Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Current State of Common Core Standards in California 2016

Below is some information about the current state standards adoptions for all subjects with regard to CCSS. CCSS has now been developed for history/social science in California as of this date.

Beginning teachers often confuse ELA (English/Language Arts) literacy standards for history/social studies and science with California State Content Standards for history/social science and science.

The state of the standards and some useful links are provided below:

California State CCSS and Content Area Subject Standards (note that these are only content standards) are at http://www.cde.ca.gov/be/st/ss/

Two sets of Common Core standards exist for History-Social Studies
1.  ELA Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects is at http://www.cde.ca.gov/be/st/ss/documents/finalelaccssstandards.pdf).  
2.  California Social Studies Content Standards at http://www.cde.ca.gov/be/st/ss/documents/histsocscistnd.pdf

Two sets of Common Core standards exist for Science
1. ELA Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects is at http://www.cde.ca.gov/be/st/ss/documents/finalelaccssstandards.pdf).
2. Next Generation Science Standards for California Public Schools, Kindergarten through Grade Twelve (CA NGSS) at http://www.cde.ca.gov/pd/ca/sc/ngssstandards.asp

Common Core History/Social Science content standards have not yet been adopted.They're being reviewed. The 1998 standards are still relevant again at http://www.cde.ca.gov/be/st/ss/documents/histsocscistnd.pdf

ELD (English Language Development) standards are at http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/el/er/documents/eldstndspublication14.pdf

For more info about NGSS in California, see http://www.cde.ca.gov/pd/ca/sc/ngssintrod.asp

Finally, one other element, Common Core, is worth mentioning, which emphasizes that instruction based on authentic, real-life topics. CCSS developed the Standards drawing upon input from educators and educator groups, higher education stakeholders, content experts, parents and the public" (Thatcher, 2012). For this reason, the state officials who initiated the standards had relevant real-life input about what their worker's skill-sets are and how students can successfully  complete tasks related to them.

Thatcher, D. (2012). Common Core Standards: frequently asked questions for state legislators. National Conference of State Legislators. Retrieved from
https://sites.google.com/site/ncslccssupdate/home/resources-and-comments/NCSL - CCSS FAQ (June 2013).pdf?attredirects=0&d=1

Monday, January 25, 2016

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.

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.
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?

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Blogging Basics for Educators

Blogging Basics Presentation for Educators

Last year, I gave a presentation about blogging. Integrating blogging into a lesson covers many standards at all grade levels. No matter what the topic is of a blog post, it will cover quite a few standards related to writing. The more the teacher is involved in the blog, the more standards that will be covered. If a teacher provides frequent feedback on the blog, permitting students to rewrite posts, most of the writing process steps are covered (brainstorming, outlining, rough draft, revision and editing. Since blogging is a published product, the last step of the writing process is included in a way like no other, as the post, if it is made public, has the potential to be viewed by thousands of people.

This presentation presents a rational for National University faculty and students in education and other fields to incorporate blogging as a communicative learning strategy applied to teaching in a wide variety of courses. Data illustrating the positive effects for faculty and students that blogging has upon applying course content to real life, building professional social networks, and improving writing fluency is directly applied to the culture and values of National University (STARS--Scholarship, Teamwork, Active Reflection, Responsible Citizenship and Standards of Exemplary Practice).

The set of objectives/learning outcomes include addressing a specific audience with a blog tailored for the needs associated with their interaction with the university.

Assess the blogging platform, topics and posts of a number of university blogs currently published online. Brainstorm and prioritize blog post topics, creating one topic for an audience of students, one for their faculty peers and one for the educational community in their field. Analyze and discuss how writing compelling, interactive blog content can encourage future, current and former students to learn and share more about their discipline of study and to keep in touch with the community at large.

Blogging uses a combination of technical and writing skills, skills that are necessary for many students entering the workforce. Blogs, or Web logs, have been around for almost a decade. The methods for determining their effectiveness took place over an eight-year period during which time a number of informational blogs were initiated. The research culminated with the collection of data from a sample blog directly related to the field of education during a year-long period in 2012-2013. The process consisted of: Creating a URL for blog. Choose a blogging platform (Blogger, Wordpress). Choose objectives for content (Common Core Standards). Select blog design (template, layout or HTML). Brainstorm Topics. Write posts (SEO). Publicize blog (pings, social networking websites, links, bookmarking sites, syndication). Track page views/hits. Blog posts need to be submitted consistently—daily, weekly, monthly.

Statistics are recorded for a blog once it’s established from a variety of sources, the largest of which is alexa.com. The commoncorestandardslinks.com received up to 200 page views a day just a week after it was published online. Statistics can include the number of page views, traffic sources (referring websites), locations bounce rates, time spent on blog, rank (alexa/Google page rank) and sites linking in.

Two approaches for blogging exist: those directly associated with the university platforms/servers and those created using widely-used blog services (Blogger, WordPress).

Walden University Career Services Blog

Walden University Writing Center Blog 

Blogging is not a stand-alone technology platform. It’s easily integrated into websites ranging from linkedin to instagram. In a matter of seconds, a blog link and/or image can be published on a number of platforms and vice versa (Twitter feeds published on blogs).

