Tag Archives: Core Standards

Creating the argument…

As I have mentioned, I am in a week long workshop that is guiding me in the development of a unit of study on Common Core Writing Standard 1, which in many respects the Core Standards has deemed one of the most, if not the most important standard in the reform. Case in point –

“While all three text types are important, the Standards put particular emphasis on students’ ability to write sound arguments on substantive topics and issues, as this ability is critical to college and career readiness. English and education professor Gerald Graff (2003) writes that “argument literacy” is fundamental to being educated. The university is largely an “argument culture,” Graff contends; therefore, K–12 schools should “teach the conflicts” so that students are adept at understanding and engaging in argument (both oral and written) when they enter college. He claims that because argument is not standard in most school curricula, only 20 percent of those who enter college are prepared in this respect.” –  Common Core State Standards For English Language Arts& Literacy in History/social studies, science, and technical subjects: appendix a: research supporting Key elements of the standards, page 24


The standard, as it reads, pushes students through increasing levels of complexity in creating an argument supported by evidence to support their position on a given topic.  A skill, that is undoubtly necessary not just for College and Career Readiness but life in general.  The reality is we all have opinions and at one time or another have been forced to defend our position.

Think about it, at some point in your life you have had to defend your beliefs.  Whether it be on an age old argument like the death penalty, abortion, or gay rights or something current like the Casey Anthony verdict we take a side and we defend it.

Now I appreciate that these are often difficult topics that require domain knowledge and a broad spectrum of facts, but the reality is arguing is a pretty basic skill we all participate in, even young children.

How many times have you heard a child argue with their parents why they need ice cream or the newest pair of Nike’s? Even though this is more of a basic debate,  the child usually has a pretty solid case for their reasoning.  Ice cream is for many people a necessity! 🙂

As an educator, the idea of framing a question to create the argument sounds easy right?  Sure, I thought so, but the reality is, I am heading into my second day of guidance and I am still wavering on what the foundation of the argument should be for my unit of study.  I still don’t have a unit question I am happy with…

The unit I am developing is taking an in-depth look at the American revolutionary war in both English Language Arts and Social Studies.  My original thoughts going in to the unit were simple – the students would have to pick a side (either the loyalists or patriots) and defend why their side is right.  But what does the Unit Question for such an activity look like?  What does the unit assessments look like?  What do I want them to get out of this unit that they can take with them to the next unit?  What do I want them to learn that will stay with them for the rest of their life?

These questions have led me down an interesting path that has led me to revise my not only my unit question but my essential question as well because I have discovered it is not that easy to just create an argument and take students down a path of self discovery and learning.

There is little question that the assessment of this unit will be project based in nature.  I am a project based teacher and coach and push all my teachers to find the project to drive the instruction but the depth in which the projects have been don’t hail in comparison to what is expected with the Common Core.

A good visual representation of a unit assessment that is argument based and aligned with the Common Core can be seen in this video:

This video can also been seen on the Buck Institute for Education which has a bank of videos that support project based learning and the argument.

Moving forward, I will make sure I post the foundations of my unit and the unit as it becomes developed.  By then, I will have a better idea what my argument is going to be – I have no choice.  I have to come down to developing a question that will guide my students down a path that will help them begin to learn the foundations of argument.  In turn, I can only hope they can transfer those skills so when the newest pair of Nike’s hit the shelves they will have a bank of tools to convince their parents to buy them, or have a great job to be able to afford as many pairs as they want!


Common Core – Now what???

So if you are in most states in the country, all but seven (including Texas, Washington and Virginia) that have adopted Core Curriculum standards you have by now probably heard about them, maybe even seen them, and if you are lucky you have been provided a hard copy of this monstrous new movement in the future of education.

When I went to training last summer in Common Core, I was very much overwhelmed by the entire new set of educational standards that our students would soon be held to.  I had a lot of initial concerns as a coach but at the same time was really excited.

I wondered how I would be able to convince teachers to begin to implement this new initiative.  I mean my teachers like lots of teachers are very set in their ways, so a change like this is asking a lot.  I wondered how these were going to affect state testing (New York City is driven by the state exams) and how the new standards would change the assessments.

Mostly I wondered what it actually looked like in practice and I have to imagine that most people wonder the same thing.  I mean the Literacy standards include some exemplars but in reality they are random at times and seemingly inconceivable for the grade level they are assigned too.  More often the assignments seem to be random and lack the lesson end to help you understand how the product came to be.

Lastly, the standards do not include science and social studies which while I understand are often tailored to individual states (especially in Social Studies with local history becoming embedded in the curriculum) it is hard to see how to incorporate local curriculum with the new national standards.

In New York, the expectation is that the NYCCLS (New York Common Core Learning Standards) will be in place by 2014. A tall order for many districts who have yet to begin the transition process, yet in NYC the expectation is that one full unit will be in place this coming school year – a super tall order indeed.

But many states and districts are bringing the process of figuring out the best way to implement this monumental undertaking.  In Richmond, North Carolina, 100 educators got together to figure out the best way to begin unpacking the standards much like they are doing in Idaho Falls, Idaho.  Interestingly, the Indiana State Department of Education  is looking at what is no longer included in the standards like teaching cursive while some districts, like Florence, Arizona  are hiring new higher level administrators to help with the transition process.

In New York City, summer institutes are are being implemented to help teachers, administrators and support staff like myself learn how to embed and revise standards into currently successful units which will then be shared city wide as best practices and hopefully will provide me far more insight into these new but very exciting times in  education.