Tag Archives: Common Core State Standards

Becoming a CORE Ninja!

I just read from cover to cover one of the best, most user-friendly guides developed to support teachers and administrators in our quest to gain a greater understanding of the Common Core State Standards.  Written in a witty, realistic, and clear voice, this guide provides some keen insight into what it takes to be a CORE ninja.

When you get a few quiet moments, take time to read through this resource.  I think you will like what you find.


Click on the image to open the web version of the document.



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Text Graffiti: Previewing Challenging Topics

The Teaching Channel has some exceptional videos of classrooms where strategies are being implemented that align with the Common Core State Standards.  Check out this strategy called “Text Graffiti” that aligns with Reading Literature Standard 1 for Grade 8.

Click on this image to see how text graffiti helps student preview a text.

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The SIFT Method of Analyzing Literature

If you are an English or Language Arts teacher looking for a way to help students analyze a complex text effectively, then perhaps you should try the SIFT method.  With all this talk of “text complexity” and “grappling with text,” this video offers an example of what this looks like with adolescents.

Check out how Meagan Berkowitz uses this method to help her students compare and contrast two poems.

Click on the photo to see how Berkowitz uses the SIFT method.

Tackling Complex Texts with Success

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Understanding Text Structures

Click on the graphic above to read the original post.

In this week’s DPI RttT Weekly Update, a blog post from The Learning Network is referenced as a quality resource for providing students support with text structures.  The post, “Compare-Contrast, Cause-Effect, Problem-Solution: Common ‘Text Types’ in The Times,” provides insight about research-based literacy strategies that work well with informational texts.

The post also provides examples of both articles and non-print media from The New York Times  website that fit three different text structures:  compare-contrast, cause-effect, and problem-solution.  Articles range from topics such as Occupy Wall Street to Hand Washing in Hospitals and everything in between.  What a great way to engage students in high-interest, complex, informational texts!

These selections are student-friendly examples of informational texts.  It is important to note that each example is a sophisticated piece of writing, which coincides with the expectation for students as defined by Standard 10 of the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts  — increasing students’ capacity with complex texts.

Furthermore, within the article, The Learning Network has provided modifications to some common graphic organizers that can be used as a resource while reading cause-effect, compare-contrast, and problem-solution texts.   However, one of my favorite resources in the article is the list of key signal words and phrases provided for each type of text structure to support students as they engage with the text.

This short read is truly worth your time.  The articles, graphic organizers, signal words, and non-print resources make this a great place to start when working with informational texts.

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Project-Based Learning: It’s the Right Thing for Kids

Bie.org is an amazing resource for everything PBL - including samples, definitions, videos, blogs, and even an amazing template.

The deeper we all dig into the Common Core State Standards and North Carolina Essential Standards, the more we all agree — these standards reflect what students need to be able to know and do to be ready for college and careers.

Even though our teachers are going through the challenge of learning the new standards and writing new curricula, we have to admit that it is exciting to have the opportunity to frame what learning is going to look like across the region.  Most districts have used their professional development days to group teachers intentionally by grade level or content area in order to ensure fidelity and horizontal alignment district-wide.  And many have begun to share that work on our Region 7 wiki.

The PBL Blog provides yet another great resource housed on bie.org.

This is why now is the perfect opportunity to explore the impact Project-Based Learning (PBL) can have on our local curricula.  Right now, teachers are working hard to learn the standards and to organize them logically.  Soon, teachers will be asking the question, “How do we teach these standards?”  A great place to start answering that question is with PBL.

The more we talk about changing the way the 21st century classroom operates, the more specific examples and support teachers need.  Let’s face it.  Most teachers were educated for 16+ years and trained to teach in a very different model than what the latest researchers proclaim as most effective.  The best way to help teachers get comfortable with embracing this change is to not only share a clear expectation but also to provide specific examples.

Common Craft provides a clear, simple explanation of what PBL is and how this practice can transform any classroom.

Use "Project Search" to find hundreds of examples of PBL lessons complete with teacher reflections, student samples, and lesson plans.

If that isn’t exciting enough, there are some great PBL lessons out there complete with lesson plans, timelines, teacher reflections, handouts, and student examples!  What more could you need to get started?  Check out bie.org.  This site is a great starting point for teachers interested in specifics about what PBL looks like in a classroom.  You will find samples in the “Project Search” bar and support with how to begin your own project on the “PBL:  Do It Yourself” page.  A variety of videos, suggested resources and readings, and even a blog about current PBL happenings and events are available on this site.  Check it out for yourself.

