Sunday, May 6, 2012

Common Core Ingredients

My daughter and I like to watch Chopped every Sunday on the Food Channel.  Each week, chefs are given a basket of "mystery ingredients".  They have a short time to turn these ingredients into something that not only tastes good, but looks good too.   The real challenge, figuring out ways to combine ingredients that may not traditionally go together in a dish.   Often, the chefs are faced with ingredients they have never worked with before.   If there were an Education Channel, I think I would host Core each week.  On Core, teachers would be given a set of standards from each of the 4 core content areas and would have 50 minutes to put together a lesson that not only taught the standards, but kept the students engaged too.  The challenge, figuring out how to relate the standards to each other, to the real world experience of the students and make the whole lesson approachable to a wide range of student learning styles and abilities.   There is no Education Channel, but as Ohio moves toward implementing the Common Core and Model Curriculum for the 4 core content areas, teachers will need to look at new ways of integrating the core standards to create lessons that teach to a greater rigor or depth and allow students to make connections to real world problems.

No matter what grade or content you teach, when faced with new content standards, you can build engaging, integrated lessons if you follow some basic unit "recipe" rules.

Char's Integrated Lesson Recipe
To build a successful integrated unit or lesson using the new Common Core Standards and the Ohio Model Curriculum, think outside the boundaries of a single content area to find the "common denominator" for the unit or lesson - what real world context could each of the content standards you are working with fit into?


  • Reading Activity - often times, the reading activity can be the "base" for the lesson - it might be an article, a novel, a picture book, a primary source document, or data base materials. This is a good place to differentiate - picking reading that is approachable by the range of students in your classroom.  Usually the social studies standard or the science standard can be used as the "frame" for the integrated lesson. Don't forget to include opportunities for CLOSE READING.
  • Math Activity - math is the international language for a reason - math can be taught within the context of almost any real world scenario. Once you have identified the science or social studies standards you will include in the lesson or the reading materials you will use - write the math lesson components within that "framework" 
  • Writing Activity - remember, writing can be about solving a math problem, it can be a journal entry, it can be research, it can be an argument or persuasive piece, it can be more creative. This can be a final assessment or it can be more formative instruction.
  • Collaborative Activity - students work together to create a product - this can be the "real world' piece where they create a product as part of a service learning activity, it might be a presentation, a model, a video or poster project - something that requires them to APPLY the skills/knowledge learned in the lessons. This is a good place to put the Performance Task in a larger unit or in a single lesson, this is a good reinforcing activity.
  • Inquiry Activity - Inquiry can be included by encouraging students to ask questions and pose possible answers, letting students try out possible solutions, giving students data or information to analyze or giving students opportunities to decide how where to go next with their learning.
  • Connection Activity - doing mind mapping, using living word walls, think pair shares, entrance and exit cards, cartoons, journaling - any activity that helps students connect the new knowledge they have been building to their existing knowledge base. This is a good beginning activity in a set of lessons but it can also take place as the lessons progress to help students stay focused on their own learning. This is also a good place to do specific instruction on vocabulary students need to access the unit or lesson materials.

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