Board of Education members and local legislators are typically on the decision making end when it comes to implementing new standards such as Common Core, but on Wednesday a group of politicians and administrators were given the chance to experience Common Core from a student’s perspective at Booker T. Washington Elementary in Dover, during Common Core Back-to-School night.
Michael Watson, chief academic officer for the Delaware Department of Education put the night together for a specific reason.
“We wanted to provide them with the opportunity and access to see the Common Core in action,” Watson said. “We wanted to give them the opportunity to engage with teachers, to actually engage with lesson and experience what our students experience every day.”
Those who attended were given two English language arts lessons, one with a focus on reading and one with a dash of social studies.
In Amanda Bodine and Angela Darling, third grade class participants were given and ELA lesson with Native Americans as an overarching theme.
Bodine and Darling broke attendees into groups and asked them to classify and categorize words into seven groups. They were then asked to justify why their group put certain words together. This justification is an important feature of Common Core, Bodine said.
“One of the main things with Common Core is having them support their answer with evidence,” she said.
The evening’s participants delved deeper into these words when they were asked to create kid friendly definitions for the key vocabulary words. In working with words students do more than just expand their vocabulary, Darling said.
“By the end we want them to see that these words are going to tie into our discovery of Native Americans,” she said.
Participants were also given a region such as a forest or a tropical island and asked to determine pros and cons of living there and facts about their region, based off of a photograph and any background knowledge they had about that region. They were then presented with a written description of the area. They combined all of the information and further analyzed the region.
For the evenings second lesson Latisha Robinson a third grade teacher at Booker T. and Cathy Schreiber, one of the school’s literacy coaches, walked legislators and administrators through a reading lesson where chocolate and its production was the main theme.
Attendees were once again broken into groups and asked to jot down some of their prior knowledge about the production of chocolate. They were then asked to read texts about chocolate and analyze them with their group, while asking any questions they make have encountered.
Page 2 of 2 - There was also an interactive portion where legislators and board of education members were able to read about the production of chocolate while using a computer game to produce their own virtual chocolate.
The texts that were given out were ones that would typically be above a third grade reading level and the strategies that participants were taught are used to help students tackle them, Schreiber said.
“When we talk about close reading typically that text is more complex,” she said. “It is usually above the student’s instructional level because we want to help stretch them and help them scaffold the instruction so that they can be successful with text that is a little bit higher than their instructional reading level.”
At the end of the night some of the participants walked away feeling as if they had a better grasp on Common Core, like State Representative Andria Bennett (D-Dover).
“I think it’s important for me to be able to have some sort of knowledge when a constituent talks to me about common core, so I know what I’m talking about,” Bennett said. “These teachers made it very interesting and it seems like it’s going to be a positive experience for our children.”
However, not everyone that attended Common Core Back-to-School night left with a positive feeling. Cheryl Precourt, a member of the Caesar Rodney Board of Education, left less than thrilled.
“I wanted to find out more about Common Core as a board member and a parent,” Precourt said. “I don’t feel like a lot of parents know what common core is yet. I don’t feel like they’ve done a good job of getting the public involved or of letting us ask questions and get answers. I got a small idea of the things they plan to implement at the school level but I still have a lot of questions. They covered ELA and history but they haven’t really showed us math. It answered a few things but it leaves me with a lot of questions.”