10 things worth doing in your classroom

David Coleman, the architect of the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts, spoke to a group of New York City teachers this week about how to enrich their classroom instruction. Here are 10 takeaways:

1. Cultivate wonder. The heart of the Common Core is giving students books worth reading and asking them questions worth answering.

2. Spend more time and have more fun crafting questions. Use your power as a teacher to be an effective guide. Avoid perfunctory questions like: What is the main idea? Can you cite three examples? Above all, avoid questions that have a set of answers students can deploy for any occasion: love, death, and what happened to me yesterday. Shakespeare didn't write Romeo and Juliet about teenage love. If that's all you find in it, skip the play and watch a TV sitcom.

3. Slow down. Read a text that's worth reading with your students and enjoy it. Look at it carefully, step by step, to see how it unfolds. Live within it. In a well-wrought work, each word is worth pondering.

4. Only draw conclusions that can be substantiated by the words on the page. Scrape away terms like "metaphorical," and talk as simply as possible. Once you bring up metaphor and meaning, kids are out of the game.  

5. Collaborate with your students. When you pose a question about a text you love, you may not know the answer. Nurture curiosity in your classroom. Part of the joy will be coming away with a little more knowledge yourself.

6. After living within a text, go outside of it and make connections. How did the writer's background influence his or her subject matter? What other poems might be similar, or very different?

7. Build a firm foundation in phonics and grammar. Kids need to be able to read fluently and with accuracy. Their reading will improve when they can distinguish between a noun, a verb, and an adverb.

8. Help students develop knowledge, not just literacy. Teach kids about science, social studies, and the arts. The general knowledge they gain will enrich their vocabulary.

9. Read aloud. Repeatedly. Reading aloud is one of the most effective ways to help young readers, especially struggling ones, become more fluent and confident. Reading aloud also helps kids acquire information and develop empathy.

10. Make your classroom a place of inquiry. People often say that the classroom is a broken, Industrial Age remnant. Who would have dreamed of a world where you want 20 or 30 people sitting in a room doing something? Yet reading a text together is one of the most wonderful things you can do. The questions you ask will dictate how actively kids respond.

Henry James said: "Try to be one of those on whom nothing is lost." For most of us, that is hard. Working together, we observe much more.

Comments

THis is why an businessman should not be telling educators how or what to teach. Phonics are NOT nouns, verbs, and adjectives. And many writer's USE metaphors to teach a lesson in their stories. THe answers do not lie on the page but in inference. Maybe this is something he cannot do well. What a bunch a drivel this is.

The writer stated, "phonics and grammar." Nouns and verbs help to build knowledge of foundational grammar, so calm down. Why, pray tell, should the business world have no input on what is taught in our public schools? Are we not sending these educated citizens into that world, by and large? It is high time that education began to more effectively "talk" to industry, and help our kids to meet its demands. I am a teacher, have been for over ten years, and I personally think that the Common Core has value. It is specific, measurable, and rigorous. It is real-world, and I am willing to support my child as she learns it.

The original version of this article did not include the word grammar, which is why people became upset.

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Mr. Coleman appears to know very little about teaching or how children learn. His #7 explanation indicates that he does not understand the difference between phonics and grammar. His dismissal of teaching about metaphor shows that he has no use for literature or how to help students understand the depths of human connections found in literature. He almost sees devoid of any appreciation of human emotion. Very sad that he seems to have so much influence in our public education.

It is insulting to hear someone like David Coleman, who has had virtually NO experience as an educator--developing standardized testing and curriculum materials to be used by OTHERS does not constitute experience--give suggestions that are already regular practice in classrooms each and every day as though they are pearls of wisdom. And then there are the inconsistencies: the Common Core is supposed to be rigorous, but was are supposed to "talk simply" to students and avoid putting students "out of the game" by discussing metaphor? Don't relate literature to students' lives, but do relate it to the author's, and read aloud so they develop empathy--but who cares what they think? And phonics does not = grammar. He may be the metaphorical "architect" of this Common Core, but it's too bad he didn't think to include more of us who work with actual students in actual schools at his design sessions. We're the builders, and many of us find the blueprints inappropriate, narrow, constricting and insulting.

Did he cull these suggestions from his own vast years of experience? Did he offer tried and true ways to do these things, that he of course has tried himself? When is the next convention for dentists? I want to give them some suggestions on how to treat their patients. What? I have no experience? But I have been to the dentist so many times, I am sure I can tell them how to improve!

