The school bell rings and you’re off and running—often in all directions! September continues to be a month of adjustment for everyone—students, families, teachers, and administrators.
September is also the time to focus and get back into school routines. This year, you’ll undoubtedly have added demands about infusing the Common Core State Standards into your work. While the CCSS have likely affected your classroom the past few years, chances are they will become an even bigger area of focus during this school year. With this additional concentration on the standards, you will more than likely need to evaluate, digest, explore, and internalize a significant amount of material.
It would be nice to be able to go back to school yourself for an intensive course in these standards, but most teachers will be infusing these standards into an already-rigorous schedule and as part of an already-hectic workload. In many districts, the rules have changed, the expectations are higher, and yet instructional materials and assessments are not yet completely aligned and effective professional development support is not as readily available as anyone might like.
These realities only add to the more typical host of challenges teachers face in September. However, by electing to weave your CCSS infusion tactics into your everyday work, you’ll be able to integrate these standards more rapidly into your classroom.
Connect Families to Your CCSS Priorities
- Use your home-school connection opportunities to let families know what the CCSS will potentially mean to their children. Give a few specific examples about “what’s different” this year.
- Stress that you want to create a dynamic partnership to provide a consistent landscape for your students. Give families some tips about how to support their students. Offer up a few terms that families can reinforce at home, such as “go back into the text” if you get stuck. Teacher Peach has a “Stuck?” pencil that might make a terrific homework pencil. This great gift for families reinforces to students that going back into the text is not only OK, it is expected.
- Develop a unified school message. Work with your principal to develop a simple summary sheet that you can share with families about the CCSS. It’s likely that your school or district has already mapped out a plan for faculty. Consider forming a small team of teachers within your grade band to translate these new criteria for family members.
- At the start of the year, take a survey of the talents and connections your class families could share. These talents could come in handy as you venture into the CCSS waters. Project-based learning (PBL) can provide many opportunities for family members to roll up their sleeves and jump into the fray with your class. The same is true of the new science standards. If a family member has a green thumb, for example, this could be the perfect addition to your hands-on garden club.
Classroom Strategies That Align to CCSS
- Develop independent learners by using every opportunity to encourage students to find the answers to their own questions.
- Integrate technology to present ideas visually. Use your interactive whiteboard (if you are fortunate enough to have one). Encourage students to use it, too. If you are tech-light in your classroom, draw upon your experience with real-world lesson planning by collecting recyclables and turning them into engaging learning scenarios.
- Provide opportunities for students to collaborate and let them know you will evaluate their performance. It takes students time to grasp that evaluations are not always written tests. Let them experience your amazing powers of observation. Be specific with your feedback yet give generic examples that do not single out any one student in a group setting.
September’s Game Plan
The following checklist provides options for September. Check the items you accomplish as the month progresses.
By the end of September, I will have . . .
- created a profile for all of my students.
- met the new teachers in my school.
- met with the other teachers in my grade and committed to working together in implementing CCSS practices.
- met with my principal to understand his/her expectations for the year.
- communicated with the family members of my students.
For English/Language Arts and Literacy, I will have . . .
- required students to ask and answer questions.
- provided a range of readings and text complexities to challenge students.
- checked students’ reading accuracy, fluency, and comprehension.
- continually challenged students to determine word meanings from context.
For Mathematics, I will have . . .
- modeled various ways to attack a problem—e.g., analyze, plan, etc.
- encouraged students to share their thinking during the analysis and solution stages of solving problems.
- given students practice in determining patterns and structure.
- expected students to be precise in both their numerical answers and their explanations.
Expand Your Own CCSS Discovery Process
As you build rapport with and routines for your students, consider creating a few smart CCSS habits for yourself. Keep a journal or log of your progress to track your own journey with CCSS or Next Gen Science Standards. One product that you might explore is the Common Core Kit for Success by Teacher Peach. This kit has as its centerpiece an amazing and quick-to-complete CCSS Playbook for Success. This playbook gives you step-by-step strategies, hints, and prompts to guide you through the school year. It’s a quick and simple model, two pages to prep, two pages to record, and two pages to reflect. This completed playbook makes a terrific addition to your teacher evaluation materials, too!
What are you doing to wisely integrate CCSS into your classroom? Are you meeting with peers to make collaborative progress? Share what’s working in your school! Then check out Teacher Peach’s other blog posts about the CCSS.