Can Existing Lessons Fit the Common Core?

By Kathy Griffin

Rigor is being discussed in schools and districts across the country more than ever now, with the emphasis it is given by the Common Core State Standards. And teachers are wondering: What is rigor, exactly? How will my lessons need to change to meet the rigor of the Common Core?

The good news is that, for many teachers, lessons won’t have to change dramatically to align with the rigor of the standards. In fact, a little strategic tweaking may be all that is required.

In this article, we’ll look at what rigor is and isn’t and how teachers can add it to their lesson plans without redoing everything.

Adding rigor—but what is it?

Few teachers would question the need for more rigor in today’s classrooms. What they don’t agree about is what rigor is and what it looks like. Rigor is hard to define, especially for those new to the teaching profession.

In Rigor is NOT a Four-Letter Word, Barbara Blackburn defined rigor as creating an environment in which each student is expected to learn at high levels, each student is supported so that he or she can learn at high levels, and each student demonstrates learning at high levels.

What we do know is this. Rigor is not about more problems to solve. More homework to do. More worksheets. Nor is it laborious or stifling. Rigor is challenging, collaborative, and hands-on. It’s raising the bar. And, adding technology.

Making a plan

The Common Core is a set of standards—not a full curriculum teachers can follow. That means they have to create their own lessons if they are to dive deeper into concepts. In doing so, teachers may feel they are on their own. But they’re not. There are guidelines for assessing a lesson, and deciding whether to keep, adjust, or throw it away.

Next, teachers need some time to reflect on the lessons they are currently using. What will they need to change to meet the standards? How can they use current resources more effectively? It’s important to remember that the goal of the standards is to change how students interact with content. For this reason, teachers may not have to entirely overhaul their existing material. Rather, building higher-level thinking into a lesson may likely satisfy CCSS requirements.

Technology—the time-saving key

Teachers never have enough time as it is. How are they going to fit in time to create new lesson plans or even adjust the ones they have? In many cases, the simple addition of technology may be the solution and a real time-saver.

Administrators and teachers faced with the challenge of teaching to the standards must seriously consider integrating technology into their lessons. In fact, the Common Core actually has standards based on technology. So adding it to the classroom is a step in the right direction.

Technology will keep students interested and motivated, especially if they can interact with it. It will allow students to explore a topic and gain the deep understanding the Common Core requires.

How does a teacher ensure that technology adds to their instruction, rather than distracts students? A good test is to make sure the technology is relevant, practical, takes students deeper into a topic, and attracts and holds their interest. Technology can do all that, and more.

For tech and app ideas that can help align lessons with the standards, check out SDE’s webinar Keep It, Change It, Toss It: Tweaking Current Lessons to Meet the New Standards (Grades K–2) by National Board Certified Educator and early childhood specialist Kathy Griffin.

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