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Common Core Resource Rundown

The transition to new learning standards doesn’t have to be painful. In fact, finding helpful resources is easier than ever.

As educators around the country adjust to the Common Core State Standards, many are forgetting to follow one of the most basic bits of teaching advice: Don’t reinvent the wheel.

“My sense is that people are trying to create things from scratch,” says Krista Rundell, an ASCD faculty member and former high-school teacher and curriculum coach. “They don’t realize there are resources out there, or they don’t feel they have the time to find them.”

Educators might feel that way because, until recently, it actually was pretty difficult to find materials online that they could use. A California teacher might see a great unit written by an Illinois teacher, but not know whether the resource would meet her own state’s learning standards.

The Common Core has changed all that. 

“Now, it’s the same standards for all the states that participate,” says Mark James, a high-school math teacher in Souderton, Pennsylvania. “Four years ago, I would have said, ‘It’s so hard finding good resources.’ Today, I would say the biggest challenge is curating all the fantastic stuff that’s out there.”

Here’s a sampling of some of the top resources teachers are using to help them implement the Common Core.

Newsela – This tiered service (meaning that some activities are free, while others cost money) allows teachers and students to change the reading level of current events articles with the click of a button, making the readings accessible to kids at all stages of proficiency. The site also features Common Core-aligned assessments. “You’re able to differentiate, and students can read through and support their own opinion with evidence from the text,” says Rundell.

101 Questions – This crowd-sourced resource allows teachers to upload photos and videos, and then other teachers brainstorm math-related inquiry questions about them. Some of the uploads come with full lesson plans, such as the “Dandy Candies” surface area lesson, which James highly recommends. The whole lesson revolves around how much packaging is needed to wrap chocolate bars. “There’s a lot of really in-depth math involved in that lesson, and the kids are hooked from the very beginning,” James says. 

TED Talks – Christopher Bronke, the English department chair at Downers Grove North High School outside of Chicago, encourages teachers to bring these high-interest, big-idea speeches into the classroom to support Common Core standards addressing speaking and listening. “No longer is a unit consisting of a novel and maybe one article,” Bronke says. “It’s a novel, and three articles, and a TED talk, and maybe some poetry.”

Achieve the Core – This website encourages teachers to “steal these tools,” which are free and aligned to math and ELA Common Core standards. On the homepage, teachers can select their grade level and content area to be instantly taken to relevant lessons, assessments, activities, planning tools, and professional development resources.

Mathalicious – James uses this tiered service for its Common Core-aligned lesson plans that highlight the real-world impact of math on sports, money, video games, pop culture, and other topics of interest to students. James recently used the site’s lesson about whether college is worth the financial investment – a lesson that touches on seven different Common Core standards. James says the lessons encourage kids to talk through their thinking and have productive arguments that lead to a deeper understanding. “One of the best things about Mathalicious is the conversations that take place between the kids in the classroom,” he says. “That’s one thing that’s far too absent from classrooms, is students communicating their mathematical ideas to one another.”

Blogs – Bronke’s students develop their own blogs (anyone can create one for free using services like WordPress and Blogger), a process that addresses the Common Core’s focus on authentic writing. “I find that their writing is better when they write for an audience,” Bronke says. “One student told me, ‘It’s so much easier for me to write an attention-getter if I know whose attention I’m trying to get.’”

LearnZillion – Full video lessons for grades 2 to 12 (both math and ELA) are available on LearnZillion. “All of the lessons are made by currently practicing teachers,” says James. “There’s a lot of variety. It’s fairly traditional in its approach, but the sequence of activities that it takes students through is really strong – not just the content, but the Common Core standards of mathematical practice.” Some resources on the site are free, but full access requires a district license (individual teacher licenses aren’t available).

Literacy Design Collaborative – This free tool helps teachers to design curriculum aligned to Common Core standards. The site is one of Rundell’s favorites, and she says teachers love the ability to find on-topic writing prompts, along with ready-made rubrics for assessment. The site has so many tools, Rundell says, “It almost seems overwhelming.”  

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