Iowa Core – How is instruction different from Pre-Core days?

Currently, the hot topic in the media seems to focus on a discussion of Common Core and how it is changing our education system.  In Iowa, we have taken the Common Core standards and added some of our own standards for our students.  There are some clear differences between instruction Pre-Core and now in Core days.  This blog will attempt to illustrate some of the shifts taking place with standards-based instruction using Iowa Core in English-Language Arts.

One simple example is from our 8th grade literacy class.  This week we read a newspaper article about Malala, the 16-year old girl from Pakistan who was shot in the head because she spoke up for a woman’s right to education.  We viewed a short news report via You Tube and then asked students to make an inference about Malala.  The responses were varied – brave, a risk-taker, willing to stand up for what she believes in…  Pre-core days the conversation would have been focused on events from our sources.  But today’s instruction with a focus on Iowa Core standards asked students to write their inference and then cite textual evidence from both the video and the news article that supported the inference.  We are expecting students to think, make inferences, support those inferences, and be critical writers.

STANDARD of FOCUS:  RI.8.1.  Cite textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

Another example is from a middle school literacy class.  The class read THE OUTSIDERS and viewed the movie.  They used a Venn Diagram to record similarities and differences between the two.  Pre-Core students would have simply summarized the differences between the text and the filmed version.  But today’s instruction with a focus on Iowa Core standards asks the students to select differences and analyze why a director or author would make the change found between the book and the movie.  Students were also asked to determine which they preferred and how it affected the message.  More higher level thinking!

STANDARD of FOCUS: RL.8.7.  Analyze the extent to which a filmed or live production of a story or drama stays faithful to or departs from the text, evaluating the choices made by the director or actors.

One final example is how we conduct collegial discussions.  In today’s social media and technology obsession, sometimes the art of conversation needs formal instruction.  We ask students to:

  • Pose questions in collaborative discussions
  • Connect ideas of speakers to their own knowledge or the ideas of others
  • Respond to other questions and comments with evidence, observations, and ideas

Those skill areas for collegial conversations come right from the Iowa Core standards.

Here in Maquoketa, we are on our way towards developing critical readers and writers that look beyond the surface to ask and answer the “why.”