Common Core Teaching

With Common Core and state standards implementation in full swing around the country, leaders need to be prepared to provide teachers with meaningful and supportive feedback on their standards-based classroom practice.

But what are the elements that school leaders should see in classroom walkthroughs to suggest their faculty are using exemplary Common Core teaching strategies?

“The Common Core Standards call for more rigorous engagement with the curriculum, leading to a deeper analysis and understanding of content,” says Lisa Leith, Vice President of Education for School Improvement Network. To help leaders know what to look for, Leith provides ten indicators of exemplary Common Core teaching that ensure this type of learning occurs:

  1. Common Core learning progressions are used to differentiate instruction.

Learning progressions are sequences of aligned standards that students must master in order to prepare for college or a career. These learning progressions offer a great opportunity for teachers to differentiate their instruction, Leith says.

For example, say a first-grade teacher wants to make sure her students can use illustrations and details in a story as they’re describing the characters. “I can go back and look at what kindergarten students should have learned and look ahead to second grade,” Leith says, “and I can adapt my lesson so there are those extended learnings and also those scaffolded dips—so that my students can catch up or … move ahead.”

  1. Twenty-first century skills are embedded into instruction and assessment.

Tony Wagner, Expert in Residence at Harvard University’s new Innovation Lab, defines 21st-century skills as the following seven “Survival Skills”:

  • Critical thinking and problem solving;
  • Collaboration across networks and leading by influencing;
  • Agility and adaptability;
  • Initiative and entrepreneurship;
  • Effective oral and written communication;
  • Accessing and analyzing information; and
  • Curiosity and imagination.

These skills are “at the heart of” the Common Core standards, Leith says—and exemplary Common Core teaching practices should provide numerous opportunities for students to practice and demonstrate them.

  1. Higher-order thinking skills are explicitly addressed.

The verbs in the Common Core standards—such as “determine two or more central ideas in a text” or “analyze the structure an author uses to organize a text”—define the higher-order thinking skills that students will need to apply as they explore content in new ways, Leith says. These verbs can be correlated to the various levels in Bloom’s new taxonomy: remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating information.

  1. Objectives for all lessons and instructional units are aligned with the Common Core verbs.
  1. Common Core verbs are embedded into performance tasks and assessments.
  1. Real-world examples are used in discussions and activities.
  1. The “Standards for Mathematical Practice,” which describe the foundational skills that students at all levels of math should develop, are posted and referenced in every math lesson.
  1. Mathematical thinking is encouraged within the math content areas and also beyond the classroom.
  1. Learning progressions are made accessible to students and their parents.
  1. Students have access to their achievement data and can articulate their own goals for math and ELA growth.

Leith examined these indicators of high-quality Common Core teaching during a webinar co-sponsored by the National Association of Elementary School Principals. Click here to watch the archived webinar, called “Leadership for the Common Core.”

You can also watch hundreds of other Common Core videos on Edivate, a personalized, on-demand professional learning platform for K-12 educators and administrators.

  • What Exemplary Common Core Teaching Looks Like



Don’t Plan Your Common Core Lessons From Scratch: We’ve Done the Work For You!

Try Common Core for 30 Days