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Curriculum & instruction

Is childhood being hijacked?

How do the realities of our contemporary life mesh with childhood? Have expectations of what a young child should know changed so much that they're not able to be young? What are — or might be — the consequences?

Kate DiCamillo's characters could possibly change the world!

When I think back to the positively LOVABLE characters that I truly adore discovering with my kiddos each year, here are the names that come to mind: Winn-Dixie. Edward Tulane. Despereaux. Mercy Watson. The true loves of our classroom life! That's the funny thing about teaching character analysis, our kids have already come to love these characters that they hold so dear to their hearts.

Questions and answers about the Common Core

There are lots of questions out there about implementing the Common Core State Standards. Over at Shanahan on Literacy, Professor Tim Shanahan has posted the questions and answers from a recent webinar he did on the Common Core. I recommend hopping over there to scroll through the whole post — I suspect many of you are asking the same questions as these webinar participants!

Among the topics covered:

Grounded in evidence. Part 3: Constructed responses based on evidence

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes construction as: "The art of construing, interpreting, or explaining." I believe the key word is interpreting. Before students delve into text, we first must teach them how to break it apart and look for evidence. It's just as critical to teach our students what to do once they have collected the evidence. The art of interpretation is hard to teach, but if we begin with the basics, and model, model, model — then students can begin to understand the thinking process behind the interpretation they are expected to achieve.

Flipping the elementary classroom

Flipped classrooms are a hot topic right now. In case it's a new term for you, here's a brief description. A flipped classroom flips, or reverses, traditional teaching methods. Traditionally, the teacher talks about a topic at school and assigns homework that reinforces that day's material. In a flipped classroom, the instruction is delivered online, outside of class. Video lectures may be online or may be provided on a DVD or a thumb drive. Some flipped models include communicating with classmates and the teacher via online discussions.

Grounded in evidence. Part 2: Informational text

Thoughtful. Careful. Precise. These are the words that should define our students as they provide evidence that supports text-dependent questions. Part 2 of our focus on evidence-based questions takes us into the world of informational text. It tends to be easier for students to find evidence to support their answers within informational text. However, where we sometimes fall short, is in the level of difficulty of the questions we are asking our kiddos.

Matching media to the curriculum

I came across a great website, Mapping Media to the Curriculum, that could help teachers and students demonstrate what they have learned using digital media. By asking the simple question, "What do you want to CREATE today?" teachers can choose from a graphic menu of options, including Interactive Writing, Puppet Video, Simulation, Geo-Map, and others.

Vocabulary: explicit vs. implicit

Vocab! Vocab! Vocab! The new Common Core Standards have incorporated a new component labeled, "Vocabulary Acquisition and Use." Although many of us have been diligent in the past to teach vocabulary, we now have specific standards that we are being held accountable for. The writers of the Common Core wanted vocabulary expansion to become second nature to teachers and students through grasping and retaining words and comprehending text.

Text complexity: create connections

Some of my teacher friends are nervous about the call within the Common Core State Standards for more informational texts in the classroom. Couple informational texts with recommendations to have students read widely and deeply from increasingly challenging texts, and I've got a couple of worried friends!

Rethinking Literacy, a Common Core resource

For a limited time, Education Week is offering a free digital edition of Rethinking Literacy: Reading in the Common-Core Era. There are several articles within the edition worth reading, each taking its own look at how the Common Core State Standards are changing the way we think about reading and writing, with a keen eye on informational texts.

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"Children are made readers on the laps of their parents." — Emilie Buchwald