Mr. Coleman, I have many issues with this David Letterman-style "Top Ten List" of yours! First, you have not spent any time teaching students. How can you tell educators what to do to create a better learning environment if you have not been in the classrooms with the students? Second, ELA teachers all over just shook their heads in disgust! Remove metaphor? In your fight to create an environment of inquiry, your suggestions are laughable! Students need to connect personally with what they read. Creating the personal connection increases comprehension and allows deeper understanding of the given text. Thus, allowing for students to be able to respond in group discussions with more than simple rote memorization-style answers, and boosts their ability to respond in written formats such as essays. There is more, but I will end on the fact that you, sir, are ignorant on the basics of the concept of PHONICS! Phonics teaches, in a very basic example here, SOUNDS ASSOCIATED WITH LETTERS AND LETTER COMBINATIONS! GRAMMAR teaches nouns, verbs, and adverbs and their distinguishable uses and differences! Finally, as an ELA teacher, we often discourage students from relying on websites such as Wikipedia as a sole resource when researching subjects they will be writing about. However, maybe you should have looked up phonics before discussing ELA with those who are actually in a classroom with actual students doing actual work and seeing actual progress that cannot be measured on a high stakes test! http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phonics

BRAVO!

I find the tone of David Coleman's suggestions condescending. I also find the fact that he would presume to lecture teachers arrogant. I taught at the elementary school level for 28 years. Currently, I provide professional development to teachers. I would never presume to speak to teachers the way he did. I would love to have heard the teachers' remarks as they left the speech.

How ridiculous! The fruits of Coleman's labor is the most conformist, restrictive, wonderless prison for students I've ever seen in my 20 years of teaching. Literature shrinks to the margins in the high school classroom, and writing shrinks to 3 essays--for all of high school! Combined with the online standardized testing that accompanies CCSS, teens will see language as a cage--oops, did I use metaphor there? I meant that the CCSS vision of language is lifeless and dreary. My students deserve the beauty and mystery of language and the freedom to express themselves in authentic ways. The CCSS must GO!

Mr. Coleman's list is a combination of the simplistic and obvious (read aloud, collaborate, make connections, help students develop knowledge) and the just plain silly or wrong ("scraping away" metaphors puts kids out of the game?, "the heart of CC is books worth reading and questions worth answering"?, "reading will improve when they can distinguish nouns, verbs, and adverbs"?). Perfect example of why businessmen/consultants should stay out of education.

This is a very sad set of ideas. I guess when Elie Wiesel talked about "night" he meant nothing more than "evening"! Please save all our teachers, myself included, from having to peddle this ridiculous, ignorant drivel.

Mr. Coleman:
I was immediately put off by the word "takeaways" in line four.
You make these ten items sound as if you've re-invented the wheel. Most teachers do these things. Most English teachers always do these things and even more.
Who determines what books are worth reading? The New York Times Bestseller Lists? The publishers? You?
Choosing books depends on what subject the instructor is teaching. If I'm teaching world literature, I might choose something by Shakespeare, Orwell, Shelley and others. If I'm teaching American literature, I might choose Faulkner, Updike, Eudora Welty and Kate Chopin. I would not limit my selections in either course to those few; they are just examples. If I spent any more time "crafting fun questions" for the novels we've read, I wouldn't have time to sleep.
In addition, there's a reason we teachers ask about the main idea, supporting evidence, author's purpose, the speaker, the audience, diction, syntax and yes, metaphors. Any good writer incorporates those concepts into his/her work, whether fiction or nonfiction and many books have metaphorical themes.
In rhetoric, we discuss diction because it's important in making an argument. One word can change the meaning of a piece, in case you didn't know, O Architect of Common Core Standards for Language Arts.
Knowing the function of parts of speech--nouns, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, etc., can't usually be distinguished by reading aloud. However, examination of words in context--followed by, in some cases, actual dictionary usage--can assist with literacy. Reading aloud may improve fluency and confidence but not necessarily, cognition. Students may read the word fluently but have no understanding of what the word means.
I would also like to know your reasoning on how reading develops empathy; that's a curious remark.
Teaching reading and language is an art and it takes a real teacher to do it well.
The takeaway I get from your list is: You need a realistic list of what teachers already do before suggesting they do something they’re already doing.
Sincerely,
Barbara Yohnka

What's offensive about this is that teachers already do these things, or, if they don't, it's for a good reason. The implication here is that if they don't do these things it's because they're uninformed, unskilled, clueless. Yes, magazines and web sites are full of vapid back-to-school lists at this time of year, but this one is from "the architect of the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts." Surely, given the all the expertise he has to draw on at the College Board, he could do better. "Cultivate wonder." Please. And I'm impressed that he reads Henry James. I do too.

