standards

Overview of the Common Core State Standards Initiatives for ELLs: A TESOL Issue Brief

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Summary: This issue brief, from the TESOL International Association, is an overview of the Common Core State Standards that also outlines some of the initiatives in place to address the needs of English learners (ELs) in relation to the Standards. Excerpts from this resource may be useful in study groups and professional development sessions focused on the needs of English learners, particularly within the contexts of assessment practices and content-area text complexity.
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Teaching in a Time of Dogs

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Author: Tom Goodson

Summary: “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”  As most teachers will tell you, there may be no truer statement about teaching. In this essay, the writer reflects on an incident that occurred years ago in his middle school classroom that has continued to serve as a guiding metaphor for “the uncertainty that is the beauty and the challenge of teaching.” In seeking to place students, not standards, as our starting point, this article could serve as an inspiration for teachers–in any inquiry group, institute or professional development program–to reflect on the lives of their students and the dynamic of teaching and learning in their classrooms. 
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The Story of SCORE: The Mississippi Writing/Thinking Institute Takes on a Statewide Reading Initiative

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Author: Lynette Herring-Harris and Cassandria Hansbrough

Summary: The SCORE monograph (Secondary Content Opening to Reading Excellence) from the Mississippi Writing/Thinking Institute offers an overview of programming for content area teachers as part of a statewide reading initiative. A useful resource for teacher leaders, the monograph includes a rich description of five days of workshops (p. 14-19) along with timelines (p. 24-25), and agendas (p.26-31) that structured and organized this work.
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Planning for Writing Instruction

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Author: Mark Overmeyer

Summary: In this brief tip from his book, When Writing Workshop Isn’t Working, Mark Overmeyer describes a process of collaborative backward planning that provides a scope and sequence for the year that meets district curriculum requirements, allows for the study of genres connected to various disciplines and units (e.g., research, narrative, memoir, and technical writing), and culminates in a student-generated magazine that draws from strategies learned throughout the year. This would be a useful resource for school-based planning teams as well as for professional development focused on writing workshop and cross-curricular planning and assessment.
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Whose Core Is It?

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Author: Christina Puntel

Summary: An elementary school teacher and bilingual coordinator pushes back against the mandated content/performance descriptors provided by her district to assert that the “core” of her curriculum is her students’ learning. “I teach with an ear close to the core of each child, to the core of the monarch unit, the silkworm unit, the family songs unit….” Her important reflection on the humanity of the students at the heart of classrooms and curricula will be of interest to teachers and study groups wrestling with the influence of mandated curricula on their teaching.
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Preserving the Cultural Identity of the English Language Learner

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Author: Wilma Ortiz and Karen Sumaryono

Summary: With an advocacy goal of helping immigrant students retain their cultural identities and succeed within the mainstream classroom while also learning a new language, the authors share several effective writing practices that validate students’ primary language in meaningful ways and promote a strong sense of self. These include: helping all students use key words from a variety of languages; inviting students to use their primary language in response to journal entries, writing prompts and free writes; using multilingual mentor texts; employing “writing to learn” in native languages to explore content; and using cooperative grouping to support speaking in English. The details and examples in this article make it an excellent resource for study groups, professional development or individual teachers seeking ways to support language learners.
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Honoring Dialect and Culture: Pathways to Student Success on High-Stakes Writing Assessments

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Author: Michelle Crotteau

Summary: As teachers we often struggle to find ways to honor our students’ home dialects while still preparing them to take high-stakes writing tests requiring the use of Standard English. In this piece, the author describes her three-pronged approach within a Writing Strategies class for students who had failed the state test. Students developed linguistic and mechanical fluency by speaking and writing about their interests (e.g., hunting), drawing upon their Appalachian English dialect, and by learning how to recognize audience-appropriate situations for employing both Standard English and their own dialect. Lots of student writing samples, coupled with the author’s own rationales and experience, make this a useful piece for workshops, study groups, or professional development focused on culturally relevant practices within a high-stakes testing environment.
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Book Review: The Testing Trap: How State Writing Assessments Control Learning

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Author: Carl Nagin

Summary: This review of George Hillocks’s 2002 book, The Testing Trap: How State Writing Assessments Control Learning, is still a relevant read, providing history and research connected to the issues involved in high stakes state writing tests. The review details the validity and reliability of such tests, the scoring processes, the variety of tests from state to state, and the range of knowledge about writing held by teachers who score. Worthy of a teacher book group or a school-wide reading, this review could be used as a gateway to this book written by a distinguished researcher in the field of composition.
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Book Review: English Learners, Academic Literacy, and Thinking: Learning in the Challenge Zone

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Author: Debra Schneider

Summary: How can we best support English learners in classrooms where rigorous curricula focus on intellectual practices across content areas? How can we engage in practices that enable students to construct rather than reproduce knowledge, develop deep understanding of disciplinary knowledge and forge connections between school and the outside world? In this review of Pauline Gibbons’s book, Debra Schneider shares insights and successful strategies emerging from her own”high-challenge, high-support classroom” practice and the work of her study group related to their reading of the chapter on Academic Literacy [see PDF].  An excellent resource for individual classroom teachers, study groups, inquiry groups, or those leading professional development.
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Inviting Parents in: Expanding Our Community Base to Support Writing

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Author: Cathy Fleischer and Kimberly Coupe Pavlock

Summary: Looking for ideas for ways to reach out to parents to help them understand why we teach writing in the ways we do and to share successful strategies for how they might help their children or teens with writing?  And what about looking for ways to build awareness of the connections between high school and college writing? This article, filled with research-based strategies and examples for those seeking to facilitate such experiences, also makes a case for how successful workshops with parents can help them expand their knowledge beyond what they know from media and legislative mandates to become “informed, knowledgeable readers of educational reform and potential advocates for change.”
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