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Pathways to the Common Core + a Giveaway

I’ve been working hard to prepare lectures for my graduate students that address the  Common Core State Standards, or CCSS, with regard to the teaching of writing.  While I have read through the writing standards many times, I wanted to delve deeper into the CCSS so I could help my students understand the implications of the CCSS on writing instruction.  Therefore, I ordered an exam copy of Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating Achievement by Lucy Calkins, Mary Ehrenworth, and Christopher Lehman (Heinemann, 2012).  Not only is it a book the students in my course should read, I believe it’s a book every teacher in America should read.  This book is important since it helps educators understand what the standards are requiring so educators can work together to formulate curriculum that will help the students they serve.   As the authors stated, “The goal is clear.  The pathway is not.”

The CCSS are a well-needed wake-up call for America’s schools.  They writing standards raise the bar so we can prepare our children to be more competitive in the global society in which we live.  If teachers, coaches, and administrators work together to understand the CCSS’s reading and writing goals across the grades, then I believe we will strengthen students’ literacy schools, which will in turn help them to achieve success.

Many districts don’t have a writing curriculum for a variety of reasons (one of which could be that they emphasized only reading for the past 10+ years).  Therefore, it’s important to make writing a priority in grades K-12 again.  Calkins, Ehrenworth, and Lehman state many reasons why making writing instruction a priority is a smart idea (16-17).  First, it’s inexpensive to implement a district-wide writing curriculum.  “A school needn’t purchase costly supplies for every student.  The only expense is that of providing teachers with the professional development and the teaching resources they need to become knowledgeable in this area, both of which are important, as this is an area where few teachers have received any training at all.  Second, the authors suggest districts implement a “K-12 spiral curriculum, allowing students to spend considerable time working within informational, opinion, and narrative writing units of study, producing work that matches the work described in the Common Core.” A third reason the authors suggest making writing a priority is because it’s easy to see growth because students “skills develop in a very visible fashion.”

The book reminds us of the importance of teaching writing skills to students across the grades.  As good teachers of writing like you know, it’s not all about small moment stories and all-about books in elementary school and essays in high school.  “Instead, kindergarteners, like twelfth graders, are given repeated practice in writing their opinions and then supporting those opinions with reasons.  Kindergarteners, like twelfth graders, draft, revise, edit, and publish their writing.  … The standards suggest it would be hard to achieve this high level of craft and knowledge if students weren’t moving steadily along a spiral curriculum, practicing and extending skills in each type of writing each year.”  Of course, that doesn’t mean you’re going to teach every kind of writing every year.  After reading the book, it’s easy to imagine sitting down as a faculty and determining what genres of narrative, argument, and opinion writing will be taught each year so that students can learn about various genres of writing and strengthen their skills, in a developmentally appropriate way, year after year.

One thing I’ve heard teachers say, all too often, is that the CCSS mean that “we can only teach non-narrative writing.”  Quite frankly, that’s incorrect.  Pathways to the Common Core dispels this myth reminding educators that the CCSS calls for an equal balance between composing narrative, argument, and informational texts.  If you meet anyone who thinks otherwise, then just hand them Pathways to the Common Core open to page 102!  To that end, I want to reference what the authors state at the beginning of the chapter on informational texts.

“Although the Common Core seems to call for a larger percentage of the writing that students do across a day to be informational writing, the truth is that for teachers in grades K-5, the Common Core asks only that one-third of that writing be informational writing.  That is, writing in science and social studies and art and computers all adds up to that chunk of informational writing time.  And then, for grades 6 and above, the informational writing standards are presented both as ELA standards and within separate standards tailored more to science and social studies teachers.  Therefore, English language arts teachers need not throw out their entire curriculum and replace it with all informational writing all the time.  For most teachers, this is no referendum” (142-143).

In addition, all of the responsibility for teaching writing shouldn’t fall on the writing teacher’s shoulders.  Obviously, it’s up to teachers of writing to teach students the basics of all kinds of writing.  However, students should be writing across the school day in all subject areas.  “…People who call themselves authors of the CCSS often refer to the writing standards as a shared responsibility within the school that all subject areas support.  In addition, the CCSS promote the value of writing often – routinely, they say – including writing for shorter time frames, and in response to specific tasks” (110).

