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Every teacher on an interdisciplinary team would be delighted if all of the students read well.  It would make teaching many lessons a little easier–not having to worry about who can read the assigned text and who can’t. Therefore  a common goal of a team has to be to find ways to improve reading comprehension of all of the students.  How fortuitous! Anchor standard # 1 of the Common Core reads, “Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.”

Savvy teams, like the mythical Sagadahoc team pictured here, know that by working together teachers working togetherthey increase the likelihood that their students will master skills and internalize new information.  The team would check the grade level indicators for Reading anchor standard # 1 in both language arts and the content areas.  They would find these benchmarks:

Language Arts: Students must be able to “determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course

of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.”

Social Studies: Students must be able to “determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.”

Science & other technical subjects: Students must be able to “determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; provide an accurate summary of the text distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.

An aha moment! Whatever class students are in they need to be able to “determine the central ideas” of informational text. Perhaps, the team muses, there is a way to create a common lesson or two that addresses this particular learning target of determining the central idea. Then the teachers could follow-up with additional content-specific lessons (the social studies teacher might employ primary sources and the science teacher would use scientific text, etc).

Someone on the team is probably more familiar with the Common Core than the others and might suggest looking at the other standards for connections.

Team memeber thinking about connections between Reading and Speaking and Listening Standards.Sagadahoc team pulls up the Thinking and Listening Common Core Standards and finds,

Comprehension and Collaboration

1. Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners,

building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

2. Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

3. Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.

A bolt out of the blue hits them all at once–ADVISORY!

Team of teachers working

Advisory is the perfect place to help students develop excellent listening skills that help them determine the central idea of a presentation or video. Next they could use those central ideas to  participate in varied conversations where they build on others’ ideas and express their own clearly and persuasively.

The team decides they need authentic listening experiences if they hope to engage their students in any serious way.  Their school subscribes to Film Clips for Character Education so they decide to investigate the website. The Resources page includes clips suggested by educators.  There they find two clips–one from the Rachel Maddow show and another from YouTube that relate to sportsmanship.

Using these two clips as the “text”,  the teams craft several advisory groups sessions where students will focus on listening closely, determining the central ideas, and then using evidence from the clips to help them express their ideas clearly.

In the non-threatening atmosphere of advisory where there are no grades, students can practice extracting the big ideas from a video and using specific information or evidence from the video to back up an opinion or idea they express in ensuing conversations with their peers.

Later, in classes, the teachers will refer back to these experiences as concrete models of what students need to be doing as they read printed or digital text. “Remember when we discussed sportsmanship in advisory and we asked you to use specific information from the two video clips rather than relying on just your own experiences?  That is what we are going to do today with the primary source documents from the Salem Witch Trials.  We are going to read closely and identify evidence in the document that will help us understand the beliefs of this era.”

As middle grades teams you have the advantage that you can work together to help your students master the Common Core and other state standards. You also realize that knowledge is connected and  by looking for those connections you can create authentic and powerful learning experiences for your students. Use the proven characteristics of middle level philosophy such as collaboration through teaming and integration of subjects, ideas, and skills to tame the Common Core!

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