Developing a Fluency with the Common Core Learning Standards

At first glance it might seem like we are doing this already, but teaching confidently with the CCLS challenges us to understand them with depth. Glancing at the standards is what we do when we say we are reviewing the standards….exposing ourselves to the standards….. or introducing the standards to teachers.

Developing a fluency with the standards? Well, that’s a whole other ball game.

This week, I’ll try to share as much as I can about my efforts to help teachers become fluent with the CCLS. I’m hoping that each of these short posts will leave you a strategy or idea that can help you or those you are serving accomplish the same. What did this look like in the beginning?

We began by assessing what we already knew (or thought we knew) about the standards. Where do they come from? How were they designed? How is the document itself organized? How do different components connect together, and to what end? How can we use the standards purposefully? What do they look like at our individual grade levels? What questions do we have?

In some cases, I also sliced the standards into strips and challenged teachers to:

  • Read each of them
  • Consider their individual meaning
  • Consider the relationships between them and
  • Organize them into a coherent framework without referencing the CCLS document, which they were also provided

The beginning also involved asking teachers to create a visual representation of the CCLS. They were able to use the document itself and any other resources that they found helpful to inform this work. This was intentional.  I know that creating visual representations often helps make complex information clearer.  Chunking dense texts into meaningful parts and defining the connections between them is helpful too. This experience also required teachers to open various documents and begin digging into them in purposeful ways. For many of them, this was the first time they had the opportunity to do so. It was important to me that they didn’t turn directly to grade level standards and dive into the work of gap analysis or alignment. I wanted to be confident that they had time to peruse and discuss the document as a whole as well as the appendixes that enrich its meaning further.

As they designed their visuals, I got a feel for how well teachers were able to navigate different resources, which of those resources seemed to be of most value to them, which ones I needed to design in order to be of better help to people, and where meaning was being made. I also identified where confusion was creeping in. Their final products enabled me to assess how people “saw” the CCLS and the ways in which different aspects of the standards connected together. Listening to the kinds of questions that they asked along the way offered me valuable perspective about what was known and where I could begin to help everyone more.

You can click on the images below to see larger versions of them.






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