Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Common Core Does Not Say "Fetch"

This week I heard from librarians across America that they are discouraged by students showing up at their door with low-budget-research "packets."  We don't send kids down to the Home and Careers classroom and say, "I want to send my kids down to bake a cake, and here is the recipe I want them to use."  Or, we don't send our students to gym class and say, "I would like my kids to get physically fit and here are the exercises they should do."   So let's encourage teachers to plan with their information specialist.

If you are an administrator reading this blog, I would recommend a litmus test for "research" endeavors in your building.  If research is merely fact-finding, the project should be "repackaged" with the librarian using an Inquiry framework. 

  • The Common Core calls for students to move beyond the compilation of factoids to build and share knowledge. 
  • The new C3 SS Standards encourage students to operate within an "Arc of Inquiry."
  • The new C3 SS Standards encourage lessons to launch with a "compelling question."  We often call that the Essential Question or "research question."  Something that has to be uncovered and discovered -- not "covered" or found on Google.

Here's a Crazy Talk video clip created by a secondary student who did his homework for a research project that was filled with "transfer." This exemplifies how you can turn information fact finding into knowledge-analysis and synthesis. The compelling curriculum content for this could be....Imperialism? Movers and Shakers? Biographies? Colonists?  

Question: Where would you Imperialist fall today, if he were living among us now? 
EQ: What would the founding fathers, patriots, and other American hero from the past, say to America today?

This knowledge product displays an understanding of TR, who he was, his impact, and a compare and contrast analysis. It wasn't just a venture for facts. (Even though this is a couple of years old, it reflects synthesis -- what we want to see in our students.)  

This is one example of using technology to embrace higher level thought and analysis.  We have seen this used for animals at the elementary level talking to America about their habitat, difficulties, and challenges in life; for Explorers discussing how their adventures impacted the world; for Signers of the Declaration talking about why they chose to stand with independence; and at the HS level this has been used for Chemical discoveries and properties, animating inanimate elements advocating for reactions, fusions and transformation.  Biography units have also been transformed into advice for teenagers: What would your person say to teens today?  

The important Bloom's component is to move beyond fact-finding to synthesis.  Make your students "interpret" the facts. -- please.    Here are some important things to consider for synthesis:
  • How can your students use these facts to "understand" the "moral of the story" -- the main point?
  • How did these facts change [society]
  • Do I see any patterns? 
  • Do I see any similarities - can I group these facts somehow?
  • Is there a cause and effect? 
  • Which facts are the most important?  Group your facts from important to least important, and ask why.
  • Which facts support the answer to our Essential [research] Question? 

This Teddy clip was originally posted in 2009, but is more relevant now that every educator is being challenged by the Common Core Standards to create engaging research units that require kids to think, analyze, quote, draw upon evidence, argue, synthesize, and create knowledge products that are proof that they have embraced the vocabulary of the discipline and seen the relevance of the content to their lives.

The applications are endless!       

(It was in my AASL  eCollaborate course that librarians from the Virgin Islands to Virginia were lamenting low level research, despite the demands of the CCSS.  Instructional time is too valuable to waste on tasks that will not teach the students anything.) 

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