Saturday, March 8, 2014

At Least Use the Correct Terminology

Warning...Political rant to follow:

Appalling and sad. That's all I can manage to think right now after reading Sen. Scott Beason's bill, SB443. I take issue with many things in the bill, but will only tackle one in this post. The terms 'curriculum' and 'standards' are not interchangeable. In my opinion, this incorrect use of terminology is meant to confuse the issue. In SB443 he proposes local school systems be able to "...opt out of the Common Core curriculum..." (emphasis added) Common Core is not curriculum. Common Core is a set of standards. Here is the difference:

Standards-- goals that students are supposed to meet. Things that students should be able to do and understand.
  • Example: Fluently multiply multi-digit whole numbers using the standard algorithm. [5-NBT5] This is a fifth grade math standard. It and any other Alabama standards are available to the public here
Curriculum-- the method and resources used to help students achieve required standards. Curriculum refers to teaching materials such as text books, the sequence of instruction, and the delivery of instruction. 
  • Local school districts already have control over the curriculum. With input from teachers, parents, and other stakeholders, the districts review curriculum materials and decide together on which ones to purchase. 
Think of the standards as the finish line of a run and curriculum as the actual running route. I may set a goal (my standard) to run five miles. There are multiple starting points and routes that I could take to reach my goal. My running buddies and I usually decide together which route we will take, and sometimes we even change our minds mid-run. The route I take may be different from someone else's route. We may even run at different speeds or stop to walk. That's okay as long as we reach our standard (goal) of five miles. 

These terms are two completely different things. If we are to have a conversation about a subject, we need to have a shared vocabulary and understand what the terms we speak and write mean. Common standards ensure that Alabama's children will be prepared to compete  locally, nationally, and globally for jobs. Our graduates will be as ready for college and a career as students from any other state. 

Senator Beason, I'm asking you to please use the educational terminology correctly. I invite you to visit classrooms and see what our students are doing (curriculum) each day. Our local systems are already deciding how best to educate our students to meet the goals (standards) our state has set.

Readers, currently this bill is still pending committee action. I'm asking you to contact your senators and ask them to stop this bill while it is still in committee before it gets to the floor. We can't allow this for our students. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Seuss-Tastic Writing and a Freebie

What would it be like if Thing One and Thing Two came to visit a classroom of second graders? The 7-8 year olds I taught today had some very interesting things to suggest! After talking to their teacher last week, I designed a writing lesson to go along with Read Across America week and taught in her classroom today. It was so much fun getting to see the students share ideas, talk to one another, and make connections from the story The Cat in the Hat to their own writing.

Here's how it went:
The goal was to teach students that we can look at the way an author organizes his/her text and use that same structure in our own writing. We were focusing on sequence (CC.W.2.3) for our text structure and used The Cat in the Hat as our anchor text. As we read and looked at the pictures we talked about what the author did (not just what he said). He introduced characters, told us where they were, and set up a problem and solution.  I jotted these ideas on the Promethean flipchart I made:

 Next, we talked about the story elements and the sequence of events in our model text:

Then I gave students a copy of this organizer and we looked at our prompt. Students did lots of talking to partners and with table groups about possibilities for the story. We worked on the planning process together.

I gave students the writing paper and we wrote the beginning of the piece together. (Note to self: Second graders don't write as fast as I do. It's okay to slow down.) We focused on looking back at how our mentor text began and we used that as an example for writing our own beginning. I also modeled looking back at my organizer when it came time to write the middle and ending. And of course, we had to color the Things and add pictures to the stories when they finished writing!

Overall, I thought it was a really great experience! Students wrote in sequence and noticed the author's structure and applied it to their own writing. If I had it to do again I think I would do this over a series of days. It took us about an hour, but it really didn't seem to take that long because there were so many elements that were involved...reading, writing, listening, speaking, partner talk, group talk, jotting then sharing...

And here you have it--your reward for reading all the way to the end (or just scrolling). Either way, here are the materials I made to go with the lesson. Enjoy!


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