ELA Essentials: Understanding the structure and transitions of the ELA standards

Prepare for the Common Core – Webinar recording 3/04/14.

Understanding the structure of the Common Core ELA standards, particularly the connections between standards across grade-levels, is essential to crafting great lessons and implementing close reading.

Join us to explore the Common Core ELA standards and understand how to use this structure to focus your lessons, write meaningful teaching objectives, support your students by differentiating, and set them on track to college and career readiness.

Resources

  • Webinar Slides – use this to hold a discussion with colleagues about how the standards relate to their practice.
  • Common Core Navigator – use this visual guide to get a big picture understanding of the standards in your grade, vertical alignment between standards and the LearnZillion resources associated with each standard.
  • Lesson Set (4th grade) – check out this example of how a teacher has crafted a series of lessons based on targeted, standards-based teaching objectives. Find hundreds of additional lesson sets associated with your grade level through our Common Core Navigator.

Like what you see? Check out these additional resources to help you plan for the ELA Common Core standards:

(Post) 4 Tips for Aligning your ELA Lessons to the Common Core

(Webinar) Three part webinar series on close reading, pt 1: “Text Talks”

5 ways to leverage LearnZillion’s Downloadable Slides

Here are 5 tips for customizing LearnZillion’s lesson video slides in ways that serve your classroom needs.

Thousands of teachers across the country use our short instructional videos to help students learn. Many have found that customizing the associated downloadable slides are a great way to turn the 5-minute video into an instructional engine for their whole class period.

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Read on to learn how to customize downloadable slides in ways to meet your classroom needs

These are the top five ways teachers are taking advantage of LearnZillion’s downloadable lesson slides:

1. Whole class instruction: use slides to help guide whole group instruction

Whole Class Instruction

Slides, presented to a class in Indiana

2. Practice: use slides to create practice problems and worksheets for students

Worksheets, created from practice problems on LearnZillion

Worksheets, created from practice problems on LearnZillion

3. Manipulatives: turn visuals into manipulatives for hands on work

A manipulative, created by a teacher in Maryland

Manipulative, created by a teacher in Maryland

4. Anchor Charts: turn visuals into posters to remind students what was taught

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Chart, turned into a poster for a third grade class

5. Google Presentations: turn slides into an online virtual discussion between students

Google Presentation

Presentation, created by an elementary teacher

Here’s a quick slideshow that walks you through the options, step by step.

Check out our library of thousands of video lessons today.

Do you have other ideas for how to customize slides? Leave a comment below.

Save time and streamline your planning with LearnZillion Lesson Plans

Hear from LearnZillion’s own Eric Westendorf (CEO) and Boaz Munro (Content Lead) about how the site’s newest feature can help math teachers ensure their students master the essential standards across grades 3-8.

“Shouldn’t you have known?”, or “How I learned to value formative assessment the hard way”

Posie Wood, former 3rd grade teacher

Posie Wood, former 3rd grade teacher

There’s nothing quite like the heartbreak of administering a test to a group of eight and nine year olds that you have come to love dearly—and knowing instantly that you let them down.

As a first year teacher, it wasn’t that I didn’t believe my students were smart and capable, I did. But I also knew from the moment that I saw page 1 of the test booklet that I hadn’t done enough to prepare them for questions and tasks like the ones I saw on the test. As I circulated through my classroom on that humid April morning, I entered into a state of despair, panic, and most of all, shame that I had so failed my students.

Later that day, looking for sympathy from my father, I sobbed the whole story into the phone while sitting in the school parking lot.

“Hold on,” he said. “I don’t want to be a jerk, but shouldn’t you have known?”

“Known what?”

“That they were going to struggle on the test. Shouldn’t you have understood better than anyone else where your students were?

With those four words (“Shouldn’t you have known?”) my father (who, by the way, is not an educator) shifted my entire orientation as a teacher. Even though he didn’t know the name for it, my father had turned me on to formative assessment and forced me to see, with cruel clarity, just how powerful a tool it is.

Five lessons from a formative assessment failure

Here are the lessons I have since learned about formative assessment—while intellectually, many of these are things that I had known before I stepped into the classroom, it took a year of teaching to really recognize them:

1.  Formative assessment needs to be constant—and it’s more than paper-and-pencil

Formative assessment is more than an exit ticket at the close of a lesson or a set of “check in questions” at the end of the week. It’s really an action and a habit that should be occurring consistently in the classroom. Formative assessment takes many shapes and comes in many sizes: yes, my exit tickets and weekly question sets, were a type of formative assessment, but formative assessment can also be well-timed questions, monitoring of student discussion, observation checklists, interviews, notes pages, one-on-one check-ins, and more. Like learning how to balance on a surfboard, it requires time and practice to build up a teacher’s formative assessment muscle and make it a routine part of daily practice. By thinking about formative assessment as paper-and-pencil strategies only, I’d limited myself to examining only a tiny fraction of the actionable data coming from my students and therefore lost valuable opportunities to fill learning gaps.

