Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Common Core as a Staircase Presented by Gerber Life Insurance Company.

Describing and defining Common Core challenges most people who are not familiar with education.  One way to explain it is to imagine that the K-12 grades are giant staircases.  Gerber Life Insurance Company (who even know such a thing existed) gives a message on its website that the Common Core standards are vital for parents of babies and toddlers to understand.

First, on the webpage is the video that presents staircases analogy. You see, before Common Core there were different staircases so that a student who would be working at one grade level in one state, say, Florida, would be at another grade level if he/she moved to another state (think Kansas). This has changed. Currently, now that Common Core has been initiated in most states the standards are aligned so that a student working at one grade level in one state will be at the same grade level if they move to another. For example, students studying linear equations in eighth grade in Florida will move into the same topic in Kansas at that grade level.

Note that the Gerber Life Insurance article misinterprets the number of parents who know about Common Core. It states that 39 percent of parents did not know about it yet in the linked article published by the University of Connecticut states that 39 percent of parents "have heard of the much-debated initiative." That would make 61 percent of parents who had not heard of Common Core.

Gerber Life Insurance Company needs to brush up on their math. Subtraction is an important skill.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

10 Tips for Writing a Better Personal Essay

Writing a personal essay involves including elements of narration and description. Here are 10 tips to make your essay a smashing success.

1. Make a point in your narration with a thesis statement in the introduction. For example, when I was about 10 years old, I hid some Halloween candy from my brothers, only to have my black poodle find and eat it. My thesis for this narrative could be:

The lure of candy to a child can cause him or her to ensure its security by putting it in a safe place away from parents and siblings who are likely to eat it; however, the child can still lose if he/she doesn't consider every family member. I

Within an hour, my vast collection of Snickers bars, Hershey's kisses, sour hard candy, bubble gum, and Tootsie Rolls among other sweets transformed into a sticky mess of wrapper pieces and big dark wads of chocolate when I forgot an important member of my family would find it.

The trick-or-treating began innocently enough...

2. Add creative tension. For instance, in the above anecdote I don't let readers know who took and ate the candy.
3. Add or change vague language to concrete language--words like book, child, ice, candy.
4. Add dialog.
5. Add a setting--a description of the place where the story took place. Detail each scene so your audience can picture the place where it occurred.
6. Add a conclusion with a moral, or message. For example in the above anecdote, the moral is to consider everyone in the family--including pets--when you want to keep any food items for yourself.
7. Change vague descriptions to sensory ones. Note in the above anecdote I name the type of candy, use the sensory word, sticky, relating to the sense of touch.
8. Change dull, mundane words into descriptive ones using the Table 6.2 in Chapter 6.4.
9. Use figures of speech such as personification, metaphor and simile in order to compare the unfamiliar with the familiar. For example, the candy turned into "pet bait."
10. Change words like "thing(s)" to concrete or descriptive objects or thoughts. For example, I had been thinking about things, and realized that the candy wasn't stored in a pet-proof container. A paper bag just didn't do. In the preceding sentence what could you change the word "things" to? 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Are Syllogisms a Missing Part of Common Core?

Some educators have rejected Common Core based on its lack of critical thinking with regards to an argument (see links below). 

Syllogisms help you to find out if an argument you have created for an essay is logical. Understanding them is tough. Seeing examples of them in color coded text reveals that there is a pattern you can set up to come up with a conclusion from two claims.

You can use the following examples to develop a syllogism for your paper.

An example of a syllogism is:
Claim 1:  All mammals are warm-blooded animals.
Claim 2: Warm blooded animals have a constant body temperature.
such as whales have a constant body temperature.

Logical Syllogisms

Syllogisms check to see if your argument in valid.

Let's take a look at the following logical syllogism:

An example of a syllogism is California is a state;
All states have unique elected governments.
has a unique elected government. 

Let's take a look at two claims about fighting ISIS in order to make them a logical syllogism by color-coding the three variables your working with:

Claim 1--The United States has no reason to attack ISIS.
Claim 2--Attacking ISIS is not a solution to defeating them.
Conclusion--The United States does not have a solution to defeating ISIS.

Now, note that here there is a pattern (color coded) that shows it's easy to figure out a conclusion to a syllogism, after which one should check to see if it makes sense, that is isn't a fallacy.

While the above conclusion is effective (doesn't contain any fallacy) in that it addresses the problem, it does not offer any solutions.

In this case, one had to name not only the available solutions that have been made public, but also the feedback about them by other experts.

Illogical Syllogisms

Let's take a look at the following claims for an argument about public school access in rural areas in order to make them a logical syllogism by color-coding the three variables your working with:

Claim 1--Struggling to get to school is a problem for students in rural areas.  
Claim 2- Alpine County,  California is a designated rural area (Rural California, n.d.).
Conclusion--Struggling to get to school is a problem in a designated rural area.

The above syllogism might not be valid. You would have to research several designated rural areas to see if they any of the students live near the school.

If some students in Alpine County and other rural counties in the U.S. do live near a school, you have to change the wording of the syllogism. Consider what word would one have to add to the first claim to show that it's not an absolute statement (applicable to everyone)?

Rural California. (n.d.) Retrieved from

Two articles one might find of interest regarding syllogisms and Common Core are: 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Finding One-Hour Lesson Plans on the Internet

Teachers often have problems finding good one-hour lesson plans on the Internet. The first is that the plans available are not complete, consisting only of one activity. The second is that plans are often part of a series, each dependent upon what was covered in another plan.

Teacher candidates need to know that when a professor or instructor ask for a lesson plan, he/she most likely would be referring to a one-period plan that is independent from other plans. An independent plan offers teachers a plan that consists of activities that are not a continuation of another plan.

While an independent lesson plan offers new curriculum, it doesn't necessarily have to include prerequisites for implementing the plan. Any Common Core lesson needs to have a portion of the plan directed to an activity that stimulates students' prior knowledge about the topic. After that portion of the plan is covered, most students will be on the same page with respect to knowing enough about a topic to introduce a new concept about it.

The teachers' union offers a webpage of very good links that are non-commercial and filled with activities, lesson plans and thematic units. It's at http://www.uft.org/teaching/lesson-plans. Teachers can use any of these resources to develop a plan, so long it is focused on a few Common Core standards, has a focused goal and states concise performance objectives.

Finally, the format of a plan can vary according to what is required of the teacher candidate. As a professor, I permit teacher candidates to use a lesson plan template they are comfortable with.

Question: What formatting do you prefer in a lesson plan template?