Tag Archive for CCSS

Pathways to the Common Core: Part 3

Here is Part 3 on Pathways to the Common Core that I shared on my staff blog in my Monday Musings Post.
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Monday Musings – Pathways to the Common Core: Part 3

I’ve finally made it to the section on Writing in Pathways to the Common Core.  I will be completely honest with you all and admit that when I taught in the classroom, writing was my least favorite subject to teach.  Ironically, I’ve now grown to love writing and think if I were teach again it would probably be my 2nd favorite (right along with reading).  This is only because I continue to write myself on a regular basis and enjoy it just as much as I do reading.

Prior to the CCSS, there really hasn’t been much for writing standards, because NCLB put emphasis on phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension.  If you sit down and look at the writing standards in the common core, you will find that they are organized into three broad categories or types of writing:

  • opinion and argument
  • informative/explanatory texts
  • narratives
While we often put our focus on the writing process in our classrooms, the # of pages in the CCSS for writing actually devote 1/2 of the pages to the 3 types of writing. In addition, the standards call for a “distribution of writing experiences that gives students roughly equal amounts of time and instruction in argument, informative, and narrative writing” (p. 104-105).  Just like the reading standards, the common core standards for writing have a “shared responsibility” for other subjects to incorporate writing into daily learning. 
At Dodgeland, we have done a great job of shifting our literacy time to provide students with the time to read so they can become better readers.  The common core standards also call for students to write often; “write routinely” to make writing a habit.  
I was surprised to learn how specific the standards are on expectations for what students should produce in a sitting. For example, 4th graders are expected to produce a minimum of one typed page in a sitting, and fifth graders, a minimum of two typed pages in a sitting!
As I reflect on what I’m learning about the common core writing standards I wonder if our current instructional time allows for students to practice writing daily, not just for narratives (which I know we’re probably best at in the elementary)?  What does writing across the curriculum look like currently for our students throughout the day?
What should student writing look like at each grade level?  You have all of the annotated examples at each grade level in your binder from Appendix C (also found online HERE), but I’m going to include a snapshot from each grade level. Please note that for some of them, the pieces are more than a page and this is just a snapshot.

Pathways to the Common Core: Part 2

Here is Part 2 on Pathways to the Common Core that I shared on my staff blog in my Monday Musings Post.
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Monday Musings – Pathways to the Common Core: Part 2

Last week I shared my first reflection with you as I am reading Pathways to the Common Core. This week I’ll share what I’ve learned about Reading Informational Texts. (I will warn you, since it is informational text, it is a “heavier” read than previous Monday Musing posts…at least it is for me!)

The common core standards have increased our expectations of how much informational text students read. They provide the following recommendation for reading

One important clarification here is that this does not mean  that the CCSS call for dramatically more nonfiction reading within the ELA classrooms/literacy block.  This literacy expectation should be shared responsibility across the content areas, meaning that 50% of a 4th grader’s day (using the chart) would be reading informational text.

So, what is the CCSS expectations for reading informational text?  The CCSS emphasizes synthesis, evaluation, and comparative textual analysis. 

Got that?

I didn’t.  What exactly does that mean?

Let’s look at each standard…

The first 3 anchor standards for reading informational texts are the foundation for the rest of the reading work students will do.

Standard 1: Read closely and make logical inferences
This means reading the informational text to determine what it says and NOT focusing on how you can make connections to it.  This was a surprise to me, because I always taught my students to think of what they already know about the topic and make connections as they read.  However, the CCSS don’t concern themselves with what you know, think you know, or how you feel about the topic.  You need to focus on what the text says explicitly.

Standard 2: Read to determine central ideas and themes
This standard asks readers to determine central ideas and summarize the text, linking key ideas and details.  This is hard to do if you didn’t do standard 1 very well and you may have to go back and reread. (I found I had to go back to standard 1 several times as I read this book!)
To get to standard 2 you can ask yourself the same question that you would if you were reading fiction, “What is this article starting to be about?” Then as ideas emerge, gather up some of the information in the text as evidence for those ideas.

Standard 3: Reading to analyze how individuals, events and ideas develop and interact 
Here is where you need to notice the sequence of events, analyze relationships and connects and determine cause and effect.  As readers, you should be able to analyse all of the individuals and events and be able to see how they are connected.

