Monday, April 8, 2013

How is the Common Core Like Burger King? States Can Have it Their Way!

Hello teachers! The common core crunch is coming. My own school is implementing them for all grades in the 2013-2014 school year. The state of California has added several standards to the national ones, and modified a handful. Several other states have done the same. Most are using the national standards as is.

To make a silly analogy: It's a little like every participating state is ordering a Common Core Whopper. Some are taking them as they are right off the menu while others are adding and subtracting ingredients. Tomato? No thanks. Mayo? Extra, please.

This is a working list of states that have modified the national common core standards and those that haven't. As I learn more and make more customizations for the various states, I'll update this list.

States that have added or modified the common core standards.
  • California
  • Massachusetts - the Bay State has made just a handful of changes to the ELA substandards - no changes to the main standards. The math standards are unchanged for grades k-5.
  • Minnesota - Minnesota has made about fifteen additions to the ELA standards. They haven't adopted the Common Core Standards for math because their own state standards are more rigorous than the Common Core. The North Star State's math standards are very different from the national Common Core.
  • New York
  • North Carolina hasn't added anything to their standards for the regular classroom. But they do have an "Extended Common Core." In the Extended Common Core, the standard is rewritten in a simpler more direct language. The Extended Common Core is for "Students With the Most Significant Cognitive Disabilities." Ref
  • Pennsylvania - the Quaker State has made big changes to the National Common Core standards. They have reordered and renumbered them. Many of the standards are still identical to the national ones, but the order and numeric identifications are all different. At this time, I can't make customizations for Pennsylvania, but my posters as is will cover 95% of the state standards.
States that have not added to or modified the common core standards.
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Ohio
  • Massachusett
  • Michigan

Friday, April 5, 2013

Reflecting on Open-ended Projects With Lots of Room for Student Creativity

Spring has sprung. Arbor day has come and gone. Earth day is right around the corner. Seems like a good time to reflect on a class project that revolved around our fine leafy friends.

The first semester of the 2012-2013 school year was incredibly hectic for me. We had a new baby in July, and she was waking up several times a night. I also had agreed (why, oh, why?) to take on an extra class in addition to my four art classes and one yearbook class.

I normally put a lot of time and effort into planning lessons. I develop prototypes, rubrics, detailed step by step instructions, videos, do nows, and so on. I also like to come up with new lessons and projects every year. Only about half my projects are repeats from previous years. New stuff keeps me excited and engaged. But it quickly became clear that I was going to have to (gasp) cut some corners to avoid getting buried in work and exhaustion. So I tried something radical and new. I gave my students a very simple project and gave them six weeks to work on it. 

For six weeks, I told my students to create trees! Trees, trees, trees!

I called the project Explore a Muse: trees! árboles! arbres! 树 (I work at a multilingual school).  The parameters were very basic. The assignment description said this:

Use Photoshop, Illustrator, Sketchup, paper and pencil, paint, tape, markers, pencil shavings, or whatever you want to make trees. Push the concept! Be creative! 

There will be a daily progress grade for this. Don't ask, " How many trees do I need to make?"  You should always be making trees!

At first students were shocked. "How can we work on trees for six weeks?" they asked. I told them to "Push the concept," and "dig deep." Along the way I graded them on their daily progress. If they were working on trees for the entire period, they got their daily points. If not, they lost points. It took them some getting used to at first, because they were accustomed to completing assignments and then waiting for the next one. After a while, they got used to it, knew what was expected, and came up with some really interesting ideas. One student really did make a tree out of pencil shavings. Another made a tree out of a splash of cola. Still another was a tree made from cotton balls on a toothpick, which she photographed then colorized with Photoshop.

Things have calmed down since then. Out little one is sleeping twelve hours a night, the yearbook is finished, and I'm not teaching the extra class anymore.  Happily, I have a fun, open ended project that I can use again and again.

p.s. The seed of the idea for this project came from Speak, an excellent teen novel and movie about teen issues. The movie stars Kristen Stewart of the Twilight saga. I used the novel and movie when I taught high school English.