Thursday, December 12, 2013

Gettysburg Address

Dear Colleagues:

A little over 150 years ago, President Abraham Lincoln delivered one of the most famous speeches of all time in order to memorialize those lives lost in the Battle of Gettysburg.  I would like to share with you a link to the various copies of the speech and an additional link to a resource instructing how to conduct a close reading of the speech.  This is a wonderful opportunity to discuss the differences between the written and spoken word and how one might write for the content area of history.

Happy Holidays.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

PARCC Prototypes

Dear Colleagues:

I want to share with you some task prototypes and samples developed for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).  They are designed in accordance with the Common Core State Standards, and include examples for English Language Arts and Mathematics.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Post for the week of August 12, 2013

Post for the week of August 12, 2013

November seems like a long time from now, but once school starts, it will come quickly. 

If you haven't considered attending the NCTE annual conference, you should.  Here are some reasons:

It's in BOSTON!  You can sleep in your own bed every night!

Because it's so close, it's the least expensive it will ever be for people in Massachusetts.  Instead of leaving your classroom for days to travel, you can just miss a day or two.  Make sure to register by November 1, 2013 to save some money.

It's an amazing opportunity to talk to educators and authors from all over the world.  You will be on the cutting edge of the movements in the field. 

The variety of presentations and exhibits is incredible.  No matter what you teach, there will be many sessions for you to attend.  (Including mine: (Re)Inventing Non-Fiction in the Secondary ELA Classroom will take place on Friday, November 22 from 230 to 345.  Check the program for location!)

You can search the program for the sessions that matter most to you. 

Lots of famous authors and educators will be there.  You can meet them and get autographs and ask questions. 

People will live Tweet the event using #NCTE13. 

Hope to see you there!  I am really excited about this professional development opportunity. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Post for the week of August 5, 2013

Post for the week of August 5, 2013

Do you know what UDL (Universal Design for Learning) is?  Have you been trained a bit?  Have you heard of it but are not sure exactly what it would look like in your classroom?  To see the chart below, see this site.  The chart is the general organizing structure of the concepts of UDL.

Recently, I have seen two sites that have helped me a lot with UDL.

This site has the above graphic with added examples for teachers.  For example, if the issue is making vocabulary more defined for students, this site suggests highlighting terms.  This is an easy change a teacher could make.

And this site provides even more: for each of the checkpoints, it suggests resources, examples, and research to support the idea.

Enjoy these great UDL tools!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Post for the week of July 29, 2013

Post for the week of July 29, 2013

If you like Twitter, please follow @Edwin_DESE for updates on the system!

Also, thanks to all those who have commented on the District-Determined Measure Core Course Objectives.  The second round is open from Monday, July 29 until Wednesday, August 7. 

Link to the Web site:

Courses open for comment include:

  • PK-2 ELA/literacy;
  • PK-2 mathematics;
  • PK-6 history/social science;
  • PK-7 science/technology;
  • high school mathematics (pre-algebra, algebra I & II);
  • high school English 9-12;
  • high school social studies (U.S. history, world history, civics/gov., economics, world geography);
  • high school science (environmental, marine, earth and space, astronomy);
  • high school PE/health (team sports, health and life management); and
  • PK-12 comprehensive health

  • Thank you! 

    Monday, July 22, 2013

    Post for the week of July 22, 2013

    Post for the week of July 22, 2013

    Literacy in topics other than ELA ("content literacy") is currently a hot topic.  But how do we get everyone on board with the new emphasis?  How can it practically work?

    Someone recently told me about this article:

    I like this piece about 4th graders, especially the "language frames" sentence stems.  Speaking and listening with a framework would be helpful to all, especially those learning how to have classroom discussions.

    Think about what would happen if students and teachers agreed to use this sort of academic language while discussing a scientific topic?  See how it elevates the discussion, to talk about the topic using claims and evidence?

    Monday, July 15, 2013

    Post for the week of July 15, 2013

    Post for the week of July 15, 2013

    If your school or district is writing units this summer, here are a few resources to check out. 

