Typhani Harris | January 2014

Cutting the Cord: Transitioning to Common Core

What do you still not understand about the Common Core, was a question I posed to my teacher friends while we were out over the holidays.  Lindsey, an English teacher, responded with how do I cut the cordhow do I set them up and set them free, and that got me thinking about our role as teachers.  How do we move from the instructor/teacher role to the facilitator/mentor role that is needed in the Common Core?

So, I immediately began researching teaching the common core.  Fortunately, and possibly unfortunately, everything explains what needs to be taught and what will be tested and why our entire view of education must be changed…but no one discusses how to actually do this.  According to Bridges (2009)

[i], the change is easy, it’s the transition that’s hard.  Ok, so how do we proceed through that transition?

Baby Steps. 

My dissertation mentor once asked, how do you eat an elephant…one bite at a time.  This is not going to happen overnight, and in our instant gratification culture, we want results and we want them now.  But that doesn’t exist.  So we must accept that this will take time.  Since accountability does not start until the 2014-2015 school year, institutions, teachers, and students must use this year as a learning year.  Allow teachers and students to make mistakes, take risks, see what works and doesn’t work, and begin the transition.  If we use this year to set them up, than next year we can set them free.

www.teachingthecore.com suggested beginning with 2 of the 7 character strengths, grit and self-control.  Grit, being the grind and perseverance it takes to accomplish something and self control, being the binding factor in achieving the grit.  How do we get our students to do this? These are characteristics we don’t normally develop until well into our collegiate majors, because let’s face it, the first 2 years of college are general ed, and no one pays that much attention.  It’s not until our junior year when we realize oh this is my future and we start maintaining self-control and procuring our grit.  But we need to teach our students to do that sooner … so how?

Ownership in knowledge and responsibility in learning will translate into the self-control and grit needed to be successful in the future of education.  However, these are skills and characteristics that must be taught,  fostered, and encouraged throughout a student’s educational experience.

Set Them Up

As we move towards a more student-centered approach, it is important to utilize strategies that allow students to take ownership of their learning and provide opportunities for thorough metacognition.   Research has concluded the need for “chunking” so that students are not inundated with information provided by the teacher.  Chunking allows students receive small quantities of information and adequate time to grapple with that information; whether it is on their own, with their notes, or with a partner.  One useful strategy is 10-2-2[ii].  This method promotes 10 minutes of “teacher-talk”, then 2 minutes to reflect, and 2 minutes to share.  The 2-2 section can be modified for the needs of the students, for example; 2 minutes to talk to a peer and 2 minutes to revise notes; or 2 minutes to create a summary and 2 minutes to share with a peer.  There are a multitude of activities that can be completed through the 2-2 process, but the primary underlying concept is that students only listen for 10 minutes and then have a total of at least 4 minutes to take ownership of what they have heard.  Getting into the habit of allowing our students to take responsibility for their day-to-day learning will set them up, so that we can set them free.

Set Them Free

The 10-2-2 design is just one of many ways to become the facilitator of student education.  Giving the students ample time to practice interacting with their knowledge, notes, and peers will prepare them to interact with the various genres of text and stimuli they will encounter with Common Core.   It is this preparation that will ultimately create proficiency in Common Core assessments.  Additionally, we must offer students multiple opportunities to practice these skills.  Whether through analyzing text, synthesizing information, or applying knowledge to real life situations, students need to be eased into the process slowly.  Begin with modeling the process, then completing the process as a class, then in smaller groups, then as individuals…then cut the cord.

I could state the obvious, we need training, professional development, funding and TIME!!! But let’s be honest, we are in public education…and those are not the perks.  So we need to think of this as a new adventure.  A new way to bring the 21st century to our students.  We are in the age of twitter, instagram, and a multitude of information at our fingertips….now we need to teach our children how to use that information.  We no longer need to memorize, we can GTS anything (Google That Stuff), so we need to teach our children how to decipher credible information, how to synthesize information from the multitude of sources they seek,  how to apply that information to real life situations, and ultimately, how to do this on their own!

-Piquès & Pirouettès

Next Week, Teaching Strategies:

4-read strategy: a tangible way to teach annotating and analyzing informational text.

Support the Common Core reading objectives with this quick and easy strategy for reading informational text; and still have time for preparing performances and perfecting technique!

[i] Bridges, W. (2009). Managing Transitions: Making the most of change.

[ii] 10-2-2 is a commonly used AVID strategy and has been promoted by many educational institutions such as the Santa Cruz Office of Education.

About the Author

Dr. Typhani Harris, author of Putting the Performance in Performance Task and Stop Teaching, brings over 2 decades of educational experience to The Institute. Originally a high school English Language Arts teacher, Dr. Harris transitioned into a dance educator who cultivated an award-winning collegiate style dance education program at a public school in California. Prior to joining the Institute, she was an educational leader and instructional coach specializing in preparing new teachers in secondary urban schools.  As the Executive Director of Academic Affairs, Dr. Harris maintains courses, conferences, and the accredited certification program at The Institute.