Persepolis, House of Spirits & the Common Core

The Situation

Student A produced the following piece of writing in response to her teacher delivering instruction on CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3: Analyze how complex characters develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.

“The Islamic Revolution affected Marjane as a female in Iran. In the book Persepolis on page 3 panel 4 it shows Marjane at a young age where she was forced to wear a veil. It affected her as a girl because the veil had to be worn by women all ages, whether they wanted or not. Marjane was forced to wear something she did not want to wear at a young age.”

Student A was a ninth grade female English Language Learner whose school population was almost 70% Latino. This student is NOT fictional.

The Task

Her teacher took on the task of deconstructing the standard using  The Core Deconstructed® process.

The Action

Student A’s teacher explains her actions here. Specifically, a few highlights of her actions in her own words were the following:

  1. I modeled my table after a few from Dr. Brown’s book.
  2. I numbered each cell in the matrix with the idea that this would make targeted instruction for small groups easier to illustrate in my lesson plans.
  3. I tracked students’ progress towards mastery of this standard over the course of a unit.

The Result

Student A produced the following piece of writing in response to the same standard mentioned above after her teacher deconstructed the standard using  The Core Deconstructed® process.

“The government has control over individuals, but it’s not strong enough to determine your destiny. Many people think that the government controls them but in reality, they make their own decisions without them realizing. For example, in The House of the Spirits,  Pedro Tercero always made his own decision by choosing his way instead of the governments’. In page 154 it says, “And so it was the one day Esteban Treuba, who was resting on the terrace after lunch, heard the boy singing about a bunch of hens who had organized to defeat the fox.” This story, the fox and the hens, represent those people who decided to make their own decisions and go against the government, these people don’t depend on the government at all and it doesn’t influence their decisions or destiny.”

Please note that Student A’s work is unedited for the purpose of emphasizing her improvements.

As the teacher reflected on her actions and student outcomes, she noted that,

  1. I found that this system makes it easier for teachers to see the big picture and build towards the Practitioner/Expert level over the course of a few lessons rather than overwhelm students or unintentionally instill a sense of defeat in them
  2. I can link websites with enrichment or re-teaching exercises, online games, web-based assessments or supplemental texts to each cell in the matrix. This will enhance my ability to more effectively target instruction in my diverse classes.
  3. Students were able to see their need to master one objective before they could master the next objective
  4. I was able to pinpoint exactly where students were struggling in the process of mastering a standard which is essential not only for a data-driven school, but also for students.
  5. Teaching with the deconstructed standard led to great reflective discussions in teacher-student conferences, as students were able to see their progress and reflect on exactly where they were struggling.

Finally, the teacher stated, “The beauty of this system is that each teacher can tailor the results of the process to their own teaching style and the needs of their individual students.”

Have you deconstructed the core? If not, I challenge you-as I did the teacher of Student A-to start now.



Designing for Close Reading: A Practical Example – Part I

“What is Close Reading?” posted on January 1, 2012 continues to be my most popular post. That coupled with the feedback received on the recent series, “Process the Common Core” Parts I, II and III have prompted the practical examples in today’s and the next 2 weeks’ posts.

This week I used the lesson design process from Part I. Here’s what you should know about the lesson:

  1. The standard of focus is RI.7.3. Analyze the interactions between individuals, events and ideas in a text.
  2. The lesson is based on the remember/understand column for the conceptual and procedural knowledge components of the standard. (See The Core Deconstructed.)
  3. The lesson is designed for acquisition of new knowledge with the goal of first strengthening students’ understanding before having them analyze.
  4. The Critical Thinking Foundation’s model for close reading  is employed (Levels 1 and 2)
  5. The Lesson Design Framework housing the lesson organizes the elements of an effective lesson. If you want to know more about the framework, consider scheduling 15 minutes of complimentary coaching by going here.

Teacher feedback on The Core Deconstructed has been grand! (More coming on that.) Because of teachers’ enthusiasm, the price has been reduced by 40% for the month of February! I want as many teachers as possible to experience the same successes as their peers who are already deconstructing. Next week is Designing for Close Reading Part II, so get your copy at 40% off and join me next week for the sample lesson that continues this series.

In the meantime, try this one on for size: close reading and the Common Core part 1.


Insanity of the Quick Fix

Unfortunately, there are educational leaders who continue to believe that all of their workplace woes can be solved with a quick fix. Though seemingly well-intentioned, they carelessly waste tax payers’ dollars on program after program believing that it’s the program that will resolve the issue and not their people. The challenge for many leaders becomes identifying the need to break free and actually breaking free from the insanity of the quick fix. (See the quick fix cycle below.)

Every time a quick fix is initiated in the cycle, it represents more spending (that is probably unnecessary), another box of stuff in a dusty closet, more frustration and more failure. A review of some of my previous posts clearly reveal that the answer is in understanding the structure of the problem–not in opening another box. It’s time to give up the surface level diagnoses. It’s time to quit the “Quick Fix” fix. It’s time to get beyond the surface to understand the real problems in order to take more effective action.