Anxiety about Common Core is “Universal”

ELA Guiding Principles
I led the first of three sessions in my own school district around the Common Core and our new Massachusetts ELA Curriculum Frameworks yesterday. It was a group of sixth, seventh, and eighth grade teachers from our elementary schools and our regional middle school, and for many of them, this is the first opportunity they have had to really dive into the standards and see what is there.

I began the session by using a new tool called ThingLink, which allows you to layer text on an image. I created a time-line of sorts, asking them to situate where they are with knowledge of the CommonCore on the line, with a little note. There were a few glitches (maybe a limit on number of folks editing at the same time? I’m not sure) but in the end, it worked nicely to show me (the presenter) where everyone was, began sparking informal conversations among the participants, and introduced them to a technology tool they could now consider for their classroom.

After a number of activities, including looking through our state’s guiding principles for key words and ideas and creating a word cloud (see above), we read a few articles and watched a video about the Common Core. What resonated with the teachers was the feeling that change is underway … and they are not quite ready for it. They also noted that many of the teachers in the video, from another state, were expressing the same anxieties.

“I guess that’s a universal feeling,” one teacher noted, and we all agreed.

They articulated the need for:

  • More time to work the standards
  • More time to meet with content-area colleagues to consider the expanded scope of literacy
  • More time to begin revamping lesson plans and curriculum to tie into the Common Core
  • More informational/non-fiction resources to draw upon

As we ended our session up in Edmodo to reflect on something learned and a question still looming (and showing them how to use an online space for collaborative writing), the feeling in the room was our inquiry was helpful and that if they were to redraw themselves on the “line” from the start of the session, most of them would shift left quite a bit further. I consider that a good start.

Peace (in the sharing),

One Comment
  1. How comfortable do you think that your curriculum developers are with the Common Core? While is it important for teachers to understand what they are teaching towards, many times district curriculums provide the necessary guidance for teacher to steer their instruction towards the Common Core without having to deeply understand the nuances of the new standards.

    I think it extends beyond what is being taught, but also how it needs to be taught (and will soon be assessed) as it also important to note the emphasis on 21st century skills and other higher-order thinking. I’m not sure where they show up in the ELA standards, but the Standards of Mathematical Practices calls out the expected thought processes students should follow. This may impact the way teachers are asked to teach – not just what they are asked to teach. You seem pretty cutting edge with your approaches, but I wonder if some teachers will also struggle with embedding more authentic assessments and applications into their lessons.

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