For the past several weeks I have been working on creating a curriculum map for my 7th/8th grade language arts classes. As a staff, my colleagues and I felt this was important to put into place what and how we are actucally covering each standard and strand in our classroom. Though this will be a work in progress, I am trying to polish it and make it a document that is ready for next year and the future years to come. Two thoughts have been floating around in my brain for the last several weeks while working on this document. First, are there educators/professionals out there who have any resources for the The Common Core Standards? Second, I have been really tossing around this term rigor and academic rigor and have some thoughts.
I have encountered plenty of apprehesion and anxiety when talking and teaching other teachers and principals. I am also well aware of the individuals and groups of individuals who are completely against the CCSS for whatever reason. Call me crazy, but I am embracing them and with this first year almost under my belt, I am ready for next year and my students will need to be ready too. I admit, I think there are flaws with the CCSS, but overall, they are well thought out. To make the transition easier for myself and for some of the colleagues in my school, there are plenty of resources to consider. Some of them are hardcopy, others are digital. Our language arts department has purchased the flip books and will have them for this summer to look over. The three resources I like the most are:
1. The Common Core Flip Books by McGraw Hill – The flip book integrates the CCSS with instructional planning strategies. The books include suggested learning targets or “I can” statements for the students.
2. Common Core Curriculum Maps by Common Core – This book has been fantastic at giving me alternative resources to the suggested reading that was povided by the CCSS. This is not a resource put together by the federal government. It was written by teachers, for teachers. They also have a website called Common Core.
3. MasteryConnect has put out an application for those that are Ipad users as well as those Droid users such as myself. What I like about this resource is it is free. Second, the standards are clear and in plain, every day language. I often use this as a quick reference when looking at possible activities or lessons for my class. You can join their website for free as well and choose to have more premium services for a small cost.
Having many resources at my finger-tips has made my transition to the Common Core smooth. Each resource can be evaluated personally and the user needs to choose which one works better for them.
In addition to looking at all of these resources and having multiple conversations with other professionals, I keep thinking about rigor and academic rigor. Rigor is defined in the dicitionary as strictness, severity, or harshness, as in dealing with people. Now, if I take just the term rigor and think about my classroom, I am a very disciplined teacher. My students know their boundries and very few cross them. This by no means indicates I am a tyrant, but I run a tight ship. On the other hand, academic rigor defined by the Employer’s for Education Excellence website, designed by the Oregon small schools intiative, is:
“When instruction is academically rigorous, students actively explore, research and solve complex problems to develop a deep understanding of core academic concepts that reflect college readiness standards”
The website goes on and discusses other key features such as high expectations for students, cross-curricular activities, etc. As I read through this site and the others that discuss academic rigor, I am kind of shocked. It seems there has been this bigger push since the introduction of the CCSS for acadamic rigor (this particular website does not state this). I hear people talk about how the new standards has more academic rigor and it is going to be more difficult for teachers and students. Why? As I look at the many components that make up an academic rigourous classroom, I have many of those components in place already. If you don’t have high expectations for your students, you aren’t doing your job. My wife is a great example of holding students to high expectations. She is a band director and is constantly pushing her students to get better every day, every concert, every competition. Her expectations go up for her students numerous times throughout the year. We should all be doing this. Why do we need the Common Core Standards to jump start us into becoming more academically rigorous? Academic rigor should already be in place if we are going to prepare students for college or career.