Answering Your Core Questions
In my last blog I talked about first steps in understanding and implementing the Core. This week I’m fielding questions about a specific shift to more nonfiction and the changes we teachers may see in ourselves as we work to implement the standards.
1. Why is there such an emphasis on nonfiction, especially in Kindergarten?
Check out this podcast to hear me respond to this question.
New experiences won’t just be for our youngest readers. For all students, in all content areas, new experiences will be necessary to help learners go beyond recall and comprehension of content to demonstrating an ability to analyze and synthesize. Knowing this, it’s logical to ask how the Core will impact the way we teach. It’s a frequent question that I tackle next.
2. How will the Common Core change the way we teach?
Good teaching has always been good teaching. You know what those experiences are like. You knew each time you walked into that classroom you were going to grow and learn. It wasn’t always easy and some days were downright frustrating, but it was purposeful and deliberate. You understood that the toil was necessary in order to experience the joy and power of learning.
The spirit of the Core is not to sacrifice these kinds of memorable experiences just to replace them with compartmentalized lessons or redundant skill practice. No. The teacher-learner is still irreplaceable in the classroom.
Rather, the Core aims to leverage the kinds of experiences that we remember having for all students. It is designed to enhance the cognitive dexterity of our students by getting them to focus more precisely, to transfer more fluidly, to construct more readily.
Whether it’s the mathematical practices, a close-reading of non-fiction, or literacy in the content areas, as teachers we must be learners too. Like the teachers we recall, it wasn’t about finding a right answer, it was about learning how to get there and then how to transfer that skill to a new experience.
Here’s another way to think about it.
– Less of teachers lecturing and more of teachers modeling.
– Less of students listening and more of students constructing meaning together.
– Less of teachers turning to the next page in the textbook and more of teachers using formative assessments to determine what’s next.
– Less of students recalling (although sometimes this is necessary) and more of students transferring their learning to new experiences.
– Less of teachers hurrying to cover more content and more of teachers slowing down to insure deep understanding and application.
– Less of students reading from secondary sources and more of students wrestling with primary texts in every subject area.
As always, we have to remember that these shifts will require us to bolster our professional communities; rely on honest and productive discourse; and to take one deliberate step after another.
Do you have more Core questions? Send them my way by making a comment below!
If you missed our first Let’s Chat Core video webinar, Learning to Read the Core: A View from 30,000 Feet, check it out now!
Download a transcript of the podcast answer.
Let’s Chat Core is an ongoing Teaching Channel series designed to help educators understand and implement the Common Core State Standards. Sarah Brown Wessling is a high school English teacher in Johnston, Iowa. She is the 2010 National Teacher of the Year and is the Teacher Laureate for Teaching Channel. Connect with Sarah on Twitter – @SarahWessling.