The Beatles and The Common Core

     This weekend, I wandered through Central Park and passed through Strawberry Fields with a fellow English teacher and dear friend, Stacey.  I also received several emails regarding the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  These two facts have little to do with each other, I know, but I’ve been humming several of my favorite Beatles songs in my head (OK—sometimes even out loud), and I started thinking about how some of the song titles and lyrics may be great sources of inspiration as we work to help our students meet the CCSS.  I truly do believe that if we choose to look at the CCSS from a positive perspective, we may “Imagine” a better education for our students. 

     Remember, The Beatles recorded at Apple Records.  What better group to get us to the core of the common core? Below is a list of song titles and a few quoted lyrics that may guide teachers in taking a positive approach toward the CCSS:

1. "Come Together"—The CCSS are designed to help students reach a common level of skill and understanding in core subject areas.  This is not about a homogenized curriculum.  This is about agreeing upon the skills that need improvement and the basic information that students need to know in order to be successful in college and career.

2. "Let It Be"—If you have a solid lesson or unit that helps your students develop skills and understanding, “Let it Be”.  The CCSS do not call for a total overhaul of what you are currently doing.  Rather, they help you to assess and evaluate the power of your own lesson design and teaching. 

3. “Don’t Let Me Down”—I’m not sure whether these words are those of the students toward us, their teachers or those of the teachers toward our students.  My 9-12th grade ELA students could sing these words to me, telling me not to allow them to graduate without a strong foundation of knowledge and skills for work and career.  Conversely, I could sing the lyrics to my 9th-12th graders, reminding them that anything less than their best is a let down.  The standards help keep expectations high for students and for teachers.

4. “All You Need is Love”—If only it were that easy—right?!  That said, I do believe that if we love what we do, love what we teach, and love our students, we are likely to be successful with any standards that come our way.  That love and passion for the job fuel hours of planning for instruction, modifying that instruction for students with varied needs, and assessing and celebrating student learning.  No one said this job would be easy.  You truly have to love what you do if you are in this profession!

5. “Twist and Shout”—This may be what you want to do when new standards are passed down to you, but I think the more important line in the song in relation to the CCSS is “Shake it up baby!”  I began reviewing and revising lessons that I thought were strong, when I collaborated with my colleague, Vicky Giouroukakis to write our book on the CCSS for ELA.  Upon review, I realized that some of my lessons needed shaking up.  I incorporated more experiential learning, created better scaffolding for writing assignments, and clarified rubrics so as to better show the value of students’ work in terms of skills an content knowledge that was developed.  The CCSS set the bar high for learning, however, they allow for teacher and student creativity, so we can “shake it up baby!”

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