Exposing Students to the Common Core

By Earl Jones April 15th, 2014 1:15 PM

Common Core is easy enough for adults to understand, right? Okay, that’s partially untrue. But what would happen if we explicitly exposed younger students to the Common Core State Standards. Would they get them? Would they be invested? I introduced them to one student, and to my surprise, the answer to both questions was yes.

“Mr. Jones, what’s the Common Core?” A nine-year-old student of mine asked. My immediate thought was that he must have overheard me mention it to someone else. Simple curiosity.

“It’s the set of standards that let teachers know what students should be able to do by the end of the school year.” Simple enough explanation for a kid, right? Conversation done.

“Standards?” he said with a very confused face. I gave a quick response.

“Yeah. Like skills, things that readers and mathematicians actually do in each grade.” Conversation really done, now.

“What’s everything we need to do in fourth grade?” I paused for a second. It dawned on me that this is one of my students who loves order, structure, plans, agendas, etc. He thrives when things are consistent, predictable, and systematic. Of course he would be interested in knowing all the specific grade-level expectations for the end of the year.

So, I decided to show him my Common Core guidebook. Yes, I actually sat with a fourth grader and we dug into the standards together. I put them all into kid-friendly terms. We gave examples to each other of what each reading and math standard (for third and fourth grades) would actually look like in practice. I even mentioned the vertical progression of skills from grade to grade. It was mid-year and he started placing tiny check marks next to the ones we had covered so far in class that year.

Afterward, I noticed a change in this student. He seemed to focus more on meeting each daily objective because he knew that they led to mastery of the standard. His overall performance increased because he had the end goal in mind.

Then, many “what ifs” popped into my head. What if I did this for all of my students? What if at the beginning of the year I told students what the fourth grade standards are? What if we put them in kid-friendly terms together? Would kids want to track it and check them off as we moved through the school year?

Now, I’ve given myself a challenge. Next school year, I will do this. I will create activities at the beginning of the year to introduce standards to students. Each student will get a personal checklist to track themselves as we move through each standard.  After all, younger students should have a full understanding of the goals and expectations for the end of the year. We will also share a class tracker to increase accountability for everyone.

I encourage other teachers to try this as well. Give it a shot. Be sure to tweet me @Mathophile_DC and let me know how it turns out!