Either the Common Core is not what David Coleman says it is, or the powers-that-be are coming down on teachers with their own insane interpretations. Somebody needs to do something about this, or the Common Core is toast.

I have tried to respond briefly to each of his points.

1. Of course we want to cultivate wonder! That's what good teachers do. Sort of antithetical to teaching from a script... You can't script a teacher, and expect wonder.

2. Given the tremendous amount of mandated nonsense teachers have to produce (lots of time -- no fun), we use what little time is left to create meaningful experiences for our students. Less nonsense -- more excellent experiences.

3. We'd love to slow down and live the literature, the historical period, the scientific experiment. And some teachers actually do. But then we might not 'cover' everything on that pacing chart!

4. Fugeddaboutit!!! Metaphor IS important. Even 4th graders can begin to get a hold on metaphor. You have to look not only between the lines but also beyond them.

5. Yup. I't's in the nature of most teachers to be curious. We know that our kids can often be our best teachers. And we do NOT appreciate having curiosity -- theirs or ours -- stifled because we have to follow the straight and narrow course rather than following questions where they lead.

6. Connections -- of course! As teachers that's what we do. We make connections, we help our kids learn to make connections, and we encourage connections to 'real life' as well as to the author and to other things we've taught/ learned. Different kinds of connections serve different purposes. No one kind is innately superior to another.

7. Experienced teachers know that kids learn to read in different ways. One child may catch on with phonics; another might learn visually. Most kids learn through a variety of approaches. It's not just phonics and grammar.

8. Kids appreciate knowledge. Most kids really do like to know things. But knowledge is one thing, and understanding is another. Good teachers help their kids learn to take the random things they know and use them to create a coherent whole that makes sense.

9. Well, I am glad that David Coleman is encouraging us to read aloud. I have always loved reading aloud -- many of my colleagues felt they didn't read aloud well enough to do it with their kids, but they became more at home with it the more they did it. Listening to Recorded Books is one good way for adults to assimilate the sound of good reading.

10. Reading and discussing together naturally promotes inquiry. Teachers know that. It's when we have to curtail it -- again because we feel pressure to 'cover' something -- that inquiry gets stifled. Excellent teachers value inquiry and they encourage their students to think deeply and ask questions. The Common Core says that is what we should be doing, but the end result is that we need to look over our shoulder when we do!

With all due respect, but I am a little confused on who determines what is worth reading! David Coleman should be reminded that George Orwell didn't write 1984 to glorify common core ideals and mind control.

After reading all of the comments, I am making the connection that Scholastic might want to be careful how much it supports Mr. Coleman at the risk of losing the confidence of teachers. Very little of what Mr. Coleman has created is welcomed by teachers who are working with students every day and know what the real challenges and joys of the classroom are. The Common Core becomes more of an ideal than a reality when faced with our current culture that denies the importance of actually knowing things ("I can look it up if I need it.) and the beauty and wonder of words in general (144 characters, YOLO, Jus' 4 U). Scholastic has always been a company that has promoted and supported literacy for all students. Please don't become a victim to Mr. Coleman's elitism.

Boycott Scholastic has a nice ring to it.

Our world would be a complete dystopia without metaphor. We would not have many of our architectural wanders, such as the Sydney Opera House. We would not have Shakespeare, whom David Coleman seems to think is devoid of metaphor; think about Macbeth and the metaphorical importance of night, blood, sleep, e.g. Without metaphor we would have little understanding of our own history an important ideas such as the American Dream. There is a fabulous TED talk called "Metaphorically Speaking" that David Coleman should watch. My students love it. It's all about our world's construction around metaphor. Simply, we organize our lives w/ metaphor. To think we shouldn't talk about it w/ students is simply wrong. Classical rhetoric employs metaphor, among many other rhetorical devices.

I suggest David Coleman consider what he needs to do to become an expert teacher: Practice no fewer than 10,000 hours. That's what it takes, among other things, to become a grand master teacher (metaphor intended). That he has nowhere near this level of experience is one thing that gets teachers so riled up. Expert teachers understand that a lesson plan is a work of art and that teaching is a narrative--one that often and frequently employees metaphor.

Finally, I respectfully suggest that Scholastic do some serious soul searching. One might observe that Scholastic has made a Faustian bargain with David Coleman. Oops, there goes another metaphor!

