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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Common Core Lesson Planning and Implementation Is Much Simplier Than It Seems

Common Core Lesson Planning and Implementation Is Much Simplier Than It Seems

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Common Core Lesson Planning and Implementation Is Much Simplier Than It Seems

Many districts are now aligning their curriculum to the Common Core State Standards. Teachers are the ones on the frontline and must be equipped with the tools needed to prepare their own classrooms as well. The success of students depends on the ability of teachers to effectively utilize their instructional materials to meet the standards set forth in the common core.

Many teachers, especially those in low performing school districts serving more than 90% minority and economically disadvantaged students are concerned that the adaption of the Common Core and accompanying assessments are purposely designed to set their students up for automatic failure. It is understandable for teachers to be apprehensive about the uncertainty of their students ability to meet the new expectations. But, assuming that this must be some kind of conspiracy is unfortunately the kind of misconception and attitude that will cause many schools to fail before they even have a chance to get started.

The new standards focus on the end result of what students should know by the end of the school year. They do not tell you which standards to use to drive your instruction and obtain a successful end result. It is now left to classroom teachers to use their best professional judgment to figure out the most feasible pathway to lead students to success with the common core. Utilizing Common Core Lesson Plan Templates that have the new standards embedded in drop down menus within the lesson plans and are customizable for differentiated instruction is by far the better choice for many very important reasons. First, using these kind of templates give teachers the freedom to teach at their own pace. Secondly, it encourages collaboration with teachers from other subjects (i.e. History, Science, ELA) during lesson development. Third, it helps keep all teachers on track with the common core implementation. Fourth, it gives teachers the flexibility to use their own creativity when developing lessons. And finally, it is the most cost effective option for Common Core implementation that every teacher can use regardless of their technical skill level.

Collaboration among teachers from various subjects during lesson plan development is especially important in English Language Arts because of the increased focused on informational text reading in the new standards. This increased focus makes it even more important for teachers to be able to easily collaborate during lesson plan development. Computerized application systems which automatically generate lesson plans can never replace the professional knowledge and expertise of a highly qualified teacher. After all, teachers are there to teach students, not robots. No one knows about a students learning style and abilities better than their teacher. It is imperative to use lesson plan templates that allow teachers to target instruction and develop lessons that are related to the expectations set forth in the common core.

Despite all the hype, Teacher's really don't need to spend hundreds of dollars on curriculum materials just because they have the title "Common Core" on the cover. There are hundreds of resources available online for FREE. Creating lessons for the new standards will require teachers to put more thought into their lessons regardless of rather they buy additional CCSS materials, create their own lessons and/or utilize free CCSS resources available online. There are a lot of theories on how to best prepare students for the new standards. Teachers are the best decision makers when it comes to how to best prepare their students. According to the Common Core Standards Website, "Teachers should continue to devise lesson plans and tailor instruction to the individual needs of the students in their classrooms." Furthermore, the CCSS website states that it is the responsibility of teachers and administrators to decide how the standards will be met, and speaks nothing about the need to spend thousands of additional dollars to implement the common core.

Stars Educational Consortium is the publisher of great Common Core Templates for Lesson Plan Development at
These templates have all of the great features discussed in this article.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Create Rich Lesson Plans Using Common Core Standards with LearnBoost FREE!

This is a really great find! LearnBoost. I was completely amazed at how useful this is to schools in need of resources for the Common Core. LearnBoost’s free, all-in-one solution empowers teachers in managing their classrooms. Teachers use the intuitive gradebook software to track student progress and generate beautiful reports and analytics in real time. Plus, you can create rich lesson plans, track attendance, maintain schedules, integrate Google Apps and tag Common Core State Standards.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Common Core 360 Free Resources

This video is a look at all of the valuable free resources offered by Common Core 360. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

ELA Common Core Activities for Teachers

Looking for Common Core ELA Activities for your students? Visit my Pinterest page. This is where I list ALL of the CCSS and College Readiness Resources I find as I search the web for resources that will help me in developing activities for Stars Educational Consortium programs.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

First step to improving achievement at a low performing school

First steps in improving achievement at a low performing school, so that it becomes a 90/90/90 school is not to fire everybody all at once then create chaos when re-calling them back. Stirring up anger among teachers is definitely not the right way to start a school district on a path to success, that's the path to bitterness and resentment and who suffers the butt of this resentment...the kids of course.

