This is part of the Slice of Life Challenge hosted by the Two Writing Teachers
There has been this nagging little itch in the back of my brain for the last few months. Our district, like many others is in a full blown "Common Core-itis" stage of transition. As a fourth grade teacher I haven't had much district supported professional development yet. But, I know it will be coming. Being who I am, I have dug in on my own and tried to thoughtfully look at the Common Core State Standards, The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers and a rather lengthy list of other resources that are infiltrating my web browser.
I am not 100% sure where I stand on this adoption of the CCSS. On the one hand I have never been a big fan of top-driven programs in any arena of my life. On the other hand I do see some merit in the idea of more consistency in terms of curricular goals across our country. While I am unsure of the need for elementary students being able to disect themes across several books, I am actually happy that the CCSS is calling us out for not valuing nonfiction reading as much as we should. The sadness of the lack of writing poetry in elementary classrooms is balanced by the fact that writing in general has been lifted to a new place of importance in our curricular planning. I could go on and on with lists of positives and negatives.
I think my big concern with the Common Core is the fact that it is missing more than a few big things for me as an educator. The wrestling match that will go on in my head over the next few years will be my possibly Uncommon Core values with the Common Core expectations. I know many of us are having similar concerns, but I am starting to compile a list of ideas I refuse to let go in the face of a massive reworking of our curriculum.
My Uncommon Core (so far):
1) Students will love to read what they choose to read. Unless I have completely missed the boat in all of my independent study of materials, I can't find one mention of students actually choosing to read books they love. While I know that students should be able to "read closely" and "refer to details and examples in a text", I still want my students to leave our room knowing who they are as a reader and actually wanting to read.
2) Students will use nonfiction texts or media to propel into greater inquiries of topics they love. I do completely understand that students should be able to "interpret information" and "explain how the information contributes to an understanding of the text", but where is the big why? I do believe that the value of digging into nonfiction is to gain a better understanding of what our world has to offer us. Without falling in love or becoming more curious about a topic or idea, we don't connect to it, so we have a harder time developing a depth of understanding.
3) Students will develop an understanding of the power of writing. Writing moves us. Writing is a way to share, learn, persuade, enchant, and connect with just about any audience. After many readings of the CCSS for writing, there is not much there that frustrates me (with the exception of devaluing poetry completely), but there isn't anything about the empowering and tranformational process that writing gives a learner. We need to elevate this idea if we want our students to actually want to write.
4) Students will create effective classroom and school communities through the acts of collaboration and communication. The listening and speaking parts of the CCSS are certainly robust. I have zero problems with things like, "pose and respond to specific questions to clarify or follow up on information", who would? Ideas like actually communicating with a degree of civility seem very sound to me. However, what is the purpose? We should be looking for ways to empower students to use these skills to make places of learning more valuble to them.
I am sure other ideas will bubble up from the dark corners of my brain, but for now I know that when I am developing goals for next year, these four ideas will be front and center as I am also trying to revamp what I need to do in order to be more aligned with the CCSS for English Language Arts and Literacy.