April 9, 2013

Common Core Standards


Teachers are already up to their ears in tweaking and re-designing curriculum, staying on top of legalese, not to mention paperwork extraordinaire, plus technology integration and all the inservices that gives rise to. Then along come the Common Core State Standards

I am ALL for streamlining our goals and outcomes and assessment tools, but there is still a lot of wiggle room for teachers to interpret them however they want to, which can mean creativity, or mushy instruction. Each grade level sounds too much ilke the other. 

Cookie Cutters, anyone?


There is a lot of "What" and not a lot of "How", from what I have read through. And let me tell you, it is a LOT to read through.

The new writing terminology, which I see leaking into my student's HW that they bring me, is:


CLAIM / EVIDENCE / SUPPORT

Okay? So? Same wolf, just fancy sheep's clothing that sounds more like a courtroom.

I am feeling old-fashioned now, longing for the familiar:

Thesis / Supporting Details / Elaboration and Explanation

And this is used in the primary grades, too! Talk about developmentally inappropriate!


Ruth Culham, seasoned educator and author, known by all in the Writing World, pretty much tells it like it is: (which always goes a long way in my book)

Writing instruction has been slow to change, in some measure due to its inherent complexity.                                        

It is, after all, thinking aloud on paper, and there is nothing easy about that.

What we’re doing in writing instruction now isn’t working. CCSS or not, changes need to be made. According to The Nation’s Report Card (NAEP, 2012), only 27 percent of eighth graders are proficient in writing and, of those students, only 3 percent are advanced.

She goes on to put forth the "4 W's" (and she is one who loves lists):


  • Writing process: the recursive steps writers go through to generate text
  • Writing traits: the language used to assess and teach writing
  • Writing modes: the purposes for writing
  • Writing workshop: the structure of the writing classroom
These are not covered deeply enough in the Common Core Standards. That leaves parents to fill in the gaps, or specialists like me, or for students to lean on some kind of inherent gift for language and written expression. 

And I go further with those 4 W's, like IEW does. We need to teach kids how to master language, have an ear for good word use, break down sentences into their kernels, examine how to construct a weak and then a strong sentence, and teach one or two concepts at a time.

I had an interview at a private school a couple of weeks ago, and they point blank asked me why I would consider giving up my private practice. I said I wanted to have my evenings free and I don't want to spend my 50's marketing myself. They said I should play a bigger game and go to D.C. and lobby for good literacy instruction. Anyone want to fund that little endeavor?

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