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How to Make the Standards Work for You

Rosshalde Pak


How to Make the Standards Work for YouFrom my perspective, testing - not standards - is what is hurting the classroom. 


Standards were created as an aide and a checklist of what we should be getting to in a school year.  It also helps us to see where our students were the previous year and what we hope that they will get exposed to the following year. 


The standards aren’t going away. In fact, they are more relevant than before and are being implemented proficiently across the country with adoption of Common Core State Standards.


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With that in mind, here is a list of ways to make the standards work for you NOT against you and details on how to directly implement them into your classroom.


Rethink the Standards Stigma

Standards aren’t tests.  I’ve met a number of educators who just loathe the standards, people who feel that the standards are very limiting in what they can teach.  And at first, I felt the same way – but I’ve come to realize that they are tools and guidelines for a path through my school year. 


Let the standards lead you to what you want to teach.  If you are working on grammar, there’s a standard for that – and another standard that will be able to expand on what types of grammar your grade needs to focus on. 


Replace ‘there’s an app for that’ with ‘there’s a standard for that.’


Display Standards Around Your Room

It sounds simple, but it helps.  By taking individual strands of standards and writing/typing them up and then placing them around your room you can instantly ‘demystify’ the standards. 


This is good for you, your students, and your colleagues.  The written standards can also provide examples for visiting teachers to your classroom.  As a substitute teacher, I learned a great deal about what was happening in a class just from the displayed standards. 


Lastly, by having the posted standards, it can create a checklist of what has been taught/focused on, which is nice.


Thematic Units

When I first started out in teaching, I hated thematic units.  I thought that they were counterproductive and unrealistic to what I was working to achieve in the classroom.  However, when looking at the standards, they quite easily lend themselves to creating thematic units. 


Try first to take a big topic/unit that you want to spend at least a month on.  Roman Empire? Magnets and Electricity? Chemical Compounds? Shakespeare?  All of these can be made into thematic unit that cover a number of subjects and even dozens of standards. 

  • Take all the standards, sit down, and figure out how you can integrate them into that unit.  Look at your English-Language Arts (ELA) and Math standards:
  • How can those ideas of what you want to accomplish be utilized here? 
  • Are there ways to expand into other subjects? 
  • What about going beyond just writing a paper, what if you integrated more grammar work, and references/resource tools? 

Yes, it may take a bit more planning than you originally bargained for – but once you are done, you will have a strong standards-based thematic unit that you can refer back to time and again.


Realize Your Standards Limits

Have you ever actually read all the standards?  I did, back in graduate school…I almost fell asleep. And then, I had a mini-nervous breakdown because I thought I was the most awful teacher ever (mind you, I didn’t even have a class yet) because I knew there was no conceivable way that I could integrate each of the standards into my class. 


Relax. There isn’t a way to get each one.  I think that it’s an unrealistic expectation that each of them can be completed within a school year. Look at what you are doing with your students and find standards that relate to that lesson/unit/curriculum.  Many textbooks also tell you which standards are being touched upon. 


Recognize Simple Standards Too

Don’t forget, there are ‘simple’ standards too. These are the ones that you are already integrating, but might not realize it. 


Think about this – do you teach lower elementary grades?  Then all fine motor skills are part of the standards.  Ever want your students to draw?  There are artistic standards too. 

  • Any time a student does public speaking or a presentation – they are using those standards. 
  • Following directions are part of the standards. 
  • The skills used for taking tests, whether they are multiple choice, short answer, essays – all standards. 
  • Does a student ever do research?  Study skills and research are part of the standards. 

See? Simple standards that you didn’t even realize you were using!


Student Involvement/Summing up

Being able to get your students involved with what is going on in your class is essential for any educator. 


At the end of units and project, you could have students do a write up about the standards that were integrated.  This is a way for both you, and your students, to ensure that the standards that you wanted to ‘hit’ were completed. 


Plus, it helps students to know what’s going on and what these things called standards are all about.


How do you make the standards work for you? Share in the comments section!

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