2. Formative assessment demands follow up

Formative assessment by definition is meant to inform instructional choices and next steps. Formative assessment without follow-up therefore is not really formative assessment. All those well-meaning exit tickets I’d painstakingly prepared (but rarely had time to review) my first year teaching? All those thoughtful questions I added into my lesson plans? (but never strategically listened to student answers)?  I thought I was formatively assessing, but without the expertise that comes with experience (not to mention the time as a first year teacher) to examine my student work, bucket my class into groups based on their demonstrated understanding, and meet each student in the right place, providing the just-right interventions, redirection, questioning, and prompting—I was asking questions, but not following up. I was only doing half the battle.

3. Formative assessment takes planning, coordination, and pedagogical content knowledge

Great formative assessment is planned and backmapped from a larger learning goal. It’s not enough to just ask questions and redirect or reteach when necessary, great formative assessment drives towards an end understanding or challenge (such as adding fractions with like denominators) and provides insight into where understanding breaks down at critical moments, allowing you to adjust course as necessary. When I reviewed the questions and exit slips from my first year, I realized in horror that they were scattered, often uncoordinated with my lesson objective, my modeling, and my targeted state standard. Even when I did have time to review student work, because my formative probing wasn’t always thoughtfully aligned with my instruction or designed to unveil misunderstandings, it did me little good.

4. Formative assessment is an art—but we don’t like to think about it that way.

Looking back on my experience that first year, I realize that something else was at work as well. In both my training prior to entering the classroom and the ongoing professional development I received through my school, as well as classes I sought out on my own, formative assessment was treated as an afterthought, a secondary or supporting character that was constantly upstaged by the star of the show: the state test. In third grade, the first official testing year, this was especially true.

When formative assessment was mentioned at all, it was as an aside—a given, something that everyone MUST be doing, and something so elementary that it did not merit discussion or elaboration. The message that this sent to me as a new teacher was: “Formative assessment is easy, something you should just ‘know’ how to do, it shouldn’t take too much of your time, effort, or thought.” It took the state test, like a bucket of icy water, to wake me up.

The truth is that formative assessment is an art. To be done well, a teacher must exercise the pedagogical content knowledge to craft questions that will reveal and anticipate particular student misunderstandings, quickly interpret student work, responses, and data, rapidly take action—whether that be a follow up question or prompt, regrouping students, or re-teaching a particular concept with a different approach—and juggle all this with the time allotted for instruction and classroom management concerns. As a first year teacher, I was struggling to keep my head above water and blissfully ignorant of delicate balancing act that is formative assessment.

5. Formative assessment gets easier with practice—and support

Building up an approach to formative assessment that is reflexive, one that a teacher can instinctively fire at critical moments with the right questions, prompts, and follow-through takes time and practice. It also takes advice and modeling from veteran teachers, support and feedback from administrators, guidance and examples from curricular tools, and professional development that builds pedagogical content knowledge. This kind of support is made all the more important with the adoption of the Common Core State Standards, which raise the bar and require students to flexibly attack challenging, real-life math tasks and deeply understand complex text. Without routine and thoughtful formative assessment that is anchored by strategic follow-up, students will struggle. Without these supports as a first year teacher, I grappled daily (even though I wasn’t fully aware of that until it was too late).

Scaling our impact

At LearnZillion, the academic team spends a lot of time thinking and talking about formative assessment. Sometimes, I leave these conversations wanting to go back in time to shake my first year teacher self into an earlier realization of the role that formative assessment should have been playing in my classroom all along. More often though, I leave with a sense of respect and awe of teachers and colleagues who have mastered this delicate art—and a desire to take their best practices, habits, and content knowledge and share it with others so that come spring time, there aren’t other first year teachers facing the question, “Shouldn’t you have known?”

—-

Editor’s note: For more on how to leverage some of the techniques Posie mentions in this post, check out:

For Math: http://blog.learnzillion.com/2014/01/16/backwards-mapping-from-parcc-and-sbac-math-items-to-formative-assessments-2/

For ELA: http://blog.learnzillion.com/2014/01/31/text-talks-a-first-step-in-planning-for-close-reading-2/

Google

Text Talks: A first step in planning for close reading

Conducting “text talks” with colleagues or your grade-level team is a fantastic start to planning for close reading. This webinar showcases proven strategies for launching successful text talks, including tips, ideas and an actionable format for diving into close reading. Enjoy!

