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In the News: Common Core vs. Creative Writing

The Common Core curriculum can cause a stalemate between teachers more insurmountable than that of the 113th US Congress.  Some love it.  Some hate it.

A recent article published on EdWeek criticizes David Coleman, an architect of the Common Core Standards, for his crass assessment of creative writing.  Coleman is quoted as saying: “Forgive me for saying it so bluntly, the only problem with …that [creative] writing is that as you grow up in this world you realize people don’t really give a [expletive] about what you think and feel.” Eeek.  Scary to think he is behind the largest overhaul of the US education system.

Paul Horton’s article in EdWeek makes an elegant counterargument in support of storytelling, a natural human instinct and a strategy for connection.

My question is, why does analytical thinking (touted by the Common Core Standards as paramount) have to be divorced of feelings and emotions?  Why can’t we ask students to analyze their feelings?  Why can’t the curriculum be a platform for evidence gathering, analytical writing and self-analysis?  Or, would that be too uncomfortable for everyone??

Perhaps today’s children will grow up to enter a work world with ornery individuals like David Coleman who won’t care how they feel.

That does change the fact that they need to be able to analyze how they feel and react accordingly.  With these skills, they can choose the right reasons for getting out of bed in the morning to face these challenging colleagues and, more importantly, choose how to temper those feelings when they are so rudely addressed.

It’s our job as educators to teach them those skills, no matter the standards.

Check back for Common Core aligned lesson plans to start this process.




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Conversation Starters: Ground Rules

Before beginning any new routine in your classroom, it’s important to establish the ground rules.  How will students participate?  What is expected of them?  When and how often will the new routine take place?  When the routine asks students to talk about themselves, the ground rules become even more important.  Requesting vulnerability from your students must come with the security that you are there to mediate the discussion and protect them.

Surely you have already established routines for respecting the different opinions in your classroom.  Maybe you have an object students are given which signals their turn to talk or you ask them to jump in, not over.

Be sure to take the time to lay out the ground rules for these conversation starters.  Ask your students to tell you what rules would help them to feel safe.  And, always explain to them why you are asking them to complete a task.  In this case, tell them that you are leading them through a journey of learning about themselves, of self-awareness.

Remember to refresh their memories every so often about the rules that they all agreed to.  I like to write down the class rules on a poster and ask students to sign as a pledge of their intent to honor the rules.

What strategies work in your classroom?  What makes your students feel safe?



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