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<p>Common Core English Language Arts in a PLC at Work<sup>TM</sup> Grades 6-8</p>

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Explore strategies for integrating the Common Core State Standards for English language arts for grades 6–8 in this resource, which focuses on areas of instruction, curriculum, assessment, and intervention. You’ll also learn how to implement the CCSS within the powerful PLC at Work™ process. Critical chapter-opening questions guide discussion and help you leverage the CCSS to optimize student learning.

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Chapter 1: Using Collaborative Teams for English Language Arts

ePub

A team of seventh-grade English teachers is meeting to discuss the results of a common formative assessment the team recently administered. The teachers had previously agreed on a pacing guide for their unit focused on informative text and had discussed the various ways that they would teach the unit. Unlike most previous state standards, the Common Core State Standards require an integrated approach to lesson development in which teachers build student competence in multiple standards simultaneously. As an example, the teachers’ three-week unit had its primary focus on the Reading Standards for Literature (RL.7) and Reading Standards for Writing (W.7) at the seventh-grade level (NGA & CCSSO, 2010a):

To what extent does your team understand the conceptual shifts represented in the Common Core State Standards for English language arts?

How often are informational texts used in instruction across the day?

To what extent do teachers at your school use complex texts?

 

Chapter 2: Implementing the Common Core State Standards for Reading

ePub

The eighth-grade students in Oscar Cruz’s English class have been studying open-verse poetry as part of a unit of instruction on poetic forms. Today they are reading and performing Carl Sandburg’s poem “Chicago” (1916/1994). They begin by examining the content, looking especially at the tone. Mr. Cruz draws the students’ attention to the differences in the three stanzas.

To what extent does your team understand the Reading standards: What is familiar? What is new? What may be challenging for students? What may be challenging for teachers?

Examine current texts being used in grades 6–8 and assess them quantitatively and qualitatively and for reader and task demands. Which ones work? Which ones should be used in another grade, or eliminated altogether?

How do teachers in grades 6–8 at your school extend the foundational skills of reading from grades 3–5? How will middle school students be prepared for high school reading demands?

“You’ll recall that an open-verse poem doesn’t play by the rules,” he says. “It can have a different rhythm and rhyme in each stanza and use a different meter. In this case, Sandburg is talking to that teenager named Chicago,” he continues. “I know that because of the colon at the end of the last line in the first stanza. It makes me think about how I get someone’s attention.”

 

Chapter 3: Implementing the Common Core State Standards for Writing

ePub

Seventh-grade English teacher Stephanie Tarpley asks, “Can social media affect social change? There has been lots of attention given to various charitable organizations and social causes that use social media like Facebook and Twitter, but does it have any long-lasting effects, or is it lots of hype for a short while?”

To what extent does your team understand the Writing standards: What is the essence of each standard? What teacher actions facilitate the standards in practice? What evidence will we accept that students are learning this standard?

How do the three major text types influence the writing assignments students complete and the genres they must learn?

How is technology used to allow students to produce and publish their writing such that they can interact and collaborate with others?

Using informational articles and persuasive essays, Ms. Tarpley and her students explore how social media may or may not be affecting charitable organizations and social causes. Inspired by materials from YCteen, a youth journalism organization, Ms. Tarpley assembles several short readings on the topic for her students to form a foundation of understanding. She uses Malcolm Gladwell’s (2010) essay, “Small Change: Why the Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted” to build her own background knowledge, and identifies arguments he uses in the article to develop the unit. Following the author’s lead, she located first-person accounts of sit-ins conducted across the American South during the civil rights movement and contrasted these with newspaper accounts of the same events. In addition, they viewed several Twitter feeds about the Arab Spring protests of 2011 and contrasted these with contemporary broadcast media reports. As part of this unit, students wrote daily. Sometimes they wrote short, informal exit slips that summarized the main points of a reading and discussion. But as students began to understand the complexities of the issue, they started to formulate their own arguments. Over the two-week unit, each student wrote a longer essay addressing the question Ms. Tarpley first posed to them. They cited evidence from the readings, Twitter feeds, and broadcasts to support their claims.

 

Chapter 4: Implementing the Common Core State Standards for Speaking and Listening and for Language

ePub

Sixth graders Merrill, Joseph, Angela, and Rukiya—students in Mya Harrison’s English class—have been learning about courage. As part of a unit on courageous acts, these students have learned about baseball legend Lou Gehrig. Stricken with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a fatal motor neuron disease, Gehrig saw his brilliant career abruptly end at the age of thirty-six. His farewell speech to the crowd at Yankee Stadium on July 4, 1939, demonstrated a remarkable outlook for a man who would die two years later. The students had previously heard the audio broadcast of Gehrig’s speech and watched Gary Cooper’s recreation in the 1942 film The Pride of the Yankees (Wood, 1942). Now, students have a handout with the text of Gehrig’s speech in front of them, formatted so that the left margin allows for them to make notes directly on the page. Their task is to identify evidence of courage in the face of adversity.

To what extent does your collaborative team understand the Speaking and Listening standards and the Language standards: What is our current level of knowledge about this standard? How can we increase our expertise? How will we measure our growth?

 

Chapter 5: Implementing Formative Assessments to Guide Instruction and Intervention

ePub

It is the end of the first week of school, and papers surround seventh-grade teacher Frank diCarlo. These papers are the screening assessments that have been administered to all students as part of their first week of school. Mr. diCarlo is comparing student performance on the screening assessments, students’ end-of-year grades from the previous year, and their state assessment scores as he enters the information into the school data-management system. For example, every student has responded to the writing prompt, and their papers were evaluated using an analytic writing inventory.

In your preparations for teaching the lesson, chapter, or unit, to what extent does your collaborative team use the standards and aligned assignments to guide your planning?

What assessment instruments have you developed collaboratively? Do these instruments accurately reflect the expectations for student achievement that the standards define?

How do you use your assessment practices to enable students to better understand their learning strengths as well as their needs? In what ways do your assessment activities build students’ confidence and motivation?

 



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