Monday, August 20, 2012

Starting School with CCSS

As we start the new school year, it is important to plan right from the start to work differently this year. First, consider how you will facilitate academic conversations. Furniture arrangement is crucial. Students cannot talk to one another if desks and chairs create barriers. In addition, you will want to think about ways to easily provide changes in groupings. One way, is to set up the room so that everyone can see everyone else, for instance in a U-shape. By leaving some spaces every few seats, students can move chairs inside to create other formations. This arrangement provides respectful, whole-class discussions - a way for everyone to communicate with one another. Other ideas can be found in Content-Area Conversations by Fisher, Frey, and Rothenberg. Whatever you decide, make the reasons and goals clear to the students.

The Speaking and Listening Strand (S/L) standards require classrooms to develop many ways to promote academic conversations. The range of conversations includes pairs, small groups and whole-class opportunities. However, the basics must be taught; students do not come prepared to have quality conversations. The rigor and communicative skills needed for routine academic conversations must be taught, assessed, and reinforced. PARCC has said the S/L standards will be assessed and will count as part of the summative assessment. All the more reason to get good at teaching them as soon as possible.

Today, PARCC has released prototypes of assessment items for review and for use as tools. Review the item prototypes and other PARCC resources associated with them at

Prepare for and plan for a success-filled school year!

Fisher, D., Frey, N., Rothenberg, C. (2008). Content-area conversations: How to plan discussion-based lessons for diverse learners. Alexandria, VA. ASCD.