Common Core: Middle School
Lesson Objective: See how teaching to the Common Core affects classroom practice
Grades 6-8 / ELA / Math / Common Core

Thought starters

  1. Does the dialogue in this math classroom sound like your classroom now?
  2. What has the culture shift been like for teachers and students?
  3. How will the shift in emphasis on non-fiction reading and expository and persuasive writing benefit students?
excellent way to show CCS in action and why they work!
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Helpful with specific examples
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Great resource for introducing the core standards for middle school math and lanuage arts! Mahalo from Hawai'i
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I think it was great!!
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Excellent overview!
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  • Transcript for Common Core State Standards: Middle School

    00:00 [music]

    Welcome to Education Update. I’m Rafael Pi

    Transcript for Common Core State Standards: Middle School

    00:00 [music]

    Welcome to Education Update. I’m Rafael Pi Roman. Big changes are on the way for middle schools across the United States. For the first time, students in over 40 states will learn from the same set of learning standards for math and English – the new Common Core State Standards. In this episode, we’ll take a look at what can be learned from teachers at two middle schools in New York City who have started working with the common core as part of a pilot program here.

    00:35 AGGIE AMARAL
    Today we’re going to talk about, how do we recognize misleading data ?

    00:40 NARRATION
    At I.S. 187 in Manhattan, Aggie Amaral’s sixth graders are working on a unit on statistics and probability. But in this math class, it’s not just about getting the right answer anymore. It’s also about communication: speaking, listening and sharing ideas.

    00:57 GIRL
    You know when you have a bunch of things, and then something’s bigger, and when you find the average, it’s way different than it would be if everything were almost exactly the same?

    01:07 AGGIE AMARAL
    My classes now are little bit louder because they're talking about math and it's not so teacher directed.

    01:16 NARRATION
    Amaral is leading the common core pilot here at I.S. 187 – a public school with about 285 middle school students. For today’s lesson, Amaral looked at the sixth grade Common Core Standard on statistics and probability, and used techniques she’s learned to design four separate, increasingly difficult tasks.

    00:32 AGGIE AMARAL
    And they know that if they persevere, which is a huge word in the Common Core, if they persevere through doing the mathematics, they know they will come to something good.

    01:40 [music]

    01:41 NARRATION
    “Make sense of math problems and persevere in solving them” is the first of the Standards for Mathematical Practice, which top the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, and appear at the top of each chapter that follows. They represent the broad skills and expertise that teachers should strive to develop in their students.

    The content standards contain several key concepts called “domains.” The middle school domains include: the Number System, Expressions and Equations, Geometry and Statistics and Probability. Ratios and proportional relationships are covered in sixth and seventh grade. And the study of functions starts in eighth grade. The sequences of domains across the grades are called “progressions” – coherent sets of skills that become more sophisticated with each grade. Phil Daro helped lead the team that wrote the standards, and says middle school math is vitally important.

    02:32 PHIL DARO
    It is the mathematics you use in real life, and on most jobs. Just cause it’s in a lower grade, doesn’t mean it’s less important.

    02:40 NARRATION
    Amaral’s math problems involve things the kids can relate to: sports statistics, grade point averages and the varying heights of roller coasters at an amusement park.
    To teach these more rigorous tasks aligned with the Common Core, Amaral has started using something called “accountable talk” – getting the kids to have conversations with her and each other, which helps reinforce what they’re learning.

    03:02 AGGIE AMARAL
    Why would someone prefer to show one graph over the other? I’ll come back with that. You guys have a discussion with yourselves

    03:08 CHILD
    I think that they would prefer to show this one because this one is easier to understand.

    03:15 NARRATION
    Amaral also carefully asks “assessing and advancing” questions to gauge understanding, drive conversation and push her kids to find the answers on their own.

    03:25 AGGIE AMARAL
    What did we learn in the last task?

    03:27 CHILD
    That maybe she used the median.

    03:30 AGGIE AMARAL
    Why would she use the median?

    03:32 CHILD
    She wouldn’t want then to look at the 32 and 37. So she uses the median because they’re the lowest numbers.

    03:38 AGGIE AMARAL
    How does that relate to the roller coaster task?

    03:42 AGGIE AMARAL
    If I give it to them and I say it, they're not learning it, you know. I can say it until I'm blue in the face. So they have to have experiences with it and they have to have discoveries with it and make mistakes with it and grow, you know, as mathematicians.

    03:55 NARRATION
    Cynthia Chory is the principal of I.S. 187.

    So right now they're kind of going through that culture shock with oh, the teacher's not going to give me the answer right away. And it also gives them some independence. And the children in middle school want that independence.

