Common Core Matters

March/April 2013

New Literacies and the Common Core

William Kist, a Kent State University professor, provides the following four strategies for using film to reinforce the ELA Common Core standards. The strategies involve giving students practice in:

* Reading screen-based texts

* Digital writing

* Collaborate writing

* Working with informational texts

The article is in this month's issue of Educational Leadership.

Smithsonian Quests

A new online program from the Smithsonian called Smithsonian Quests gives K-12 students the opportunity to earn digital badges just by learning more about topics that already interest them. There are six reasons to incorporate Smithsonian Quests into your classroom:

1. Explore the world outside the classroom (interactive sessions with experts)

2. Do real-world work. Students act as scientists, historians, artists, and curators to create projects that can benefit their own communities.

3. Make connections across the curriculum. Quests span a variety of subjects, from American art to zoo animals, from the depths of the sea to outer space, from current issues to future solutions.

4. Build 21st century skills

5. Foster self-directed learning.

6. Know the environment is kid-safe.

Read an article about Smithsonian Quests here and/or watch the short video:

Book Trailers and the Common Core Standards

A book trailer is a video advertisement for a book that uses text, images, music, movie clips, and/or voice recordings to promote and encourage reading. You can find MANY book trailers on YouTube today created by students. Here is a PDF that shows how to make a book trailer. Check out the infographic below to see how many real-world skills and standards are met with this one digital media project:

What's Going On in This Picture?

This is a great weekly activity from the NY Times, utilizing visual literacy and critical thinking! Every Monday morning, an interesting photograph is posted with no caption, no headline and no helpful link back to an article. To answer the question “What’s going on in this picture?” you’ll have to rely solely on the information you can gather from the image itself — and answer the following three questions:

  • What’s going on in this picture?
  • What do you see that makes you say that?
  • What more can you find?

Students can discuss their ideas collaboratively, write responses, or even comment on the NY Times website. Full information about the image is posted 24 hours later. This activity requires students to "dig" for evidence, which is very Common Core!

Lesson Plan:

This week's activity:

Reading Nonfiction Texts Lessons

The NCTE has provided a kit, or list of lesson plans, for middle school teachers offering strategies for helping students read and interpret nonfiction texts. Because nonfiction texts are read differently than fiction, students need different skills for decoding and interpreting nonfiction works.

How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous

It's not easy finding nonfiction books that make good read-alouds, but this one, How They Croaked, is outstanding! It ties in nicely with both science and social studies. Middle school students will be fascinated by this collection of historical biographies, especially since there is a warning on the first page saying "If you don't have the guts for gore, do not read this book!" This book specifically looks at the lives (briefly) and unpleasant "ends" of some of the world's most famous people. For example, here are a few surprising things revealed in the book: The first known autopsy was performed on Julius Caesar. Having 23 stab wounds, the cause of death should be obvious, but it turns out that only ONE of the wounds was actually fatal. Albert Einstein's brain was stolen from his body before it was cremated. George Washington came down with what modern doctor's think was a throat infection that today could be cured by antibiotics. Bragg's style of writing is humorous yet informative, and the sidebars provide extra tidbits of information. You and your students will enjoy reading it! Our media center has three copies! It's also a S.C. Book Award nominee for next year!

Guess My Lexile

What do Jeff Kinney's popular Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Ray Bradbury's classic Fahrenheit 451 have in common? Answer: They sit within the same Lexile text complexity band!

According to Donalyn Miller, a 6th grade language arts teacher and book author, "Overreliance on reading level systems hinders children from learning how to self-select books. Bookstores, libraries, and Grandma's bookshelf aren't leveled. Beyond students' and books' reading levels, we must consider content and interests when selecting materials and recommending books for independent reading... Looking at a child's face or a book's cover, I see possibility, not a number. We can't shortcut or disregard knowing books, knowing readers, and building connections between them. Do we teach children how to preview and evaluate books for themselves or teach them that reading and book selection belong to school and we can't trust them with it?" Hmmm... something to think about!

Happy Easter and have a wonderful Spring Break!