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Common Core + Students’ Needs

Much of my time this school year has been devoted to studying Common Core Standards, as well as keeping up with the ever-changing discussion about the PARCC assessment. I’ve been thinking about the influence these things have on our writing curriculum and the implications for writing workshop.

One thing is for certain, Common Core Standards demand more writing experiences for students. In turn, the writing experiences must build on one another from grade to grade. This means it is more important than ever for us to work together, as a team, to mold students into the kinds of writers the 21st century needs.

As I was putting together a unit of study for opinion writing in third grade, I noticed myself depending on long-ago learning. I was thinking about the main learning points and how I would string these ideas together in a series of lessons. I was developing bends in the road and teaching points in order to meet the demands of Common Core, as well as the needs of students. Prior to meeting Stacey (with her TCRWP background) I didn’t call it bends in the road or teaching points. I do now, because it makes sense.

Excerpt from my MEANINGFUL MINILESSON presentation; Citation: DAY BY DAY by Ruth Ayres and Stacey Shubitz (Stenhouse, 2010)

Stacey wrote about this idea in Day by Day: Refining Writing Workshop Through 180 Days of Reflective Practice (Stenhouse, 2010). I think it is an important understanding for us to have as we begin melding our knowledge of the writers in our classrooms with the expectations of Common Core.

Basically the bends in the road are the big ideas you expect your students to understand. The teaching points are how you are going to get to the big idea on a day to day basis. The word BY is your friend. See…

Exerpt from my MEANINGFUL MINILESSONS presentation: Develop teaching points based on a bend in the road.

Voila…teaching points for meaningful minilessons.

If we think about this for a few minutes more, we can begin to envision many teaching points for a single bend in the road. This is where the experiences of our students influence the teaching. As Common Core Standards force into our instruction, they will influence the bends in the road. However, our students influence the teaching points. The way we get to the bends in the road will be determined by the living, breathing bodies in our classrooms — not a document designed by people far removed from classrooms.

Ruth Ayres View All

Unhurried. Finding the magic in the middle of living. Capturing a life of ridiculous grace + raw stories.

7 thoughts on “Common Core + Students’ Needs Leave a comment

  1. Thank you! This is exactly the mental framework I’ve been needing… not only for common core implementation, but also for several other connundrums I’ve been struggling with. Once again, you help me so much.


  2. This makes so much sense. The examples really brought your thinking to life for me. I am stuck on the idea that so many districts (and by so many, I really mean mine) seem to be using common core to streamline instruction so that it looks the same in every room every day. When will the people writing curriculum (or leading the writing of it, rather) realize that we need to adopt processes like this across a district as opposed to curriculum maps? The common core is enough of a guide. If you want excellent teachers, you need to set up the system so that all teachers are allowed to get their hands dirty with the sort of planning you are referring to here. This work is truly professional development.


  3. It will be interesting to hear glimpses into PARCC from you and other bloggers, as I have been following SMARTER Balanced since my state and all of our surrounding states are in that consortium (OR, WA, ID, MT, CA, NV, UT).

    The implementation and the impact that it could have (either positive or negative) is so important. I am glad that you are bringing up what should be present in any conversation about CCSS – remembering the students!


  4. That last sentence sums it up for me. I, too, have been working to understand how the new Common Core Standards will inform curriculum planning and the new PARCC assessments (NJ is a pilot state, so we are about 13 months away from this!!). Using the practices of Writing and Reading Workshop, I have discovered, allows for us to make these bends and turns with so much more flexibility and meaning. Workshop is always geared to those bodies in our classroom – it’s a teaching practice that works – PARCC or new standards or whatever! Thanks for this thoughtful reminder, Ruth!


  5. It’s good to work out the logic of the common core and how to approach those important student needs within that framework. Planning a lesson that’s as right as possible changes with each group or class, but the common core does offer a kind of frame within which to draw.


  6. I am sitting in the Board office for my district writing Language Arts curriculum for Kindergarten. It has been a VERY long week. I just about laughed when I read the title. Amazing how we are all connected by these documents.


  7. Timely post for me, Ruth– Thanks! We are currently writing Common Core curriculum maps for our county for all of English/Language Arts. Thank you for the very important reminder about the living, breathing bodies that I should be keeping in mind every step of the way.


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