PLC Teams Discussing the Common Core
A number of collaborative teams in PLC schools across the country are waging quality conversations as they begin to feel the implications and mandates of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) on their instructional practices. According to Dr. Richard DuFour in his article “Leading Edge: ‘Collaboration Lite’ Puts Student Achievement on a Starvation Diet,” the major emphasis in PLC teams should be to:
- Identify essential learning outcomes.
- Develop common assessments around the essential learning.
- Score and analyze the assessment.
- Use the results of the assessment to drive continuing instruction to meet the diverse needs of students.
As I train teams that have not yet begun to have these critical learning discussions, I would recommend all K–12 teachers begin to pull apart the CCSS Anchor Standards in Reading and Writing. Once this is done, they can use Dr. DuFour’s four steps using the anchor standards to start the meaningful PLC process.
A major emphasis of the reading anchor statements is to gather evidence, knowledge, and greater insight from text. This skill is integral to every classroom no matter the grade level or content area. In fact, 80–90 percent of the reading standards at every grade level require text dependent analysis through a close read.
While there is no specific litany to how a teacher conducts a close read, the following process will serve as an effective tool to create text-dependent questions to get to the core meaning of the reading passage.
Step l: Identify the Core Understandings and Key Text Ideas
- “Beginning with the end in mind”, a teacher question might be, “What do you think the major points or key concepts are in this paragraph?”
Step 2: Start Small to Build Reading Confidence
- Begin asking questions that “hook” students and keep them invested in the passage.
- A teacher question might be, “What part of the reading stood out to you and why?”
Step 3: Target Vocabulary and Text Structure
- “What are the power academic words you find in this piece?”
- “How are these words connected to the key concepts?”
- “How would the text meaning change if we changed the vocabulary?”
Step 4: Let Students Struggle With the Text
- Find specific paragraphs or sections that could have multiple meanings, and craft questions that support and illuminate new understanding.
Allow students to dialogue in pairs or small groups to broaden the meaning.
- “Look at the meaning through the eyes of another character.”
- “How would the key concepts change?”
- “What application of this text can you make to your own life?”
Step 5: Create a Culminating “Check for Understanding”
- A number of activities can be generated to produce evidence of student proficiency.
- Exit slip or a prompted writing for students to “show what they know” independently.
Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, and Diane Lapp, coauthors of Teaching Students to Read Like Detectives, suggest a “part to whole” process when doing a close read.
- Begin with general understandings using words.
- Examine a sentence to find key details.
- Use a paragraph to examine vocabulary and text structure.
- Discuss segments of the reading to determine the author’s purpose.
- Take an entire text to determine inferences/predictions.
- Across multiple texts, generate opinions, arguments, and intertextual connections.
Collaborative teams of teachers are developing common assessments across grade levels and content areas beginning with close reads. Given that text-dependent questions are not about recall and recitation, these strategies invite students to deeply investigate text, compare it with others, and gain new perspectives and understanding. The anchor standards can begin these deep discoveries as a “systems team.” Enjoy the journey!
DuFour, R. (2003, Summer) Leading edge: Collaboration lite puts student achievement on a starvation diet. Journal of Staff Development, 24(3).
Fisher, D., Frey, N., & Lapp, D. (2012). Teaching students to read like detectives: Comprehending, analyzing, and discussing text. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.