Common Core Training: Five Essentials

» 05 May 2013 » In How To, Literacy, PD, Strategies, Teachers » No Comments

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Teachers are too savvy to fall for an empty promise that something is "common-core-aligned."

I just returned from a full-day workshop for middle school social studies teachers at Plainfield CCSD 202 (IL). It was entitled "Think Like a Historian: Literacy and the Common Core." 

Teachers everywhere are concerned about the impact of Common Core. But they won't benefit from lecture-style PD that itemizes specific strands and standards of Common Core. Promoting curricular "checklists" doesn't build capacity, it fosters either resistance or mindless compliance. Don't talk about "close reading" - do it!

As Charlotte Danielson has written: "I think the common core rests on a view of teaching as complex decision making, as opposed to something more routine or drill-based. … So I see the common core as a fertile and rich opportunity for really important professional learning by teachers, because — I don't know now how to say this nicely — well, not all teachers have been prepared to teach in this way. I see that as one of the enormous challenges facing the common core rollout.

Teachers need a demonstration what Common Core teaching actually looks like, how the essential elements of Common Core connect to what they are already doing and why students will need to master these skills to be successful lifelong learners.

Here's five PD essentials to support teachers in transitioning to close reading and the Common Core followed by specific comments from the Plainfield teacher evaluations.

1. Make it real. Teachers are too savvy to fall for an empty promise that something is "common-core-aligned." And remember you lose credibility if you "paper over" Common Core's controversies.

  • Thanks for the opportunity to freely express our opinions.
  • It's great to be able to discuss the frustration and then move forward to what's best for kids.
  • I appreciate that you never "dodged" a tough question.

2. Start from where teachers are. Reinforce their existing practice and offer a feasible framework for Common Core "make-overs" to their current lessons.

  • I now think it's possible to successfully teach close reading. The responsibility is mine to teach how to do so.
  • I feel affirmed. It was nice to hear that how I run my classroom is right on track with today's workshop.
  • My confidence has increased. I have a real chance of making these things work.
  • Loved the close reading using images. I've done this for years and never had a name for it.
  • I have a lot of these pieces already in place, but now I know how to more neatly tie them together.

3. Teachers don't want abstract theory. They want ideas they can use in the classroom. Model the strategies, don't just talk about them.

  • Each piece of information was attached to examples, how-tos, and evidence of its value. I was shown what works, why it works, and how to use it in my classroom.
  • It's so helpful to participate in the activities just as our student should.
  • "Practice what you preach." We were part of our learning just as we expect students to be.
  • Your presentation hits all learning styles.
  • I'm stealing a lot of these activities.

4. Common Core relies on relinquishing responsibility for learning to the student. Teachers have to be encouraged to "be less helpful" as they shift to student-centered, constructivist approaches.

  • I need to remember that when it comes to student responses - there doesn't need to be a "right answer."
  • A great reminder / inspiration to be student centered and remember that kids will need to be invested and own their learning.
  • Summarize and comparing - students need to share what's actually important to them - powerful!
  • I will focus more on peer and student reflection and revision.
  • I like the idea of students evaluating their own progress and realize that it's an easy thing to do if we make the effort.

5. The critical competencies of Common Core asks students to operate at higher levels thinking. They'll need to analyze, evaluate, share and debate their ideas with others. Those activities should form the basis of the training.

  • I now understand more about Bloom's Taxonomy than I did in college.
  • Getting students to think at higher levels is not as difficult as I thought it was.
  • I need to stop starting every lesson at the low end of Blooms. Want to start some at the top.

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Why Do Teachers Ask Questions They Know the Answers To?

» 06 February 2013 » In Ed Tech, Strategies, Students, Teachers » 6 Comments

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Here’s a TEDx video – The Future Will Not Be Multiple Choice – that showcases the power of a PBL / design-based approach to learning. While you watch it, try to think of a meaningful career that looks like filling out a worksheet.

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14 Provocative Questions for the Faculty

» 25 July 2012 » In Commentary, Ed Policy, Leadership, Reflection, Teachers » 3 Comments

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It’s back to school time. Get ready for that opening day faculty meeting where you sit and listen, while wishing you could be getting some actual work done in your classroom. Here’s few disruptive questions you could pose to subvert the status quo in your school. Let’s begin with who’s learning, who’s not, and what are we doing about it?

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13 Subversive Questions for the Classroom

» 23 July 2012 » In Commentary, Reflection, Teachers » 16 Comments

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As a teacher you get to reinvent yourselves every year, but if you want to change schools everything is conspiring against you. Here’s some reflective questions that will help you subvert the status quo in your classroom. Let’s begin with, If a question has a correct answer, is it worth asking?