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Don't Like Common Core? Think Twice about an Alternative--Gulen Charter Schools

This is very strange. Three news stories bridge to the Gulen Movement, a large enterprise whose top staff was arrested in Turkey. http://mashable.com/…/journalists-and-tv-producers-detaine…/

Evidently this movement is alive and well in the U.S. Among its many assets are charter schools.

Check this out: http://www.theatlantic.com/…/120-american-charter-s…/375923/

Finally, you might want to know that a charter school near you (http://charterschoolscandals.blogspot.com/…/lab…/*California) is a Gulen school--a strict, academic math/science curriculum. Is there a twist?

More about Gulen Schools and Common Core

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Library of Congress Search Common Core Lesson Plan Search Engine for English/Language Arts

Many teachers are concerned about finding lesson plans that meet the Common Core standards, not to mention materials and resources that they can use to teach them.

The Library of Congress Teachers website offers both. The website contains an simple drop-down search menu that allows teachers to pull up lesson plans with corresponding resources in the Library of Congress' collection.

Explore this copious online platform for instant lessons and materials that meet specific Common Core objectives. The search enables teachers to search for a lesson by grade level that links to  both student and teacher resources for the lesson. The teacher's resources include activities and step-by-step lesson plan tabs. The student resources contains links to readings and tasks that contain image galleries and multimedia.

A good example of a lesson for fourth grade is "The Civil War though a Child's Eyes," an enormous learning experience for students to see the Civil War as if they were a child in that era.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Fourth Grade Close Reading Lesson Plan

Title: Close Reading of Informational Text


RI4.1 Refer to details and examples in a text when explicitly explaining text and when drawing inferences
RI4.2: Determine the main idea from text and explain how it's supported by key details; summarize text
RI4.4: Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words or phrases in the text
RI4.5: Deseribe the overall structure of information in a text (chronological, compare/contrast, cause/effect, problem/solution)

Learning Target

Students will determine the theme or main idea of the text by summarizing gist of article as demonstrated by participation in a close reading activity.


Materials: Paper, pencils, post-it notes for students, poster paper, markers for teacher, ELMO

Engagement Strategies

Students will read informational article
Students will annotate article
Students will pair share with left/right partners


1. Teacher shares that class will be completing a close reading selection in order to help them understand what they are reading and be able to ask questions about it (setting the purpose). He will also introduce the title (and author) of reading selection. Tiger Tale  or http://www.palmspringslife.com/Palm-Springs-Life/March-2013/Building-a-Future-Preserving-a-Past/

2. Teacher refers to learning target above.
3. Teacher instructs students to read article to get familiar with it.
4. Teacher allows five minutes for students to red the article. Teacher observes students by circulating around the room.
5. Teacher explains the pair/share grouping with their A/B partners to discuss the main idea of the article with four details. Check for understanding by questioning.
6. Teacher initiates discussion to get students motivated to talk about reading selection. Students follow, speaking when called upon using fairness cards.
7. Teacher announces that student will read the selection one more time, but in a different way, so they can remember the important points of the reading. Teacher instructs and models to students how to annotate by thinking aloud when writing on the selection under the Elmo, demonstrating a few annotations (one key detail, one confusing word and one question) he would make.
8. Students read the selection once more but this time with a pencil, annotating (making notes) on their article by writing on it. These annotations are required to include one key detail, one confusing word and one question about the reading selection. The teacher will repeat the directions and ask questions to check for understanding, then students will read for 6 min.
9. After allotted time, teacher instructs students to pair-share with their table partners what they wrote down.
10. Teacher instructs in learning strategies context/dictionary/oral for defining unknown words.
11. Teacher uses fairness cards to ask students to share their key details, confusing words or phrases and unanswered questions with the class. Teacher writes down a few examples of each while students share their findings.
12. Teachers defines author's purpose and reading selection organization (chronological, compare/contrast, cause/effect, problem solution)
13. Teacher instructs students to do a third reading in which students search for the author's purpose and determine text structure.
14. Teacher allots five minutes for students for students to "dig deeper" by finding the reading selection's purpose and organization. Teacher circulates around room for informal observation.
15. Teacher instructs students to pair-share with left/right partner or table what the author's purpose and text structure is for the article.
16. Teacher uses fairness cards to ask students to share what their partner/group has discussed and writes down each students response to come up with a general statement about purpose and organization.
17. Teacher reviews how to make text-to-self and text-to-world connections by thinking aloud to model each connection from article.
18. Students are directed to read article one more time to make text to self and text to world connections.
19. Teacher instructs students to pair-share with their right/left partners their connections.
20. Teacher uses fairness sticks to have students share their connections with class. Teacher writes connections on white board.


Teacher asks class to hold up fingers to rate their opinions of the article, using a rubric scale of 1-4, with four being very good.


Repeat lesson with new article, allowing for more guided and independent practice. Mini lessons on context clues, text structure, main idea and details.