While it was really my preference that Illinois would be looking a bit more ‘blue’ these days, it gives me hope to see there is a rejection pending. Yet, as an educator, my responsibility is always to do what is best for my students. This, by all means, does not mean that I am a fan – even if the standards were perfect, the agenda behind them makes them inherently defective. Nevertheless, after attending a workshop with my division head and other teachers in the district, I found there may be some elements of Common Core worth considering. I began the task of incorporating some of these elements into instruction.
My division head provided us with templates integrating KU Sim strategies with the curricular objectives of our program. So, I did what I do best – made them look pretty and infused them with some of my own instructional preferences enabling me to diversify instruction and meet the educational needs of the student population with whom I work. I am including these templates along with examples I developed, and I invite any interested educators to do the same – make them your own.
To help students meet the new ridiculous, oops – I mean RIGOROUS, yes . . . rigorous requirements dictated, um, . . . DETERMINED . . . by PARCC, we started with the reading passages. Our district uses ACHIEVE 3000, which offers reading passages on a variety of topics written at the following Lexiles: 150L, 250L, 400L, 520L, 660L, 780L, 880L, 980L, 1080L, 1180L, 1280L, and 1380L. If you are considering using this program, let me first caution you – finding articles on specific topics is difficult. If you are trying to put together a thematic unit of materials, good luck! Expect to spend a lot of time and energy sifting through reading passages. Also, the Lexile information used by ACHIEVE is not aligned with that of MetaMetrics. I found the following comparisons for the two passages I selected (The first score listed is MetaMetrix, and the second is ACHIEVE):
A New Map 600L (400L ACHIEVE)
A New Map 600L (520L ACHIEVE)
A New Map 690L (660L ACHIEVE)
A New Map 810L (780L ACHIEVE)
A New Map 950L (1380L ACHIEVE)
Thoroughly Modern Medicine 430L (400L ACHIEVE)
Thoroughly Modern Medicine 580L (520L ACHIEVE)
Thoroughly Modern Medicine 760L (660L ACHIEVE)
Thoroughly Modern Medicine 840L (780L ACHIEVE)
Thoroughly Modern Medicine 970L (880L ACHIEVE)
Thoroughly Modern Medicine 1100L (980L ACHIEVE)
Thoroughly Modern Medicine 1100L (1080L ACHIEVE)
Thoroughly Modern Medicine 1100L (1180L ACHIEVE)
Thoroughly Modern Medicine 1100L (1380L ACHIEVE)
The two corporations obviously use a different formula, and based on these comparisons, MetaMetrics more closely reflects the level of complexity in text used by PARCC. For instance, ACHIEVE assigns a Lexile of 1380L to passages of highest complexity. When measured by the Lexile analyzer provided by MetaMetrics, the two passages I analyzed were given scores of 950L and 1100L. When I analyzed the text in PARCC, I used the MetaMetrix analyzer. Text in the sample items of PARCC is as high as 1370L (text in the ACT is as high as 1420L); therefore, if you are working with students in upper level classes, you should use the MetaMetrix analyzer to more accurately reflect the complexity of text used in these standardized assessments.
Please follow links to view the articles I used in my product development (when you download documents, the highlighted text will show up):
In this product, two passages are provided on the same topic for comparison. The students I work with are at the preparatory level, so this example is basic in its complexity. The two passages I selected are similar in content but differing perspectives would be more challenging. This is something I will take progressive steps toward. Also, take note that text is grouped within four Lexile ranges, 400L-600L, 600-800L, 800L-900L, and 900L-1100L. Ideally, this allows students to read text at their independent score band paired with text that will stretch their comprehension skills (In truth, students in a single class can be all over the place in terms of their comprehension skills, and this allows teachers to provide accessible materials that are more appropriate in meeting their individual needs). Additionally, providing multiple score bands allows teachers to differentiate instruction yet have a dialogue about the same content.
To help students in their comprehension and vocabulary development, below is an extension activity for each article. Level 1 is written for the lower two Lexile ranges, and Level 2 is written for the higher two score bands.
TEMPLATE: Connecting Strategies
Next is an example and a template for an activity utilizing literary analysis to target critical thinking skills:
Verbs from Bloom’s Taxonomy can be used to write summative questions for each article:
Question stems that promote literary analysis skills can be used to write objective questions:
Below is a more comprehensive list of question stems from CCSS and ACT. I actually prefer ACT stems because they are more systematically scaffolded, which makes it easier for me to choose stems that are appropriate in meeting the needs of the student population with which I work.
Last, a student favorite – the writing assessment! So far, I have two versions of a paragraph. One is written to supplement DBQ learning used in our social science program. It is also better suited for students at the preparatory level. The second would be the next step in the scaffolding process. I will include organizers for essays soon – I need to make them!
The bad news – this is obviously time intensive. The best plan of attack would be to work in groups. The good news – once it is finished, you have a great, well planned, differentiated unit that employs text accessible for a diverse population of students. Oh, and yes, it’s very “Common Coreish”.