This time two years ago, the educational community was super-focused on becoming acquainted with the Common Core State Standards. We were exploring questions, such as what do the Common Core documents say? What do they mean? How are they different from the state standards we had before? We engaged ourselves with exercises to “unpack” and “unwrap” standards, as we searched for the instructional implications. Ultimately, we all wanted to know how the new Common Core Standards would change the way we worked with students.
Last year, the school year opened with a sense of urgency around aligning curriculum with the new standards. The question we were all asking (and are still asking to some degree) was, “What does Common Core aligned instruction look like?”
After a few years of Common Core immersion, the fall 2015-16 school year opens with the next evolution of questions: How do we align to standards and still take care of kids? Basically, we are increasingly concerned with instruction that focuses on the standards at the expense of students (and teachers).
Towards the end of taking care of students while also meeting standards, we developed sets of back-to-school lessons using favorite picture books. As we considered how to address beginning of the school year concerns about establishing a safe community, setting goals, taking risks, sharing, being curious, and persevering when things get difficult, our first thought was to begin with texts that we love to read aloud at the beginning of the school year. After we had selected these books and scrutinized them for complexity, we began to sort through them and think about which text best supported which standard. Once we identified a focus standard, we began to plan an interactive read aloud around that standard and we realized that what naturally began to happen was our lesson touched upon many standards in spite of being focused on one. In the end, we created nine lessons that not only addressed all ten reading standards but also met our goals for building a safe place for students to work and learn.
Because we know that planning is time consuming, we decided to develop a “Building Community” standard-by-standard lesson plan series that puts all of these ideas together in one place. We created three “lesson kits,” one for kindergarten and first grade, one for second and third grade, and one for fourth and fifth grade. When we worked on these lesson sets, we put a lot of thought into the design, as we are finding more and more that the visual presentation matters to us almost as much as the content, so we worked with an artist to create something visually interesting.
As for lesson content, we offer a brief synopsis of the read aloud text; a summary of the standards these lessons address; detailed instructions of what to do before, during, and after the read aloud; as well as extensions for each lesson. In addition, each lesson is coded with the related icon from our Common Core Toolkit, for those of you using our iconography in your classrooms. We are excited by both the design and content of this set of Standard-by-Standard lessons, and look forward to creating more.
We hope this first set of lessons supports you as you engage in the important work of aligning your instruction to the Common Core Standards while you also holding tight to your visions of your students as lifelong learners.