5 Questions to Ask about Core Resources

Finding Sources You Can Trust

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably been noticing that almost every catalog that is sent to you, conference you want to attend, or email you open has the moniker of “Common Core State Standards” attached to it. And rightly so. These standards have and will continue to have a definitive impact on our schools and in our classrooms. Yet, with seemingly everything proclaiming that it will “help you meet CCSS” it’s tough to discern what you should trust and turn to in times of uncertainty and accountability.

While I’m not going to offer a comprehensive list of available resources, I will offer some caveats I keep in mind while I’m looking at CCSS resources to decide whether or not they will work for me. I hope these five questions will help you navigate all of those resources with more confidence.

1. What’s the PURPOSE? To begin with, I always want to know the purpose of the resource. Is it to sell, to inform, or to teach? Although there will certainly be times when purchasing materials or resources may be important to me, right now I’m still convinced that I need to be a student of the standards. I need resources that expose the gaps in the standards, that put them into plain language, that help unpack the technical terms. I also appreciate the sources that address the myths that are often perpetuated by the standards: in other words, knowing what they aren’t, is just as powerful as knowing what they are.

Good Example: Common Core State Standards Myths vs. Facts

2. Are there examples that ILLUSTRATE? When I’m learning about the Core I want to see examples that really illustrate what all that technical language means. Of course, this is one of the reasons that I love to learn from Teaching Channel videos, but other sources also use video or explicit lesson plans to help me visualize what the standards look like, mobilized in a classroom environment. I’m also especially drawn to the examples where real teachers are in real classrooms with real kids because I’m able to compare the “paper version” or the standards with the “actual version” as it plays out with classroom dynamics.

Good Example: Achieve the Core

3. Does it honor COMPLEX work? I’m always skeptical of quick fixes and easy answers to complex issues like implementing a set of new standards into a classroom. If a resource suggests to me that I don’t need to worry or think about the Standards, that all I need to do is follow this program or buy this book, then I get the sense that the teacher is being overlooked. There aren’t quick fixes or easy answers and suggesting so only undermines the complex work teacher-learners do. So, I opt to keep looking when I come across resources that suggest anything different.

Math Example: Math Design Collaborative
ELA Example: Literacy Design Collaborative

4. Does this work for my KIDS? I find myself saying this over and over again to teachers, but it’s worth repeating as often as necessary: whatever you do must work for your kids, in your context, with your resources. Just because one resource or strategy works for me, doesn’t mean it’s going to work for the teacher across the hall from me, let alone for all teachers around the country. This is why it is absolutely imperative that we are students of the standards so that we create a deep, conceptual understanding of them in a way that allows us to use the resources in ways that meet our learners where they are so we can help elevate them.

Here are some of my favorite examples from the CCSS Teaching Channel library:

Reading Like a Historian series 

Table for 22: A Real-Life Geometry Project  

Exploring Math Practice Standards: Precision  

Analyzing Texts: Overview of a Series 

5. Does the source create a NARROW VIEW of the standards? I love seeing resources that don’t narrow and stifle a curriculum, but ones that use a deep conceptual understanding to show the places where energized and enthusiastic learning intersect with the Standards. I love being inspired by teachers and schools and books that help us see how to keep learners passionate while also meeting the demands of the Core.

Examples of sites that definitely do not create a narrow view of the standards.

Inside Mathematics

National Council of Teachers of English/ Supporting Students in a Time of Core Standards

As resources continue to come our way, I hope that we continue to use our larger teaching community to help drive the kinds of conversations that make us students of the standards committed to constructing a deep, conceptual understanding of the Standards so that we implement them with confidence and authenticity.

And, if you’re new to our Let’s Chat Core series, here are all the previous blogs and videos.

Learning to Read the Core (video)

Implementing the Core: Where to Begin?

Core Changes and Their Impact

Unpacking the Standards (video)

A Go to Toolbox for Teachers

Simplifying Text Complexity (video)

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.

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