25 June 2013

"I Choose C:" Common Core, Collaboration, and Creativity

The first time I saw this video it was shared by our superintendent with a group of instructional leaders, and you can only imagine how I laughed and also cringed at the reality.  Just like the girl in this video, too many of our students are not ready for life beyond our public schools.  As educators, it's up to us to provide opportunities that move beyond simple multiple choice tests which do not always promote the thinking and reasoning required of us all throughout life.

I have shared this video widely with teachers who feel they are doing all they can to prepare students but also often feel bound by high stakes assessments and other mandates from well-intentioned reform specialists.   Thankfully, LDC performance based tasks ask more of our students than a multiple choice test.  My friend, Sherri, has even mentioned after using LDC to implement the Common Core in her classroom, her students perform better on high stakes multiple choice tests, and they leave her classroom able to create, think, discuss, and perform well for job and/or college interviews.

At a recent  TALK (Teaching Advocates Leading Kentucky) conference, Sherri and I presented a session on using LDC (Literacy Design Collaborative) to implement the Common Core.  Another colleague from Colorado attended the session and asked me to share with our ECET2 Colleague Circle group.  Although flattered, I also realized I wasn't sure how to share the face-to-face conversation with an online audience.  My Colorado colleague suggested I start with anecdotal narrative, so here we go...

Session Goal:  Reflect on effective teaching of Common Core State Standards by delving into practical resources, collaborating with colleagues, and networking through social media. 

We opened the session by playing this video and asking participants to fill in this graphic organizer.  The debriefing following the video set the context for a session focused on Common Core, collaboration, and creativity.  All important topics to Sherri and me.  We both believe rich text-based discussions are one way to promote critical thinking and creativity; therefore, we transitioned into a Paideia Seminar led by Sherri.  We asked volunteers to come to the round table in the center of the room where they quickly made name placards and then read the text we had selected for discussion. The text open for discussion was an excerpt from Malcolm X's autobiography, a section where he writes about learning to read and practicing his writing.  Sherri began by asking each member of the circle to share a most important line from the text and to articulate why it was most important.  In addition to facilitating and mapping the conversation, Sherri stepped out of her role as facilitator to explain logistics of leading a Paideia Seminar in a classroom.  All told, the discussion was shorter than it would be in a classroom since we stopped it to move on to other parts of our session, but the participants seemed to get a feel for why text-based discussion is an integral part of LDC modules.

Because non-print text is also an important part of the Common Core, we transitioned to an analysis of an image of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X together and surrounded by people.   I shared with the group various strategies for analyzing non-print text, including my favorite process where we move carefully through a few steps.  (Note:  This is by no means the only way to analyze an image.  However, I have found this step by step process is helpful when working with people who have little experience analyzing images.)

Step 1:  Describe and identify everything you see in the image (it works nicely if you cut the image into four quadrants and show one quadrant at a time before displaying the entire image all in one piece).  This step ensures you look carefully and study what's in the image before you begin making interpretations and/or evaluations.

Step 2:  Interpret (think about) what you see in the image and provide justification for your interpretations.  For our session, we asked participants to share their interpretations using electronic post-its on a Padlet wall  created for this session.  

Step 3:  Reflect.  We talked about how these interpretations or even quotes from the text we read prior could be used in the essays for the LDC task. 

We wrapped up our session by asking participants to share and network via other online collaboration tools (Linoit.com) and a document in Google Drive that lists websites for tools related to Common Core implementation and also with twitter handles and hashtags for people to follow.

So, Learning to Muse readers--please continue sharing ideas and resources you have for implementing the Common Core or for great teaching strategies that will ensure our students recieve an education focused on critical thinking and creativity.