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Common Core Standards

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Two weeks ago, I invited writing teachers far and wide to share their biggest workshop dilemmas with me! Okay, if I’m being honest, I asked a bunch of people who recently read Make Writing to share their biggest workshop dilemmas with me. BUT! They did not disappoint! I also think that their responses will leave some of you nodding your weary heads. “My mini-lessons go too long,” many told me. “My feedback is mess,”…

Two weeks ago, Laurie Schultz invited me to coach in her kindergarten writing workshop at John T. Waugh Elementary School in Lake Shore. I’m always grateful to work with Laurie. Her energy is incredible, and she sustains her compassion for even the most challenging kids in her care. She also maintains a high bar for her students, regardless of any label that’s been imposed on them. My Rationale:  When we met to discuss the mini-unit…

We’re years into daily debate about the Common Core, and just this week, Commissioner Elia invited feedback on the Common Core Learning Standards through this survey, conducted by the New York State Department of Education. The purposes of the survey are clear: This survey provides an opportunity for every New Yorker to go online, review each standard and comment on what is liked, not liked, or offer a suggestion for a change to a particular standard.…

Over the last four years, I’ve provided sustained support to 5 rural, 2 suburban, and 3 urban school districts as they’ve aligned curricula, instructional practices, and assessments to the Common Core Learning Standards for English Language Arts. Last week, as I began work in a new district, I was invited to chat informally with teachers, administrators, and parents about all of those experiences. They wanted to know where things went well, where things went off…

Proponents of Joseph Campbell’s monomyth argue that this basic pattern underpins most narratives and that when writers deepen their understanding of this structure, they are often better able to craft their own stories. Grasping monomyth empowers writers to tinker around with it as well, questioning the traditional order of events and even experimenting with new and unexpected forms. Interested in establishing a foundational understanding of the hero’s journey with very young writers? The tools below…

Earlier this week, I recounted my first day of performance based assessment design with a new group of teachers and administrators. If you happened to read, you might remember that someone in the room that day shared a beautiful question, and the exchange that followed altered our design approach in significant ways. In essence, the question challenged us to consider how we might craft a performance based assessment that could help teachers develop closer relationships…

Over the last several years, I’ve spent a good deal of time facilitating performance based assessment design with quite a few teachers in quite a few different places. This is challenging but very rewarding work, particularly when we’re able to replace tests with assessments that inspire kids to do things that matter for audiences that value their efforts and the products that emerge from them. I typically begin these sessions by asking teachers to reflect…

I’ve been working with the English Department at Starpoint Middle School for ten years, and those who know me well appreciate the high regard that I maintain for this particular group of teachers (and their colleagues at the K-5 level). Very few educators have the opportunity, talent, or tenacity to accomplish what this department has over the last decade, slowly and with very careful intention. I’ve watched them design (and redesign and map) their own curricula, sharpen their…

Standards based grading entered my little corner of the world on the winds of a perfect storm: teachers were acquainting themselves with a new set of challenging standards, they were eager to create a culture of learning after witnessing how our historic fixation on performance was influencing their kids, they recognized inconsistencies in their assessment and grading practices, and their report cards did not align well with their curricula. In short, their grades were meaningless at best and…

When I think back on initial conversations that took place surrounding standards based grading in the schools that I serve, I remember that the same questions kept rising to the surface. Establishing clarity and resolving dilemmas on the spot was critical, but often, issues were raised by representatives of grade levels or buildings, and I knew that the potential for the responses to reach everyone quickly and consistently wasn’t as high as we needed it…