadership Role

19 Aug

Education Week: Common Core Thrusts Librarians Into Leadership Role

We’ve been discussing for some time now the highlights of the common core.  This article speaks directly to some of the major differences between our old standards with the new.  The article touches on inquiry (how to ask “fat” questions, researching processes–essentially IIM), text complexity, and maintaining the role of literature in students’ lives.  Finally, it describes the important role the school librarian has in helping teachers implement the CCSS.  As we enter into our 2013-14 school year, we’ll be asking that this symbiotic relationship between classroom teacher and school librarian become more collaborative than it already is.

Click the link to visit the article

What CCSS means for Teachers

4 Mar


Read this excellent post below. It is a brief overview of one educator’s thoughts and advice to teachers to tackle the Common Core. There is a lot of meat in this relatively short article.


What CCSS means for Teachers – By Caitlin Dooley
January 26, 2013
This is the third in a series of blogs about the Common Core Standards. This post contains advice for teachers.

What CCSS Means for Teachers

I’m sure teachers are already sick of hearing about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). By now, you’ve been told that you will switch over to these new Standards if you work in any of the 45 states that have already adopted them (see a map here of the states that have/have not adopted http://www.corestandards.org/in-the-states ). So what’s a teacher to do?

1. Give Yourself Time

These Standards took more than a decade to be developed. Putting them fully into practice will take a while too. Give yourself time to learn. Find out more about the Standards, their pros and their cons (I’ve written about this in my previous blog entries.) Take time to reflect as you adjust your teaching.

2. Learn with/from Others

Seek a group of like-minded, dedicated, inquisitive teachers to learn with. Take small bits of the Standards and consider them together. Which elements do you think will be most challenging? Work together through these hard parts, share resources, identify helpful technologies, and create new units and lessons. Carve out regular time to talk—whether in the workroom at school or a nearby restaurant, really anywhere you think you’ll do it regularly.

3. Think Through the Hard Parts

I have no crystal ball, but in looking at the standards, I foresee that there will be some parts that will be a struggle for some teachers:

Teaching “complex” texts.

Text complexity is all the rage in CCSS. It’s how the developers came up with that crazy-long list of “exemplar texts” that sits at the end of the K-12 English Language Arts (ELA) Standards. Text complexity is not simply a quantitative readability score (like the Lexile scores that the CCSS use). Text complexity involves qualitative information like text genre, format and structure, vocabulary, levels of meaning (literal, figurative, etc.), and knowledge demands. While the CCSS lists text exemplars in order of increasing text complexity, your job will be to thoughtfully look beyond their list to match texts and children. While you want to push students to challenge themselves to read more complex texts, your job will be to scaffold their learning as they approach each new text. If you find that one child struggles with new vocabulary or another child struggles with a new text format, then you will know which texts to offer next as you teach about these text features.

Increasing the focus on informational texts.

As grade level increases, the CCSSs focus on informational texts increases. And the fact is, P-12 educators have a history of teaching more about narrative texts, especially in the early grades. So this might be a shift.

You will want to be sure to offer informational texts in your classroom. You will want to teach children how to approach these texts as information gatherers, synthesizers, and inquirers. You can ask your students to take these approaches by asking them to summarize, identify key points, synthesize across texts, and ask new questions. If you’re wondering how to do this, look into books offered by the International Reading Association, the National Council of Teachers of Educators—they’ll have some great ideas.

Teaching vocabulary.

This does not mean “look it up in the dictionary”! This means that we teachers need to teach about new words through explicit instruction. Vocabulary shouldn’t focus on high frequency words that the kids already know. The words that need to be taught are the kinds that represent abstract ideas that go across content areas (words like “justice” or “apprentice”). You’ll get the most bang for your buck when you teach these kinds of words. Also teach words that are specialized and focus on one content area (like science words), but these should only be taught in conjunction with science and social studies class (NOTE: This falls apart when you’re working with English learners because they also need that first level—the frequent words that are common to everyday language).

