Today I got an email from Dawn and I thought I’d share it with you…


I have a question that I need your input on.  We have been using Houghton Mifflin Reading program for our students in K-6th grade.  We are starting to do the Common Core in our district and while it seems to be pretty straightforward as to how the high school and middle school will implement the program, we’re having trouble figuring out how to handle it in the elementary grades.  We don’t want to throw out our program (we don’t have money for other materials) but we know we don’t have the right materials to match to the Common Core.  Where do we start?


Can you relate?  I’ve had so many folks ask me this question – and it’s for good reason! Here are some thoughts for you.

  1. We are not going to throw the baby out with the bathwater – you can assure your staff of that right now
  2. What we need to look at is not only what we’re teaching in the core, but the LEVEL OF COMPLEXITY of the tasks in the core reading program.  As I have analyzed the tasks (according to Bloom’s Taxonomy levels) from the core, I’ve found that they are lower than the level of the Common Core.  This presents a problem.
  3. We can (and should, in most cases) keep our pacing plans intact.  But where we’ll need to flex is with the AMOUNT OF TIME we’re spending on particular activities.  I have given the simple advice to so many schools: “Just increase the amount of time you’re discussing text!” – – – because in most cases, we are spending waaay more time teaching phonics and decoding than we are comprehension.
  4. Kids will still need COMPLETE MASTERY on foundational skills – – and this is the exact spot where our core programs are most effect!  Don’t throw out the foundational skills scope and sequence – -it STILL is research-based!
  5. Think about changing your mindset about the core to something like this: “My old thought was that I had to teach the ‘selection’ or ‘story’ of the week – and I brought in the standards through the story.” My new thinking should go something like this, “I am going to teach xyz standards and I will use xyz story (from the core program) to teach those standards.”  I have found that we are attached to the selections without much focus on how they are TOOLS to teach kids the skills of the Common Core.
  6. We are going to have to create more prep time.  Period.  (I can’t soft-sell this to you, even though I’d like to!)
  7. Most of the publishers that have put out “Common Core aligned” materials have done a poor job.  The documents you have been given are basically just very surface-y correlations that help the publishers look like they’ve got a hot Common Core program.  I was just looking at a correlation chart from one of the publishers today and it was basically a list, by unit, of where they thought they taught the Common Core.  Let me be very clear: teaching your core program with fidelity is NOT going to help you hit the Common Core expectations.

Here’s my attitude about the Common Core (even I get overwhelmed!): This is a prime opportunity to shift and stretch – and now is the moment to get started.