You can also download our webinar resources here:

Like what you see?

View the next webinar in this series on Close Reading

“Writing, aligning, and sequencing text dependent questions”

Apply to Join the 2014 Dream Team

Watch this short video to learn how to apply to the 2014 LearnZillion Dream Team.

 

LearnZillion is looking for 200 exceptional educators to join the 2014 Dream Team. If you are a teacher who wants to broaden your impact, learn from content experts, and challenge yourself in new and exciting ways, then this is the professional development experience for you. Watch this short video to learn more. Apply today at dreamteam.fluidreview.com.

Delaware Names 34 Teachers to the Delaware Dream Team

We’re excited to announce that the 34 members of Delaware’s inaugural Dream Team have been announced!

(To recap – Delaware selected LearnZillion to lead the state’s professional development offering over several other much larger and more traditional companies last fall.)

Details of Delaware’s Press Release below – Stay tuned for news from Delaware’s TeachFest, to be held January 9-11, 2014.

For immediate release

 

Contact Alison May (302) 735-4000

STATE NAMES 34 TEACHERS TO DREAM TEAM

Thirty-four teachers from across the state will join the Delaware Dream Team, helping to develop high-quality Common Core formative assessment items that will be shared with teachers throughout Delaware.

Members will collaborate in small groups with fellow teachers and Common Core coaches from across the country to create resources, receive feedback and learn together. They will share their professional development experience with colleagues to further broaden their impact.

“The 2014 Delaware Dream Team is both an opportunity to recognize some of the state’s most accomplished teachers and a challenge to those individuals to continue to grow, to make collaboration an integral part of their practice and to create high-quality materials that will help teachers and students across our state — and around the country — be successful,” Secretary of Education Mark Murphy said.

The team will convene January 9 to 11 for Delaware’s TeachFest, a unique celebration of great teaching and an intensive, structured working session. Following TeachFest, the Delaware Dream Team members will return to their 31 elementary, middle and high schools to continue working with peers and content coaches in online professional learning communities. During this process, the Dream Team members will translate their proven teaching methods and classroom expertise into formative assessment tools and resources for use by teachers in Delaware, and around the country, through a free Common Core resource library.

The Delaware Department of Education is partnering with LearnZillion on this project. This summer, LearnZillion worked with 200 teachers from 42 states to create more than 10,000 high-quality, Common Core resources in math and English language arts. They are featured on the LearnZillion website.

“We couldn’t be more excited about working with Delaware,” said LearnZillion CEO Eric Westendorf. “[Delaware leaders] really understand that teachers are the most important factor in student learning, and that the traditional model of ‘sit n’ get’ professional development doesn’t work. They are choosing to do what all the research on talent development recommends – namely, to support professional growth by providing deep practice of do-able, bite-sized tasks. We’re so energized to help make that happen.”

Members of the 2014 Delaware Dream Team, who each will receive a $500 stipend, were selected through a competitive application process evaluating both their understanding of the Common Core State Standards and their desire to “scale their impact” beyond the walls of their own classrooms. The teachers themselves represent a wide spectrum of grade bands, with 22 from English language arts and 12 from mathematics disciplines.

Members of the 2014 Delaware Dream Team

Members of the 2014 Delaware Dream Team

 

3 Steps to Understanding Your Common Core ELA Standards

Here at LearnZillion we’ve spent a lot of time with our Dream Team teachers digging into the Common Core ELA standards, and we hope this post can serve as a useful guide to you. Our three steps are:

Common Core Lesson Plans, ELA, English, Common Core Standards

Step 1. Do a vertical analysis of the standards

The ELA standards were written in a continuum, backwards mapped from anchor “College and Career Ready Standards.” In order to understand their expectations, you need to look vertically across that continuum to understand not only the foundational knowledge assumed from previous grades, but also the skills and understandings you’re setting students up for tackling in the future. It’s important to spend time both examining a your grade band (the grades immediately above and below your own) as well as a larger grade span (for example, kindergarten through fifth grade) so that you can really see how the standards spiral together. We like this version of the standards because it allows you to read the standards across three grades at a time.

Step 2. Notice shifts in key nouns and verbs

It’s important to look beyond just “what’s new” in your grade level to notice the language used in the standards themselves. Pay close attention to shifts in the nouns and verbs, as we’ve noticed that even seemingly subtle distinctions between grade-levels can reveal major changes in expected student outcomes. The language of the standards also provides a framework for the vocabulary you will use as you write objectives, lessons, and model for your students.

