Common Core Strategies for Your Classroom (NCSS13 presentation)

Kate Coombs
• Curriculum Director for Gibbs Smith Education
• Taught for Los Angeles Unified School District for
14 years
• Spent 4 of those years as a teacher advisor/trainer
• Taught K–3rd in an elementary setting
• Taught 1st–12th for home-hospital school
• Has also taught college English
• Children’s book author
• Lives in Utah but does not ski
Handouts Galore
Fortunately, a stronger writing program
will benefit your own objectives
as a history teacher.
General William T. Sherman
Underline the most intriguing
sentence in what you wrote.
Writing Tasks that Build on Student Ideas
• Reader response to primary source without prompts
• Reader response to primary source with prompts
• Texted/written dialogue about a history topic and
then create 5 intriguing ideas or questions to share
• 1-page opinion piece (about a history topic or a
historic figure’s key decision) + mini research task
• Chunk writing in groups (see Chunk Writing below)
• Historic op-ed piece—start with historic newspapers
Analytical Reader Response Questions
• In your own words, explain General Sherman’s reasons for
not canceling the evacuation of Atlanta. What were his goals?
• Some people think General Sherman did not care what
happened to citizens in a war. Argue for or against that
opinion using evidence from Sherman’s letter (W.7.9).
• Civilians always get hurt in a war zone. For example, in the
Iraq War, more than 100,000 civilians were killed. (And 4,800+
troops from the US and other countries were killed.) Is it
possible for civilians to be better protected? If so, how?
• Some people are against all wars, while others are in favor of
certain wars. When is war justified? What are some reasons
wars are fought? Can war be avoided? Should it be avoided?
DBQ’s: Not Just for Assessment
• Students will have a more productive experience
using Document-based Questions for projects
instead of just for essay exams.
• Also have students come up with their own
DBQ’s, DBQ’s for each other, and class DBQ’s.
• Students should discuss what makes a good
DBQ. Which questions are less successful,
and why?
Writing Assignment Example
1. Have half the class read General Sherman’s
letter and write the letter they think the mayor
and city council must have written.
2. Have the other half read the mayor and city
council’s letter and then write a letter from
General Sherman turning them down. How
would he respond to each point they made?
3. Give students the actual letters to read and
discuss in connection with their own writing.
4. Follow up with a class discussion.
5 Myths about Student Writing
5 Myths about Student Writing
1. The 5-paragraph essay trains good writers.
2. Outlining in advance produces good writing.
3. Telling students to be more specific works
4. Plagiarism is about dishonesty.
5. Marking all conventions errors along the way
means students will stop making them.
The 5-Paragraph Essay:
Fundamental Teaching Tool?
Myth Buster #1: Five-Paragraph Panic
I panicked the first time I had to write a real
paper. What did that even mean? Writing a
10-paragraph essay?
—Breeann Allison
Clone Wars
The 5-paragraph essay
tends to produce stiff,
writing. It is useful for
writing essay exams,
but is unlike any other
writing out there,
including college-level
academic writing.
My 9th grade English teacher told us,
“You may think the 5-paragraph essay
is limiting and restricting—and it is. But
that’s too bad. That’s what you’re going
to do. That’s life, doing things we don’t
want to do.”
—Breeann Allison
10-Page Skater Paper
Chunk Writing
STEP #1—Students brainstorm about topics
and choose 6–8 ideas they really like that have
potential for development.
STEP #2—Students make brainstorm lists for
their top 3 topics and see which one takes off.
STEP #3—Students meet in pairs to come up
with 3–4 more ideas for their lists about #1.
Chunk Writing, cont.
STEP #4—Students pick any subtopic from
their lists and write 1–2 paragraphs about it.
STEP #5—Students repeat this step in random
order once per day till they have a “chunk” of
writing for each idea on the list.
Myth Buster #2: I-A-1-a-b-c-2…
Outlining in advance locks students in,
discouraging critical thinking and revision.
Organize after Chunk Drafting
STEP #6—Students lay out their chunks of writing
in a logical order. They actually think about how
the ideas should flow. (W.6–8.1a and 2a)
STEP #7—Students add transitions as needed:
“What words, phrases, or sentences, if any, are
needed to get from the idea at the end of this
paragraph to the idea at the beginning of the next
paragraph?” (More thinking! W.6–8.1c and 2c)
Myth Buster #3: Be Specific!
Most students are unclear on what this means.
Filming and Specificity
Compare levels of specificity to filming and
lens types, from wide angle to zoom.
Models for Levels of Detail
Level 1—Out of Focus (No detail: vague summary
and abstract language)
Level 2—Wide-Angle Lens (Teaser detail:
summary with details/examples mentioned)
Level 3—Medium Lens (Basic detail)
Level 4—Zoom Lens (Developed detail)
[Level 5—Super Zoom (1st person experience)]
Using the Models
• Train your students to refer to the levels of
detail in class work.
• Students should practice identifying abstract
words (ideas and feelings) versus concrete
words (can be experienced with the senses).
• Concrete language can be general or
specific—e.g., animal vs. chihuahua.
• Encourage the use of concrete, specific
language as well as examples and details.
Grab Your Readers
Ask students: How do details keep
readers from getting bored?
Uses for Different Levels of Detail
• Level 1 should be avoided—it’s vague and
• Level 2 can be used for introducing and
wrapping up ideas, also transitions.
• Level 3 should be used for supporting details
and examples.
• Level 4 is used for extended examples and
historic accounts.
Revision: Add Details
STEP #8—Have students add details using
their own ideas and examples as well as peer
feedback… (Research comes later.)
“What else?” and “Tell me more!”
Give them time.
Chunk their work again.
Myth Buster #4: A Plague of Plagiarism
Credit Where Credit’s Due
STEP #9—Have students add details using
research material.
• Save major research till later in the process.
• Teach that research can support student
ideas rather than obliterate them.
• Use models and practice to teach the
differences between quoting, paraphrasing,
and summarizing.
• Have students read and then put away
research sources before paraphrasing.
Thomas Jefferson
once said, “I hold
it that a little
rebellion now and
then is a good
thing, and as
necessary in the
political world as
storms in the
How would
you put it?
Quote: Thomas Jefferson once said, “I
hold it that a little rebellion now and then is
a good thing, and as necessary in the
political world as storms in the physical.”
Bad Paraphrase: Thomas Jefferson once
said that a small rebellion every so often
is a positive thing that is as necessary in
the political world as storms are in the
physical world.
Quote: Thomas Jefferson once said, “I
hold it that a little rebellion now and then
is a good thing, and as necessary in the
political world as storms in the physical.”
Good Paraphrase: According to
Thomas Jefferson, a rebellion can
sometimes clean up the political world
the way a storm can clean up the natural
Why do teachers often focus
on convention errors?
The Trouble with Tribbles
Myth Buster #5: Red Pens at the Ready
Addressing all convention errors every step of
the way distracts students from developing their
ideas. It also gets teachers off track.
The red ink approach simply does not work.
In the traditional model,
students make the same mistakes
year after year, taking them with
them to college.
Error Trends at the Very End
• Save feedback about conventions till the very
end, after content is developed and revised.
• Choose one major error trend to focus on
and ignore the rest—for now (e.g., run-on
• Have each student practice finding that error.
• Only move on to the next error trend after a
student has improved on the first one.
Thank you for being in love with history!
Build History Thinkers
by Building History Writers
“History cannot give us a program for the future, but it
can give us a fuller understanding of ourselves, and of
our common humanity, so that we can better face the

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