Thank you for this affirmation of what I know to be important in the classroom. After two days of staff development and in-service meetings, the joy was being sucked away. I needed a reminder of the good work I do and your article gave it to me. It is both timely and accurate.

Some support and details from Dr. Coleman's own teaching career would be enlightening!

Okay read the standards, "CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.5.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative language such as metaphors and similes." So how are we supposed to implement that if kids are out of the game? I do believe he is talking from both sides of his mouth at this point. And what is with editing with out making a note of this being a revised edition of the article? Not only are we being force fed educational standards we disagree with, but we also have to accept the falling journalism standards?

All thought is metaphorical. Read "Surfaces and Essences" or some Daniel Pink. I teach Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451"--- I'm not supposed to delve into the metaphors? Huh? Bradbury IS metaphor. And don't focus on meaning? Meaning is what hooks kids. It's what we read FOR. What teaching experience do you have that lets you know when kids are "out of the game"? It is the point of reading. As for some of the other suggestions that actually make sense... I've already been doing those things for 21 years, and having you inform me that they might be a good idea is really beyond condescending, especially given that you have never taught. Scholastic needs to put itself more in touch with the teachers in the field, and maybe think twice about promoting "architects."

"Only draw conclusions that can be substantiated by the words on the page. Scrape away terms like "metaphorical," and talk as simply as possible. Once you bring up metaphor and meaning, kids are out of the game."
Wow!
Then, "Night's candles are burnt out, and jocund day
Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops."
(Rom. and Jul., iii. 5.) is about candles?
Then "But, look, the morn, in russet mantle clad,
Walks o'er the dew of yon high eastern hill."
(Hamlet, i. 1.) is about clothing?
"All the world’s a stage,
and all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances."
(As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII) is about actors?
Think what we would miss if we took Coleman's advice to heart....(literally!)

In addition to all of the other commentators' remarks criticizing Mr. Coleman, I have an additional grammar tidbit for Mr. Coleman. If there is a list of three items to be compared or contrasted, one must use the word, 'among'. The word, 'between' is used when there are only two items. Thus, he should have written 'among nouns, verbs and adverbs'. (Plus, that pesky second comma is no longer needed.)

Has David Coleman ever taken a basic humanities class? It shocks me how little he seems to value the artistry behind stories, or how one arrives at meaning of stories through the interpretation of symbols and metaphors. By his logic, the mockingbird in To Kill a Mockingbird was just an annoying bird that would occasionally sing and was a sin to kill -obviously unrelated to any other character in the story. Maybe the streetcar in a Street Car Named Desire, was just a streetcar -and Holden Caulfield just wore his hunting cap because it was cold outside, and Proust just went on and on about a cookie-for no reason what so ever. If all children need to know is what happened-why don't we just assign them the spark notes? I can only hope he was misquoted. That being said, I'm dying to know his take on poetry, especially poetry that doesn't rhyme.

His contradictions hurt my brain.

POV is rocking here. As a retired educator, teacher librarian in Peel, ON CDA I get the reaction from US educators. These 10 take aways are indeed simplistic and redundant. It's as if DC forgot the cardinal rule: Purpose + Audience = Form. Talking down to professionals and minimizing what they do. Also surprising to me, not one word about digital citizenship and BYOD in the virtual learning classroom. These take aways by DC are based on an antiquated model of teaching and learning. His summary shows how little he knows about 21st century educators: Who we are and What we do. Teaching and learning is messy. It's not a business and it cannot be 'recipied' by the business sector.

Patronizing amateur. When people who have never done your job and who know nothing about what you do try to give you "advice," there is always a curious mix of dumb ideas and very good ones (aka, things you already do). This list lives up to that standard. I look forward to future lists in which Coleman offers advice to brains surgeons and welders.

Thank you for your comments. We value your viewpoints but remind you that we have community guidelines and reserve the right to delete offensive comments. We have removed one comment that we believe crossed the line.

Dear Ms. McCabe: It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out whose comment was deleted. Please explain to me why my comment was deleted, and what was it I said that you believe "crossed the line". It was not offensive, and it certainly did not cross the line, unless Scholastic does not want there to be any comments from anyone voicing strong opinions of the Common Core. It's important parents become better educated about this educational curriculum in disguise, because no one else will.

I feel like these are great ideas to try in the classroom, especially collaboration and keeping the students curious . Heres a few more ideas i found on this subject Teaching tips and authors page

I feel like these are great ideas to try in the classroom, especially collaboration and keeping the students curious . Heres a few more ideas i found on this subject Teaching tips and authors page

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