Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Understanding specific Common Core Standards

As I was teaching this morning (online) I found that many teachers, parents and students might be confused by common core standards such as the World History standards below.

History/Social Studies CCR 2: Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.
ELD Standards Grade 9-10 Part I A. Collaborative 1. Exchanging information and ideas with others through oral collaborative discussions on a range of social and academic topic.
CSS History 10.1 Students relate the moral and ethical principals in ancient Greek and Roman philosophy, in Judaism, and in Christianity to the development of the Western political thought.

These standards are misleading in that the time frame in which they should be taught is ambiguous. These standards are good; however, the public reading them might interpret them as generalities that are too broad in subject matter and too vague about the time frame in which cover the skills and content should be taught.

All of these standards appear so broad with so many subtopics that the lesson ideas could be quite convoluted. For example, the last standard doesn't refer to covering all that material in one lesson, or even several. The question is how much time should students work on the standard. Teachers are now summoned to plan the scope and sequence of the curriculum with grade levels determined by the complexity of the standard, which used to be specifically drawn out in charts and chapter in textbooks.

So, how do high school teachers plan lessons? The get together by grade level and decide what they are going to teach according to the general standard for literacy corresponding to the subject taught and the subject itself. The best way to understand this is to see a sample lessons in a unit that addresses the Common Core.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Power of the ING Verb--Common Core Gold

The ING verb is mighty powerful. From the words creating to debating, these suffix-dependent words spell another word--MARKETING. Rarely does a suffix make its face known in the marketing community so often as the ING verb.

As I develop the idea for my newest book, I take note at how effective ING verbs are as the first word in each listing of a table of contents in how-to books. Look for yourself. Every how-to book publisher uses these suffixes in their books' table of contents.

While this might not seem significant to most people, It should and does to educators. Why are ING verbs so effective and why should their use be taught to students of all grade levels as a real life application to marketing? Simply because it's the perfect put-the-reader-in-the-picture verb. Reading an ING verb in a table of contents or chapter beginning drops you right into the how-to scenario.

Consider the ubiquitous ING verb creating as in Creating a Diagram. The forceful nature of the suffix take you right into the process as if you were in the middle of it. Now this might sound trite, it isn't because ING words are worth billions, both in their effectiveness to sell just about anything to their marketing real-life applications that teachers should use a springboard for teaching them.

Take a look at any for Dummies book's TOC (Table of Contents) and you can see the ING verbs in action, doing their marketing magic. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Professor Matthew Bamberg's Writing Process Quick Guide

To be honest, writing wasn't always easy for me, but I have developed a few techniques that help. When I write a sentence, I think about it in terms of a set of phrases that are put together so that they include a subject and verb. Of course in complex and compound sentences there are often more than one subject and/or one verb.

I also write using the traditional steps--brainstorm, outline (for longer pieces), rough draft written using as the outline as a guide, revision, editing to produce a final draft.
1. The first is to go over that webpage I have written ( about the three errors. I grade a lot of papers, and most students make the same errors.
2. I proofread twice, once when I'm finished with a sentence and once when I'm finished the draft. This usually catches most errors. If the work is for an editor or other professional purposes, I sit on it overnight and edit it once more the next day. 
3. For spelling and some grammar, I use the spell check. On most computers there is a built in spell check that enables you to select the word you want to spell correctly and control click on a Mac. It's probably left-click on a PC.  If I can't find the word in the spell check, I type in the word spelled as best as I can into Google to find out the correct spelling. With some words I have to go through several sample spellings in order for Google to find the word I want.
4. For grammar, I use the Purdue Owl writing website. When I can't figure out whether to use a capital letter or a comma/semicolon/colon, I type the problem I am having into Google along with the words Purdue Owl (or just Purdue). The answer I'm looking for is usually one of the first three entries of the result that Google comes up with, showing the Purdue OWL webpage I need to look at. Purdue also has a quick reference page for commas. You can get there by typing in Purdue comma quick rules.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Three Common Grammar Errors

Since common core requires testing written work, I'll go over the three most common errors in grammar, mechanics or style that I have found in students' essays:

1.  One of the most common errors I note in students' composition papers is that students confuse a plural (which refers to more than one) with a possessive (which means ownership).
For example: consider the errors in this sentence: The course's that I have taken at Ashford have been challenging, yet rewarding. Note that the word courses indicates more than one class so you don't need the apostrophe. The sentence should be: The courses I have taken at Ashford have been challenging, yet rewarding.

