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A Good Reading Lesson Doesn't 'Put Standards Before Students'

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    Alexis Margolin

In this edition of Classroom Q & A with Larry Ferlazzo, Cheryl Dobbertin, Program Director of EL's Teacher Potential Project, responds to the question "What are good examples of reading lessons aligned to Common Core standards?"

The educational marketplace is flooded with resources claiming to be "Common Core-aligned." The best defense against a jazzy gold sticker shouting "Common Core edition" is to ensure that you understand the principles that should underlie any given lesson's alignment to the Common Core. The website "Achieve The Core" provides helpful guidance in its Instructional Practice Guides. These guides recommend that Common Core-aligned reading lessons be grounded in high quality text, that they feature text-specific oral and written questions and tasks, and that they are scaffolded so that all students can engage in the work. 

Digging more deeply into the Standards and the instructional shifts that accompany the Common Core helps further clarify that good reading lessons are:

  • Embedded in a context that provides a purpose for reading deeply and writing carefully.
  • Focused on the goal of helping developing readers tackle worthy texts that provide lots of opportunities for new word learning and knowledge building.
  • Specifically designed to address a certain text or set of texts and a focused set of standards. Good lessons don't try to teach everything at once.
  • Structured in a way that gives learners the opportunity to "productively struggle" with a challenging text on their own or in collaboration with peers without too much teacher modeling upfront.

And good reading lessons are not:

  • Test prep or decontextualized. Provide your readers with lessons worth learning.
  • Focused so much on the process of reading closely (for example, annotating the text) that the meaning of any given text is lost. The goal is comprehension, not marking the page.
  • The best lessons will be written specifically about any given complex text.
  • Formulaic, but designed so that teachers are making decisions, minute-by-minute, about what their readers need and are using a variety of activities to engage their different learners. One of the best compliments I have ever received is, "Your lessons are different every day!" Right.

Keep those criteria in mind as you search for materials and lessons that help you align your teaching to the Common Core. Whether you are designing your own lessons or selecting and using or adapting lessons from sources, you might want to evaluate them using the EQUiP Rubric from Achieve, which can be used to determine the alignment of lessons and units to the Common Core. The EQUiP rubric was applied to the free ELA curriculum available online on EngageNY, developed by Expeditionary Learning (grades 3-8), Core Knowledge (grades K-2), and PCG (grades 9-12). These materials were found to be exemplary models of alignment. Other quality Common Core-aligned lessons are available at Achieve The Core, ASCD's "Educore" microsite, and the Common Core videos available on the Teaching Channel

Read the full article and all responses here.