Two weeks ago I participated in conversations at FETC and on Facebook about the same topic, the Common Core State Standards. On Facebook the discussion was with a friend of mine who has moved to a new state. She is ready for the Common Core State Standards to be implemented fully because she’s tired of her children constantly having to be either behind or ahead of the curriculum. The topic was the same at FETC, where students have a high mobility rate, whether it’s changing schools within the district, around the state or around the country. However, while the teachers were excited, they were a bit concerned about how the standards were going to be implemented.
Unit plans and curriculum mapping of course come to mind whenever new standards are being introduced. As a teacher who went through unit mapping, I understood the hesitation I heard in their voice. For some, they fear that unit plans mean a prescribed curriculum and lesson plans that the teacher has no input or flexibility with, and they are not able to teach to their style and their student’s individual needs. One teacher even made a comment along the lines of how unit plans are a dead set play with no improv allowed, even when the heckler in the audience demands it.
With the Common Core State Standards being implemented though, the first step to understanding the standards is to map the curriculum. They must be broken down for the teacher to understand what is being taught, where the skills start and how they grow through the year. I don’t know too many people who get in a car and just wander to see where the roads take them with no destination in site. Most plan where they are going, the best route for either time or scenery, and how long it will take to get there.
As you are mapping out the standards to your curriculum, check out the guides from Tech4Learning on how Pixie addresses the Common Core State Standards. Each grade level includes activity ideas, success stories, and lesson plans. Use these activities with your unit maps as suggested ideas for how your students can use Pixie to show mastery. And of course, you can always customize these ideas for your needs.
This past summer another friend of mine in Mississippi was concerned because he had to start teaching these standards and there were no guides to help him get started, and the district wasn’t really providing the time to be trained on the standards. This is where the myth that teachers get all this free time in the summer and on weekends can be debunked. He worked with his grade level peers to map out the standards and to figure out what they were already doing that they liked and to brainstorm new ideas, along with the progression of the standards of the year. All of this was done before contract days were even started.
While the team came up with a few ideas and samples of what could be done to teach a unit, it was not a recipe that had to be followed to a “T”. Instead, the teachers knew that they could add an extra pinch of technology where their skills and available technology allowed, and the teacher that was into “arts and crafts” could have her students build models and displays to go with written reports. Just because the standards are now “common” doesn’t mean the teaching has to be “common”. It’s just as important now that a teacher adds their own touch to the lesson as ever before. Especially if you need to add a twist to the lesson for the gifted student, or extra resources and mini-lessons for the student on IEP or 504. The Common Core Standards did not change our education system to mean “one size fits all.” Instead, it’s giving us a clearer look at the expected destination for all students and the milestones that need to be reached on their education journey.
So while my Facebook friend might be happy that the skills her children are learning at the new school will be on target with the school her family will transfer to in three years (if the pattern holds), my teacher friends should not panic that they will have to lose themselves to teach a scripted curriculum. I hope they open their eyes and really see the wonders of what THEIR teaching will do with the Common Core State Standards.