Have you begun implementing the Common Core State Standards?
It can be so overwhelming to understand all the changes. Breaking up all this work and coming up with a plan can be so freeing. Let’s get it done before we leave for summer break. I certainly don’t want this work hanging over my head all summer. I have beaching to be done!
It is important to remember that depending on where your students are within the implementation of the Common Core State Standards will play a huge role in how you set up your classroom. We cannot, nor should we, jump straight from our current curriculum to the new Common Core State Standards.
My school district has been attempting to put this in place K-8 for 1 year now, but as we know, this is not a one year transition. Students cannot do everything that the Common Core has suggested in eighth grade if they did not use the Common Core in seventh grade and so on down the line.
This puts us in an uncomfortable place of transition for the next couple of years. So how do we deal with this?
- Set up an ideal scope and sequence for your classroom. This is your three year goal. Be patient with yourself and your students. Set reasonable goals that force you to grow as a professional. Feel free to use mine at algebra1teachers.com. (Please note that this is a work in progress and is not finished.)
- Organize your favorite and most effective lesson plans into your scope and sequence by unit. Take a look at the great lessons online and continue filling in the holes until you have a great collection of resources. Keep in mind that you will not use everything you find, but it will be wonderful to have a large collection to choose from when you begin setting up your units and daily plan. I have used Livebinders for this and find this a great way to keep organized.
- This is where the rubber hits the road. You need to assess where your students are mathematically when they come into your classroom. What basic skills are essential to carry out your scope and sequence? My list includes many things that traditionally were in Algebra 1 that the Common Core has moved to the middle school. Such as:
- Solving equations (one variable)
- Distributive property
- Combining like terms
- Using a formula to find a missing variable
- Graphing simple linear equations
- Unit conversions
There are also the issues of retention:
Your list may or may not match mine, but keep in mind, every district is different, and every classroom in it as well. There are definitely things that are to be taught in middle school that they will need to be mastered by the end of my course, such as slope, but looking at my scope and sequence I can see where that will fit in, and therefore I have left it off my list.
- You need to ask yourself, can these things be covered quickly in a review, or do they need a full lesson? In other words, how long will it take to cover those topics listed above? Secondly, do they fit nicely into an already existing unit? If so, great! Put the topic there. And you will see that I have done that on my website. If not, we must create time for these concepts, otherwise our students will have holes in their learning and in most circumstances this creates an unmotivated and insecure math student.
- At this point you may be asking yourself, “How do I fit even more into my curriculum?” Please remember, that this is a three year plan, we are scaffolding this curriculum to get where we want to go. For this first year we will need to pull some things out. This is the reality if we want rigor and relevant material that students can apply and critically analyze. If we continue to fly through concepts, we are no better off with the Common Core that we were before, even with the best of intentions.
- Create three copies of your ideal scope and sequence. Title them year 1, year 2, and year 3. Year 3 is done. But it is great to have a fresh copy in front of us to be able to see where we are going. It is now time to add what we need, and begin setting up our units. How much time are we short? This will help us decide what is going to be cut, and where. Try to select lessons that can work in this missing curriculum while still moving forward through these units to create a positive momentum. Add what is needed, and selectively remove what is needed for year 1, year 2 needs to be your middle ground, adding half of the removed curriculum back and by year 3 you should be on course. This format will give you time to add great lessons, tweak or replace the lessons that did not work so well, and give you a little breathing room while still pushing you forward.
Remember the first three months of school being review of the previous year’s content? I always hated the first couple months of every school year. Busy work, boredom, and feeling talked down to. Really? Did they think we were stupid? Now I see the other side of the coin, how do we move forward without leaving so many behind? Embedding those missing skills into other lessons, bell-ringers, and homework can be a wonderful solution. It should not be ignored or be the main content. There must be balance.
- Begin filling into your units the great lessons you have stored up in your livebinders. Be sure to up your rigor and have a solid plan for the first unit balanced between perplexing and doable, keeping the students engaged bell to bell. Prepare before you leave for the summer so that you are prepared with the busyness of fall. I will be updating my first unit in the weeks to come. Knowing that this is done will greatly increase my enjoyment of summer!
- As you begin filling in your year, you will see opportunities to go deeper into the learning with your students. Create new lessons and use the great ones you find. Please be sure to use these opportunities for true understanding and critical thinking with your students. As you do, you may notice other places where rigor is achievable. And who knows? Maybe the kids will surprise us, they usually do. This is the fun part. Enjoy the excitement it creates.
Finally, talk to the teachers of the grades so that there are no assumptions about the changes that need to take place in the upcoming years. This is an imperative conversation to have. We cannot do this alone, we must work as a team to make the implementation of Common Core include rigor and relevance, not just the same stuff with a different name.
Please share how you are implementing the Common Core Standards. Do you have any ideas to share? I would love to hear what you are doing! How have you decided on a scope and sequence? Do you have access to technology to assist you in your classroom? Has this article helped you get started? Please let me know.