    EngageNY is posting Common Core units and assessments:

    New York City's Department of Education is also posting materials:

    Achieve the Core also has literacy materials:

    Of course, the Common Core page of the ESE's Curriculum and Instruction Web site has four public MCUs (Model Curriculum Units) to share:

    If you have any great sites, please feel free to share them at!

    Monday, July 8, 2013

    DDM Public Comment Opportunity

    If you'd like to comment on the Core Course Objectives, please click on the link below.  As you can see below, Public Review Period 2 starts on July 28.  Thanks!

    Public Review Period 1
    Public Review Period 2
    Public Comment Link:
    July 8th – July 12th
    July 29th – August 2nd
    Courses Covered:
    ·   K-12 arts (band, chorus, orchestra, creative art, ceramics, photography);
    ·   journalism, interactive media, and audio/visual production;
    ·   high school English language arts, creative writing, American literature and world literature;
    ·   high school foreign languages (Spanish, French Latin) and world languages (PK-7);
    ·   high school social studies (western civilization, contemporary world issues, contemporary U.S. issues, psychology, sociology, humanities, law studies);
    ·   computer/information sciences, engineering and technology;
    ·   high school science (applied biology/chemistry, anatomy and physiology, advanced biology, chemistry, and physics; and
    ·   high school mathematics (pre-calculus, geometry, probability & statistics, advanced quantitative reasoning)
    ·   PK-2 ELA/literacy;
    ·   PK-2 mathematics;
    ·   PK-6 history/social science;
    ·   PK-7 science/technology;
    ·   high school mathematics (pre-algebra, algebra I & II);
    ·   high school English 9-12;
    ·   high school social studies (U.S. history, world history, civics/government, economics, world geography);
    ·   high school science (environmental, marine, earth and space, astronomy);
    ·   high school PE/health (team sports, health and life management); and
    ·   PK-12 comprehensive health


    Post for the week of July 8, 2013

    Post for the week of July 8, 2013

    DDMs (District Determined Measures) are an important topic for educators and administrators. 

    Please see this two-page guide on DDMs and the timelines set to create them:

    For recorded Webinars and upcoming Web events, please see this page:

    Soon there will be a public comment period for the "Core Course Objectives," the objectives that will be used to assist districts with determining measures for teacher impact on student growth.  Once I have that information, I will post it here. 

    Monday, July 1, 2013

    Post for the week of July 1, 2013

    Post for the week of July 1, 2013

    Happy summer! 

    Summer is a good time to check out resources you don't have time to read and explore during the school year.

    The ESE's Writing Standards in Action project has added new examples of student work:

    Teachers' Domain brings together lesson plans, PBS, and WGBH resources for teachers:

    Enjoy!  Email me with resources you've found lately that help you:

    Monday, June 24, 2013

    Post for the week of June 24, 2013

    Post for the week of June 24, 2013

    Today we tackle the last of What's In/What's Out in the Common Core for ELA: Reading Foundations (Central and Integrated) vs. Reading Foundations (peripheral and detached).

    When I reflect on the changes between the 2001 and 2011 standards, I like to look at their structures:
    Basic Structure of the 2001 ELA Frameworks
    Language Strand
                1. Discussion
                2. Questioning, Listening, and Contributing
                3. Oral Presentation
                4. Vocabulary and Concept Development
                5. Structure and Origins of Modern English
                6. Formal and Informal English
    Reading and Literature Strand
                7. Beginning Reading
                8. Understanding a Text
                9. Making Connections
                10. Genre
                11. Theme
                12. Fiction
                13. Nonfiction
                14. Poetry
                15. Style and Language
                16. Myth, Traditional Narrative, and Classical Literature
                17. Dramatic Literature
                18. Dramatic Reading and Performance
    Composition Strand
                19. Writing
                20. Consideration of Audience and Purpose
                21. Revising
                22. Standard English Conventions
                23. Organizing Ideas in Writing
                24. Research
                25. Evaluating Writing and Presentations
    Media Strand
                26. Analysis of Media
                27. Media Production