    04:09 NARRATION
    Getting students to a deeper understanding of the math was a key goal of the standards’ writers. Too often, they say, math standards are too numerous and too broad to teach with any depth. The Common Core Standards are designed to be more coherent, more rigorous and more focused - meaning fewer topics are covered, but in greater depth.
    That focus is something that I.S. 187 teacher Vibha Mahadeo appreciates. She’s started implementing the Common Core in her seventh grade math class, but is still following the old state standards in some of her other classes.

    I, in my 8th class for instance, teach everything from pre-algebra, to geometry, graphing parabolas, trigonometry. Things that they don't even understand why. And I don't have the time. So I enjoy that the Common Core Standards has cut down on a lot of that and picked a few things that we can really understand.

    This is our third type of transformation, called dilations. You’ll learn exactly what it is by doing some group tasks.

    05:09 NARRATION
    Like Amaral, Mahadeo is using new methods to create and teach her new, more rigorous tasks. To write today’s lesson for her accelerated seventh graders, she looked ahead to the eighth grade Common Core standard for geometry to create a task about dilations.

    How can you compare five to 10, nine to 18…

    5:27 GIRL

    05:27 VIBHA MAHADO
    Five to 10. What do you notice?

    05:29 GIRL
    That they double.

    05:31 NARRATION
    Rather than tell the kids exactly what a dilation is, she has them come up with methods to figure it out for themselves.

    05:38 GIRL
    And then we added the prime coordinates to get 72, which was double 36, so we knew it did double correctly.

    05:45 GIRL
    I found another way. When each first segment is measured, the second segment is doubled in centimeters.

    I didn't lead everybody there, because I think it's very valid to have different methods and for students to be able to defend their answer. We're going for ‘What do you have in your knowledge bank that we can use to further our knowledge?’

    06:08 NARRATION
    But it hasn’t necessarily been easy. Preparation for these new, more rigorous math tasks takes a lot of time. Mahadeo says at first she wasn’t sure she was up to it.

    I thought I don't know. I just don't know if I can do this. Like this just seems so overwhelming. But I've realized it is a better way to go. I truly do believe students need to understand and explain and gather information and that's a big part of development as a teenager.

    06:34 NARRATION
    Principal Chory agrees this is a better way to go, but also has concerns about making sure implementation is done right.

    We keep talking about budget cuts, and with budget cuts how do we keep implementing and moving forward. Common Core's not going to go away and there's so much good, but how do we do it right? Because when you implement something half way it's not going to go.

    06:58 NARRATION
    Sentiments like these are being heard by Common Core specialists across the city, like Flora Iannarelli, who works for the New York City Department of Education.

    At first it, you sensed a lot of resistance. It sounded like, this is the new flavor of the month, oh, it's a new initiative again. So my challenge was to really have them sit down and look at it, and really see, wait, we are doing these things, but we're doing it in a different framework.

    07:26 NARRATION
    One of the schools Iannarelli is working with is Fillmore Academy, a middle school of over 300 students in Brooklyn, New York, where teachers have started working with the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy. Principal Mary Bosco was eager to get started with the new standards, although she says it was a little overwhelming at first.

    07:44 MARY BOSCO
    When we first rolled this out, you could see the teachers' faces when you're showing them the standards, you're showing them the work samples that go with the standards, and it took a little while for then to really digest, wow, this is a lot but this is really, really good, and you know what, my kids can do this.

    08:01 BOY
    ‘The day is cold and dark and dreary.’

    08:03 NARRATION
    Today in Deborah Glauner’s sixth grade English class, the students are analyzing poetry. Glauner’s goal was to create a rigorous poetry unit using a variety of complex poems.

    I wanted to teach them how to really look at a poem and how to analyze it, and the Common Core standards really help you do that because it makes you think more about the tasks that you're assigning.

    08:24 [music]

    08:25 NARRATION
    The Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy contain four main strands: Reading, Writing, Speaking & Listening and Language. Each section begins with College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards, which remain the same across all grades, and tie one-to-one with the content standards. The Reading standards place a heavy emphasis on reading complex texts, supporting conclusions with evidence, and making inferences.

    08:49 BOY
    ‘The vines cling to the mouldering wall,’ and ‘My thoughts still cling to the mouldering past.’ And those are kind of like comparing his life, and how the day is.

    08:57 BOY
    ‘Do not go gentle into that good night / Old age should burn and rave at close of day.’

    09:03 GIRL
    He’s basically talking about like the death. Because, ‘Rage, rage against the dying of the light.’ The light could be meaning your life. It could be meaning what you can see until you die.

