Getting to the Core

pictogram of a hiker wearing a mortar boardYou might’ve heard buzz about the Common Core, but it’s hard to cut through the noise about these innovative education standards.

Forty-one states have adopted the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts. They’re a fantastic way to help students learn literacy and critical thinking skills with real documents and resources. The Common Core encourages teachers to offer up complex content from science and social studies, and then have their students analyze them, look for biases, and solve problems based on the texts. The Common Core is focused on building skills that are required for success in college, career, and life – the skills of engaged global citizens.

Common Core and Audience Centered Experiences go hand-in-hand – both are focused just as much on building participants’ civic and critical-thinking skills as they are about offering up content.

You can dig deeper into the Common Core Standards to start imagining what sorts of learning experiences you could develop.

Even if your state doesn’t use the Common Core standards themselves, their standards systems likely look very similar. Other popular standards systems include Next Generation Science Standards, or College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies.

What does Common Core look like in action?

pictogram of a climber wearing a mortar boardThe Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History has developed a useful framework for creating Common Core lesson plans – the Teaching Literacy Through History (TLTH) program. These lessons focus on using real documents from the past to help students navigate the world of reading and critical examination. They investigate meaning, author intent, and bias to help build skills useful for a lifetime.

The Gilder Lehrman Institute (GLI) has posted a number of less examples. One, focusing on World War II propaganda, underlines the strengths of the system particularly well. You can view the full lesson at this archive of their web page.

Groups of students are presented with a number of WWII posters drawn from the GLI collection, including some of the most famous examples and some lesser known examples.

Then, students are asked to analyze the poster using a worksheet, answering questions such as, “What action is taking place in the poster?,” “What mood or tone is created by the poster and what in the picture is creating that tone or mood?,” and, “What message is the artist giving to the viewer?”

This media literacy lesson using real material from the past builds an amazingly useful skill in the present – a critical eye for bias.

Diving Deeper into Standards

To explore more, head over to this in depth guide to navigating and exploring your state’s educational standards.

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