By stating that the standards are “a focus on results rather than means,” the authors of the Common Core handed the important work of implementing the standards to “teachers, curriculum developers, and states” (Common Core State Standards, p.4). This hand off has left many educators feeling apprehensive and asking questions, such as “What does a good Common Core aligned lesson look like?” and “What do I need to be thinking about as I make long- and short-term plans for instruction?” People are wondering, how are we going to achieve the “results” the Common Core sets forth?
Because implementation is an enormous and serious task, we are going to spend the next few days sharing some of the ideas, techniques and tools that we have developed to facilitate the implementation process. To launch this series, we offer you the following three qualities, which happen to be three C’s, that we think characterize great teaching as well as great Common Core aligned instruction.
1. Critical Thinking
With words like “analyze,” “evaluate” and “integrate” in abundance in the standards, planning instruction where students engage and think critically about whatever text they are “reading closely” is paramount. By virtue of selecting these words, the authors of the Common Core seemed intent on communicating that children not only become better readers, writers, speakers and listeners, but better thinkers, as well. When planning for Common Core aligned instruction, ask yourself these questions related to critical thinking:
Who’s doing the work?
How engaged are students in their learning?
- How do I know students are thinking deeply about their work?
If idea development is the outcome of “analyzing,” “evaluating,” and “integrating,” then it stands to reason that the next step is to communicate these ideas to others. Communication stands as a central theme of the Common Core State Standards, as evidenced throughout the ten standards for writing and twelve standards for speaking and listening and language development. When thinking about planning Common Core aligned instruction, ask yourself these questions related to communication:
How often do students write?
How much do students talk?
How are students accountable for the conversations they have with one another?
Great thinking does not usually happen in a vacuum. In most cases, it is the result of the synergy that happens after listening, talking, and reading the ideas and work of others. Great thinking and learning relies on collaboration and when we imagine powerful instruction, we always consider ways in which we can invite students to share their thinking and build on the ideas of others. When thinking about planning Common Core aligned instruction, ask yourself these questions about student collaboration:
How often do students work with others to develop, expand, and/or share ideas?
- How do students use what they learn from others to expand their own thinking?
- How are students accountable for during collaboration?