I have run into so many folks who are spending an inordinate amount of time “unpacking the Common Core Standards.” When I ask them what they mean by that, they say something like, “Well, you know, unpacking the standards!” Like, duh! While I think that unpacking the standards (I’m still not super sure what that means – it’s one of those education-ese kind of things we say, I think) is important, I am concerned that we’re not taking the right things out of the suitcase and putting the right things back in.
Let me explain…
When we’re figuring out what a standard means and what impact it needs to have on my teaching, I think we ought to start by asking these simple questions:
- What is the language of the standard? What is it asking my students to DO?
- What level of thinking is the standard requiring of the kids? Is it a knowledge level task or a creation or evaluating task? (Referring to Bloom’s Taxonomy)
- What academic language from the standard is critical for my students to know? What should I teach? What should I tell?
- What does this standard assume my students already know how to do?
- Is this standard best taught on its own or in conjunction with other standards right away?
- Will teaching this standard require students to receive direct teaching (teach, model, practice, apply) or are they ready to go to the guided practice part right now?
- What materials do I currently have in place to teach this? What materials will need adjusting? What materials will I need to create/seek out in teaching this standard?
- What does the “mastery” of this standard look like? What will it look like when kids have mastered this standard?
You see, I’m really kind of worried that we will spend our time in committees and groups of teachers analyzing the standards for other people when the real learning for teachers comes from doing it for myself. That’s what these questions are about – asking MYSELF what I know, what I need to know, what my students know and what they need to know – – it’s about tailoring our work with the Common Core to MY students and YOUR students.
So whether you’re packing, unpacking or re-packing the standards, take a look at them in light of the above questions – they will allow you to truly tailor and differentiate instruction right away. No cookie-cutter approach to teaching the standards is going to lead to mastery. Careful studying, planning, tailoring, implementation and assessing are going to create a very simple pathway for Common Core mastery…and I, for one, can’t wait!