The first step to improving academic achievement in low performing schools should be to put in place a teacher evaluation system that is fair, unbiased and accurate. Evaluation of teachers should be based on rather or not their students are improving on interim/benchmark assessments or getting worse. After all, the students are the number one reason why teachers are there. According to DPS assessment data, academic achievement has stayed the same or in many cases gotten worse. DPS has had the lowest test scores in the nation in recent years and it does not seem to be getting better, but I am hopeful that it will get better soon with the new leadership coming in.

In order to have a fair and accurate system of evaluating teachers based on student performance, students should be assessed weekly district wide using computer adaptive testing applications from company's such as Renaissance Learning and Plato Learning. These are two of the best that I have found. This will enable Principals to better monitor and get a clearer sense of rather or not students are improving and ultimately show teacher effectiveness. I know a lot of teachers (and students) complain about too much testing, but if you put a fun little spin to the testing then it's not as stressful for the kids or the teacher. First of all, don't call it a test, call it something like, Super Star Showtime! A time for students to show what they've learned and give them a star for completing the test, regardless of rather or not they got a high score. Maybe give gold stars only to those that have shown improvement and silver to all other students. You have to be creative. I don't like tests myself, so I feel their pain. But it is undeniable that consistent and organized assessing helps to monitor student progress. No matter what kind of goal you are trying to reach you have to stop an check yourself along the way just to make sure you're still on the right track and the same is true for our kids.

You'll notice that in every blog I post I usually refer back to the Common Core Lesson Plan Templates and it's more than simply to sell. I can not stress enough how helpful these are in keeping teachers on track as they prepare their students for the CCSS assessments coming in the 2013-2014 school year. Each lesson plan has the standards within drop down menus for a different strand and domain. The lesson plans a set up so that if your students are performing at only a 3rd grade level, but are actually in the 5th grade, then you would start by using a lesson plan that has the 3rd grade CCSS in the drop down menus and work your way up until students are ready to use the 5th grade CCSS lesson plans. The main objective is for teachers to raise the % of Students At or Above Grade Level with each lesson plan. The performance data would come from the weekly assessments. I would recommend that the lesson plan be handed in each week and attached to a printed classroom data analysis report generated by the chosen assessment program (i.e. Renaissance Learning or Plato Learning).

Monday, November 12, 2012

Dr. John Telford: Restoring and transforming the Detroit Public Scho...

It's about time someone stepped up!

Dr. John Telford: Restoring and transforming the Detroit Public Scho...:                                                     DETROIT PUBLIC SCHOOLS                             Off...

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Key Design Considerations of the High School Common Core Lesson Plan Templates

Because student's advancing through the grades are expected to meet each year's grade specific standards, the Common Core Lesson plan templates have been organized so that teachers can switch between the standards they are teaching at any given time. For example, as a teacher you can easily use your textbook and your own knowledge about Literature to help students meet the expectations in Literature. You can also use these lesson plan students to work collaboratively with teachers of other subjects.

To further explain how this works let's think of the popular book Holt McDougal American Literature Grade 11 and British Literature Grade 12. We can use the grade bands 11-12 in designing our curriculum because according to the CCSS teaching lessons using these bands allow flexibility in the way in which these are taught to students in both grades. The same is true for grades 9-10.

The Common Core Lesson Plan Templates for grades 11-12 contains all of the standards within drop down menus, the key to lesson planning to school districts is to match lessons/chapters from both of the books above to the corresponding standard on the template. Likewise, so does all other lesson plans for different grades and strands.

Teachers of other grades and subjects have their own set of standards that are included in the Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science & Technical Subjects Common Core Lesson Plan Templates. Using the same process, teachers from different subjects can work collaboratively to devise lessons using their own class textbooks and materials.

Key Ideas and Details

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.2 Determine two or more themes or central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to produce a complex account; provide an objective summary of the text.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.3 Analyze the impact of the author’s choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a story or drama (e.g., where a story is set, how the action is ordered, how the characters are introduced and developed).

Craft and Structure

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including words with multiple meanings or language that is particularly fresh, engaging, or beautiful. (Include Shakespeare as well as other authors.)
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.5 Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure specific parts of a text (e.g., the choice of where to begin or end a story, the choice to provide a comedic or tragic resolution) contribute to its overall structure and meaning as well as its aesthetic impact.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.6 Analyze a case in which grasping a point of view requires distinguishing what is directly stated in a text from what is really meant (e.g., satire, sarcasm, irony, or understatement).