    Basic Structure of the 2011 ELA Frameworks
    Reading Standards for Literature
                Key Ideas and Details
                Craft and Structure
                Integration of Knowledge and Ideas
                Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity
    Reading Standards for Informational Text
                Key Ideas and Details
                Craft and Structure
                Integration of Knowledge and Ideas
                Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity
    Reading Standards for Foundational Skills (ends after grade 5)
                Print Concepts
                Phonological Awareness
                Phonics and Word Recognition
    Writing Standards
                Text Types and Purposes
                Production and Distribution of Writing
                Research to Build and Present Knowledge
                Range of Writing (begins in grade 3)
    Speaking and Listening Standards
                Comprehension and Collaboration
                Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas
    Language Standards
                Conventions of Standard English
                Knowledge of Language
                Vocabulary Acquisition and Use

    When I compare them, one thing I notice is the amount of emphasis on beginning reading skills.  In the old standards, it was 1 of 27 elements.  Now, it's 1/6 of the entire document.  Clearly, building students' reading foundations (emphasizing basic reading skills and strategies) is a priority for all students.

    Friday, June 21, 2013

    Request for Course Descriptions

    ESE is requesting course descriptions for help with DDMs.  See emails highlighted below.  If you have questions, feel free to email me at  Thanks!

    The purpose of this request is to solicit a collection of course descriptions and/or class syllabi for the courses below. These descriptions will be useful in the DDMs meeting, which are also listed below.

    Please send any course descriptions and/or class syllabi to Beth Peabody or Ron Noble

    Massachusetts District-Determined Measures, Meeting Support

    Courses for Which Descriptions Would be Useful

    Courses for Which Descriptions Would be Useful
    Algebra I
    Algebra II

    *Course descriptions will be useful as the MA Curriculum Frameworks in Mathematics—while very useful as a source document—do not present course-specific standards. Brief descriptions also may help panelists focus on a common understanding of the course scope as a starting point.

    Courses for Which Descriptions Would be Useful
    English 9
    English 10
    English 11
    English 12
    Environmental Science
    Earth and Space Science
    Marine Science
    Team Sports
    Health & Life Management

    *Course descriptions will be useful as the MA Curriculum Frameworks in these content areas—while useful as source documents—do not present course-specific standards. Brief descriptions also may help panelists focus on a common understanding of the course scope as a starting point.

    **Panelists primarily need to know if they should address these as a semester or year-long course.

    ***Even brief descriptions will help as starting point so panelists can focus on a common understanding of what is taught in these courses.

    Monday, June 17, 2013

    Post for the week of June 17, 2013

    Post for the week of June 17, 2013

    There are some cool Twitter discussions happening this week:

    Twitter Town Halls

    PARCC is holding a series of Twitter Town Halls for educators. The handle for PARCC is @PARCCPlace and the hashtag for these events is #askparcc or #parcctownhall. The schedule is:

    • PARCC English Language Arts/Literacy 101 with Bonnie Hain (@bonniehain) and to be determined state experts: Thursday, June 20, 6-7 pm EDT
    This week, we explore #9 of What's In/What's Out: Reading Strategies (as means) vs. Reading Strategies (as goal). 
    In the past, teachers were convinced that students would be successful readers if they just learned strategies.  Strategies are great, but it's important that they are used in service of reading achievement.  Assessing students on strategies is a good idea, but it's better to assess them on their comprehension of complex texts.  

    Tuesday, June 11, 2013

    Post for the week of June 10, 2013

    Post for the week of June 10, 2013

    It's time for #8 on the What's In/What's Out document: emphasis on reading and re-reading vs. emphasis on pre-reading.

    In the past, teachers would spend time preparing students for a "first read" of a text.  They pre-loaded a set of information: maps, presentations on time periods, anticipation guides to establish the major themes of the text.  All this time, the books sit unopened.

    All of this information was helpful, but it doesn't reflect real-life reading experiences.  It takes up a lot of instructional time, it can be teacher-centered, and it does not necessarily align with building the independence students need in college and career.

