Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Monster Returns by Peter McCarty

I just spotted The Monster Returns by Peter McCarty at the bookstore and was excited to see this second in the picture book series which began with Jeremy Draws a Monster.  Jeremy is a character that makes us think here in first grade. His second book helped us think more about predicting as the kids shared their thoughts about what Jeremy  might do when the Monster sends a note declaring he is back after being drawn away on a bus in the first book .  Jeremy delights us with a imaginative plan that pleases everyone.  This book is as good as the first!

McCarty has also written Henry in Love and I just pre-ordered his newest book titled Chloe which is out May 15.  I am a fan!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

What is Not Covered by Common Core

In May I often walk into the classroom feeling overwhelmed by the number of activities, assessments and programs that we have scheduled. With 18 days left, I am living the adage...so much to do, so little time.  My friend Lauren and I have been reminding each other (and our students) to slow down. I think we have to slow down and take time for finishing projects or units of instruction in the midst of assessment. We have to slow down and show our kids how important it is to keep listening to each other even if we would just rather be done.

Beginning to explore common core has also presented some of the same overwhelming feelings at times. Not in the sense that the standards will be "hard" to teach or that some standards will be new, but overwhelming because there is quite a bit to read and absorb when slowing down to begin to understand the purpose and philosophy of the common core.  When visiting corestandards.org, you can read about college and career anchor standards, explore your grade level standards, read about the factors that make up text complexity and it's importance within cc, the process in which the standards were created, how to read the standards and more.  After really just skimming many of these pieces, I found my favorite part of common core.  It is titled "What is not covered by the standards" and found underneath the key considerations tab which is under the introduction.  There are a number of key points underneath this heading help us remember that while standards are important, we as teachers are able to make creative, caring and developmental decisions about the students we teach. Common core does tells us :

1. PLAY is important for all students.
"The Standards define what all students are expected to know and be able to do, not how teachers should teach. For instance, the use of play with young children is not specified by the Standards, but it is welcome as a valuable activity in its own right and as a way to help students meet the expectations in this document." 

2.  Be creative!!
"The aim of the Standards is to articulate the fundamentals, not to set out an exhaustive list or a set of restrictions that limits what can be taught beyond what is specified herein."

3. Think about the unique needs of students

  • "No set of grade-specific standards can fully reflect the great variety in abilities, needs, learning rates, and achievement levels of students in any given classroom. However, the Standards do provide clear signposts along the way to the goal of college and career readiness for all students." 
  • and
  • "Each grade will include students who are still acquiring English. For those students, it is possible to meet the standards in reading, writing, speaking, and listening without displaying native-like control of conventions and vocabulary."
4.  Think about the whole child 

"Students require a wide-ranging, rigorous academic preparation and, particularly in the early grades, attention to such matters as social, emotional, and physical development and approaches to learning. "

 Even though there is and will likely be exhaustive sources and ideas for use with common core, I feel less overwhelmed by the fact that the writers of this initiative have asked us to consider what it doesn't cover.  Here we find some license to keep differentiating, listening, observing and making decisions about what is best for our students.