Common Core is a surefire way to get every kid in America into Harvard. On the flipside, it will destroy students' ability to think altogether. Plus, it makes teachers lose all creativity and leave the classroom to a bunch of standards-spitting robots.

 

Thanks for the mish-mash of misconceptions, HuffPo. Now we (and the rest of the world) may not be able to solve the Common Core debate and tell you whether the general standards they provide are good or bad for young Americans, but we can hunker down on a few ideas for how to implement them with pizzazz.

The Debate

Why would we tell you the how without the what? To start off, the Common Core State Standards (that's her full name) were dreamed up by state education leaders and governors from 48 states. Why? So that K-12-ers across the nation could grow up learning universal standards in language arts, literacy, and mathematics. That way they'd all be totally set come college and career, and everyone would have an equal shot.

Right?

Wrong. Well, according to some of the naysayers. Cons of the Common Core: those overarching guidelines could stifle teacher creativity, hamper state-specific education policy, and put too many demands on local administrators and teachers. Especially if teacher evaluations are partially based on student performance on tests based on those standards. Yeesh.

But if you're in one of the states that swears by the Common Core (or at least, legislates it), better remember the pros: based on these standards, you'll have more clarity about what kids learn and when they learn it, and you'll be able to share notes with colleagues all over the country. Now doesn't that sound fun?

How to Do a Proper Sit-Up

Oh wait, different kind of core.

When figuring out how to implement Common Core in your own classroom, remember that it's good teachers who ensure rigor—not the standards that are meant to be a minimal benchmark. So, in order to make Common Core effective while preserving our autonomy and creativity in the classroom…

1. Know your Core.

Of course if you aren't familiar with the Common Core, then you're just shooting flies in a dark barrel underwater. You have to be very familiar with the objectives the CC give you if you want to become proficient at working them. So we'll just go ahead and link to our section on 'em so you can read the standards as they are and in our Shmoop translation.

2. Better yet: know your objectives.

Clarify exactly what you want to achieve in the lesson. If you know where you're going, you can make any path you want to get there. Common Core can provide some of your objectives, but you can get a lot more specific in determining the skills and specific knowledge tidbits your students should be picking up along the way.

3. Find creative ways to meet your objectives.

Some of the bad press Common Core has received has to do with the place of creative pedagogy. But why should national standards get in the way? Going about Shakespeare by acting out Macbeth instead of assigning an essay about power will still get the point across. In other words, it's totally valid to experiment with different ways of teaching while still sticking to the overall goals. With clear communication, creativity and common standards can mix like bananas and peanut butter. (No really, we like those).

The bottom line: if you can marry creativity with your objectives, you're golden. Just beware of making things overly complicated. Mix it up when it comes to delivery of content—for example, find supplementary items like videos or radio programs, incorporate research, build projects, and use your entire brain (and theirs) for optimum learning.

And in case you're still unsure how to do all that with these standards hanging over your head, take comfort in the fact that, ultimately, the Common Core standards are very broad. You have a lot of leeway as a teacher. and if you're meeting objectives, then it really doesn't matter how you get there. In our estimation, the more creative and dynamic your lesson plans, the less likely your kids will be snoozing in the back of the room.

And if all else fails, you can always have everyone do 200 sit-ups in the middle of class.

After all, that's probably the best way to develop a solid common core.

 

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