    When I am given a piece of unfamiliar text, I read it, making connections to what I can.  Then I read it again.  And maybe again. 

    As I read, I am building my resilience, and I am building my ability to comprehend what I am reading.  I take notes, and I highlight passages that are important.

    In the past, I would spend a day preparing students to start, say, "The Crucible."  Now, instead of talking about some facts about the Puritans, I may show a quick video clip and start an activity where students use evidence from the video to support their answers.  I may give a text about the Puritans and write some text-dependent questions for the students to discuss as they read and reread. 

    Building background knowledge before students read is important, but the more time students can spend "in text," the better!

    Reminder! Curriculum Mapping Events this Summer

    Reminder! Curriculum Mapping Events this Summer

    Curriculum Mapping Summer  Institutes 

    The MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, in partnership with the Governor's Readiness Centers, has developed a new Curriculum Alignment and Mapping Project (CAMP) presenting curriculum mapping as a core tool for communicating about and aligning curriculum and instruction across grades, subject areas, and schools. The series includes free summer institutes in 2013, and a variety of follow-up activities in the 2013-2014 school year..

    Registration for the Summer CAMP Institutes is now open.  These two-day sessions will provide substantial time for district teams to evaluate the status of mapping in their districts, work collaboratively on district maps and implementation plans, and learn from colleagues about how other districts are using mapping to improve teaching and learning. Districts are encouraged to register teams of 3-6 people, including district curriculum leadership.

    Summer institutes are offered on the dates/locations indicated below. We ask each participating district to identify a team leader, who can then complete the registration on behalf of the participating team members.  

    Team leader: please click on the corresponding link to register your team for the Summer CAMP Institute your team would like to attend. Your team may only attend one summer institute. Please select the number of registrations that reflects the size of your team. You will be prompted to enter the following information about each member of your team during the registration process:  name, followed by grade level (if appropriate), position, and email, with each element separated by a comma. Example: Tom Smith, 9-12, Math teacher,

    June 27-28 - Marlborough

    July 1-2 - Northampton

    July 8-9 - Bridgewater

    July 11-12 Wenham

    For more information, visit the Curriculum Alignment & Mapping Project (CAMP) website at

    Monday, June 3, 2013

    Post for the week of June 3, 2013

    Post for the week of June 3, 2013

    This week, we'll explore #7 on this document: accent on academic vocabulary vs. accent on literary terminology.

    Watch this six-minute video about the difference between these two topics.  In the video, the speakers mention paragraph 20 from Martin Luther King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail."  You can find that text here.  The paragraphs are unnumbered, but it's the paragraph that starts with "I hope you are . . . "

    Literary terminology is useful in analyzing literature, but it might not be as useful as words that pop up in every field. 

    When I think of "academic vocbaulary," I think of Appendix B.  Each grouping of texts comes with sample assignments.  Here are some of the words on page 129 (9-10th grade assignments):
    • compare
    • analyze
    • address similar themes and concepts
    • unfold
    • the order in which the points are made
    • introduces and develops
    • evaluate
    • argument
    • claim
    • assess
    • relevance
    • evidence
    • validity
    • reasoning
    In short, we will get more mileage out of academic vocabulary because these words appear in all disciplines, not just in the ELA classroom.

    Tuesday, May 28, 2013

    Opportunity to work on DDM Anchor Standards

    Opportunity to work on DDM Anchor Standards

    Please email me for more information!

    During the 2013-2014 school year, all Commonwealth districts will be selecting and piloting District-Determined Measures (DDMs). These measures are a critical component of the educator evaluation system in providing educators in all grades and subjects with data about their students' growth.  The goal is for districts to implement DDMs for teachers in all grades and subjects, including Comprehensive Health, World Languages, and the Arts, during the 2014-15 school year. At the end of the 2015-16 school year, districts will be expected to use the DDMs they selected to determine an Impact Rating for each educator. The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) is partnering with WestEd for the collection, evaluation and posting of assessments that districts may elect to use as DDMs in various grades, subjects, or courses.

