Friday, April 27, 2012

Reading on Science, Social Studies Teachers' Agendas

To meet the expectations of the common standards,  
Kentucky's science and social studies teachers are  
incorporating language arts into their classes

This from Education Week:
Beth Fahlbush is moving from desk to desk, helping her high school juniors sharpen their essays. They're zeroing in on their lead paragraphs and hunting for the evidence they must marshal to build the bodies of their essays.

"If the evidence does not directly relate to your thesis, cut it out," Ms. Fahlbush tells one girl, who listens as she twists a strand of hair in her fingers. "Remember," the teacher says to a tall boy slouched in a nearby seat, "you are writing an argumentative essay. So you need to defend each of your points."

The teenagers in Room 122 of Scott High School, here in northern Kentucky, are not in English class. They're in U.S. history. And what's happening represents a leading edge of key changes that are taking shape as states and districts put the Common Core State Standards in English/language arts into practice

The seven middle and high schools here in Kenton County are among the first in the country to pilot a new approach to the discipline. It targets the most pivotal ideas in the standards, which demand that students become strong readers not only of fiction but of informational texts, and that they become writers able to wield research, analysis, and argumentation skills as powerful tools. Reflecting the standards themselves, the approach involves teachers of all subjects in teaching literacy skills pertinent to their disciplines.

Variations on those themes are echoing nationwide, since all but four states have adopted the standards and are now starting to grapple with how to turn them into instruction. As the first state to adopt the standards—in February 2010—Kentucky jumped into the work early.
Kenton County's version is guided by a set of teaching tools that were developed by the Literacy Design Collaborative, a loosely knit group of consultants working with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has poured tens of millions in grants into supporting the common standards. More than 3,500 teachers in 50 districts in eight states, including Kentucky, are using the foundation's grants—and guidance—to try out the tools. The foundation is supporting a Mathematics Design Collaborative that is creating teaching tools for the math standards, as well. (The Gates Foundation also provides support for coverage of K-12 business and innovation in Education Week.)

The centerpiece of the English/language arts toolkit is a collection of "template tasks."Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader These short, fill-in-the-blank prompts are designed to open doors to instructional tasks that demand reading, writing, and analysis, and can be customized to each teacher's subject matter. They are structured to address three types of writing—argumentation, explanatory, and narrative—and nine types of cognitive process, such as synthesis, comparison, and evaluation.


Anonymous said...

Just saw where the commissioner has informed us that no additional end of course exams will be added to the existing 4 in HS the next two years due to fundinng Go figure, maybe teachers will just have to determine if kids are learning instead of relying on a national standardized test. How will "we" ever know if we are doing a good job?

Christopher Dyal said...

I believe that this is a step in the right direction when it comes to teaching history and social studies. Part of being an effective history student is the ability to take historical ideas, examine them critically, and then having the ability to write down thoughts in an effective manner. If we relegate history to a class about random facts that have no real value, we devalue the importance of what history actually shows us. The true heart of history is understanding historical ideas and significances and to do this we have to push our students to focus more on critical thinking and less on memorization of our presidents and state capitols.

Anonymous said...

I have been doing this for years, what a novel idea.

Anonymous said...

My class is called social studies. I now teach grammar, mechanics, and rhetoric. It's fine, really. Anything to help Kentucky students look like they are achieving as much as students in Iowa and Connecticut. Anything to teach to the test!

Anonymous said...

A few years ago during CATS era I was hired to teach seniors government. When I pointed out that government was covered on juniors' state assessment and ACT, my supervisor explained to me that my job was actually to get two non English content area pieces out of the seniors by January for their portfolios. I can still remember the distrubing call I received to my classroom phone one day from the English teacher when I was not getting those two full cycle writings done fast enough for her portfolio needs and her purplexed response when I inquired why the students could not select from the pieces created during the previous three years in their other non English courses? Needless to say, I only lasted a year there which turned out best for all involved.

I suspect that when we start implementing teacher evaluations which are partially based upon student performance in our content areas beyond mathmatics and literacy based skills, folks will not be as accomidating with this sort of cross curriculum collaboration.

Like an earlier contributor, I have always engaged student in a variety of cross curriculum activities as well as working with individual students with critical thinking and writing skills. Not sure why this is suppose to be big news.