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.7 Analyze multiple interpretations of a story, drama, or poem (e.g., recorded or live production of a play or recorded novel or poetry), evaluating how each version interprets the source text. (Include at least one play by Shakespeare and one play by an American dramatist.)
  • (RL.11-12.8 not applicable to literature)
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.9 Demonstrate knowledge of eighteenth-, nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century foundational works of American literature, including how two or more texts from the same period treat similar themes or topics.

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.10 By the end of grade 11, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, in the grades 11–CCR text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Stars Speech Master Program and the Common Core

I know I promised to share how we aligned our Speech Masters program to the Common Core without spending a dime on expensive textbooks and consultants. Click here and you will find our Course Syllabus for the Middle School Speech Masters Program which includes the standards addressed in our program. We used the Speaking & Listening Common Core Lesson Plan Template from the CD for 6th-8th grade and added in all of the weekly activities directly underneath the corresponding standards. The attached syllabus simply shows which standards we aligned our program to. Keep in mind that these standards are all in drop down menus within the Common Core Lesson Plan Templates themselves, so it was very easy to stay organized and focused as we matched our weekly activities with the corresponding CCSS.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Analyzing Assessment Data to Inform Instruction

After every assessment rather interim or summative, it is imperative that teachers do their own analysis of the student results. This will help set the stage for differentiated instruction using the common core lesson plan templates. First you need to gather the details of how students scored on each individual standard. Below is a screenshot of a classroom report that shows a class average percentage of how the class scored by standard. In this report the entire class was not proficient on every standard as you can see from the all red areas.

Alright, so now we know that all of our students were not proficient on every standard assessed on this district-wide assessment, okay, now what? If you have access to the questions that were on the test and the report that shows what answers each student chose, then you are definitely one of the more fortunate teachers. Below is a screenshot of how students answered each question on this particular assessment. This report actually allows you to click on the number underneath each answer choice to see the student names that chose each answer. The correct answer has an asterisk next to it. Having the actually question available allows you to go back and have a discussion with the students that chose various answers to find out why they made the choices they did. Furthermore, you could use this information to group students according to levels of understanding, etc.

The standards assessed on this report were based on ELA state specific grade level standards for Michigan. These standards are closely related to the Informational Text Reading CCSS for grades 11-12. Below is a partial view screenshot from the grade 11-12 informational text common core lesson plan template.

The next step would be to begin utilizing your classroom materials to develop lessons that will help improve student skills on these standards and then plug the lesson descriptions into the template. Our next blog post will show you how we aligned our Stars Educational Consortium Speechmasters Program to the Common Core without spending a dime and using our own common core templates!

*Please note that these templates are also available for ELA grades K-5 and 6-8 on

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Common Core Progress Monitoring

In the 2013-2014 school year, all schools will be required to have their students take the mandated common core end-of-year assessments. Although the interim assessments offered by the two consortia (PARCC and SBAC) will be optional, many districts will choose to administer them due to the fact that the only true way to ensure students will be successful on the common core end-of-year assessments effective internal progress monitoring and response to intervention. From my experiences working for America's lowest performing school district and later with an assessment development company, I have found that many teachers prefer to do their own progress monitoring rather than have their students, sometimes very poor progress, announced to administration through district or school wide assessment reports. If this is your feeling as well, then the tips shared here and throughout this blog will help you to develop your own internal classroom monitoring system, so that when your school or district is ready to administer an interim assessment, your students are better prepared to do well.

The first step to developing any interim assessment is to know what your students are supposed to know and by when they should know it. The common core standards are end of year goals. Therefore, students are actually not expected to know or have a complete understanding of these standards in full until the end of the school year, which is why the mandatory assessment is not given until the end of the school year. The interim assessments (i.e. benchmarks) should measure students progress towards meeting these common core goals. The necessity to know how far or close students are to meeting the common core goals is the main reason I favor computer adaptive testing. Some school districts have opted to provide funding for the use of effective tools such as Star Reading and Math from Renaissance Learning. I highly recommend Renaissance Learning as it is an endorsed partner of the common core standards and has been involved with the common core movement since it's inception.