    The first step in this process is to convene panels of educators at face-to-face meetings to review and develop anchor standards for the state’s “non-tested” grades and subjects. These anchor standards will be at the foundation of the DDM selection process, as assessments aligned to the anchor standards will be eligible for designation as one of ESE’s exemplar DDMs. All meetings will be held in Massachusetts in June and July, 2013.

    We now are actively recruiting panelists for these meetings.

    Panelists for the first of four meetings will be confirmed by Tuesday, June 4, so please act promptly to nominate qualified colleagues or to indicate your own interest in participating. Those with instructional and curricular expertise - experienced teachers, content specialists, curriculum coordinators, and instructional coaches - will contribute essential skills and knowledge to the anchor standards development process. Panel participants will receive a $450 honorarium and have the opportunity to inform next steps in the implementation of the emerging Model System for Educator Evaluation.

    Curriculum and Instruction Resources Now Available!

    Curriculum and Instruction Resources Now Available!

    Have you heard about the Race to the Top Model Curriculum Units? For those of you who have not yet investigated these units and for those of you who have, there are a key points we would like you to know about the project.

    ·         The units highlight the key shifts in the MA Curriculum Frameworks for English Language Arts and Mathematics that incorporate the Common Core State Standards. The History and Social Science (HSS) and Science and Technology/Engineering (STE) units are aligned to their corresponding standards.

    ·         The units can be used as exemplars or starting points for your own district curriculum unit development.

    ·         The Curriculum-Embedded Performance Assessments in the units can be used as one measure of student growth in the Educator Evaluation system.

    ·         There are four public Model Curriculum Units that you can use right now, one unit in each of the following content areas:  ELA, Math, HSS, and STE. These four units are available to all districts and can be found at:

    We invite you to review the units and ask that you consider coordinating your teachers’ using them in their curriculum, where appropriate. We’d love your feedback on these units as we prepare them for publication. Feedback from teachers that have taught the units can be sent to us through the following survey link:

    Please share this message to your curriculum coordinators and principals. If you have questions about these units or the Model Curriculum Project, please contact 

    Monday, May 20, 2013

    Post for the week of May 20, 2013

    Post for the week of May 20, 2013

    This week, we explore #6 on this document:

    IN--Mainly evidence-based analyses.  OUT--Mainly writing without sources.

    This one makes sense to me.  Common Core is all about students spending more time "in text."  The more you read and write about what you're reading, the better your reading and writing skills are for college and career. 

    Writing an argument based on five sources or writing an analysis of a poem forces you to use what you've read to make an argument. 

    In the past, many writing assignments didn't require students to read anything.  Thus, skills didn't build as quickly. 

    I think that the AP exams are an excellent example of evidence-based analysis, and the released PARCC items are another good vision of how this will work. 

    Consider adding writing to the texts you read and requiring students to use evidence. 

    Wednesday, May 15, 2013

    FREE Summer Arts PD

    Please take this opportunity to sign up for this summer's free arts PD open to all districts (not just Race to the Top!).  Materials will be provided, and Westford is conveniently off 495!  Please let me know if you have any questions at

    Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education


    Professional Development Institute

    Integrating the Arts across the Content Areas

    July 17-18, 2013

    9:00 – 3:30 (Registration 8:30)

    Westford Regency, Westford, MA

    Registration Deadline:  July 1, 2013


    The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, in partnership with the Collaborative for Educational Services, is presenting a two-day institute on integrating dance, music, theater, visual arts, or creative writing into curriculum units for literacy or the humanities. 

    District or school teams of 3 to 5 educators from grades PK to 12 may register for this Institute. All teams must include at least one school or district arts educator. The team may also include a teaching artist or an educator from a cultural institution that partners with the school or district.