Getting kids to explain their thinking and nurture analytical thinking.

Discuss, discuss, discuss learning. Start each lesson by asking kids what they know and how they know. End each lesson by asking kids what they’ve learned and how they learned. Ask them routinely to consider their process for thinking and learning. Use questions like, “How do you know that?” “What makes you think that?” “Where did you get information that helped your learning?” “What questions did you have that lead you to learn more?” “What questions do you still have?” “What are you wondering?” Follow these discussions up with opportunities for kids to write about their thinking, draw about it, and create “audit trails” that trace their learning journeys. (I’ll write a blog entry about audit trails soon!)

Supporting research and writing reports.

The CCSS emphasize research and inquiry. In many classrooms, research papers are sent home as projects, but they shouldn’t be. That leaves the hard work up to the student and tilts the advantage to only those students with parents with the time and background to scaffold the process. This is a role for teachers! As you work to incorporate opportunities for inquiry into your units of study, consider finding ways to engage students in inquiry. They can create their own textbook chapters, make videos, and other products that demonstrate their learning. Your job here is to scaffold the inquiry process. Help them to hone their questions, seek information from multiple sources, synthesize that information, and create a product. Think about how you might claim this role to ensure that all students in your class have the opportunity for scaffolded help throughout the inquiry process.

Integrating meaningful technologies.

While the CCSS don’t particularly shout “TECH,” the fact is that we need to use technology to teach the CCSS well. The internet, apps, and multimodal composition tools (video, audio, print, photo, etc.) are all helpful for children as they achieve new levels of thinking and understanding. They’re not going away. And kids will have to be able to master these tools (and some yet to be invented) if they are to truly be “college and career ready.”


Your role as “assessor” has just gotten harder. Teachers can master this role by closely attending to kids talk, writing, and thinking. But they will also need to pay close attention to the kinds of assessments that are being developed for the CCSS. New tests with constructed response items will require students not only to get the right answer, but also to tell why it’s right. It’s likely that more and more tests and test-like tools will become available in the next 2-5 years. Your job will be to analyze that data to best match instruction to each learner’s needs.

4. Know the Limits of the CCSS

With all this hoopla about these new Standards, it’s easy to be misled. The CCSS threaten to over-promise, but underdeliver on academic success. No nation has ever improved learning and erased achievement “gaps” by creating national standards. The CCSS are not a panacea. They’re a framework. Your job will be to thoughtfully adapt these Standards to the needs of your students while supporting them to reach new levels of understanding.
Caitlin Dooley/ Comment 1 Like

But How Do You Collaborate?

29 Jan


Collaborating is hard! Teaching children how to collaborate is even harder. As adults, it is easy to forget just how explicitly we need to teach our students the unwritten social norms or rules we must follow in order to work together successfully.

Now, more than ever, we need to ensure our students are equipped to interact with others productively. The CCSS mandates that it happens and our students’ future employers have expressed the extreme need for this skill.

The blog post from Edutopia, written by Ryan Schaff and also posted on The Committed Sardine, provides ideas and structures teachers can use to help teach the discreet skills children must acquire in our schools. It’s a great read!

Deeper Learning: A Collaborative Classroom Is Key

Posted by Ryan Schaaf via Edutopia

What’s ideal when it comes to collaboration in our classrooms? Here’s one coveted scenario: several children gathered at a table engaged in a high-level task, discussing, possibly debating an issue, making shared decisions, and designing a product that demonstrates all this deeper learning.

As teachers, we’d love to see this right out the gate, but this sort of sophisticated teamwork takes scaffolding. It won’t just happen by placing students together with a piece of provocative text or an engaging task. (Heck, this deeper learning collaboration is challenging for most adults!)

In preparing our students for college and careers, 21st century skills call on us to develop highly collaborative citizens — it’s one of the 4 Cs, after all.

