Everyone’s saying “Common Core”… and using the standards in different ways. I’ve been reading, hearing and thinking about the various belief sets springing from CCSS interpretation. For instance, a Professional Learning Team within a school decides which Common Core standards their department will address. Or, a publisher highlights which standards their curriculum will address. But, how will we ensure students have progressed through each standard? How will we implement and assess this incredibly complex and thorough document? Lesson plans using the SACI template are one way to prove which and how well the Common Core Standards are being met in your classroom.
How many standards to include in a unit?
Educators all around the country have differing opinions on executing standards-based curriculum. Some feel the Common Core is meant to be utilized one standard at a time: work on the skill delineated by the standard, assess, achieve, then move to the next standard. Others believe that students should not move on until skill proficiency is met in the specified standard being assessed. Still others think that only short, abbreviated texts should be used for skill practice. These approaches provide us with some questions to ponder:
How many standards can be addressed at one time during a unit of study?
How in depth, and of what length, should text be in order to assess adequate knowledge of a standard?
How does a teacher ensure that students are reading text of sufficient complexity, quality and range for their grade level?
Amidst these varied questions I was heartened to read, in NEAToday’s Summer 2011 issue, policy expert Barbara Kapinus’ snippet (p.23) that stated
Rather than reading drills, we’ll ask students to apply reading skills in a broader, ‘real world’ context.
Instead of asking kids to stand in one spot and throw basketballs into a hoop over and over, we’re getting them to play…. and
Gone are the days of summary book reports. Students will analyze the story rather than rehash the plot.
What I like about these comments is the support they lend to my belief that skills can be learned through both strong nonfiction or fiction texts. I believe content should be good and rich. The goal in my classroom is to focus on more than one standard at a time through unabridged text. Work on reading skills through meaningful context is a great way to prepare students for postsecondary opportunities.
As a Reading specialist my belief is that core subjects can successfully focus on skills when balanced with specialized texts. The old cry was: all content teachers are teachers of reading. The new cry must be: all content teachers are teachers of skills needed to read within our content. I believe that all Common Core skills are addressable through well designed units which flow around quality texts.
How will I know my lesson plan is designed to develop student skills in a Common Core Standard?
I pre and post assess using a formative assessment that purposely delineates the standards in which my students need to be proficient. Here is an example of my unit plan for Of Mice and Men by Steinbeck. First I preassessed student ability on the standards predetermined by my PLT as necessary for incoming freshmen. (Click here if you’d like to see a partial view of the formative assessment I devised.) Then I taught the novel, with all activities and discussions revolving around these same standards. The unit ends when students take the post-assessment and show mastery at an 80% minimum.
Productive lesson planning
My lesson planning is productive and directly related to the Common Core because my assessment becomes the template for all my lessons. An unmastered standard can easily be addressed over and over because of text length. In this way, students continue practicing skills until they do attain proficiency. Each lesson throughout a text study, is pivotal for ensuring students are competent at the skill demanded. Lessons are easily differentiated as student abilities are noted through class work and either built upon or revisited.
Core 4 All believes that standards drive curriculum, yet it takes rich content, intricate lesson plans, and detailed assessments in order to ensure standards are met.