August is a busy month for schools. Either they are opening their doors to masses of curious learners or they are preparing to open their doors to the new year’s influx of eager learners. The adoption of the Common Core has made August 2012 an even busier time as schools try to get their teachers up-to-speed on the Common Core Standards.
Regardless of how prepared teachers think they are for this change, as I speak and share the “shifts” of the Common Core they are both WOWED (like overwhelmed wowed) and curious. How are we going to get this done!! By the way, the 6-shifts of the video have been summarized into 3-shifts. I prefer the six shifts; why contrive means by which to combine big ideas that should be separate? Reasoning: rumor has it that developers believed six big ideas were too many for teachers to wrap their heads around–or maybe six didn’t fit so nicely on that wallet sized card Achieve has designed for sharing among professionals.
In this post, I share the most recent round of questions and “AHA” moments teachers shared with me as a closing activity to a three-hour workshop. These questions are posted in no particular order. I asked the teachers to post question or an “AHA” on a square Post-It and attach their question to Post-It chart paper I had placed on a wall near the exit door. In responding to their questions, I thought this would make a worthy blog. I will post their “AHAs” in the next and separate blog.
Q: Why are there no standards for 12th grade?
A: The final PARCC assessment will be given in the late spring of 11th grade. The assumption is that students will need those scores and grades to apply for college entrance and vocational schools during their senior year. Also, the goal of the assessments is to identify gaps in learning that can be corrected in the 12th grade.
Q: How do I incorporate reading into math?
A: In many ways, math is incorporated into reading. When a student or even an adult reads a text that requires mathematical calculations, they are extrapolating the numerical problem from the words. In the real world, mathematical problems are rarely presented in numerical terms; as readers, we turn the components of text into numbers. Look in Appendix B and you will find some specific texts to use in this application, but also recognize that one reason many kids struggle in math is because they can’t read the problem. Also, a recent report was issued from colleges and tech schools saying something similar to what I shared above. Higher level math has more reading and problem solving than does lower level math—so math teachers need to see to it that students are presented with word problems and real life problems as well as the strategies and skills to turn those words into numbers and symbols in order to solve them using mathematical practices.
Q: Are you available for help in specific areas?
A: Yes, I can assist discipline specialists. I have experience and knowledge in working with teachers across all disciplines. I am also a creative and divergent thinker who can foster new ways of thinking about learning.
Q: I teach foreign languages. Is it appropriate to apply CCSS to instruction in these languages or only in English?
A: Many teachers I work with appreciate the CCSS for use in their language classes. Some look at lower grade standards to apply since many of your students are more like primary grade and elementary students when it comes to learning a new language. On the other hand, your students who are foreign speakers can be approached using intermediate and perhaps, even upper grade standards. So, the answer plainly put, is yes—it would be appropriate to apply these standards, acknowledging that the strand for Language (Grammar and Usage) may be quite different based on language rules.
Q: How do implement CCSS in PE while trying to get students “fit”?
A: This is a dilemma. Students need activity, perhaps today more than ever! But they also need to know how to read a set of rules, how to follow organizational plans and diagrams for setting out courses and playing fields. My suggestion is to not just tell students what the rules are or how a playing field is set-up, but to have them prove they have read the rules and understand how ties are broken, how winners are determined in controversial cases, etc.
Q: How will they test the speaking and listening standard?
A: That is up for debate. There has been some talk about exchanging teachers from district to district to provide objective assessment. I’m not sure how it will go…
Q: Where can I get videos to use in class?
A: Mine come from YouTube and Vimo. TedTalks is good too. I would download the YouTube downloader first. That’s what I do so I don’t have to go online. My videos are all stored on my computer and I can even store them on a memory stick. YouTube downloader is free and you don’t have to worry about all the internet issues that way.
Q: Are there recommended technical texts for fine arts?
A: I believe you will find some titles in Appendix B, but I don’t know what grade you are looking at. You may also want to look at some other state’s websites and see if they have suggested some texts. Otherwise, I suggest you look to authentic text such as Time and Smithsonian (both are available online) and see what you can find. You don’t have to read the entire article. I’ve snagged some really interesting ones over the years.
Q: What do you tell a student when you ask a question and they respond with “I don’t know”?
A: My reaction is to offer a clue as to where in the text the answer can be found. I do not give the answer and I don’t let others steal the chance to shine. As a matter of fact, I may even announce that “whomever” is going to stick to this and find the answer….while I give the rest of the class a different task. Of course, the situation will lead me to do the professional thing…
Q: How will we ever be able to bring students to this new level of excellence?
A: I see that Quincy was just awarded a grant by AFT to develop community-wide awareness of the CCSS: the academic demands, the grade-level expectations, and the long-term goals. I believe we do need to raise parental and community awareness about what we are doing. It is in the community’s best interest to get behind the school. We cannot get there until teachers begin to see their roles in the classroom as facilitators of thinking and not repositories of knowledge. We need to raise esteem regarding academic success. We need to help kids envision themselves as successful in school and successful in life.
Q: How do I present and teach vocabulary?
A: I have a full-day workshop on that topic!! Lots of fun learning!!
Q: Instead of feeling overwhelmed, how can we pace ourselves in implementing the CCSS?
A: I suggest you begin with the first three reading standards and the first of the writing standards. Target them and teach to those targets for the first nine weeks. Now, that may seem like a long time, but we all know how fast a week goes in school….partly because most weeks are only 4 days!! At the same time, work on vocabulary and of course, you are teaching to those targets using complex texts, so you are addressing standard 10 without any additional work. The second next 9 weeks, add in the standards 5 and 6 and writing target 2. You will still be working on standards 1-3, but that will now be natural. The third nine weeks, add in reading standards 7-9. They are about integration, so you have to have gone through single texts and the earlier standards to get here anyway. This is a transition year…we don’t have to do it all at once.
Q: Can 6-Traits be used for the CCSS rubrics?
A: I see no reason they cannot be incorporated. Be sure that the writing standards are at the center of the instruction and goals. 6-Traits can fit nicely.
Q: What does this mean for Special Education Students?
A: The rights of special education students are protected by the law.Teachers are obligated to meet the requirements and guidelines established in IEPs. But they are also expected to prepare those students who will be exiting the system for the day that they will no longer be in special education. The standards are clear in that they are not designed for special needs children.
Q: Should we adjust the level of the standard of our curriculum if we find our students underprepared?
A: We don’t want to “dumb down” the curriculum, but you may need to do more scaffolding OR differentiate inside of the classroom to accommodate those who are on grade level as well as those who are above and below grade level.