Common Core Fundamentals for Teachers
- Regular Testing
- Narrow Focus
- Build to the Future
- Learning Across Classes
- New Projects
Teachers should know five top things about the Common Core before working in any school. Also called the Common Core Standards Initiative, it is an initiative that started in 2010. It now includes standards in terms of what students should learn about math and language arts. Colleges changed the way their education programs worked as a way to make sure that graduates knew about the initiative before doing student teaching or full-time teaching.
Standardized exams test students on the knowledge they have. Students typically need to take the ACT or SAT as part of the college admissions process. Schools today now use regular testing as a way to make sure that students developed the skills they need in both English and math. Most of these exams take place near the end of the year and determine whether a student can move to the next grade. The language arts exams often give students a short passage and ask them to answer questions relating to the reading.
One issue that some teachers have with the Common Core is that they think it places too narrow of a focus on the subjects they teach. They now need to focus on teaching specific math skills to students based on their ages. Students in kindergarten through second grade focus on learning how to add and subtract and how to solve basic math problems. By the eighth grade, students will spend most of their time learning about linear equations and algebra.
Build to the Future
Proponents of the Common Core claim that it helps students build to the future. In their early years, students learn how to write basic sentences and put words together to form phrases. They’ll learn then about adverbs and adjectives before discovering how they can gain knowledge from the sentences that others make. The idea of students building upon their knowledge is key in the math programs. All of the addition and subtraction skills that they learn will help them as they reach more advanced areas. The initiative essentially reduces the time that teachers would otherwise need to spend going back over those skills.
Learning Across Classes
According to Tim Walker, teachers should know that the Common Core encourages students to learn across several classes. He points to a language arts teacher who gets books and other work from a social studies teacher in the same school. Students learn how to go over those passages and retain pertinent information that they’ll use in both classes. The Common Core encourages both students and teachers to work together. Teachers working in different disciplines can share resources with their students.
Though some teachers have issues with the Common Core because they feel it’s too rigid, others feel that the initiative gives them the flexibility that they need to work with students. Instead of simply focusing on a textbook and teaching directly from that book, a teacher can bring in new resources and encourage students to actually understand what they read and do. A language arts teacher can use news clippings from the past and present day to show students the bias that exists in the media and to help them understand what they should pull from each article. Math teachers can use creative projects that let students interact with physical objects. They can build small bridges and make fake investments in the stock market.
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Students enrolled in college education programs do observations in local schools and teaching experiences to lead some of those classes. This gives them an idea of what to expect when they teach full-time and allows them to see what teachers face every day. Prior to finishing an education degree program, there are a few things that future teachers should know about the Common Core.