If you’ve had trouble navigating through the CCSS, then Pathways to the Common Core will help you figure out how to make sense of your grade level’s expectations.  One very useful suggestion the authors present is to read the standards horizontally across the grade levels, underlining the new words that describe the added work a student at the next grade level will be expected to do (145).  Therefore, if you’ve felt overwhelmed by what’s expected of students at your grade level, try reading the standards again with this tip in mind.

There are many routes that educators can take in order to implement the CCSS in all schools.  In fact, that’s what makes the CCSS brilliant.  The CCSS provides a framework for what will help make students proficient writers at each grade level without prescribing a particular curriculum.  Hence, it’s up to educators to use their training and expertise to work with their colleagues to formulate a curriculum help students grow as writers.  In order to do this, I think schools must look at what they’re already doing well, examine students’ work on an ongoing basis, infuse the curriculum with best practices and research-based and be willing to revise their curriculum as needed.

Quotations are taken from Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating Achievement by Lucy Calkins, Mary Ehrenworth, and Christopher Lehman.  Copyright © 2012 by Lucy Calkins, Mary Ehrenworth, and Christopher Lehman.  Published by Heinemann, Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  Used by permission of the publisher.

Giveaway Information:

·         Thank you to Heinemann for agreeing to sponsor a giveaway of one copy of Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating Achievement.

·         To win a copy of the book please leave a comment about this post and/or the CCSS, in the comments section of this post by Thursday, May 3rd at 11:59 p.m. EST. A random drawing will take place on Friday, May 4th and the winner’s name will be announced in a blog post later that day. 

·         Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address and have my contact at Heinemann send the book out to you.  Please note: Your e-mail address will not be published online.

Stacey Shubitz View All

Literacy Consultant. Author. Former 4th and 5th Grade Classroom Teacher.

83 thoughts on “Pathways to the Common Core + a Giveaway Leave a comment

  1. I have been watching David Coleman videos and am eager to get some insight from Lucy Calkins. Coleman has some intriguing things to say about what students need to be able to do with complex text, but I don’t think he has much to say of value to elementary teachers. His model lesson of Letter from a Birmingham Jail was a monologue of jibberish … imho.

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  2. The suggestion to read the standards horizontally is powerful. If we engage in this exercise and conversation on a school-wide basis, we may provide more cohesive instruction for students.

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  3. Interesting looking book, I personally like some of the things that the CCSS brings to the table, however I do share some of the concerns and doubts that many teachers have. This book should be a great guide…

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  4. My charter school’s ELA committee has begun its work on identifying the differences between what we have taught and how deeply still we need to go into the CCSS standards. This book sounds like it would be a perfect fit for our own path.

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  5. My district is starting to work together to figure out how to best implement CCSS. I am hoping to get the other teachers in my school on board to working together to further improve our teaching of writing.

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  6. I have seen this Heinemann book flyer come across my desk and was intrigued by it right away. After reading your blog post I definitely see the need for the book. Our grades 3-5 are scheduled to go to a specialty teaching model next year with some apprehension on the teachers part. I have taught Social Studies for the fifth grade for all fifth graders, but next year there will be a teacher in each grade 3-5 teaching writing to all students in the grade level. Therefore, the three writing teachers are feeling a bit of new pressure. I love the suggestion of reading the CCSS horizontally. I had discussed with my colleagues that we really need to closely examine the differences in each jump of standards from our previous grade to the grade we’re teaching in order to see what’s new for that grade level because that’s what will be are goals for our students. I just ordered this book and would love another copy to share with my colleagues as we plan ahead for our new endeavors. Thanks for the opportunity.

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  7. We have been reading the core as a staff this year. It is changing how we look at instruction and how our students will learn. It is an exciting time in education. Please enter my name into the giveaway. Our pd plan will need to be Core ready as well!!

