During the summer, I spend my days running week long summer courses for teachers that address both Reading and Writing Workshop. One of the things I do during these courses is to help teachers plan cohesive curriculum calendars for both reading and writing. This year, many of the teachers are asking me how to plan a curriculum calendar that takes into account the common core standards.
Next, I want to share two quick tips I give teachers during these courses.
Start with conversation: It’s often tempting, especially with all of the buzz surrounding the common core standards, to begin a planning session by looking at the common core standards and then creating a curriculum based upon them. I don’t think this is a good idea. Rather, I believe it’s important to start with conversations about what your hopes and dreams are for kids in the area of reading and writing. Once you’ve had that conversation, I would then create a curriculum calendar that reflected those beliefs. Next, I would compare the curriculum calendars you created to the common core standards. Finally, I would make revisions if there were things mentioned in the common core standards that were not reflected in your present curriculum calendars. This process works well for Reading and Writing Workshop teachers for a number of reasons. First, when teachers have a conversation and then create a curriculum calendar based upon that conversation, they often create a plan that covers many of the common core standards without even realizing it. Not only that, but I have found when teachers plan in this manner they often create a plan that exceeds what is asked for in the common core standards. I have also found that looking at the common core standards as the final step deepens the actual conversation around this document. Rather than just read the document quickly, teachers bring their prior experiences, their previous conversations and their drafted curriculum calendars to the table. All of these artifacts enables teachers to talk better about what they are already doing and how to how to integrate what’s missing.
Think Outside the Box: Many schools have asked me if they should remove poetry from their writing curriculum calendars since poetry is not part of the common core standards in writing. My answer is a resounding no. I have seen so many kids find their way into writing through poetry but I do understand the dilemma that schools are in because they are feeling the pressure to align their work with the common core standards. This is when I believe that people have to be creative and look for ‘out of the box ways’ to align important curriculum with the common core standards. As I look through the writing section of the common core standards, I see words such as description, opinion, narrative, explanatory, etc. Even though the genre of poetry isn’t mentioned, I can teach many qualities of writing such as the ones stated above through poetry. I know that I could teach a great poetry unit that excited and motivated kids, as well as aligned with the common standards
I would love to hear any tips or questions you have about planning using the common core standards.