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Common Core Instructional

Shifts to Master

Forty-four states, the District of Columbia, four territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) have voluntarily adopted and are moving forward with the Common Core Standards.

According to, “Te Common Core State Stan- dards establish clear, consistent guidelines for what every student should know and be able to do in math and English language arts from kindergarten through 12th grade.”

Yet, as states, districts, schools, and teachers implement the Common Core, the challenge to educators is not simply changing their curricu- lum to match “what” the students need to know but “how” to teach that curriculum so students under- stand concepts and not just content.

Here are five ELA and Math in- structional shiſts teachers will need to master as they implement the Common Core:

#1 ELA Shift: Students will be required to construct responses to questions that have one or more right an- swers.

One of the major shiſts in ELA (and to some extent Math) is the requirement for students to write constructed responses. Rather than just answering multiple choice questions about a text as was pre- viously required by many states’ standardized tests, students will be asked to construct written respons- es to demonstrate not only a deeper understanding of a text but also their abilities to apply the higher order thinking skills of synthesiz- ing, justifying, and evaluating when reading a text.

Here is an example of a typical standardized test question previ- ously used:

Why were the Wright Brothers suc- cessful?

A) Tey didn’t go to school for air- planes or engineering.

B) Tey researched, made careful sketches, and learned from their mistakes.

C) Tey gave up when their first planes didn’t work.

Here is an example of a constructed response question:

Why do you think the Wright Broth- ers were successful even though they

hadn’t gone to school for airplanes or engineering? Use evidence from the text to support your answer.

Can you see the shiſt? Te first question requires students to refer to the text to find an answer. Te second question requires students to refer to the text to construct an answer.

Perhaps the most challenging type of constructed response question asks students to analyze two texts that were chosen to be paired because of a substantial connection and to synthesize that information to write a literary analysis.

As teachers we need to model and provide practice for our students with a diverse selection of paired texts that ask students to construct a variety of responses.

For example, we may ask our stu- dents to read two articles about two influential women in history and construct a response that describes how their goals were the same, the strategies each used to accomplish their goals, and why each wom- an was successful with different strategies.


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