    Team members must bring with them a standards-based curriculum unit that they plan to implement during the 2013-2014 school year. Because the institute will consist of working sessions, the team should plan to bring a laptop computer or tablet loaded with a file of its unit in order to record ideas for enhancing the unit with the arts. Teams may bring a unit developed in their district or any of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Model Curriculum Units that have been released to Race to the Top districts or Literacy Partnership grant districts. All districts have access to four Model Curriculum Units posted at the Common Core State Standards Initiative website,

    The institute will be led by Lisa Donovan of the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and Louise Pascale of  Lesley University, authors of Integrating the Arts Across Content Areas, a book that makes connections between standards for the arts and the Common Core State Standards in ELA/Literacy and Mathematics. Each participant will receive a copy of the book.


    For more information, contact:

    Dorothy Earle, or

    Lurline Muñoz-Bennett,

    Monday, May 13, 2013

    Post for the week of May 16, 2013

    Post for the week of May 16, 2013

    This week, we'll explore #5 on the What's in/What's out document.

    #5 is about text-dependent questions vs. text-to-self questioning.  Common Core is all about students spending more time "in text." 

    In the past, assessments related only tangentially to text:

    This story is about courage.  Write an essay about courage in your life.

    A student might be engaged by this question and even do a great job answering it, but he/she didn't need to read the text to write this essay.  In an effort to attract students to reading, we've put the text in the back seat.

    Courage is one possible topic of this story.  What is the author saying about courage?  In your response, cite at least two quotes from the story.

    The Common Core calls for "text-dependent questions."  This phrase means that the students need to reference the text to answer the questions.  Reading the text is not optional. 

    Think of how much more closely students have to read to answer a text-dependent question.  They'll need to annotate and re-read; both are important keys to the Common Core.

    Here's one resource on writing text-dependent questions for your students.

    Monday, May 6, 2013

    Post for the week of May 6, 2013

    Post for the week of May 6, 2013

    Happy teacher appreciation week!

    Two things before I continue writing on the "What's in/What's out" document.

    1.  I always keep my eye out for cool summer reading ideas.  Here's one.  A high school (ages 13-19) could easily do this for its summer reading program: free, online, informative, real-world and relevant reading.  It's nine weeks of reading and writing!

    2.  Good idea for any English Department: before you go home for the summer, inventory the book closet, but do it in a new way.  Find the Lexile levels of all your books and see if they meet the new requirements.  If they don't measure up, consider moving the text to a more appropriate grade level.  If you can't move it, consider the rigor of the activities done with the text.  If you can encourage more difficult tasks, maybe the book can stay.

    Now, back to what's in.  Number four is "coherent sequences of texts vs. collection of unrelated texts."  In the past, organization of texts could be haphazard--whatever is in the book closet, whatever is in the basal reader, whatever is in the textbook.  But students and teachers need structure to make sense of what they're reading and to make connections between the texts.  Consider grouping texts by theme, author, chronology or genre. 

    PARCC suggests that for each quarter, there is one extended text (literary or informational) and some shorter related texts (5-9 for the younger grades and 3-5 for older students). 

    So one idea is picking four major works for the year and then a handful of texts around those "anchor texts."  In one quarter, you could read one long play, three poems, and two short stories.  In another quarter, you could read one full-length information piece surrounded by three speeches and two critical essays.

    Now is a great time to reconsider your curriculum and to make changes to impact student achievement. 

    Monday, April 29, 2013

    Post for the week of April 29, 2013

    Post for the week of April 29, 2013

    Now on to greater exploration of this document

    For this week, number 3: balance of literary and informational text vs. solely literature. 

    First, think about the bulk of the reading you do for your work.  It's packed with information, right?  And you know how to read to get the information you need to do your job, right?

    To be prepared for college or a career, students need a lot of non-fiction (or informational text structures) under their belts.  They need significant practice at reading, annotating, discussing, and writing structures other than narrative (stories, plot-driven, character-driven texts).

    Many high school students leave school equating "reading" with novels from English class.  We need to make sure the students are more well rounded in their reading. 

    To achieve this practice, we need to encourage more reading of informational texts.  In K-5, students may have just one teacher for all subjects, so that teacher can create an even balance of literary and informational texts using content from social studies and science.

    In grades 6-12, it's the duty of all educators to achieve this balance.  This statement means that even non-English teachers are expected to teach reading and writing standards: see pages 71-79 of the Frameworks. 

