Guess what?  The Common Core Standards only give you half the picture of what you’ve got to teach.

I know…ugh!  More to teach?

Well, actually yes and no!

As we work with teachers as they implement the Common Core- here’s what we’re finding:  The Standards assume that kids have a lot of mastered underpinning skills!  They are committing assumacide, as some might say!

Let’s take the RI and RL Standards, for example.  These Standards assume that kids have mastered these things:

  • Retell
  • Description
  • Cause-Effect
  • Compare-contrast
  • Sequence
  • Problem-solution

Now I don’t want you to go out and start randomly teaching these concepts, but put together a plan so that AS you’re teaching the Standards, you’re reinforcing these underpinning skills.

So, here’s what it might sound like in the classroom: “Okay guys!  Today we are going to focus on Standards 1-2 during our first read of our informational text piece for this week.  Before we hop into the text, I just want to do a quick review of something that each of you will be required to do during the course of our lesson: detail the cause and effect.  When you think about an event in the selection, you want to think about what happened (this is the effect) and what made it happen or what were the series of events that led up to that event (that is the cause).  There are some key words that help give us an idea of cause and effect, like: “as a result”, “because of”, “brought about by”, so we’ll be looking for those as we read and discuss today.”

So there it is!  Simple as can be.  Not overblown.  Not 100+ minutes.  Not teaching as if the kids have no background in it.  But simple touching base back to the skills they, no doubt, have in place.

I don’t consider this “building background” or “pre-teaching” even, just a quick, brief reminder of the underpinning skills that will serve them as they move through those Standards.  When I’m planning for a CCSS-aligned lesson, I’m constantly asking myself, “What does this Standards assume my kids already know and how can I connect back or quick-teach it?”

What this question helps me do is avoid panic and over-teaching.  Sometimes kids need a reminder of something they’ve worked on before, but haven’t practiced in awhile.  In some cases, the skill is so far in the past that it needs full-blown reteaching, but oftentimes a quick check-back into that skill (just like in the little model above) is just right.