Blogs About Reading

The Common Core Classroom

Emily Stewart, M.Ed.

Guest blogger Emily Stewart, M.Ed., is a third grade teacher at Murch Elementary, a public school in Washington, DC. During the 2012-2013 school year, Emily will be sharing the real-world strategies, challenges, and successes of implementing ELA Common Core standards in her classroom.

Up the ante! High achieving students and the Common Core

March 8, 2013

Someone once said, "a rising tide lifts all ships." For so many years, the U.S. has been in the middle for reading on the PISA test (Program for International Student Assessment) — and lower in science and math. The PISA scores countries on the number of critical thinking questions their students can persevere through at various levels. One of the goals of the Common Core is to raise the bar on critical thinking, which in turn will affect our scores on the PISA … fingers crossed!

The interesting thing I am finding in teaching the Common Core is that my student achievement tiers are shifting. Since we're raising the bar, the number of students TRULY identified in the top tier is smaller. Many of our kiddos who were once in the highest tier are now falling into the "average" range because the expectations for learning are higher. I am loving the caliber of learning that my students are taking on. They expect deeper thinking, evidential support and synthesis from each other. This is allowing my higher achieving students to take part in discussions with each other they usually only get in small group learning.

I am discovering that the typical strategies with higher achieving learners still apply. However, The Common Core Standards do not focus on content mastery. Instead they rely on major concepts, ideas and skills that direct students to use the content to examine questions, look at multiple issues and find a variety of ways to solve problems. The level of complexity is allowing for less acceleration, but still the depth and the diverse learning strategies. The use of Webb's Depth of Knowledge has really helped to differentiate activities and tier assignments based on the level of thinking power behind them. Some of the different challenges I am still including in my classroom are these:

Integrating these types of assignments will help students to push their own thinking, and create independence and autonomy. Keep in mind one question everyday: Did you cause a change in every child's learning today?

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"Writing is thinking on paper. " — William Zinsser