I’m getting lots of questions and frustrations from folks who are really struggling to lesson plan for the Common Core.  They’re saying, “Jill, it’s just too overwhelming!” and “Our curriculum isn’t aligned with the Standards!” or even, “I don’t even know where to start to make the true transition to teach the Core Standards…help!” Well, I have a very simple answer to a very complex question.  Here’s what I want you to know about lesson planning for the Common Core: it’s all about the underpinning skills, not the Standards themselves. Wait – huh? Let me explain before you think I’ve lost my mind and am moving from the Standards as a focus. When we learn anything new, we have to learn the skills that underpin, or support, that new skill.  For example, if I am learning to ride a bike, I have to know how to put my helmet on, get on the bike, hold the handles, etc.  I didn’t learn to ride a bike by just jumping on it…I learned the underpinning skills that would eventually help me just get rolling on riding a bike! Learning to teach and have kids master the Common Core Standards is the exact same way.  We have to focus on the underpinning to the Standards that ultimately lead to students mastering the Standards themselves.  Let me show you what this looks like…

First, I determine what Standard(s) I’m teaching: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.4.1: Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text. Then I would brainstorm a list of underpinning skills that looks like this:

  • Know what a detail is
  • Knows how to inference
  • Knows how to explicitly refer to text
  • Can explain what the text says

Then, I order those underpinning skills in a logical simple-to-more-complex way like this: 

  1. Knows how to explicitly refer to text
  2. Can explain what the text says
  3. Know what a detail is
  4. Knows how to inference

Then I look at my lesson planning book and determine when I’ll teach each of the underpinning skills that will lead to mastery of the Standard like this:

  • Week 3: Teach how to explicitly refer to text
  • Week 4-5: Have students work on recounting what they’ve read (what the text says)
  • Week 6-7: Teach students how to determine a big idea versus a detail
  • Week 6-10: Teach, model and practice inferencing

The big idea of lesson planning a Standard is to realize that each Standard is made up of underpinning skills that are essential for students to master before they can master the Standard itself!  I think where most folks get overwhelmed and confused is that they focus so much on the Standard itself without breaking it down into small steps.  When we focus only on the Standard, then we end up feeling like our kids will NEVER be able to meet the benchmark and master the Standard because it’s just too advanced! With these simple steps, lesson planning takes on a longer term view – it’s not about just shoving the Standard down the kids’ throat – it’s about giving them the long-range skills that will eventually make mastering that Standard easy peasy!