Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Post for the week of September 24, 2012

Post for the week of September 24, 2012

This week, the DESE released this document to help schools and districts continue their efforts to implement the new Frameworks:

At this point, districts and schools should be well into their efforts to make sure everyone's on board with the new standards.  This document pulls together the most up-to-date information out there. 

Let me walk you through the highlights:

PARCC has made their Web site more interactive, so you can search through the new version (2.0, from August 2012) of the Model Curriculum Frameworks.

PARCC Prototype Items (the first draft of what could potentially be new testing) are up on its Web site. 

There are 24 K-16 educators participating in the PARCC Educator Leader Fellows program who will be giving presentations on PARCC around the state. 

A rubric for evaluating units and lesson for their alignment with the Common Core is forthcoming.

Information on text sets, student writing samples, and new PD courses are coming. 

On EDWIN (an online resource for Race to the Top districts) will have Model Curriculum Units and Maps soon. 

And much more!  Please check out this link for all these helpful resources!

If you have a question, don't hesitate to ask.  Email me at

Monday, September 17, 2012

Post for the week of September 17, 2012

Post for the week of September 17, 2012

Recently, I was confronted with a few standards from the new Common Core that gave me pause:

Reading Informational 11-12 grade band #8

Delineate and evaluate the reasoning in seminal U.S. texts, including the application of constitutional principles and use of legal reasoning (e.g., in U.S. Supreme Court majority opinions and dissents) and the premises, purposes, and arguments in works of public advocacy (e.g., The Federalist, presidential addresses).

Reading Informational 11-12 grade band #9

Analyze seventeenth-, eighteenth-, and nineteenth-century foundational U.S. documents of historical and literary significance (including The Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address) for their themes, purposes, and rhetorical features

Wow!  So, are ELA teachers supposed to be teaching what traditionally used to be social studies material?  Check out this "Common Core Myths" document:

Myth: English teachers will be asked to teach science and social studies reading materials.
Fact: With the Common Core ELA Standards, English teachers will still teach their students literature as well as literary non-fiction. However, because college and career readiness overwhelmingly focuses on complex texts outside of literature, these standards also ensure students are being prepared to read, write, and research across the curriculum, including in history and science. These goals can be achieved by ensuring that teachers in other disciplines are also focusing on reading and writing to build knowledge within their subject areas.

Myth: The Standards don’t have enough emphasis on fiction/literature.
Fact: The Standards require certain critical content for all students, including: classic myths and stories from around the world, America’s Founding Documents, foundational American literature, and Shakespeare. Appropriately, the remaining crucial decisions about what content should be taught are left to state and local determination. In addition to content coverage, the Standards require that students systematically acquire knowledge in literature and other disciplines through reading, writing, speaking, and listening.

Researching the background of this standard really made me think about my own strengths and limitations as an educator.  I need to beef up my background knowledge on texts (the seminal US texts) I haven't taught in the past to provide students with a well-rounded view of literacy.  When we raise the rigor for students, sometimes we have to raise it for ourselves.

I'd encourage all of us to give a close read of the standards and focus on something with which we're not entirely comfortable.  Don't be surprised; dig in!  What seems intimidating at first may hold great possibility!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Post for the week of September 10, 2012

Post for the week of September 10, 2012

One big issue that has come up with the Common Core is the idea of text complexity.  Text complexity refers to the difficulty of the texts students are reading. 

Currently, students are under-prepared for the reading they have to do in college and career: it's too long, dense, complex, etc.  If we build a "staircase of complexity" (providing appropriately challenging reading for students K-12), they will be better prepared for what they will face. 

The promotion of a discussion of "text complexity" does NOT mean Moby Dick should be taught in 7th grade.  It DOES mean that we need to be more deliberate in our text choices.  Leveling texts is out; the new thinking is that teachers should scaffold their instruction so that ALL students (ELL students, those below the grade level reading, etc.) can have access to complex texts and rigorous instruction.

For more information on text complexity, see the following sources: ( allows you to enter a book and see the lexile level and how it matches current Common Core lexile levels) (lexile grade bands for the Common Core) (a list of books that meet the lexile levels) (Appendix A, where lexiles are discussed) (Appendix B, lists of grade-level appropriate texts)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Post for the week of September 3, 2012

Post for the week of September 3, 2012

For those who are now back to school, welcome back!  Best wishes for a great school year!

Argument vs. Persuasion

A lot has been made in the Common Core commentary about the distinction between argument and persuasion.  (<-----Click on the link to get more info.)

I've always been a bit taken back about the press this issue is getting.  I've always taught "argument" using Aristotle's triangle.

ETHOS --- The credibility of the speaker.  Mitt Romney uses an ethical appeal when he says he can fix the economy because he has business experience. 

PATHOS--Emotional appeal.  When the speaker told a touching story about her puppy, the people in the crowd were moved to tears and immediately funded the new animal shelter.

LOGOS--Logical appeal.  Barack Obama used polls and statistics to support his claim that he created new jobs. 

I think the new emphasis on "argument" as logic and not emotions comes from the way teachers have traditionally framed assignments on "argument:" "Write an essay convincing your parents to let you buy a car . . . "  When students use a too familiar audience, they tend to use mostly emotional appeals and not logical ones.

Try changing assignments around.  Write a piece for one audience.  Then change the audience and see what changes you have to make to the appeals.  Convince your parents of something.  Then convince the mayor.  What might you say differently and why?

Instead of ignoring or de-emphasizing emotional appeals, I think we should be teaching a more well-rounded view of argument using more than one type of appeal.  The Common Core and PARCC demand it!