Expert: Common Core May Be Too Complex for Your Students

SSPP CoverI recently attended a presentation by a University of Oregon professor discussing the challenges of revamping the curriculum to satisfy the Common Core. One thing I came away with was that consistently using Super Sentences & Perfect Paragraphs will most certainly help, so rather than blog about reader’s theater, this week I’d like to chat about your writing instruction.

The good professor displayed a question from a fifth grade standardized test and asked, “What makes the following difficult?”

The Earth is a bit like a perfectly boiled egg—with a semi-liquid yolk or “core,” surrounded by a thick, soft layer called the mantle, and covered by a thin hard shell called the crust. The core in the very center is metal but the crust and mantle are made entirely from rock.

Fifth graders, she suggested, are not typically exposed to sentences with multiple clauses or with such a breadth of punctuation. When they do encounter such complexity—such as when reading independently—they’re typically left to decipher it themselves. Users of Super Sentences & Perfect Paragraphs, however, know that my writing program teaches these deciphering skills explicitly. By asking kids to construct and discuss sentences containing commas in a series, dialogue, dashes, or even ellipses, they’re more prepared to understand them when they encounter them in their reading.

Everyone publishing anything having to do with curriculum is claiming it meets Common Core. No doubt you’re discovering that many don’t actually do so. However, the Super Sentences program very clearly aligns to Conventions of Standard English in grades 3 through 6 (L.3.2, L.4.2, L.5.2, L.6.2). For example, L.4.2.c requires that students “Use a comma before a coordinating conjunction in a compound sentence,” which is taught in Super Sentences activity #5 and reinforced throughout all later sentence-writing tasks. Super Sentences, in fact, teaches all the Language standards (L), while Perfect Paragraphs covers all the Writing standards (W). Additionally, Super Sentences & Perfect Paragraphs indirectly supports meeting the standards for Craft and Structure in both Literature (RL.#.4, RL.#.6) and Informational Text (RI.#.4, RI.#.6).

Now you can watch a “how-to video” on using Super Sentences in the classroom. The fourteen minute tutorial consolidates four days of instruction. In each 20 minute session, each student wrote one sentence fitting a specific construction (in this case, using semi-colons), and the class analyzed and discussed four  or five of these student-generated sentences each day. On the fourth day, students crafted the sentence on which they received a grade (using a simple rubric). The teacher’s role is to facilitate student discussion. Of course, complete details on how to implement the program appear in the book.

You can purchase Super Sentences & Perfect Paragraphs at Scholastic.com, at Amazon.com, or for immediate download in PDF, at Scholastic Teacher Express. It’s a complete year-long daily writing program in a small package, and it’s a surefire way to help prepare your students in grades 3 through 8 for the complex new world of the Common Core.

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