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  8. Stacey, last Tues. when you mentioned this book in your comment on my blog, my copy arrived in the mail that day! A sign that the book is so worth it. I am on my district’s language arts study committee and we are tackling CCSS and preparing PD for our schools. I cracked open the book and fell deep into chapter 1. We are in the beginning stages of introducing the standards to the staff and Thursday I just had to share the story of Cory Booker and the Queen Mother (p.7-8) — to set the tone of learning about the standards with choice, hope and opportunity.

    Thank you for sharing your insights. . . I need to go back and read it again!

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  9. Wow-lots of people are really interested in this. I think I am always interested in what Lucy Calkins has to say, and I liked that you included that many can be teaching writing, not just the core or language arts teachers. Thanks!

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  10. I liked reading about the focus on writing for information within all disciplines. I can’t wait to share this information in the teacher workshops I have scheduled.

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  11. I am very excited to learn more and more about CCSS! My school has always stressed writing, and I believe using CCSS will make that even better for all. This book looks wonderful!

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  12. This book looks amazing. I have spent a lot of time trying to navigate CCSS and this looks like it would be a very valuable resource. Who can go wrong with Lucy, right?

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  13. This sounds interesting. I was wondering if this book was geared more toward early elementary, or if it had applications for high school as well.

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  14. I’d love to get my hands on this book. I know and have been working with my colleagues on the importance of writing. This would validate all that information I have been pushing on them.

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  15. We just started reading this today at a PD with 2nd grade literacy teachers. Can’t wait to read more. I love the idea of embracing the standards instead of complaining about them! A strong collaborative team of teachers is essential to do the work.

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  16. Now I am even more excited to read the copy that is sitting on my desk! I will definitely read it sometime this summer. I was also excited to see the email talking about the Jeff Wilhelm, Michael Smith, and James Fredricksen CCSS writing support texts that will be coming out in late August from Heinemann.

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  17. I have read an excerpt from this book, and I WILL be purchasing it. Lucy has the most insightful view of our current state of education in this country. This will be an invaluable tool in helping my fellow teachers to navigate our current educational reforms!

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  18. Loved this write up. It is hard for teachers that agree with this train of thought. There are only so many hours in the day. Writing seems to be pushed to the side because they are writing to respond. The writing process and experience over time is what is needed. Not to mention devoting much deserved time to write about a variety of genres. I would love to read more about integrating CCCS with Core curriculums that are currently in place.

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  19. As so often before, I’m approaching the end of the year feeling that teaching writing is not a strength for me. I’d love this resource to help change that.

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  20. Our district has continued to emphasize writing so I feel very good about the future. We will be working on identifying genre studies for each grade level and how they meet the requirements of the CCSS. I’d love to have this book to share with my colleagues!

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  21. This year my principal selected me to go to the Language Arts common core training. I am a fifth grade teacher as well as the reading resource contact at the school I work in. I am an eager learner and would love the opportunity to study and learn from the common core book. I feel that it is through learning and preparation that we become effective teachers. I would also use my free copy to encourage my administration to purchase some for a book study. I would use my learning to assist and engage my peers in the same passion for learning as I have. Through working together we will all be better prepare to create a learning environment for all the students in our school! I hope I will be assisted in accomplishing this goal as I am eager to grow professionally and feel that the Common Core book would be a great tool to reach that path. Thanks for your consideration in assisting me in reaching that goal. Hopefully this summer I will be engaged in reading your book and preparing a book study to share my learning!

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  22. Our school has evolved (is evolving) into a PLC. We are welcoming all resources. I know what my summer reading will be! As a science teacher I value the work that writing teachers like you are doing and I wish to better serve my students in this area as well. This book belongs in our professional library.

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  23. Thank you for sharing these tempting pieces of information from the book. I know Lucy Calkins and her colleagues have given much thought and effort to making the transition to Common Core easier for us to follow. How nice for you to offer a chance to win this great book!

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  24. The Common Core Standards has been in the Teacher Lounge conversations since the year has started. I would like to use this book as a tool to guide my coworkers with revelent information that the district hasn’t provided. This would be a great resource indeed!

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  25. The Common Core is here and the best thing we can do is prepare for it. I love Lucy Calkins so I’m excited to see her ideas on infusing and utilizing the Common Core. I am part of a few PLCs at work that have been focusing on studying the Common Core and we have been trying to find new ways to ease the transition. What a great find!

