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The Concrete Common Core: What are the components of a common core lesson?

We have spent a great deal of time “unpacking” the Common Core Standards and then discussing what implementation of those standards mean to our classrooms. As we continue to have conversations, we get a vague picture of what our classroom will look like, but we struggle to put those vague ideas into more concrete lessons.

We know that the Common Core Classroom will require that we get rid of practices that do not support students thinking deeper and providing evidence.We know that we will be asking students to problem-solve and not just plug in a correct formula or answer a multiple choice question that they have memorized for the test.We know that literacy will become a focus of every classroom and that students will need to be moving toward writing for information and argument as they progress through our prek-12 system.

We know that these increasing expectations have created a great deal of anxiety and yes, even fear for educators.However, I believe that these difficult feelings are a necessary component in change.I also believe that change and increased expectations is and should remain the norm for schools that are true communities for learning.The key is for school leaders to be at the forefront in making certain that adequate tools and resources are available to support the change. Also, as educators, we need to take charge of our own learning and seek out resources that allow us to become better equipped to facilitate the learning of our students.

In turn, teachers should be at the forefront providing resources and tools for student learning.In the classroom, we are obligated to set high expectations while providing students the appropriate tools that will encourage them to think deeply and to develop the traits of a life long learner.

So, what might the framework for a Common Core lesson look like?  What are the critical components?  

  • Identify the topic of the lesson or unit.
  • What content will I be covering in this lesson or unit? 
  • How do I define student success?
  • What is the purpose for learning?   
  • What are the essential questions students will need to be able to answer? 
  • What formative assessments will I use to make determine next steps in instruction?  
  • What summative assessments will I use to determine mastery?
  • How will reading and writing be integrated to develop comprehension, fluency, and communication skills?  
  • What Habits of Mind and/or Capacities of a Literate Individual will students demonstrate through their daily work? 
  • What technology will students utilize to demonstrate their understanding of the learning purpose or essential questions?

The framework components above are essential but certainly not inclusive.Moving from that vague understanding of the Common Core to the more concrete will mean taking a serious look at these components to determine what you can take from your current instructional plans, what needs to be added, and what needs to be eliminated.Time and commitment to your own learning will be required as you move to this new framework.  Below you will find some of my favorite resources for teachers.  Now it is up to you…


ESSDACK Training

Classroom Instruction that Works

Course Description &Training Dates are:  January 15, 2012, February 28, 2013 and April 3, 2013

Since its publication in 2001, Classroom Instruction That Works (CITW) has been one of the best-selling and most widely-used books on effective strategies that increase student achievement. Now, McRel has updated the research behind the nine strategies, reorganizing and reenergizing them in the second edition. ESSDACK will offer a three-day professional learning opportunity that will help teachers learn more about these strategies and how to successfully implement them in the classroom. Each participant will receive a copy of the book.

(see for other great learning opportunities)


Helpful Text Sources

Math in Plain English:Literacy Strategies for the Mathematics Classroom by Amy Benjamin

Vocabulary at the Core:Teaching the Common Core Standards by Amy Benjamin & John T. Crow

Teaching Grammar:What Really Works by Amy Benjamin & Joan Berger
CC Lesson Plans books

Common Core Literacy Lesson Plans:Ready-To-Use-Resources (k-5, 6-8,9-12) edited by Lauren Davis

Developing Readers in the Academic Disciplines by Doug Buehl

Classroom Strategies for Interactive Learning by Doug Buehl

Tools for Teaching Content Literacy by Janet Allen

Explicit Instruction by Anita Archer

Habits of Mind by Art Costa and Bena Kallick
Classroom Instruction that Works 2nd edition by Ceri B. Dean, Elizabeth R. Hubbell, Howard Pitler, and BJ Stone

A Handbook for Classroom Instruction that Works 2nd edition by Howard Pitler and BJ Stone

Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works, 2nd edition by Howard Pitler, Elizabeth R. Hubbell, and Matt Kuhn

Assignments Matter by Eleanor Dougherty


Webinar Sources

Eye on Education –


Learning Sciences Marzano Center –




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