Hi this is Katie McKnight for K-12 Teachers Alliance and the subject of this podcast is Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and what they mean for teachers in the 21st century. So the first thing that we need to think about when we look at CCSS and this new generation of standards is one of the most important aspects about it:
We have put student learning at the center now and go back to what drew us all to the profession - our students.
So the students are really the center of the Common Core State Standards which is also manifested in the fact that the language of the CCSS is written from the student perspective. So we need to use the CCSS as a lens as we consider the “how and why” of our instruction at the classroom level. And just a little sidenote too, you may notice that there is some overlap between CCSS and state standards (probably up to about 15%). But one of the things that is most important about the CCSS is that it’s really looking at skills and how skills can be used and developed in order to acquire content knowledge (and be able to use that content knowledge in significant, meaningful and original ways). And that's a different level of understanding – it's the highest level of understanding when kids can synthesize, analyze, apply and talk about and be able to articulate new understandings on their own. So there's a strong interdisciplinary emphasis on literacy skill integration in the CCSS. So literacy really is at the core for understanding science, social studies and mathematics and all of our important content areas. And this makes it very different (the CCSS from state standards).
So the Common Core State Standards also emphasize that rigor connects with our students and that's a way for them to develop these skills and new understandings. So what this means for teachers is that our students must be well-read in a wide variety of texts in many different subjects. So there's less emphasis on textbooks and more emphasis on original documents and novels and texts that we can find also on the Internet. So CCSS also positions its students becoming increasingly independent learners, so many of the standards describe tasks for students to do independently without assistance.
So let me say it again - it's all about application. Application, application is at the core of CCSS.
So in order to achieve that, we need to also go back to each other - to our fellow teachers and colleagues and build those professional learning communities where we can talk about classroom instruction and learning opportunities for students and be able to share on our strengths as teaching professionals. So we often do this now a lot (formally and informally) when we are drinking coffee at our breaks or such (when we do have breaks in schools) and really talk to each other and build on each other's talents about how we can support our students to apply what they are learning. So things like inquiry projects, portfolios, web quests, literature circles, collaborative projects - are all examples of valuable learning experiences where kids are applying the skill sets and the knowledge that they're learning. So immerse your students in rich textual environments and inquiry kinds of opportunities. Inquiry opportunities require increasing amounts of reading and avoid assumptions about kids and reading. Kids will read if we have texts and subjects that are engaging and interesting to them. So with that, I want to go back to the first thing I said which is that student learning is at the center so we need to go back to what drew us to the profession of teaching and those are our students.
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