Our newly appointed Assistant Regional Advisor, Helen Newton gave an excellent talk at our Tulsa schmooze this month entitled The Common Core: How to Use it to Your Benefit. The Common Core is a set of teaching objectives that will be adopted by 46 of the 50 states starting with the 2014-2015 school year and will focus heavily on tying literature and writing skills into all subjects – math, science, social studies, etc.
As Helen put it, “Life is not divided up into hours”. You don’t just use math or English in one class. Now teaching will reflect how everything is connected.
This is great news for writers on all levels, from picture books to YA, from fiction to non-fiction. More books will be needed.
This doesn’t mean you have to necessarily research the entire Common Core curriculum and write books to fit what they want to teach, but you should look at the books you’ve written and see how they fit within some of the objectives. Then make sure you do the prep work for the teachers and give them the tools to make it easy to pick your book when they need to teach about your book’s subject.
Write a up short book talk and post it on your website, create a reader’s theatre that can be used in the classroom, have something on your website to encourage literary circles, have activities for teachers to use in the classroom, and you should have a section to get kids interested – something interactive.
Another great concept is that kids will be taught to read critically, not just to think about whether or not they like a book, but to really get down to the reasons why they like a book. I find that refreshing.
Helen is an English teacher who has used a similar approach for years in her own classrooms. She does book talks once a week to get the kids excited about a title and want to read it themselves. The kids in her classes also do this themselves once every eight weeks. This, along with the books she uses in her daily lessons, adds up to fifteen to twenty books every week that the kids can be exposed to. She says it never fails that after she discusses a book, at least one student comes up to her and asks if they can check it out to read.
If a book you’ve written has, say, a setting of a science fair or has characters that deal with prejudice like Linda Sue Park’s book Project Mulberry, then teachers can use it when working on both of these different curriculum objectives.
Another example is The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine which has an excellent explanation of prime numbers. Tulsa Burning by Anna Myers has great example of dialect in writing, Jerry Spinelli’s Stargirl shows wonderful figurative language, and S.A. Bodine’s Compound show how plot twist complications affect story outcomes. All of these books can be weaved into lesson plans effortlessly.
The one thing that will help teachers use your books in meeting these new Common Core lesson plans is easy access to information about your books.
Helen gave these author websites as examples of great teacher-friendly sites:
Make sure you stop by Helen’s blog for more updates on this subject. If you know of any great author sites with excellent teacher resources, make sure to let me know, I’d love to check them out.