So how do we begin this scaffolded journey? Once we’ve shared with students the task or assessment they are challenged to complete with their group, here’s some suggested steps for supporting students in deep and meaningful collaboration:

Establish Group Agreements

Deciding on group norms, or agreements, right at the get go will give each student a voice and provide accountability for all. Although the Center for Adaptive Schools’ Seven Norms of Collaboration are to be used with adult groups, use them to inspire more “kid-friendly” worded norms to offer up to your students. Children (depending on the age) might come up with things like: “one person talks at a time,” “respect each other and all ideas,” and “no put downs.” A poster of the shared agreements can be displayed and when necessary, called attention to when a student or group needs a reminder.

Accountability is an important factor in group working agreements. Since a teacher must find creative and effective ways to monitor multiple groups working at once in the classroom, assigning roles can be incredibly helpful. For example, if students are working in a group of four reading and analyzing an article, say, on immigration reform in the United States, you may have “an investigator,” “a recorder,” “a discussion director,” and “a reporter.” For the group to be successful, each child must complete the jobs that accompany his/her role.

Teach Them How to Listen

Good listeners are both rare and valued in our culture. I share this with students. I also share how people who really listen (make eye contact, offer empathy, restrain from cutting others off in a conversation) are easy to like and respect.

Accountability is an important factor in group working agreements. Since a teacher must find creative and effective ways to monitor multiple groups working at once in the classroom, assigning roles can be incredibly helpful.

Save The Last Word is a great activity that allows students to practice listening. Provide several rounds of this structured activity followed by time for students to reflect on the experience and evaluate their own listening skills.

Children also need opportunities to restrain themselves from speaking in order to keep their attention on listening. Consider adding “Three then Me” to the class norms/agreements. This simply means that before one can speak again, they need to wait for three others to share first.

Teach Them the Art of Asking Good Questions

Have the class generate questions on any given topic, writing each one on the board. Decide on the most pressing and interesting questions of the bunch and discuss with students what makes these particular ones stand out. Talk about the types of questions that more often yield the best responses — those that are open-ended, thoughtful and sometimes even daring.

Describe how well-received questions are neutral and don’t sound as if someone is being interrogated. Introduce them to invitational questions stems such as, “When you think about ______, what comes to mind?” and, “Considering what we already know about ______, how will we ____?” As a scaffold, provide a handout with question starters for students to use during group discussions.

Students also need to know about wait time. Explain — better yet, demonstrate — that once someone in the group poses a question, there needs to be a few seconds of silence, giving everyone time to think.

Teach Them How To Negotiate

A group member who speaks the loudest and frequently asserts may get the most said but that doesn’t mean they’ll convince a group of anything. A good negotiator listens well, shows patience and flexibility, points out shared ideas and areas of group agreement, and thinks under pressure.

After sharing this list with students, generate together more characteristics to add to it. Indulge them in a brief activity called “Build a Consensus.” In this activity, set the timer and give mere minutes to group plan a mock birthday party, fieldtrip, or a lunchtime meal so they can practice their negotiation skills.

Model What We Expect

When it comes to creating a highly collaborative classroom, teachers need to model listening, paraphrasing, artful questioning and negotiation any and every chance they get. In a student-centered classroom, we really do very little actual teaching (in the traditional sense of the word). What we find ourselves mostly doing is facilitating learning experiences for whole and smaller groups. Sending our students out in the world with the incredible ability to effectively facilitate a group is a 21st century skill crucial to success in the university and the work world.

This reminds me of the design company IDEO. An employee there was promoted to guide a team in redesigning the shopping cart not because of seniority but because “he’s good with groups.” Ultimately, this guy was highly skilled at creating a space for all ideas to be heard, respected, and built on.

Group Brain Power

Learning, and higher-level learning such as synthesizing information from several documents or analyzing scientific data, can hit much deeper when done collaboratively. Let’s not forget Lev Vygotsky and his educational theory that proposes learning as a social process. And if he were alive today, he would most like agree with the saying, Two minds are better than one. He might even add, “Better yet, how about three or four?”

What strategies and activities help you develop student groups? In what ways has collaboration driven deeper learning in your classroom? Please share with us your successes.