I’m sure you’ve read enough by now, so here’s a short summary of the rest (you can borrow my book if you want to read more!):
Standards 4-6 get into the the craft or how the text is written.
Standards 7-9 require the reader to integrate knowledge/ideas by reading other texts on the same topic.
Standard 10 read/comprehend those informational texts at grade level

If you’ve read this far, then I’d ask that you reflect on informational reading in your classroom…Are your students spending 50% of their reading each day in informational text? Are you teaching your students to apply reading skills aligned to these common core standards as they read informational text?  How do you support students that are reading below level to read and analyze informational text?

Pathways to the Common Core: Part 1

Each week I share a “Monday Musings” post on my staff blog.  I use this weekly post to share my own professional learning/reflections with staff.  I am currently reading Pathways to the Common Core and plan to share what I’m learning in several parts with staff.  Here is what I posted for them last week.
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Monday Musings – Pathways to the Common Core #1

I am currently reading the book Pathways to the Common Core, which I am finding to be an incredible resource to gain a better understanding of what the ELA Common Core Standards really mean.  Wait, don’t close this yet, I know you’re sick of hearing about the common core, but at least save it to read later when you have time!  If I could, I would buy this book for everyone to read, but there’s probably not enough $ and I know that many of you would be worried about when you’d have time to read it. For now, I plan to share some of the “nuggets” from my reading in my next few Monday Musings posts to share my learning with you.  By doing this, it is also helping me to process what I’m reading.

My first take-away from reading this book is that it is not enough for us to have our Common Core binders and remember there are 10 anchor standards in ELA or even to know the CCSS really well for our grade level.  We need to really dig into what it means to apply each of the skills in the standards…How often do we we actually read complex text and apply the skills in the standards? You’d be amazed at what the common core expects!  We also need to know the standards for the grade level above and below so that we can differentiate for the variety of readers we teach.

A great way to think about the ELA standards  reading standards is to picture a ladder, with standards 1 and 10 as the crucial struts that form the two sides of the ladder.  Standard 10 carries increasing levels of text complexity up the grade levels and into College and Career Readiness.  Standard 1, the other side of the ladder, asks readers to “read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.”  The remaining reading standards form the rungs of the ladder.  The authors write that it is the rungs linking the 2 main standards that are important, because “although it is crucial for students to be able to handle increasingly complex texts, reading must never be mere word calling; accuracy without strong literal comprehension is not reading.”

As I read the authors’ section on implications for instruction, it affirmed all of the literacy work that we have been doing.  The following steps for schools to put in place are things we are already doing with Daily 5/Cafe:

  • Assess your readers and match them to books that can be read with 95% accuracy, fluency and comprehension.
  • Make reading plans with students and help support them to reach those reading goals.
  • Provide students with an extensive collection of high-interest books and allow them choice. 
  • Provide students with long blocks of time to read. 
  • Provide students with explicit instruction in the skills of effective reading.

If you made it this far in reading…good for you and Thank you!  Next week I’ll share what I’ve learned about Reading Informational Texts.  I am also considering using one of the reading activities (for teachers to get practice in the standards) in our next grade level meetings.

On another random note, I wrote a post on using Goodreads, which is one of my Reading Resolutions. You can find it HERE if you’re interested in learning what Goodreads is.

Common Core for the Principals

The September/October issue of the Principal journal from NAESP is filled with articles on the Common Core State Standards for Principals.  As the lead learners in our buildings, it is critical that we are leading our faculty into this new era of teaching with the Common Core State Standards.  Although we do not have to fully implement them until the 2014/2015 school year, there is no time to wait. You must be doing work in your buildings on the Common Core State Standards now.

Want to know what we’ve done in my district with the Common Core State Standards?  You can read about it in this article from Principal. 

Disciplinary Literacy with the Common Core State Standards


Over spring break I had the opportunity to attend a one day workshop with Doug Buehl on Disciplinary Literacy with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). First of all, I must say that Mr. Buehl was an amazing presenter! I was surprised to find out that he is originally a HS Social Studies teacher (yes, you read that right) and had great, practical ways to incorporate the English Language Arts CCSS across other content area courses and make them more meaningful and engaging for students. Mr. Buehl has written several books and you can also find a variety of his articles here that provide you with strategies to implement tomorrow. Now the only thing I wish for is for him to be on twitter so I can continue learning from him each day!

I left this one day workshop with a headache…a good one, because I learned so much! I took a great deal of notes, but will now share with you what I found to be very important as I learned about the CCSS and questions I still have. They are in no order of importance.