Here, for example, is an analysis that looks at Reading Informational text Standard Three in grades three through five. We’ve highlighted some of the key differences in each grade so you can see this for yourself.

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Learn how to analyze standards across grades and more in this post

Notice that third grade students must describe certain types of relationships using time, sequence, and cause/effect language. Whereas in grade four, students move from describing to explaining (including what, how, and why) key procedures, ideas, or concepts drawing specifically on what the text says. Meanwhile, in fifth grade students are expected to use all of those third and fourth grade skills to explain multiple relationships or interactions using specific information from the text.

The following questions can help guide you as do this for yourself around other standards:

  • What are the verbs and nouns in the standard?
  • How do they change?
  • What does that shift mean for teaching the standard in a particular grade?
  • What is the expected student outcome teachers will be held accountable for at that grade?
  • How might students demonstrate mastery of this outcome?

Step 3. Analyze examples of the standards in action

The goal of this step is to build an understanding of what the standard really “looks” like. It’s one thing to see a list of expectations on paper, but quite another to turn that into meaningful lessons, exemplar student work, and thoughtful formative and summative assessment tools. Luckily, you’re not on your own! Below is a list of some of our favorite places to find high quality examples of the Common Core English Language Arts Standards in action:

  • LearnZillion video lessons – LearnZillion’s reading and writing video lessons model how to approach close reading and crafting evidence-based written responses. For example, check out this series of 10th grade videos on The Tempest by Mark Anderson, watch Leigh Pourciau model analyzing a nonfiction article for 8th graders here, or see how Jennifer Reynolds leads a third grade close reading of The Tale of Peter Rabbit.
  • Student Achievement Partners’ ELA/literacy lesson bank—Founded by many of the authors of the Common Core, Student Achievement Partners has worked with teachers around the country to develop high quality ELA lessons and resources.
  • Examples of student work—Find annotated examples of student writing in all grade levels and genres in Common Core Appendix C and Student Achievement Partners’ student writing sample collection. You can use student work for your own study of the grade-level application of the standards as well as for an example to use to model with your students.
  • Literacy Design Collaborative’s template task collections— In order to accurately assess our students’ writing and understanding of text, it is imperative to craft assignments that offer students the opportunity to practice the skills you’ve taught. Use these collections of text-based prompts (which you can modify and adapt to suit your needs) to better understand how to craft creative and meaningful writing assignments that are anchored by text(s).

Shifting to the Common Core English Language Arts Standards will take time and practice. Use the three steps above to help you begin your journey or as a refresher before planning your next unit. And don’t forget another critical element for success: collaboration with your colleagues. Make your vertical analysis of the standards a group discussion—you and your colleagues will benefit by sharing your understandings, experience, and expertise.

9 Ways to Use LearnZillion with Students

We’ve built LearnZillion’s free resources to support teachers, students, and parents. To that end, here are the nine most popular ways LearnZIllion is already being used to drive student learning and maximize positive student outcomes.

Learn about the most popular ways to use LearnZillion with Students

Learn about the most popular ways to use LearnZillion with Students

Before class you can…

1) Review prerequisite knowledge

Use a Quick Code to jump start your introduction to new concepts or standards by assigning videos that address your lesson’s foundational knowledge and skills before students arrive for class. This not only helps to reactivate prior knowledge, but also preemptively addresses lingering learning gaps from previous grades or units.

Quick Code on a LearnZillion lesson page

Quick Code on a LearnZillion lesson page

2) Pre-teach concepts on an individualized basis

Rather than assign the next day’s lesson to the entire class, you can assign “pre-work” to certain students to ensure they have a leg up on tricky concepts. For those students with concept or skill-gaps, pre-teaching can help to increase student engagement and understanding of your lesson the next day. Plus, this “pre-work” can build student confidence (suddenly, they’re already familiar with what you’re teaching), and seed “peer experts” or helpers within your room.

3) Flip the classroom

Maximize the amount of time your students have for exploration, discussion, and project-based learning by front-loading your direct instruction. Select the LearnZillion lesson or lessons that address the key instructional concepts, assign them to your students, and center the next day’s plan around a meaningful problem, discussion topic, task, or project. Spend the first few minutes of class clarifying any questions students still have after watching the video, then dive into your higher-order activity.

It may take a while for students (and you!) to transition to this new routine, so you’ll want to provide them with plenty of modeling and empower them to come prepared to ask questions.

You may want to use LearnZillion’s notes template (which can be found on each lesson page) to promote strong study habits, focus, and accountability.

During class you can…

4) Drive whole group instruction

Switch-up your direct instruction with a LearnZillion video. As you play the video for the class, strategically pause or re-watch the video at key moments in order to check for understanding, solicit student reactions, and allow students the chance to solve problems before seeing the answer modeled.

