By Teachers, For Teachers
When the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) came rolling out, a lot of teachers were apprehensive. They wondered how the standards were going to change the way they teach, and if students were going to be able to rise to the expectations that were suddenly demanded.
The Common Core State Standards force students to think, and make teachers focus on developing students’ ability to think critically and solve problems. These new tactics leave teachers questioning how to prepare lessons and activities that will meet these standards.
There’s more to it than just reading the details of each standard, and figuring out what you need to teach. Teachers must take a step back and look at the big picture of what the Common Core State Standards are all about.
In order to successfully meet the needs of the CCSS, there are a few things that teachers should be doing:
While some of you may already be doing these things in your classroom, others will need to begin to implement them into their daily curriculum. Here we will explore each factor a little further.
The CCSS request that students demonstrate an understanding of what they read before expressing their opinion. Teachers should craft strong questions, and students need to learn to look into their text to cite evidence for their response to these questions. When leading high-level, text-based classroom discussions, it’s important to teach speaking and listening skills. Teachers can do this by setting goals for their students before the discussions even begin.
For example, ask students to keep an open mind, give them a set number of times they can speak, and tell them if they are going to agree or disagree with a statement they must give specific details as to why. With some practice, students will be able to hold high-level discussions on their own.
Teachers should focus on the learning process, not just the content. The CCSS emphasize the importance of providing students with a pathway to student discovery.
While content is an important and essential element in learning, the process for students to discover information on their own is equally, if not more important.
For example, instead of having students memorize their science vocabulary, teachers should give students the opportunity to really understand each word by connecting it to their lives somehow. Research has shown that when students make multiple connections to a word, they have a better understudying of it. Instead of having students memorize words that they may forget, teach them how to use those words. This will be a skill that students will use throughout their academic career and beyond.
The CCSS stress that students should write for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences. While many of you already have your students write for an audience (pretend you are an astronaut and write a letter to your family, pretend you are the president of the United States and write a letter to congress, etc.), you can actually use a real audience to give your students a more realistic experience. Give your students a real purpose for each task that you assign. Have students solve a problem that is happening in your school, or have them write a letter to the armed forces. Students will be motived to lean when you give them rich authentic experiences.
According to the CCSS, “K-12 schools should “teach conflicts” so that students are adept at understanding and engaging in argument (both oral and written) when they enter college.” This leads students to think critically and assess their own thinking. The CCSS favor teaching argument over persuasion because it makes students think more logically (what their expected to do in college) versus emotionally. To teach this component, you can ask students to write a research-based argument over a persuasive piece.
The standards demand that teachers increase text complexity. Evidence has shown that too many students are reading at too low a level to be ready for college and beyond. By finding appropriate complex texts at each grade level, students will be able to develop the skills they need for success in school. Teachers should make sure that the individual text is challenging enough for a student, but not so hard that they will stop reading it.
It is just as important to use multiple sources of information to help students see a variety of perspectives on the same topic. For example, after reading a fictional book about Rosa Parks, students can then read a nonfiction book, newspaper article, and magazine article to gather a variety of perspectives. Combining various resources on the same topic will increase engagement and help students make connections.
How are these five components happening in your classroom? Do you already implement them? Adjusting your lessons and activities to meet the needs of the CCSS will take time. Instead of trying to tackle each standard one by one try combining them together. You may find that meeting the needs of the CCSS may not be as hard as you thought.
How do you meet the Common Core State Standards in your classroom? Do you have any specific ways that work for you? Share with us in comment section below, we would love to hear your thoughts.
Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.