The way we teach is changing here in North Carolina, and all across the country. To be honest, we’re going back to the basics. It’s hard to believe, but yes, we’ve come to the point where it finally dawned on someone somewhere that our kids aren’t learning effectively.
Oh, and just a heads-up before I delve in… For anyone who doesn’t already know, “Common Core” are our Math and English Language Arts Standards. The “Essential Standards” are everything else (science, social studies, etc.).
So, this year, we’re working on the Common Core and Essential Standards. What does this mean? Well, for starters, we’re going to spend more time working on fewer topics with the kids. They’ll get a thorough knowledge of a few things, instead of a touch of a whole lot of things. No longer will our kindergarteners be expected to learn Algebra – that’s going back to middle school where it belongs. Instead of teaching a subject in first grade, and reteaching with a little more depth in second, then reteaching with a little more depth in third, and so on, the kids will learn what they need to know of a simple topic, and then move on through the years to the more complex. The way it used to be.
So, is Common Core and Essential Standards a bad thing? I think not. What’s more, it’s planned to be a Nation-wide endeavor! A student who starts school in North Carolina and moves to California will be learning the same material when they get started in their new school. If they move to Massachusetts two years later, they’ll still be on the right track. All of our children everywhere will be learning the same things at the same time.
Even better… It will lead to the end of the dreaded EOG testing! Instead of tedious, meaningless multiple-choice tests, students will be using higher-level thinking skills as they write open-ended responses to something given to read. Instead of answering 150 math questions, students will need to solve a problem and explain how they got their answers.
And there are lots of resources on the Internet to make the change even easier for you.
Commoncore.org is a great (paid) resource site, in which educators are coming together to help one another implement the standards. They have designed curriculum planning maps of 6-week long units to cover all of the English Language Arts standards. Their original version is FREE (http://commoncore.org/free). They even offer essential questions and ways to tie the essential standards into the units by including additional informational texts with the units. Their newest version is available for members who pay $20/year and has a lot of additional resources available. Personally, free sounds good to me as we get started on this endeavor…
Corestandards.org is another useful site. Here you can find out which states have already adopted the Core Standards, as well as links to the English Language Arts and Math standards, in addition to other useful resources including a webinar.
Illustrativemathematics.org is still under development as I write this, but it’s going to be another great resource. Here teachers will network to share ideas and activities working with the Common Core standards in mathematics. Currently the standards are available to view, but upon completion, the standards will include links to activities developed by other teachers.
Nctm.org is the home of The National Council of Mathematics. They have suggestions on how to incorporate the Common Core standards, as well as power point presentations to share with your colleagues. There are a lot of great resources here including problem banks, lessons by theme or grade level, and ways to get parents involved.