Lesson videos do more than provide a change of pace for you, as a third grade teacher at Hyde Addison School in Washington, DC recently told us, “My students found it more engaging hearing someone else’s voice.”

Additionally, the videos enable dynamic visuals — such as the volume of melting ice pictured in this lesson — that can strongly articulate the concept and further engage students.

5) Focus small group work or centers

Turbocharge centers or small group instruction by anchoring student work with a relevant lesson video. Whether the goal is direct instruction, group review, practice, or extension, you can use quick codes to set a targeted group agenda and focus student work. For each Common Core math standard, we also have a library of practice problems that students can tackle independently online, or collaborate to complete via a paper handout.

6) Coordinate with colleagues 

Use LearnZillion to create a consistent and rigorous instructional environment for your students throughout your building. Find the LearnZillion lessons that support your instructional goals for the week, and share the relevant quick codes with other colleagues who work with your students. This way, you can ensure that regardless of whether they’re going to a pull-out class, physical education, art, recess, or an RTI block, your students will be getting con sistent reinforcement, support, and messaging from all of the adults around them.

After class you can… 

7) Differentiate your instruction

Respond to data from your formative assessments by creating customized playlists for the students or small groups in your class. After you’ve analyzed your formative data and identified learning gaps or areas that need additional reinforcement, use LearnZillion’s Common Core Navigator to find the target standard, and then narrow the list by finding the lesson objective that fit your students’ needs. Once you’ve assigned a custom playlist, students can log into their LearnZillion account to watch videos at home, during computer lab, centers, or study hall.

8) Support homework

Assign videos to provide your students with clear and conceptual scaffolds to help them tackle homework assignments or independent projects. Use these videos to clarify the key concepts or provide background knowledge or review to support your assignment.

9) Engage and empower parents

Increase parent involvement and engagement by providing a window into the standards and concepts you and your students are tackling in the classroom. By sharing the lesson quick codes for your current classwork or unit of study, you’ll not only provide your parent community with transparency around the Common Core Standards and your expectations, but also empower them with a useful tool to support learning at home.

So there you have it: the nine most popular ways to use LearnZillion with students.

Let us know how you’re using LearnZillion – we’d love to feature your success stories and share your tips with the rest of the LearnZillion community!

3 Steps to Understanding Your Common Core Math Standard

Whether you’ve been teaching math for three months or three decades, you likely have a few questions about what the Common Core means for you. How are the new standards different from the standards you used to teach? How closely do they align with your current lessons and units? How will your colleagues at higher and lower grade levels be adjusting their instruction, and what does that mean for you? And, perhaps most importantly, what do you need to know about the Common Core’s take on the standard you’re teaching next week?

We have done a lot of work around these questions at LearnZillion, and the following three steps are our recommended best practices for understanding your Common Core Mathematics standard.

LearnZillion's tips on how to understand your Common Core Math standard

Read on for LearnZillion’s best tips on understanding your Common Core Math standard

Step 1. Do standards analysis research

Analysis of Common Core standards can come in many different forms. Assessment is an important one. The Common Core assessment consortia, PARCC and SBAC, have released annotated sample items that show what students who have mastered specific standards are be able to do.

Many other sites also give helpful resources to anchor your planning. Formative assessments and performance tasks from sources like Illustrative Mathematics and Student Achievement Partners can help you set a vision for the end of a unit or lesson. These resources are generally tagged to Common Core standards, including the Standards for Mathematical Practice.

Step 2. Learn from your peers

Remember – you are not alone! Thousands of other teachers across the country are puzzling over the same standard as you, and – whether in your building or online – many are eager to collaborate.

Set aside time with your grade level team, or colleagues from your district. Form a lesson study group. Observe each other in action. Divide the task of interpreting the standards and bounce ideas and questions off each other.

If you’re looking for free examples of lessons by teachers who have studied the standards, LearnZillion.com is a great resource. We offer a growing library of thousands of free math video lessons and resources for grades 2-12 that have been created by our Dream Team of practicing teachers.

Step 3. Understand your lesson in the context of a bigger picture

If a standard seems confusing, you can always take step back to understand how the standard fits in to the broader conceptual developments taking place in your students’ math journey.  The Progressions, created by a team at the University of Arizona, is a concise and well-written guide to the conceptual developments that students experience as they advance in math.  The Progressions are organized into grade bands and Common Core domains, making it easy to see how your standard rests on earlier standards and reinforces later ones.

Ready to get started?

Let us know how it goes!

Check out this inspirational video on how one teacher felt empowered by this research process.