There are several progress monitoring assessment tools on the market, however Star is one that I highly recommend due to the fact that it goes beyond just assessment. It also provides a way to help teachers in response to intervention. To learn more about Stars Assessments, funding and other products, please visit their website.

For teachers that don't have the luxury of having a program like Star, there are still ways to provide standard based assessments to your students to help you monitor their progress toward the common core. One way is by utilizing the standard based test generator that comes with most school textbooks. Holt books have what is called Examview and most questions are aligned to individual state standards. Because many school districts are currently or have already aligned and paced their state specific standards to meet the expectations of the common core, utilizing test generators that are aligned to your state specific standards can be a very effective way to monitor student progress at the classroom level.

The common core lesson plan templates we continue to refer back to keep teachers on track while preparing lessons to help their students meet the common core expectations. Your district's curriculum pacing guide should be an excellent reference as to what standards you should be teaching  at any given time.

The next blog post will discuss analyzing your classroom assessment data to help you inform the instructional lessons you will lay out using common core lesson plan templates.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Using Data to Inform Instruction the Smart Way

Publishing companies make millions of dollars every year to develop assessments for schools made from recycled/reused test questions. Are these recycled questions effective enough to give you the results you need to help you inform your instruction? In my opinion, the answer is NO. The reason I say no is because these questions stay the same from year to year and do not adapt to individual student performance levels.

One of the most innovative ideas found in both PARCC and SBAC plans, that I really admire, is the proposal to include some tasks in the assessments that would be administered during the school year, in addition to an end-of-course assessment. The PARCC proposal calls for three interim assessments, given at three-month intervals, that are intended to measure topics closer to when students actually study them and provide feedback to students and teachers during the year. The SBAC plan calls for a single extended project to be administered near the end of the year with optional interim assessments.

These interim assessments as well as mandatory summative assessments will use computer adaptive testing. This type of testing is very helpful in the fact that it increases or decreases in difficulty on the test questions according to the student's answers. The assessments are also standards based and allow more detailed teacher analysis of weak areas. This helps to give teachers a more clear understanding of individual student performance levels. You will notice that the Common Core Lesson Plan Templates have an area for teachers to choose their students actual grade level as well as a separate area to choose the student's current proficiency grade level (pictured below). The lesson plans give teachers the freedom to choose any of the grade level strand specific lesson plans to use and customize for instruction.

In some cases it is understandable that teachers may want to (and need to) administer their own classroom standards based assessment to check for student learning. In my next post, I will share some suggestions on cost-effective ways in which teachers can accomplish this without having to spend an extended amount of time on assessment development.

Friday, October 26, 2012

CCSS Lesson Plans Video

See the templates in action in this 3 minute YouTube video.

About Common Core Lesson Plan Templates

Common Core Lesson Plan Templates published by Stars Educational Consortium (SEC) are universal in use and allow teachers to be creative and develop lessons that help students meet the expectations of the common core. Despite all the hype, Teacher's really don't need to spend hundreds of dollars on curriculum materials just because they have the title "Common Core" on the cover. According to the Common Core Standards Website, "Teachers should continue to devise lesson plans and tailor instruction to the individual needs of the students in their classrooms." Furthermore, the CCSS website states that it is the responsibility of teachers and administrators to decide how the standards will be met, and speaks nothing in regards to that responsibility being put into the hands of textbook publishing companies.

This blog was created to offer suggestions to teachers and administrators on how to help students that are performing below and above grade level successfully meet the expectations set forth in the common core using the materials you already have. This blog speaks to using [assessment] data to drive instruction as well as using instruction to drive data through the use of the Common Core Lesson Plan Templates developed by SEC.

Common Core Lesson Plan Templates Description:

The templates are on CD and include all common core standards for ELA within drop down menu's that are embedded in each lesson plan. The templates are easy to use and customize for differentiated instruction for the CCSS. The lesson plan templates also include standards for grades 6-12 Literacy in History & Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects. The templates were created in Microsoft Word. The benefit of having the standards easily accessible within the drop down menus allows teachers to chose which standards/areas they will focus on, therefore helping teachers to stay on track as they prepare lessons aligned to the common core. Each lesson plan can be customized for differentiated instruction to support students performing below grade level. The templates serve as an excellent support resource to help Teachers make a successful and effective transition to the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS) using their current classroom materials.