Harnessing the Power of the Common Core Standards Alongside the Engine of Reading and Writing Workshop Across the Curriculum, Grades 3–9 Lucy Calkins, Mary Ehrenworth; authors, Pathways to the Common Core (Spring 2012)
Calkins’ mini-lessons for student readers: “What you get out of reading will be different if you approach it like curmudgeons vs. approaching it like the text is gold.”
Same applies for the Common Core.
Complaints about the Common Core (the curmudgeon):
• It will lead people to “beat teachers up” at a time when they are already suffering; accuse them of not teaching what students “need”
• There’s no money for anything already, where is the money coming from for PD and cost-per-child for testing?
• ELA students are unequipped to meet these standards as set out
• Informational text and literature standards for reading are mirrored, which is unrealistic
• Who wrote these, anyway? “Written by committee,” and they’re continuing to write additions that have not been ratified yet (personal opinion pieces) but they appear to be part of the CCSS.
• End points are clear, but the methods of reaching them are not, and these personally-authored pieces are all over the place (but again, treated like part of the CCSS).
However: We have to look at CCSS and see hope and opportunity rather than despair. (Newark, NJ example about young mayor)
Positive things about CCSS (the “gold):
• It’s a “wake-up call” in a system that is “really, really late” in terms of quality of education. The average college grad reads one book a year – this in an age of informational overload. • Will help us offer the “rich curriculum” to all kids at a time when 80% of jobs require “high literacy skills”
• The practices of comprehension are so much more complex than they used to be (definition-wise); so is the practice of writing, and the standards reflect that.
• Streamlined – not “thousands of pages” long
• Each grade’s standards hold other grades accountable; “it takes a village” to teach literacy
• Gives a starting place to help develop kids’ skills. • Asks for kids to do complex work with independence
• Puts an emphasis on reading complex texts • Asks for teachers and principals to make big decisions
Mary Ehrenworth: Looking at the Common Core Reading Standards The reading standards:
• Ask for a high level of reading (text complexity), which is refreshing.
• Build on each other – you can’t do the later ones without the earlier ones.
• Ask “what does the text say, and how does it work”? (Note: This aligns exactly with Junior Great Books activities. Seriously. It’s asking kids to stay within the text and supply details from it.)
Mary walked us through the reading standards by asking us to apply them (using an example from Charlotte’s Web):
• Restate the text (restructuring)
• Determine central idea(s) (and give examples)
• Connect your new ideas back to the earlier ideas and see how they’ve developed
• Determine important and metaphorical words/phrases/language
• Think about structure (time)
• Think about point of view Recommended doing some of this work with colleagues to practice. Looking at the Writing Standards
• Divided by types of writing o Narrative: Personal, realistic fiction, historical fiction, memoir o Argument: Personal essay, persuasive essay, literary essay, research essay o Informational: Nonfiction articles, nonfiction books
• Think about whether your students are getting the opportunity to become good at writing these types of text, and what that kind of writing should look like across K–12 and across curriculum.
• Writing standards are cumulative; they build on each other. Take a piece of writing and see how it would develop across the grades based on the standards. (I was unclear whether she meant a student’s writing or an extant text; I think she means student writing.)
Calkins: How to Make the Common Core Work in Schools
• CCSS asks for institutional buy-in: Everyone agrees on working toward certain levels of ability, and it only works if everyone does it (at all levels and across disciplines) Also, CCSS calls for cross-curricular integration.
• CCSS asks for us to “lift the level of teaching and learning” (which is not new in terms of large-scale efforts, and most of those haven’t worked – see NCLB). It’s not just about standards; it’s a call for school reform. So we have to learn from our reform mistakes and not repeat them. • Most people’s reaction will be to read the CCSS and then add new programs and policies and initiatives to meet the core. However, CCSS is not calling for curricular compliance; it’s calling for an acceleration of student achievement (however that is accomplished). The best way to lift the level of achievement is not to add, it’s to see what strong stuff you already have that “gestures toward the common core” and do it more often with more focus and rigor. • You also need school buy-in to the strongest initiatives: A lot of teachers equate professionalism with autonomy, but to the outside world, professionalism is the opposite (relying on a body of knowledge bigger than yourself, and working well with others).
• To work in schools, the core needs to be “socially supported” in the school. Motivation is the holy grail of school reform. “Most people, when faced with the choice between ‘change’ or ‘die,’ will choose ‘die.’” The only way to motivate serious change is through the creation of support groups.
• Locate the good work being done, create communities in which to share the work, and share it. Groundbreaking Research Lucy Calkins cited Visible Learning by John Hattie: The factor that promotes achievement more than anything else is effective feedback:
• The learner needs a clear goal to work toward that is realistic but challenging.
• The teacher watches and gives feedback that is supportive (informational, not just praise “This is what you’re doing well”) and critical. • The teacher watches to see if the learner improves; this is the teacher’s feedback.
• Kids and teachers both need a clear sense of what it means to “do the work better” and how/where the progress is being made. CCSS lays that out.