Now if you wanted to write about a characteristic of a class (something the course takes ownership of), you could write a sentence like this: The course's textbooks are brilliantly written. Course's here can be rewritten as textbook of the course. If this sentence were written with the apostrophe after the s in the word courses the word would become courses', which means you are talking about possession dealing with more than one class. For example, to indicate the meaning of the word courses' you can write textbooks of the courses (more than one course).

Now the distinction between plurals using courses as an example and then using course's as another example makes more sense.

Again, a plural means more than one and doesn't need an apostrophe either before or after the s, and a possessive means ownership, which is indicated in two ways, a required apostrophe either before or after the s (course's textbooks means one course, and courses' textbook means more than one course).

2. The second error I frequently encounter when I read students' essays deals with capitalization. This one is straight-forward. You capitalize the names of people, places and/or things (proper nouns). For example: The students graduated from high school two years early because they were considered gifted by their teachers. Here the words high school are not capitalized because it is not the name of a specific high school. Now take a look at this sentence: The students graduated from Coral Gables High School two years early because they were considered gifted by their teachers. Note that the first letter in every word of  the name of the institution is capitalized.

Here are some other examples of nouns vs. proper nouns

city and state/Coral Gables, Florida
elementary school/Sunset Elementary School
name of building/Empire State Building
street/Butternut Street
president/ President Barack Obama
lake/Lake Okeechobee or The Big O (casually speaking)

3. The third error I want to write about deals with punctuation, specifically the comma, the bane of the beginning writer. Here you need to know about dependent and independent clauses. A dependent clause is a phrase. If it's written by itself as a sentence,  it's an error called a fragment. An example of a fragment would be: When the television went on the blink. An independent clause is a complete idea with subject and verb: When the television went on the blink, I brought it to the repair shop near my house.
Commas are often missed being placed before an introductory clause: Even though my mother is older, she remains beautiful.
Extra commas are often added to dependent clauses placed after the dependent clause: My mother is pretty, even though she is older. This is incorrect. It should be: My mother is pretty even though she is older.

Finally, there is the comma splice error. This is simply using a comma between two independent clauses that are not joined with a conjunction: The girls and boys in the Mrs. Gorden's class came into the classroom unprepared for the day's activities, a few of the math activities were expected to be challenging not only for the students to learn, but also for the teachers to teach.
The first comma should be changed to a period and the first letter of the next word needs a capital because these are two independent clauses (complete sentences) connected with a comma.
The sentence should be: The girls and boys in the Mrs. Gorden's came into the classroom unprepared for the day's activities. A few of the math activities were expected to be challenging not only for the students to learn, but also for the teachers to teach.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Book Review Recipes

Here's the case where the comment for a link is better than the link itself, which was a blog post for the Common Core standards.

Note the cleverness of this comment, added to a blog post by a teacher:

These sound like fun activities that kids can connect to their daily lives. I love teaching writing, and my students also have enjoyed writing book review "recipes" as an adjective/parts of speech writing exercise. Take "George's Marvelous Medicine" for example:

2 c. Magic
1 c. Wicked
1/2 c. Humor
2 tbs. Suspense
1 tbs. Revenge
1 tsp. Greediness
Directions: Pour the magic, wicked, & humor into a large bowl and mix well! Slowly sprinkle in the tablespoons of suspense, revenge, and greediness one at a time. Stir them all together for one delicious story!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Ten Vowel Sound Lesson Plan Links for First Grade

Nowhere can you see Common Core in actions than in a basic vowel lesson. The Core doesn't have first grade teachers teaching long vowels and short vowels as isolated subjects, but instead addresses them together:

English Language Arts Standards>Reading>Foundational Skills>Grade 1>Phonological Awareness

                        Distinguish long from short vowel sounds in spoken single-syllable words.

