Saturday, September 19, 2015

Getting Comfortable with Common Core

common core, ccss, ccs, core standards

I am knee deep in Common Core Standards and curriculum. Most of us are completely despising our newest math curriculum and lack-there-of ELA curriculum. Last year, I taught BOTH Common Core and California the same time. That was fun...

But if you are in a state that has chosen to adopt Common Core, this post is only here to "look on the bright side". Note: I am neither an advocate or adversary of Common Core, I am not here to promote a specific opinion or viewpoint, but my state has adopted it, it's here to stay for a while. I need to become a pro at it and accept it for what it is or I'll have to leave the field and I'm pretty unqualified for anything else :)

Intro to Common Core
The green states are the ones who have adopted Common Core {hey even some territories have}.

I'm sure you've seen this video on the Common Core website {which I now have to use religiously for all my lesson plans, etc.}, if not, take a second to watch it {it won't kill least I think it won't...}.
I interpret the general purpose in Common Core is to lay the ground work for an equal education across the nation as well as try to raise the standards of education so we can compete with the world. Let's be honest, we aren't top of the class when it comes to comparing countries in education. Common Core's focus is that of higher achieving countries, numeracy and literacy on a deep level. 

3 x 4 = 11
You've probably seen FB posts floating around showing random math problems verifying that 3 X 4 = 11 or 2 + 2 = 5. Yes, I've watched, read, criticized, and shook my head at these ideas too, thinking, "oh my goodness what am I getting into?" But I think you need to be knowledgable in what you say before you speak out. 
I've learned two things over the past couple years as I've studied and taught Common Core. One, it's about explaining your thinking and reasoning. On the dreaded SBAC Performance Tasks {which I have taken myself & a quick note to all teachers: get your children computer literate NOW} a student can get an answer wrong, but if their reasoning supports their answer, they can get points! And if they get an answer wrong, but get the succeeding answers right, based off the wrong answer {did I lose you??}, they can still get points! Now I don't know if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but the point is: students must have reasoning for everything they do! So get your students explaining how they got what they got, in whichever way they got there.
The second thing I've learned is

Complicated Ways to Solve a Simple Problem
So are you coming across the extremely long, seemingly complex ways to solve math equations yet? 

I feel like I experienced these YouTube videos first hand! Each day I look at my lessons and think "Oh my gosh, how am I going to teach this? How are my students going to grasp this?" But let me tell you something, they get it! It's wild. Now I am in first grade, so those of you in the upper grades, you will have to wait a few years before your students likely go "oh yes, we've seen this before and we understand". Be patient! It will happen!
I have come to find, Common Core is not trying to make things more complicated {although by the looks of it, one could argue the latter}, but simply offering more ways to visualize and interact with numbers. It has not told us that we cannot teach them the "short cuts" or the "old ways", it has introduced us to different ways we can see numbers. Let me give you an example from my own classroom.
We spent the entire first 4 months of school making...dare I say...number bonds, breaking apart and putting together numbers to make 10. We are now using our knowledge of ways to make 10 to add and subtract bigger numbers. 
{this gave me a hard attack the first time I saw it too, adding to subtract?!}
My students are very successful in breaking down numbers into number bonds and making 10. Because of this, they were able to grasp this seemingly obscure technique to help them solve these bigger subtraction problems by using addition {let's face it, the only way I got the concept across to myself was to tell the kids they were solving subtraction the SUPER SPY WAY with addition-only spies use addition to solve subtraction ;)}. 
The more I teach these concepts, the more I see the similarities in how I actually mentally think and break down these numbers. It was more of a coping mechanism back then, rather than memorizing the answers. Now Common Core has taken our "mental maths", if you will, and added them to the bank of our students knowledge. In the end, you NEVER KNOW what will stick. Which strategy your students will pick, but we need to gear them with as many as possible to allow them to succeed.

Know Your Standards
The best advice I can give you is to read read read your standards. Familiarize yourself with each strand.
Look at the Appendices for Math and ELA for glossary of terms and strategies to teach. 
Once you feel proficient in your grade, check out the grade below you and above you. 
Most definitely read up on the Anchor Standards for ELA and the Common Core Mathematical Practices that tie everything together.
Change can be difficult, but don't throw out every resource you've ever had! Many things {not all} can be manipulated into reaching a Common Core goal. Look at your resources with a thrifty eye and see how you can still use what you have to assist these new standards.

Some Extra Resources
Here are some extra resources that can help if you are struggling to teach certain concepts:

Pick a specific standard by grade level and you are given ample resources to teach it!

The same goes for the math version, pick a specific standard by grade level and you are given ample resources to teach it!
This has been a helpful resource for glossary of terms as some of the terminology may be new to us in ELA.


Starting something new is ALWAYS hard. Especially when it looks so daunting, but I don't think it's meant to harm our students brains, instead it's here to give them more opportunities to succeed. We teachers do whatever it takes :) If we wait it out and try our best, each year it will get easier! First years of anything are TOUGH.
I feel bad for you upper grade teachers who have to wait til it filters though each year! Keep on going friends!

Also, be on the lookout for New ELD Standards, I know California is well on it's way of implementing some in the near future.

Again I am not advocating or opposing Common Core. I hope you feel encouraged and empowered from this post and know you are not alone! Please no aggressive comments :)

For Common Core Aligned Resources, check out my TpT store!

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