PBL Lessons are categorized as BEGINNER, EXPERIENCED, and EXPERT to help teachers choose the most appropriate experience for their students.

Sign up for a free account on bie.org (It takes less than 60 seconds and is completely free.) and get access to the template for creating PBL experiences for students.  The template ensures that teachers take into consideration all important aspects of creating a project,  It is simply amazing!


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6 Cs of Primary Source Analysis

As we draw closer to the implementation of the Common Core State Standards and North Carolina Essential Standards, many of you are already developing your local curricula.  If you are an ELA or Social Studies teacher, you may find this resource helpful.  Created as part of The History Project at the University of California  – Irvine, this one-pager asks students to consider 6 Cs about their primary source documents.

Those Cs include:

Content (Main Idea:  Describe in detail what you see.)

Citation (Author/Creator:  When was this created?)

Context (What is going on in the world, the country, the region, or the locality when this document was created?)

Connections (Prior Knowledge:  Link this primary source to other things you already know or have learned about.)

Communication  (Point-of-View or Bias:  Is this source reliable?)

Conclusions (How does this primary source contribute to our understanding of history?)

Whether you use this handout as is or modify it to meet your needs, the questions help students analyze, synthesize, and make personal connections to primary source materials.  Furthermore, the document also provides questions that ask students to consider questions they have about the source as well as what other documents they think might help them with a deeper understanding of the topic.


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The Complex Text Shift

Click on the icon above to access the Common Core Video Series through engage ny.

The Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts place an emphasis on close reading, integration of complex texts, and a deep engagement with text.  Students should “read less…more closely.  Take opportunities to slow down and reread.”  As I sit with a group of English teachers and district leaders to discuss the implications of Six Shifts in English Language Arts, it is interesting to hear their conclusions:

“It’s not about covering material; it is about digging deeply into a text.”

“Not only is this going to be a paradigm shift for teachers but for students.”

“We have over-scaffolded for students and basically handed them everything they need to read a text.”

“We, as teachers, are going to have to spend much more time diving deeper into a text prior to teaching.”

Robin Williams as John Keating in the film Dead Poets Society

What an exciting time for ELA teachers!  As a former English teacher, I remember delving deeply into Literature and passages in order to gain an understanding of why what we were reading mattered. Reading a text because of its beauty, its meaning, its connections to ourselves and our world — these are the reasons we became English teachers!  We have all seen Robin Williams’ portrayal of Mr. John Keating in the film Dead Poets Society.  Keating did not rush through Shakespeare, Whitman, or Thoreau; he embraced these texts, labored over them, and he made reading complex texts an enlightening, meaningful, almost spiritual experience.  So, why are we so afraid to embrace the practice that drove many of us straight into the English classroom?

We experience trepidation because standardized testing has moved us so far from this model of teaching that our students are going to be reluctant to rereading, digging, and grappling with a text.  So, as the paradigm shifts, teachers are fighting against the urge to do what has worked for us in the recent past as we have prepared students for EOCs and EOGs.  Change is difficult, and the current reality that the new age of assessments will model the expectation that students can read and engage with a complex text and make meaning of something unfamiliar and difficult is a monumental change from bubbling A, B, C, or D.

One thing we have to help students understand is that it is OK to be confused.  We reread for greater understanding, not because we have done something wrong or that we are not good enough.  Teachers will have to model what we do as proficient readers when we engage in a complex text.

The article "Too Dumb for Complex Texts?" addresses the text complexity shift.

In the article “Too Dumb for Complex Texts?” Mark Bauerlein addresses how 21st century technology can often distract students and teachers from the need for the uninterrupted focus into a text.  Although technology an innovation certainly play a large role in student preparation for college and careers, Bauerlein makes the argument that sustained reading and studying of complex texts should be a focal point in ELA classrooms.

So, what can we do to arm our English teachers, and our science, social studies, and technical subjects teachers for that matter, to prepare students to engage with complex texts?  There is a great deal of reading out there.  Digging into the Common Core State Standards and the Appendices are a great place to start.  Engage NY and The Hunt Institute have some excellent video selections on all six shifts as well.  However, the place I see the real shift in classroom instruction becoming a reality is through high-functioning PLCs centered around teacher exploration of texts, discussion of implications on instruction, and individual strengths and areas for further improvement.

As more information becomes available regarding text complexity, I will be sure to pass it along.  For now, you can check out my ELA Content Support wiki page.  I will be posting more information regarding text complexity tomorrow (November 15, 2011).

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