 Here are some lessons that involve this standard with the topic of this standard covered:

1. short a 
2. short vowels
3. long vowels
4. short vowels
5. short vowels
6. short vowels
7. long or short vowels
8. long a
9. long and short vowels
10. long and short vowels

The first eight are lesson plans. The last two are multimedia practice

Friday, June 21, 2013

Common Core--Shared Responsibility of Every Teacher

Common Core emphasizes that literacy is the shared responsibility of every teacher.

In this video teacher Sarah Wessling shares her thoughts about thinking aloud when teaching and the difference between teaching English and teaching literacy as per the Common Core.

When a teacher thinks aloud, he/she describes the strategies for answering a question or for solveing a problem out loud. From grade to grade, school to school and state to state teaching students how to think, or metacognition is universal.

A good example of a teacher thinking aloud is when a he/she models pre-reading. SQ3R (Survey, Question, Read, Recite and Review) is one guide teachers can use for modeling. Here's how a teacher may talk to the students, sharing what's going on in his/her head:

Now I'm going to read the first chapter in my social studies book: The American Revolution.

First, I'm going to look at the headings, subheadings, words in bold print, captions, charts and graphs.

After I'm finished, I want to look at the headings and subheading, making questions that I can answer when I'm reading. 

Now I'm going to read...

After each subheading I want to recall  what I've read so I'll recite some of it silently (or out loud if no one is around).

Finally, my last step! I'm going to look at the headings and subheadings to see if I can answer the questions I made from them. If I can't I'll skim the section again to find the answers.

The Video, Think Alouds Unpacking the Standards

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Assessment--Take the Common Core Test

Assessments for the Common Core don't begin until the 2014-15 school year, which is about a year away. It seems like a long time away, but remember many school districts will be implementing Common Core this coming school year.

Palm Springs (California) Unified School District begins implementing Common Core fully in grades K-2 and partially through grade 5 at the elementary level, though no testing on the standards occurs until the next school year.

What do the assessments look like? Not anything like a standardized test has looked before. For one, tests are computerized, meaning no paper or number 2 pencils. The prompts at the third grade level in Language Arts might be research related, that is they have students read articles (referred to as sources), comparing and contrasting what they've researched.

The tests also not only require the filling in of bubbles with a mouse click to answer questions , but also typing in short answers into an input box.  Novel indeed.  Finally, you can expect students to explain their answers and/or give examples, both difficult challenges for any student no matter what grade they are in.

The link to the sample test is at Expect to "thumb" through many webpages to get to the beginning of the test. Don't get discouraged by the third click and change of webpage because you're nearing the beginning of the test. Keep clicking when prompted.

The test is a bit tricky in terms of moving from window to window because the Next option is at the top right of the screen, not at the bottom after the last question as you might expect.

Go ahead and take the practice test. When you're "thumbing" through the webpages, one of the prompts asks you for a grade level. Type in the grade level you teach, want to teach, and/or is the one that your child is attending, then click to the beginning of the test to get started.

Friday, June 14, 2013

New York Times Article Reveals Common Core's Short History

The New York Times reports that all was relatively quiet as the Common Core standards took effect. That's in contrast to the noisy headlines of Hillary Clinton's Bengazi debacle, which has been in and out of the public's eye for the past year. Why hasn't the public been informed of one of the biggest changes in education in our nation's history?

Some of the thinking about the standards reveals that they are a leftest indoctrination; other thinking is that it will add to the continued separation of political will among the electorate and Congress.

Whatever is thought, the fact is the testing is the key to Common Core and that's how educators and others will judge its effects. The most important point about the tests is that they're the greatest challenge students have had in filling in bubbles on a computerized form ever (there are also short essays required of students taking the test). The test is hard, really hard.

Finally, other than the tests, there is little physical evidence in the classroom that the curriculum has changed--books are the same, students are the same, as are teachers and administrators. Perhaps, the only change that can be detected is on the Internet which now has a national clearing house of tasks students should be able to perform in order to grab that good job or snatch a place in a good college.