    For 6-12 English teachers, lots of seminal American texts are required reading now.  Think about speeches, essays, and other government documents.

    ALL TEACHERS should get comfortable with the literary and informational offerings of Appendix B.  It is full of lists of great texts at the required Lexile levels.

    So, the next time you teach a poem, short story, play, or novel, think "how can I work informational text into this unit of study?"  Or "how can I build a unit around a new informational text?"  If we all work together, we can make this balance a reality. 

    Tuesday, April 23, 2013

    Two Important Announcements

    Two important announcements were issued recently.

    1.  PARCC has released its Draft Accommodations Manual, which has information about accommodations for English language learners and for students with disabilities, as well as information on UDL aspects of the computer assessments.  PARCC is asking for feedback on the draft by May 13. The manual and related materials are now live on the PARCC website at  Please check it out!

    2.  The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, in partnership with the Pioneer Valley Readiness Center, the Lower Pioneer Valley Educational Collaborative, and the Collaborative for Educational Services, will present a series of free webinars on curriculum alignment and mapping during the month of May.

     To register, please go to the links below:

    May 13, History and Social Science: 10-11 (elementary) and 1-2 (secondary), History and Social Science

    May 21, English Language Arts and Literacy: 10-11 (elementary) and 1-2 (secondary)

    May 29, Mathematics: 10-11 (elementary) and 1-2 (secondary)

    If you have any questions about these events, please let me know at  Thanks!

    Monday, April 22, 2013

    Post for the week of April 22, 2013

    Post for the week of April 22, 2013

    Welcome back to school, everyone!

    I'd like to continue looking at this document that I got from this source.  It's helped me understand the Common Core changes a lot.

    #2 says that "texts worthy of close attention" are in, whereas "reading any 'ol text" is out. 

    This is how I interpret this idea: think more intelligently about the texts I teach. 

    Am I teaching them to get through them, or are they worthy of study?  Frequently, secondary teachers teach for coverage, but we should be helping our students meet the standards, not cranking though books. 

    How do we know if a text is "worthy of study?"  Is it in Appendix B?  Does it meet the new Lexile levels?  Why has your district decided to put this book at this grade level?

    Are the passages I am reading worthy of a close look, or could I find better models elsewhere?  Some books demonstrate such a high level of language use that they scream to be read closely, but others do not.  Make sure you know why you picked a passage. 

    Is there any reasoning to my text selection (built around a unit or an idea), or am I just grabbing something from the book closet?  Sometimes we feel stuck with the books we have, but there are lots of other texts out there--particularly poetry and informational text--on the Web or from libraries.

    In short, this suggestions gives us a lot to think about in terms of picking our texts. 

    Tuesday, April 16, 2013

    Post for the week of April 15, 2013

    Post for the week of April 15, 2013

    Happy April vacation, everyone!  Just a quick note for this week.  Next week, I'll continue looking at the What's In/What's Out document. 

    The DESE is offering a Webinar series on District Determined Measures (DDM). 

    Here is Part I of the Webinar, and here is the schedule for the remainder of the events. 

    Please let me know if you have any questions, and I can look into the answers.

    Tuesday, April 9, 2013

    Post for the week of April 8, 2013

    Post for the week of April 8, 2013

    I'd like to spend some time looking at this What's In/What's Out document.  While its look at the Common Core themes might be too simplistic, it does give us ideas to ponder in a quick format.

    1.  Daily encounters with complex text vs. leveled texts (only).

    The writers of the Common Core are calling for all teachers (not just ELA!) to demand more reading.  While we can't necessarily control how much students read outside of class, we can increase the amount and quality of student reading in school.  Practice at reading consistently demanding texts will help students tackle demanding college and career reading.

    So check what you're having your kids read and how often.  You can use the new Lexile levels to see if it's appropriately challenging or if it belongs at a different grade level.

