Common Core, Project Based Learning and Engagement

Building on this previous blog entry by Mary Rudd I’d like to touch on the issue of how we might use the Common Core Standards and Project Based Learning to engage students. As this video shows people will do the previously unthinkable if the right buttons of engagement are pressed.

The big question then is how to engage students and while this video suggests making things fun I would argue that making things interesting is a more attainable goal. For starters we must find areas of interest for our students. Good thinking is inherently interesting for most students but without the hook to pull them in we’ll be fighting an uphill battle to get them to that thinking. I loved fiscal and monetary policy when I was teaching economics, unfortunately my students did not share that sentiment. Still, that is important content for high school students to learn so how do we get them there? Project Based Learning places students in an authentic problem where they are required to gain the understanding, knowledge and skills that makes up that content.

What if students were asked to develop and present a policy to keep the country from going over the fiscal cliff to actual members of Congress? We can debate and refine that challenge to make it more engaging but the value is that of students doing meaningful and purposeful work that requires them to uncover content instead of teachers just covering it.

Incorporating the Common Core Standards it’s not hard to see how many of these College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing could be addressed by students to prepare their presentations.

Text Types and Purposes*
1. Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant
and sufficient evidence.
2. Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately
through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
3. Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details
and well-structured event sequences.
Production and Distribution of Writing
4. Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task,
purpose, and audience.
5. Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.
6. Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.
Research to Build and Present Knowledge
7. Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating
understanding of the subject under investigation.
8. Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each
source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.
9. Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
Range of Writing
10. Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a
single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.

Text Types and Purposes*

1. Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

2. Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

3. Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.Production and Distribution of Writing

4. Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task,purpose, and audience.

5. Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.

6. Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.Research to Build and Present Knowledge

7. Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

8. Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.

9. Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.Range of Writing

10. Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (asingle sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.

And in making their presentations Anchor Standards for Speaking at the least #4-6 would be necessary:

Comprehension and Collaboration

1. Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners,building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

2. Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

3. Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas

1. Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

2. Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.

3. Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

Among schools with a strong culture of engagement it’s clear that students are involved in work that mirrors the adult world. While the content of our normal subject areas doesn’t always share that connection Common Core Standards do. These “skills” are learning-by-doingnot things students should know, they’re things they should know how to do and while adults can be successful not knowing the content and facts of any given subject they will likely struggle if they don’t possess the kinds of skills we find in the Common Core. So follow John Dewey’s lead and facilitate engagement of students by getting them to learn by doing.

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