Important ideas that I took away from this workshop:

  • The CCSS require us to teach students to read complex text independently, whereas, in the past we may have shied away from complex text due to having a variety of learners in our classrooms. We have learned ways to differentiate in our classrooms for our struggling learners (ex: teacher reading complex text to the class, rely on visuals, etc.) We need to scaffold our teaching for students to be able to learn how to read complex text and make meaning from it. As school leaders, we need to scaffold learning about the CCSS and instructional strategies for our teachers.
  • The CCSS force us to provide our students with standards-based instruction and NOT standards-referenced instruction. What’s the difference, you ask? If you create a fun lesson or plan to teach your favorite unit on apples and then find standards that might fit into it, that is standards referenced. We need to start with the standards to plan our instruction.
  • The Lexile level expectations have been upped. What used to be a 10th grade reading level expectation is now in Middle School. Yikes!
  • Literacy in Math: Mr. Buehl stated that “if you have the inability to read math, then you will have the inability to figure out math.” He then modeled how to read a math definition from a math textbook. He modeled his thinking as he read through the paragraph on integers, picking apart each work he didn’t know the meaning of right away, but pulling his background knowledge to make connections and build his understanding of the paragraph. This took a lot of time, however, he says that if students are never taught to read this then they’re basically carrying the equivalent of a rock with them when they bring the textbook home. They will come back the next day acting like you’ve never taught them about integers. Basically, we need to prepare our students to be able to read/learn on their own.
  • You may be a highly confident reader in one area, but not another. The longer that you are taught a discipline by hands-on and visuals and NOT asked to read/inform yourself, the lower your reading ability in that area would go down.
  • Many English teachers chose their profession, because they love literature, but can no longer continue to teach units on their favorite novels. They need to be teaching the skills for students to be able to independently read and learn.
  • Elementary teachers can’t wait for students to have basic literacy skills before teaching with informational texts. The well-known phrase “learning to read and then learning to read” is a myth.
  • In the report “Reading Between the Lines” on what the ACT reveals about college readiness in reading, you will find that the 2005 ACT shows that only 51% of our high school students are ready for college level reading! What’s worse is when this study looked at data on reading levels in 8th and 10th grade, students were on track for being college ready in reading, but then declined. What happens in high school?! This is why our students need the ELA standards for disciplinary literacy.
  • We cannot hide behind the “they should be able to do this by now” thinking. Especially with the gaps we will have as we implement the CCSS, yes they should be able to do this by now, but now it’s our job to scaffold their learning and get them to where they need to be. Think of where our students will be after a few years of the CCSS!
  • The CCSS no longer allow us to “cover” curriculum each year. We can no longer “cover history,” but teach history. No longer can we do “drive-by” teaching. The CCSS give you the permission to not have to teach everything that the book/curriculum says to cover.

Questions that I still have:

  • I’m grappling with literacy in math. Our school has been using an old math textbook for quite some time that doesn’t lend well to hands-on math for younger students to develop solid number sense and also to develop problem solving skills (which our math book lacks). We are moving to adopt a new math program that has had successful results in many districts (I’ve never heard anything bad about it). I’ve been told that it is different, because it is not just “turning the page in the math book.” I had this thought in the back of my mind as Mr. Buehl spoke about literacy in math and should have asked if he was speaking more to the 6-12 teachers?
  • Grading. I learned some great strategies for teachers in the content areas to implement that allow students to be actively engaged in the content and learn through reading, writing and then speaking with their peers. For many high school teachers strategies like these are going to be very different than traditional methods of read the textbook, take notes in a lecture, and complete a multiple choice test. One of the first questions I know that will come up is on grading…what will they put in their gradebook when students are engaged in a discussion? Yes, I do realize that grading is an entirely different topic that takes up several blog posts (and books), however, how do we get teachers started on implementing these practices if they don’t think it will work (and then get to the grading practices later)?
  • I went to this workshop feeling like our district was far behind on implementation of the CCSS, however, I learned that we’re not in comparison to other districts. We have spent a great deal of our PD time this year as a district focusing on what reading and writing looks like across the grades and disciplines and we’re working on developing common expectations. After hearing from people in other districts, I am confident that this was time well spent. I would love to hear what other districts are doing in scaffolding learning for their staff about the CCSS and how are you moving to implementation?