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  26. I have seen references to this book all day! I saw it was on backorder, so I would love to win a copy! Thanks for the great resources. Your site is inspiring and thought provoking!

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  27. Our district is looking for a direction to move writing K-12 and is going to make a plan next year and implement the following. This sounds like a good read to help get started.

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  28. This is serendipitous timing! I’m sure for others too, but this is exactly the kind of work
    I embarked on today with my grade level team and this book has been highly recommended. I’ve just been waiting to order it! It’s on back order at amazon and has been for a bit. Would love, love a copy. Thanks for the great review and giveaway!

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  29. I am one of 15 literacy coaches in our district. We are looking for the best book out there on the common core. Our literacy coordinator has charged us with becoming the “experts” so we can support all our teachers. I am excited about the chance to win a copy but will probably buy it anyway if I’m not one of the lucky ones!

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  30. I think this will be my summer reading. I have attempted this year to really focus on writing in my 7th grade LA classes. I have seen some huge growth from some of my students and then little or no growth from others. I believe this book can really assist me with my writing program next year. Thank you.

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  31. I look forward to the challenges and changes that lay ahead. The CCSS can bring about a huge shift (in the right direction) for teaching and learning. I hope it works out.

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  32. The sentiments you express, and the sentiments of the book’s authors, seem to echo my own. The CCSS appear, in some ways, to be a golden opportunity for us to examine our current teaching practices and modify them in ways that are more student-centered and more focused on higher order thinking. It will not be an easy transition, to be sure, but I, for one, am looking forward to it.

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  33. Understanding the common core really pushes teachers to examine their teaching. This book should be part of PD for all teachers and encourages great conversations.

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  34. This looks like a great book for me. Our district believes,in having writing as a priority with math and reading, thank goodness. Fingers crossed to win. Thanks for a great post.

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  35. I’ve been thinking about putting this book on my summer reading list. You may have tipped the scale to get it sooner rather than later. Of course if I win it, so much the better! 🙂

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  36. Wow! What a great introduction to a book that sounds like what we have all been waiting for. I am a curriculum coordinator for K-5 and a big fan of Lucy Calkins.

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  37. I keep seeing that book…and wondering. Your post is a compelling nudge to do some summer reading. With a new district curriculum coordinator starting next year, there just might be room enough for this voice of change. Thank you for sharing and hosting a giveaway to boot!

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  38. I love that Lucy and her colleagues are blazing the trails for us. I respect the move to make the standards more understandable to educators and the public. I would love to study this book with my colleagues!

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  39. Sounds just what like my district and I need. We were one of those schools who spent so much time on reading that we left writing behind. We have begun looking at writing instruction at all grade levels. Whether I win this book or not, I”m recommending it to our district.

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  40. In our state, the governor has decided that fear is the way to encourage teachers to improve, fear of evaluation, fear of retirement, fear of losing your job. Professional development has become a bad word that means money. I would love a copy of this book. I’d like to plan ways for teachers to work collaboratively to do the work we love, despite the fear.

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  41. I ago read the Pathways to Common Core and also wrote a post about it on my blog. I loved it and have read it twice so far! I would love another copy of this book so I can give it to one of my colleagues because it is so important for every educator to read this book!

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  42. With the CCCS, there are some opportunities that we as teachers have to reexamine our practice and to determine how it helps students develop not only as writers, but as thinkers. I’m concerned about the emergence of canned packages that will be used in place of the wrestling with ideas that needs to happen with and among teachers during this shift. Resources such as Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating Achievement are vital because they can inform, rather than take the place of, our thinking.

    I’m in need of this resource because I teach 5th grade ELA in a 5-8 middle school setting and our model does not fit neatly into the Common Core. I do not have a self-contained classroom, rather I see all of the 5th grade students for ELA only. The Common Core assumes a self-contained classroom up through 5th grade so I as I redesign my curriculum to meet the new standards, I feel at a slight disadvantage and know that I need to seek out resources that will help me see where I can make sense of both the charge I’ve been given and the constraints under which I operate. Thank you for bringing this resource to my attention!

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