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Can Existing Lesson Plans Fit the Common Core?

According to the folks at TeacherLingo, the answer is “yes.”

The Common Core State Standards aim to transform how students interact with content, rather than attempting to entirely overhaul the actual material that students learn. For this reason, building higher-order thinking into evergreen student activities will often satisfy CCSS requirements.

For example, if an existing lesson asks kids to identify an author’s point of view, TeacherLingo staff suggest adding a Venn diagram or other tool to compare their own view with that of someone else. With this enhancement, the lesson would meet the Common Core standard requiring students to distinguish between individuals’ points of view.

The CCSS also aim to provide a real-world context for student learning, whereby relevance and real-life connections are key facets of lessons. Additional TeacherLingo Ideas for adding a real-world context to instruction include:

  • In math class, teach young people multiple ways to solve a problem and let them select the method that works best for them.
  • In English class, think creatively when choosing texts, and allow plenty of time for discussion and reflection following reading.

Get a Little Perspective First

Ready to re-examine your stable of time-honored lessons with a Common Core eye? Just remember that the CCSS represent new territory for educators.

Before they begin tweaking their existing lessons to align with the Common Core, teachers would do well to heed the advice of education author and consultant Jay McTighe and staff development expert Grant Wiggins:

  • Merely trying to “retrofit” the standards to typical teaching and testing practices can backfire, so make sure any updated lessons truly reflect the intentions of the CCSS.
  • Avoid zeroing in on the grade-level standards until you thoroughly read the Common Core foundational documents and get a good grasp of the "big picture."
  • Be sure that you understand the changing instructional emphases called for by the Standards. These emphases represent a somewhat different paradigm than the one with which educators may be familiar. For example, the English Language Arts Standards require a greater balance between reading informational and literary texts.

The Bottom Line

If these experts’ recommendations sound contradictory, remember that good Common Core-aligned lessons take what educators are already doing well and attempt to improve upon it.

Before revising a lesson, teachers should therefore carefully and honestly assess its potential fit with the CCSS. In some cases, minor modifications will bring lessons into alignment. In other cases, the lesson will need to be completely re-thought.

A good test is to ask yourself, “Is my intended enhancement merely an attempt to (as McTighe and Wiggins describe) ‘put a new name on an old way of doing business,’ or should this lesson be shelved and a completely new approach used to teach students the content?”


Article by Celine Provini, EducationWorld Editor
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