    Leveled readers are out because they set the bar too low for struggling readers.  Our job as educators is to learn how to properly structure reading supports so that all students can access the texts we read.  Some might need an audio version, some might need previewed vocabulary or a few images, and many will need to re-read.  These supports help all readers get where we need them to go.  

    Monday, April 1, 2013

    Post for the week of April 1, 2013

    Post for the week of April 1, 2013

    Last week, I wrote a bit about curriculum mapping.  This week, I'd like to think about the most critical components.

    Once your district or school or group has decided to make a curriculum map, you need to answer as many questions as you can to clarify the task.  A map can be as simple or as complex as you want, but the goal is usability for everyone.

    What factors about a map will never change?  Time is a constant, but you can decide how your map will be organized.  Do you want your map organized by quarter? Unit? Month? Week?

    The standards are also a constant.  While all the standards HAVE to be taught and assessed, you can decide the arrangement.  Make sure you're including grade level standards, not just anchor standards.

    Assessments are a crucial element of a curriculum map.  How do you know if students are completing the map if you don't include some formative and summative assessments?  I would argue that you have to go deeper than just midterms and finals.  What other benchmarks will your district have?

    In ELA you will have both texts and skills, but I would assert that the skills should be prioritized over the texts.  Teaching is about building the students' skills, not getting through books and remembering facts about them.

    Essential questions are a popular element of a map, but make sure all shareholders know what the purpose of the essential questions are and how they will be used.

    In short, the process of writing a curriculum is a task that takes a lot of time, effort, and thought.  It's a process that should not be accomplished alone. 

    Once you start writing a map, you may realize that your district or school has a lot to do before the process can properly start (establish common assessments and study the standards in depth, for example).  But think of how great it will feel when everyone makes his/her curriculum transparent and the standards are in action!

    Tuesday, March 26, 2013

    Post for the week of March 25, 2013

    Post for the week of March 25, 2013

    The DESE recently launched its new series on Curriculum Alignment and Mapping (see lots of info below).  If you missed the opening Webinars, please visit the Webinar Recordings page of this Google Site to watch them.  They include a PowerPoint with excellent and diverse examples.

    The new emphasis on curriculum mapping has made me think about its purpose.  Let's think about it like we're planning an assignment for students. 

    What is the purpose of the assignment?  Is it to have something on the school's Web page or in a binder?  Is it to document what you already do, or what curriculum you'd like to do?  Is it an organic document that will change over time, or will it be the same for a few years?  If it will change, who is responsible for changing it? 
    Who is the audience for this work?  Teachers, administrators, parents, or all of the above?  Do the new teachers have it?  Will they know how to read it or what the school's expectations are?
    Who will write it?  Teachers or administrators?  When will we read it? 
    When is it due?  Is there are deadline?
    How long should it be (frequent student question!)?  What are the essential components? 
    What are the criteria for success?  How will we know if we have a successful curriculum map?

    This series will offer lots of examples.  The idea is that there is no "right" way to make a curriculum map; every school will have to decide for itself what it needs.  Next week, I'll highlight what I need in a curriculum map to make it work for me. 

    New Series on Curriculum Alignment & Mapping:
    ESE, in partnership with the Governor's Readiness Centers, has developed a new series on curriculum mapping as a core tool for communicating about and aligning curriculum and instruction across grades, subject areas, and schools. During the series, which includes two webinars, a two-day summer institute, and follow-up activities, participants will discuss the status of curriculum mapping in their districts, gain access to exemplary models and other support resources, and use guided planning time to take their curriculum planning to the next level.

    The complete series, which is funded by a Race to the Top grant, will include:
    - Webinar 1: Introduction (March 7 and 8)
    - Webinar 2: Mapping Common Core Shifts in ELA, Math, or History (May/June)
    - Summer Institute: Guided Team Time (2-day regional institutes, June/July)
    - Webinar 3: Sharing Examples (Fall 2013)
    - Session at 6th Annual ESE Curriculum & Instruction Summit (Nov. 6 or 7, 2013)
    - Wiki with examples and other resources
    - Coaching Support

    Curriculum mapping, webinars, institutes, and resources will be made available to all MA public school districts.