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How to Motivate Students: Researched-Based Strategies

» 22 May 2012 » In How To, Reflection, Strategies, Students » No Comments

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A new CEP report, “Student Motivation—An Overlooked Piece of School Reform” pulls together findings about student motivation from decades of major research. Four key elements of motivation are detailed – Competence, Control/autonomy, Interest/value, and Relatedness. Links to report, findings and suggestions that teachers, schools and parents can use to motivate students.

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Schools Making A Difference: Films and Discussions

» 08 February 2012 » In Commentary, Ed Policy, Leadership, Students, Teachers » No Comments

Lessons from the Real World- featured

The Portland City Club is continuing its educational series “Schools Making A Difference: Portraits of Excellence, Engagement and Equity” – films, panel discussions and participant dialogues

Though economic realities pose significant challenges for our education system, when schools and communities work together with a clear vision and heroic effort, they can achieve stunning results. Exemplary schools provide high expectations and opportunities for all students to succeed. They also provide real world learning experiences that prepare students for college, careers and citizenship in the 21st century. They do this through an engaging curriculum that recognizes the diverse talents and needs of their student populations. Join fellow citizens, educators, and students for any of four evenings of films, panels, and participant dialogues that offer portraits of such schools in our region and around the world.

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Black Friday: Will Teachers Be Shopping or Working at the Mall?

» 25 November 2011 » In Commentary, Ed Policy, Events, Teachers » No Comments

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Statistics show that nearly half of all teachers leave within the first five years. Low salaries and high stress are among the top reasons teachers “burnout” and quit the profession. Sixty-two percent of our nation’s teachers have second jobs outside of the classroom. What’s your kid’s teacher doing tonight – home working on lesson plans, or selling cell phones at the mall?

American Teacher is a film that follows four teachers who struggle to make ends meet while trying to stay in the profession they love. With narration by Matt Damon, it tells their stories through a mixture of footage and interviews with students, families, and colleagues, as well as the teachers themselves. By following these teachers as they reach different milestones in their careers, it uncovers a deeper story of the teaching profession in America today. This post features a trailer and information about screenings in your area.

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Studio H Classroom: Design. Build. Transform. Community

» 20 November 2011 » In Events, How To, Strategies, Students, Teachers » No Comments

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“Studio H: Design. Build. Transform” is a new exhibit that just opened at Portland’s Museum of Contemporary Craft. It offers visitors an opportunity to immerse themselves in the design process. Studio H embodies the key elements of project-based learning while inspiring and empowering student as change agents in their community. Studio H is a public high school “design/build” curriculum that sparks rural community development through real-world, built projects. By learning through a design sensibility, applied core subjects, and industry-relevant construction skills, students develop the creative capital, critical thinking, and citizenship necessary for their own success and for the future of their communities.

The MoCC’s Studio H exhibit re-imagines the gallery as a laboratory and teaching space. Visitors get see how students were taught a non-linear design process based on a more authentic learning environment that grows out of a dynamic interplay between research, ideation, development, prototyping and building. The exhibition asks viewers to reflect on how that process can teach the next generation of designers to transform the world for themselves. Artifacts from the studio classroom in rural Bertie County, North Carolina (where Emily Pilloton, and Project H partner Matthew Miller, teach design thinking to high-school students) are on display and illustrate how a socially engaged design process can result in significant and positive solutions.

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Why Johnny Can’t Search – a Response

» 23 October 2011 » In Commentary, Ed Policy, Leadership, Literacy, Students » 21 Comments

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Clive Thompson wonders “Why Johnny Can’t Search” (Wired Magazine Nov, 2011). I note that schools contribute to the problem in two ways. In an effort to protect students from offensive online content many schools respond by sequestering students behind an information firewall. That sets Johnny up to fail in our “wild west” of information. Every day he walks into a sanitized information landscape with the expectation that anything he finds behind the school firewall is acceptable.

Schools inhibit the development of critical evaluation skills in another way – the relentless (test prep) focus on mastery of facts. Johnny can assess the validity of information because he’s awash in a sea of text without context. Critically evaluating sources requires a deeper understanding of author and purpose. That’s developed with an inquiry-based approach to learning. No time for that – we have to “cover” content for the test. In the relentless march to the exam, Johnny gets well acclimated to quickly stuffing his head with facts. No wonder he’s willing to take up Google on the bet that “I’m Feeling Lucky.”

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Save Our Schools March -You Can Make a Difference

» 07 May 2011 » In Commentary, Events, Teachers » 2 Comments

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A march for: Equitable funding for all public school communities. An end to high stakes testing for student, teacher, and school evaluation. Curriculum developed for and by local school communities. Teacher and community leadership in forming public education policies

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