    ‘Thou art more lively and more temperate.’ Knowing that, can you re-read it from a different way?

    09:20 BOY
    Oh, I knew it, I knew he was talking about a woman.

    Was this an easy activity or a hard activity?

    09:25 BOY
    It was a little hard because you had to dig deeper than what the words were saying. You had to read between the lines.

    09:32 NARRATION
    Students must not only read more complex texts; they must read more non-fiction. The standards contain two sections for reading: one for literature, the other for informational text, which should account for just over half the reading by eighth grade. John King is the New York State Education Commissioner, and a strong supporter of the Common Core. He says the evidence shows that the reading kids have been doing hasn’t prepared them for the real world.

    09:55 JOHN KING
    Students were arriving as college freshmen or to a new job and they were quickly handed a ton of nonfiction reading, a history textbook, a science paper, a technical manual in a career. And they were struggling with those nonfiction texts. So it’s thinks like that where the Common Core will really drive better preparation for college and careers.

    10:15 NARRATION
    All of this nonfiction reading and writing isn’t expected to be done just in English class. Instead, it should happen in all classes - which is why the standards contain a section on Literacy in History & Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects.

    Alright, this is a persuasive essay.

    10:33 NARRATION
    To teach a writing unit on natural disasters, English teacher Meghan Cronin collaborated with a science teacher to select articles and texts. First, students wrote expository essays on the topic. Now, their assignment is to write a persuasive essay on whether the U.S. should provide foreign aid to countries that have experienced a disaster.

    10:50 GIRL
    We can give some money, but our country should always come first.

    10:54 GIRL
    I think that we should help other countries, because if we help the other countries, then we can make more allies.

    11:00 NARRATION
    The standards writers say that too often, students are asked to write personal narratives – a type of writing rarely used in college or on the job. The Common Core suggests that writing in eighth grade be about 35 percent expository and 35 percent persuasive.

    For them to have the foundation, from middle school, of, you know, the persuasive writing and making an argument and backing it up with evidence from text and from other sources, they're going to be ready for high school.

    11:28 NARRATION
    Kids must not only be able to express themselves through writing, but also verbally. This skill is covered in the Speaking and Listening, and the Language sections of the standards, which call for students to know how to present ideas, use the right language, and cite evidence. For today’s seventh grade English class, co-taught by Bridget Cronin and Rosemarie Cantelmo, the kids read a magazine article about child marriage in Afghanistan, and are now conducting something called a “Socratic seminar” - a class discussion that is mostly student-led.

    11:56 BOY
    I’m reading here that their gross is only 800 dollars, compared to the U.S. 46,000, so that’s not a lot for millions of families to live on,

    12:05 GIRL
    Just imagine like the stress that they’re under. They are trying and fighting for every single day. Sometimes when it comes down to that decision, it’s the wrong decision, but sometimes that’s all that they have.

    It definitely challenges the students and prepares them for going on to high school and then going on for college.

    Well they'll be in a situation where they have to interact with people. It's not only going to be them and a book. You know, you go into business and you need to, you know, sit at a meeting, you need to know how to interact with people, how to cite your information.

    12:37 NARRATION
    Principal Bosco says that what she’s learned so far about implementing the Common Core is the importance of providing adequate time and professional development to teachers, encouraging collaboration, and starting that process early.

    12:49 MARY BOSCO
    The advice I really give is really start rolling them out right away, to dissect them, try to understand. One standard at a time, because it is a lot.

    Now, adopting these Common Core Standards isn’t going to be cheap, is it?

    13:01 JOHN KING
    What I try to say when I’m talking with districts is that it is going to take an investment, it’s going to take an investment of financial resources, but more importantly, an investment of time. Teachers really spending time, not only looking at the standards but looking at their writing assignments, their reading assignments, and trying to figure out, are these activities going to help students master the standards? So what’s really needed is not necessarily new dollars but a redirection of current dollars.

    13:26 NARRATION
    Even current dollars are harder to come by during a time of budget cuts and a weak economy. But, King says, moving forward with the common core is an imperative that will benefit not just our kids.

    13:40 JOHN KING
    We can’t afford to say, well, we’ll make sure more kids are college- and career-ready when the economy is better, because, in fact, having kids be college- and career-ready is a pre-requisite for the economy getting better.




All Grades / All Subjects / Tch Tools

Lesson Idea

Grades 9-12, All Subjects, Class Culture

Lesson Idea

Grades 9-12, ELA, Class Culture

Teaching Practice

All Grades / All Students / Class Culture