Teacher Voice

Teacher Designs Her Own Common Core-Aligned Lesson Plans

If the past summer taught New York teacher Lucy Boyd anything, it was that Common Core is hardly the curricular straightjacket opponents have fashioned it to be. In this recent blog, Boyd shared her process.
In the often heated national debate over the Common Core, opponents have cast the standards as a threat to teacher autonomy and students’ intellectual creativity. The result is a public perception that there is very little wiggle room for teachers in choosing what to present in their classrooms. My experience as a lead lesson planner reveals that perception to be a false one.
Boyd kept a copy of the standards close at hand as she mapped out a year of fiction and non-fiction lessons for her 7th-graders. While the readings were chosen by her school, she and her co-teacher had complete autonomy over the lesson sequence, questions, activities, focus and passages.
To teach works ranging from Julia Alvarez’s "In the Time of the Butterflies" about the dictatorship of Trujillo in the Dominican Republic to Shakespeare’s infamous tragedy "Romeo and Juliet," we created literature units with supplemental nonfiction readings, as the Common Core standards suggest. We chose key vocabulary words from each work and included discussions of broader concepts such as imperialism and internal oppression. We created lengthy writing assignments that asked students to compare and contrast nonfiction and fiction texts about the same topic, such as Julius Lester’s "To Be a Slave" and Walter Dean Myers’s "The Glory Field." For the end of the year, we wrote an extensive sonnet unit, as the Common Core suggests for 7th-grade students, in which students analyze the impact a sonnet’s form has on its meaning.
While she felt confident with her planning, she was deeply gratified to learn the more rigorous lessons resonated with her students.
A teacher’s worst nightmare is to look out across a room to see the blank faces of students who are completely perplexed. Happily, I found the answer to be no; it’s not too hard.
Tracy Dell’Angela
Tracy Dell’Angela is a writer, education nonprofit executive director and a mom passionate about education improvements. Previously, Tracy was Director of Outreach and Communications for the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) at the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C. She came to IES from the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research, which produces research that ...

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