TEACHER GUIDES + COMMON CORE = COMMON GROUND
GUIDED BY MARCIE COLLEEN
I have been wanting to address a subject that has been giving numerous writers, and parents, some trouble. I think it is in the understanding of the topic really. COMMON CORE has come to your local schools. While a lot of heated debates have happened, I have sat down and began to study it. Really dig deep, and try to understand it. While it can be overwhelming, I think it can be a good thing.
I asked one of my colleagues, Marcie Colleen, if she would answer a few questions about Common Core. I wanted to pass it along to my readers so they can benefit too. Marcie is so generous as you will see below. So, take a deep breath and lets look, really look, at Common Core and find out how it can be beneficial.
PLUS, for my writing friends, how adding a Teacher Guide (a/k/a Lesson Plan) can help your book become Common Core friendly, and hopefully get your book into more children’s hands.
I’m wanting to give my readers more information on the Common Core. It can be confusing when you first begin to look into it. How would you explain it to someone who has no knowledge?
I’d actually beg to differ. It’s not the Common Core that is confusing, it’s the emotionally charged opinions that are plaguing our media that are hard to decipher. When so many people are speaking out about their feelings, it can be difficult to make sense of it for ourselves.
Therefore, here are 3 helpful resources to help YOU make sense of the CCSS for YOU!
- School Library Journal 6-part webcast series about the Common Core. This series is FREE and very helpful, especially Part One: Getting Real with Marc Aronson and Sue Bartle. Although they are geared toward professionals in the education world, they will give you a good overview on what the CCSS entail and how educators are “unpacking” the standards for themselves. You can find the entire series here. http://www.slj.com/webcasts/commoncore/#_
- Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating Achievement by Lucy Calkins, Mary Ehrenworth and Christopher Lehman. This is a great book that really makes sense of the CCSS for its readers. It’s not the easiest read, but if you truly want to understand the standards, this can be a wonderful resource. http://www.amazon.com/Pathways-Common-Core-Accelerating-Achievement/dp/0325043558/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1383685429&sr=1-5&keywords=common+core
- The Common Core State Standards. It’s always best to go right to the source. These standards are not rocket science, but they can be overwhelming. Look at the tables which include each standard by grade level. Limit your focus by standard and grade level so that it is easiest to digest. They can be found, in detail, at http://www.corestandards.org/
Unfortunately, there are really no shortcuts. If you want to be a part of the conversation, these resources will help you.
To better understand, let’s look closely at a few of the standards.
Excerpt from Grade 3 Reading: Literature Standards
Key Ideas and Details
1. Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.
2. Recount stories, including fables, folktales, and myths from diverse cultures; determine the central message, lesson, or moral and explain how it is conveyed through key details in the text.
3. Describe characters in a story (e.g., their traits, motivations, or feelings) and explain how their actions contribute to the sequence of events.
Craft and Structure
4. Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, distinguishing literal from nonliteral language.
5. Refer to parts of stories, dramas, and poems when writing or speaking about a text, using terms such as chapter, scene, and stanza; describe how each successive part builds on earlier sections.
6. Distinguish their own point of view from that of the narrator or those of the characters.
7. Explain how specific aspects of a text’s illustrations contribute to what is conveyed by the words in a story (e.g., create mood, emphasize aspects of a character or setting).
In isolation it becomes clearer that:
- The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are a set of benchmarks which focus on the development of essential skills at the most appropriate age and development stage for students.
- They are skill-based, not test-driven, and in theory will prepare students better for life post-school.
- They also allow teachers to be unique in their approaches to instruction, not dictating what is to be taught or how. The focus is on results, not means.
- They are not rocket science or really that confusing.
- Every book can be Common Core compliant.
I wanted to ask you also to explain why is good to offer Teacher Guides.
A Teacher’s Guide is
- A tool for teachers to use to gain immediate access into your book and adapt it quickly and easily for classroom use.
- Aligns your book to the current curriculum and curriculum standards (state standards, as well as the Common Core)
- A marketing tool which promotes you within the educational environment and helps you garner more school and library visits.
But to answer your question, I want to tell a story. I was recently hired by Adriana Brad Schanen to create a Teacher’s Guide for her debut middle grade novel Quinny & Hopper (Disney Hyperion, 2014). Fast forward to Adriana’s first school visit to a bunch of 4th grade classes. In addition to presenting to the classes, Adriana gave each teacher a copy of the Teacher’s Guide. By the end of the day, the teachers were raving about how comprehensive the guide was. They loved how many options and avenues into the book it provided. In fact, the teachers decided that perhaps next year they would forgo the usual Superfudge unit and instead teach Quinny & Hopper!!!
Teachers are busy. They are overworked. They are spread thin. The easier you can make it for them to use your book in the classroom the better your chances. Of course they have been teaching Superfudge. There are a zillion lesson plans and activities for free on the web on how to bring Superfudge into the classroom. A Teacher’s Guide can help you “compete”.
When should you think about teacher guides?
Truthfully? Once your book is finished. Just like I wouldn’t want a teacher to “teach to the test”, a writer shouldn’t write to a Teacher’s Guide. Once your book is finished you can start to think about its life outside.
Six months prior to the date of publication is usually sufficient start the process of creating a Teacher’s Guide.
What if your story is fiction, can you still incorporate teacher’s guides?
Absolutely! In fact, out of the 33 Teacher’s Guides I have created for clients, only 3 of them have been for non-fiction titles. To check them out, all of my guides are available for free download on my website at http://www.thisismarciecolleen.com.
You’d be surprised what academic goodies can be pulled out of a fiction story. After all, isn’t The Very Hungry Caterpillar a great springboard for learning about food choices, the life cycle of a butterfly and metamorphosis?
Thank you so much, Marcie. You really have gone above and beyond.
Education Consultant, Marcie Colleen, is a former classroom teacher and curriculum creator turned Picture Book writer. Her Teacher’s Guides, which align picture books and middle grade novels with the Common Core and other state mandated standards, have been praised by both teachers and librarians. Her Teacher’s Guide for Picture Book Month, Why Picture Books Belong in Our Classrooms, validates the use of picture books across EVERY curriculum and provides teachers with a hands on approach to adapt any picture book for educational use. Her work with Picture Book Month has been recognized by School Library Journal and the Children’s Book Council. Marcie is also an Education Strategist, providing one-on-one consultation guiding authors and illustrators to best position their books for school visits and classroom use. Visit her at www.thisismarciecolleen.com to discover how Marcie can help you navigate the world of children’s literature and education.
I hope that give you all some stepping stones to begin the journey of understanding Common Core and how books, with Teacher Guides, can play a vital role in children’s education.
Happy writing/reading everyone!
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