Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Are You On The Pathway To Common Core?

Sprinkle Teaching Magic's Book Review: Pathways to Common Core      

Pathways to the Common Core (Accelerating Achievement) by Lucy Calkins, Mary Ehrenworth and Christopher Lehman 2012 by Heinemann Press

You may recognize one or more of the authors.  Their expertise lends credence to the assertions and suggestions provided in this book.

The verdict  is still out about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  Are the standards developmentally appropriate?  Will the changes occur in a way that supports both students and teachers?    To answer the wealth of Common Core questions circulating through the staff room and board room, we turn to experts in the field who have jumped into the deep end of Common Core and have tested the waters.  Pathways to Common Core includes information about writing, literature, speaking and listening common core standards.  The authors include warnings, resources, priorities, processes, suggestions, examples and  myths. The authors connect the many CCSS dots for K-12 teachers, so teachers will make informed decisions when putting energy into the changes.
  Pathways to Common Core gives educators a practical blue print to launch CCSS.  The first 21 pages offers an authors’ introduction to CCSS, which is clear and concise.  We are reminded in this introduction that the CCSS document explicitly says, “the Standards define what all students are expected to know and be able to do, not how teachers should teach” (2010a,6) The authors highlight key CCSS guidelines, such as cross-curricular literacy, respecting the professional judgment of classroom teacher, and stressing the importance of critical citizenship. The introduction also includes a helpful three step implementation process for a district to use to launch CCSS, which will not break the bank and give teachers essential support.  

 Chapters two through five focus on reading standards. The message is clear that tackling the reading standards may result in possible pitfalls. The authors provide solutions to these anticipated pitfalls by naming proven programs that are already on the market, such as Fountas and Pinnell system for leveling for K-8.   Grade level examples (K-12) are given to explain student progress toward a reading skill. Chapter three includes a four step process to guide implementation of CCSS reading instruction. Technology resources and web sites are highlighted such as the RWP website http://readingandwritingproject.com/ and Goodreads, an online system.  Chapter four has a well defined teacher collaboration approach using Charlotte’s Web to gain deeper understanding of the teaching strategies for reading instruction. Chapter four also provides reading strategies and examples of how student engagement would look in a high functioning reading lesson. Next, chapter five delves into reading informational texts and what it means to focus on “close reading” which is textual analysis, not personal response. First, informational text skills are highlighted and then the authors explain the implementation process and how to overcome the challenges.   If you like getting the big picture of CCSS, the first half of the book will have you wanting more.  

Chapters six through nine cover the writing standards.  The authors emphasize that “the standards issue a call for extremely high levels of proficiency.” p107  The examples  provided of student writing help clarify the writing expectations for different grade levels. The kindergarten writing sample has created a stir.  On a bright note, you will be happy to learn that “Common Core writing standards seem utterly aligned to the writing process tradition...” p112 Chapters seven through nine presents a wealth of information as an overview for the following three writing genres: argument, narrative and information writing.  Each chapter concludes with very helpful ideas for implementing the featured writing genre. The authors provide a piece of sage advice for districts, namely, to start CCSS professional development using writing as a focus area.  
Speaking and listening standards can be found in chapter ten.  Put simply, the skills that students will practice are 1) talking together to understand texts and 2) students making oral presentations. A major shift for many classrooms is emphasized----- a requirement that students “make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information...”p. 167  The suggestions about teaching vocabulary and grammar will also start a rich discussion with your colleagues.  

Chapter eleven is a critical chapter to discuss as a staff.  Change is not easy, so the authors become the cheerleaders for how to make the change happen.  The title of the chapter---- CCSS-Aligned Assessments Fuel Whole-School Reform is the center of the change movement.  A faculty book study using Pathways to Common Core is sure to engage EVERYONE.  

In the comments below let me know how you are feeling about Common Core?  Will you consider reading this book?  Do you have another book that has been helpful?   How is your district getting ready for Common Core? 

1 comment:

  1. Sheila,

    This is such a fabulous review! I have read and reread this book multiple times. I feel like it provides an incredible amount of information to help ease the CCSS transition. Thank you for reminding me about why I enjoyed this book so much.

    Searching for Teacher Balance


Sheila Chako
Sprinkle Teaching Magic