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March 19, 2021

Implementing the Core: Where to Begin?

Where do I start? It can feel like being on a hilltop, overlooking this vast landscape before you and being so overwhelmed that all you want to do is sit down instead of taking a step. But taking that first step is what we all must do and these two questions from members of our community target just how to make a first move.

1. How do I implement the new Common Core State Standards into my current curriculum and the current state standards?

Slowly. Carefully. Deliberately. Remember, implementation is going to come in waves. The first step is just to really understand what the standards say and mean.  Next, we have to be able to understand some of the big shifts the Core is asking of teachers and then recognize what to keep and what to let go of in our own curriculums. I recently had a chance to speak with Kate O’Donnell, Senior Partner with America Achieves, and I asked her this very question. She offered some first steps for math and literacy that I’ve built on.

First steps for Math:

  • Focus on the work of the grade. In other words, determine what the essential math actually is for your grade. O’Donnell notes that far too much non-essential math seeps into our curriculums and distracts us from a focused approach.
  • Talk to colleagues inside your school. These people will be your best resources in understanding what’s actually being taught at your grade and in your school.
  • Look at your district. Find out what your district is doing to support this work and ask them to help find the best resources for understanding the shifts and what they mean.

First steps for Literacy:

  • Use websites that have video lessons demonstrating the Core in action. It’s one thing to read about the Core but another thing to see it in action. Our video library here at Teaching Channel is full of videos designed to unpack what Core instruction looks like. You can also find videos from America Achieves.
  • Get your head around complex texts. What we put in front of our students to read matters. We need to be sure to understand the three aspects of text complexity and what that means for text selection. There will be an upcoming webinar in this series on text complexity.
  • Try to shift just 1-2 units this year, rather than thinking you need a complete overhaul immediately.

So, make room for the Core in your curriculum using small, manageable steps. Realize that in making the transition from state standards to Common Core, you’re looking for the shifts – those qualities that may shift the focus of the lessons you’re already doing or the texts you already have. Don’t feel as though you must purchase all kinds of materials in order to make this shift, you can do it by finding and shifting focus with what you have.


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