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The Core Six

 by Nora Ziegler

            This summer I began to worry about how I needed to change my teaching strategies to help my third grade students meet the challenges of the Common Core, so I did what I always do – I found a book chock full of great ideas I could implement in my classroom.  That book was The Core 6: Essential Strategies for Achieving Excellence with the Common Core by Silver, Dewing, and Perini, published by ASCD in 2012.  What a goldmine!  As Heidi Hayes- Jacobs says in the forward, this book is actually an edu-toolkit with instructional strategies that should be implemented at all grade levels.  Here are briefs on each of the strategies:

1.  Reading for Meaning

This is obviously something we have always taught, right?  Well, there are new elements to this strategy.  The text complexity needs to be challenging.  Direct instruction needs to be provided so students learn to find, assess, and use relevant textual evidence.  The core skills of reading that are crucial to understanding are identifying the main idea, making inferences, and supporting interpretations with evidence.  This chapter, as well as the others, concludes with sample lessons at various grade levels and subject areas, planning considerations, anticipation guides, and writing extensions.

2.  Compare and Contrast

The authors cite research indicating that this is the single most effective way to raise student achievement.  They also introduce a new way of recording similarities and differences – the Top Hat Organizer. It provides more space for the students to write similarities and puts the differences adjacent to one another. This strategy is recommended for use during reading.

3.  Inductive Learning

This strategy helps students deepen their understanding of content and develop their inference and evidence-gathering skills.  Students examine, group, and label specific bits of information to find patterns.  They use these labeled groups to develop a hypothesis about the content to come.  During the learning, they collect evidence to verify or refine their hypothesis.  This is a great way to introduce academic vocabulary.

4.  Circle of Knowledge discussions

This strategy enables teachers to conduct discussions of open- ended questions to foster student participation and critical thinking. These discussions teach children how to listen attentively, appreciate others’ points of view, and disagree in an appropriate manner.  The discussions also provide the teacher with a wealth of formative assessment. The steps to increase participation, keep the class focused, and encourage high levels of thinking are outlined in this chapter.

5.  Write to Learn

Writing is a tool to use in all content areas for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.  Asking students to write frequently about the concepts they are learning in the content areas increases their comprehension and achievement.  The chapter suggests the use of learning logs, writing folders for works in progress, and writing clubs to share the process with peer authors.

6.  Vocabulary’s CODE

          This chapter outlines a direct instructional approach to the teaching of vocabulary:

Connecting with new words

Organizing new words into meaningful categories

Deep-processing the most important concepts and terms

Exercising the mind through strategic review and practice

Vocabulary is a core foundational skill.  The book points out an interesting thought: the more vocabulary students master, the more background knowledge they have.  The more background knowledge they have, the more they can learn.  Direct vocabulary instruction prepares students to be better learners in their futures.  The chapter includes a matrix of vocabulary activities for each aspect of CODE.

In summary, this is a fantastic book.  I have used many of the activities presented so far this year, but have many more yet to try!  I highly recommend it!

Nora Ziegler has been an educator for almost 30 years.  She has taught Kindergarten, 2nd grade, 3rd grade, and 5th grade, but teaching 3rd grade is her passion.  She is a 1999 PAWLP fellow and frequently attends Chester County Reading Association meetings as well as PAWLP workshops. She is a widow, but is blessed by four married children and six grandchildren five and under, as well as two dogs who greet her happily when she comes home every day.

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