Simple Common Core Literacy Standards for Grades 9-12

My co-teacher and I will be teaching special education students who are in our alternative classroom for part of the school day. Since we will be using Common Core standards, we felt that it would be important to put those standards into language that the students can understand, that way they can learn to evaluate themselves using concrete criteria.

We want to move away from letter grades and move toward standards-based grading and having the Common Core in language students and parents can understand is an important first step for that.

Here is a link to the chart we created for our students; please feel free to use it and change it as needed: CCStandardsinLaymansTerms

Student Absences

What do you do when student absences affect their progress?  I work with students who have emotional and behavioral disabilities, so any small thing happening in their world or their body might cause an adverse reaction, which causes them to skip school.  It takes a long time to get them to a point where they can feel safe enough and comfortable enough to go to school.   While they are learning that school can be a safe place, they tend to miss a lot of classes.  We have a truancy policy in our school district that includes sending a letter home to inform parents of their son/daughter’s absences after 5 days and 10 days.  After 15 days absent a letter goes home and a meeting is set up to discuss the issue, and after 20 days, truancy is filed with the district attorney (who then puts the case into the court system).  I’ve been only slightly impressed with how the courts handle truancy cases.

When a student goes to truancy court for the first time it is usually well into the school year and the judge usually gives the student another 30 days to get it together and go to school.  About a week before the next court date the student will pull together and go to school, which looks good in court, so the judge will grant another 30 days to continue the behavior.  This cycle is endless.  Only four times in my 15 years of teaching have I seen the judge actually take a child out of their parent’s home or assign a DCF worker to the case to make sure the child goes to school.  Most of the time the cases are dismissed at the end of the school year and the cycle begins again the following year.

So teachers need to continue to work with students who are not gaining progress due to absences.  I have started making individual lessons for my students.  I use the site edmodo.com so that each student can be assigned their own task within my curriculum.  Students can also access this at home since it is web-based; I have yet to have any students who are willing to do that, but I haven’t lost hope about it.  Students can have conversations with each other or with me and they can turn in their paperless assignments online.  This is completely private since the teacher sets up a code for the students to join; no one can just do a random search on the internet and see who is in the class or what students are saying.

It’s disruptive for the other students to have a student who is absent a lot suddenly show up for class.  It throws off the rhythm of the class and it can make the other students uncomfortable, not to mention that the student who has missed a lot of school has no idea what’s going on and basically feels uncomfortable as well.  Sometimes that contributes to even more absences.   But crafting individual assignments or mini-projects help a student who is absent a lot get back into the swing of the class and feel safe and productive.  It’s important to build a good rapport with students who are absent a lot so that you can help them make a good connection to school; that good connection can eventually be the way you personally coax them to school everyday.

Brit. Lit: The First Unit

The first unit of study in this class is all about personality and life events. The stories included in this unit all feature characters with major personality issues who make poor choices over what they can and cant control: “The Monkey’s Paw,” “The Open Window,” “The Pardoner’s Tale,” and “The Rocking Horse Winner”.

We will look at themes such as greed and desperation, control, and fate. We will discuss what people control in their lives and how their personality affects the choices they make. We will also discuss the outcomes for people when they try to change things they can’t control.

Students will use the text to help them interpret character traits. They will use the character traits to determine themes and support further interpretations in the text.

Culminating projects will be to create a Prezi journal using digital photography to document visual representations of things a person can control and things a person can’t control. A second culminating project will be to create a Glog on the student’s own personality traits, or to create a Glog comparing 4 characters’ personalities.

CORE skills that students will focus on through the course of this unit: citing text evidence to support analysis and interpretation, analyze how characters develop and interact throughh the course of the text to develop the plot and theme, interpreting themes from a text and using the text to support inferences. Students will also be required to make judgements about the text and connect ideas to the larger world.

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Basic Lit: The Idea for the Year

Students in this class are preparing to read more difficult literature from around the world by practicing basic literacy skills.  The first skill students are working on is learning to cite text evidence to support analysis of what the text says.   As students show they can do this independently, they will move on to making inferences about a text and they will continue to need to highlight where they get their information in the text.

Students will also work on learning to find key ideas and details in order to determine a theme or central idea.  As they progress with this skill they will also have to analyze the development of the theme through the course of the text.  Students will use highlighting as a strategy to help them keep their information organized.

The other main area this class will focus on is vocabulary development.  This is so important for the students in this class because they haven’t been exposed to a lot of words and they lack the understanding of words necessary for better reading comprehension.  Another part of this will be to understand figurative language, word relationships and nuances in word meanings.

American Lit: First Unit

The first unit of study in this course is “Exploration and Survival.”  We will read excerpts from “Undaunted Courage,” “War Party,” “Love of Life,” and “Pecos Bill.”  We will focus on what it takes to explore a new place and survive.  We will also talk about how exploring changed America and what Americans gained (and lost) through Westward Expansion.  Students will analyze characters and look at historical fiction, and non-fiction pieces to judge survival traits.

Culminating projects include creating a commercial with a Flip camera or designing a website to advertise the west and convince people to move there.  Students will need to tailor these advertisements to the type of people who will be able to handle the journey and survive.  They will also create a story about humans adventuring to populate another planet; ideally they will perform a play and capture it with Flip video or they will use digital cameras to take pictures and create a glog to tell the story.

CORE skills that students will focus on in this unit include analyzing who characters develop and interact, analyze a theme’s development through the text and cite textual evidence to support text analysis.