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.