Common Core and Social Studies

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Find out more about my social studies courses for teachers at Teacher’s Learning Connection or at Fresno Pacific University CPD

10 Ways to Use Instagram in the Classroom

Some great ideas from We are Teachers on 10 Ways to Use Instagram in the Classroom.

Flipped Classroom

In my effort to try something new I have flipped my classroom to give students more power over their learning. In my first grade class I have no homework, no desks, and few teacher led lessons. I do have many opportunities for group work, small group instruction at tables, and provide instruction at differentiated learning levels. When walking into my classroom it is not quiet. You can find student are sitting around tables, on the floor, in our small library, and I am usually with a small group. 

Using this method of learning, I have noticed a huge increase in student understanding of math concepts. During our math time students work together in pairs. They use manipulatives and help each other. I provide assistance as a facilitator. 

During ELA time I provided small group instruction as explained in this previous blog:

Some resources I found helpful are:

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Response to Literature

My 1st grade student spent a couple of weeks listening to Pete the Cat stories, viewing videos, and discussing and comparing the stories. They wrote their own version to Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes. I recorded their readings of the page they wrote for their version of the book. To make this an authentic activity we invited our Superintendent, Principal, Program Manager, Librarian, a Board Member, and other school support staff to the debut of the video. It was an exciting and productive way to show off their work. 

Center Rotation Schedule

I have recently been asked by several people how I set up my center rotation schedule. This rotation schedule is set up with 20 students. If you have more than 20 you can add more students to each group. The only thing that moves on this chart are the top cards. Listening center will go to the next spot and Poetry will take the first spot on the next day and so on.

These top cards coordinate with the day of the week. They will move everyday.

Center Rotation Schedule

Color meaning:
Red: Low Achieving Readers
Orange: Medium Low Achieving Readers
Blue: Medium High Achieving Readers
Green: High Achieving Readers
I match Low Achieving Readers with Medium High Achieving Readers and Medium Low Achieving Readers with High Achieving Readers. This grouping is done this way as to not have too much of a gap between the readers. Students are partnered to give each other help during independent centers: Listening, Computers, Word Building, Spelling, and Poetry.

9:00 - 9:30
Teacher - All Red Students
Book Making - All Blue Students
Independent Centers - Listening Center Orange 1 and Green 1, Computers Orange 2 and Green 2, Word Building Orange 3 and Green 3 (Notice, on this particular day no one goes to Spelling or Poetry.)
Seat Work - Orange 4 and Green 4, Orange 5 and Green 5

9:30 - 10:00
Teacher - All Blue Students
Book Making - All Red Students
Independent Centers - Listening Center Orange 4 and Green 4, Computers Orange 5 and Green 5 (Notice, on this particular day no one goes to Word Building or Spelling or Poetry.)
Seat Work - Orange 1 and Green 1, Orange 2 and Green 2, Orange 3 and Green 3

10:00 - 10:30
Teacher - All Orange Students
Book Making - All Green Students
Independent Centers - Listening Center Blue 1 and Red 1, Computers Blue 2 and Red 2, Word Building Blue 3 and Red 3 (Notice, on this particular day no one goes to Spelling or Poetry.)
Seat Work - Blue 4 and Red 4, Blue 5 and Red 5

10:30 - 11:00
Teacher - All Green Students
Book Making - All Orange Students
Independent Centers - Listening Center Blue 4 and Red 4  Computers Blue 5 and Red 5 (Notice, on this particular day no one goes to Word Building or Spelling or Poetry.)
Seat Work - Blue 1 and Red 1, Blue 2 and Red 2, Blue 3 and Red 3

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Math Vocabulary

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One of the first math lessons I did was teaching the students counting, writing, and spelling numbers from 1 - 10. I am trying to get away from using traditional worksheets to provide this type of practice. This year I am having the students write in Math Journals to record vocabulary words and computations. As you can see in the first picture all of the students are writing in their journals. They have 10 math unifix cubes to practice showing each number's value.

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Students wrote the information from a chart paper we worked on together. I wrote the number, asked the students how many dots to draw, and asked them to tell me what the beginning sound of each number word started with. This not only provided number sense, but some phonics as well. We did each number one at a time. I did not move on to the next number until the students finished writing the information for the one we were working on. Those who finished quickly could write the next number and draw the dots for that number. 

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Having these number words in their journal will allow for easy access when they are writing and need to use a number word. As with all chart paper created by the students and myself, I will post it for the year on the wall. 

To find out more about using vocabulary and teaching to the common core visit my site at: You can sign up for my course ELA 925 Reading: Common Core and Curriculum mapping at:

Listening Center Journals

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My goal for this year is to drastically reduce the number of copies I make. Not for environmental purposes, although important to me, but simply because copies are not necessary. Under the Common Core State Standards students will be expected to be in charge of their own learning with the teacher acting as the facilitator. This listening center book report idea is one way teachers can slowly teach students to become responsible for creating their own response to reading; another big CCSS standard. 

Imagine doing a listening center without copying class sets of book report pages each week; a practice I have done for years. What if instead we used journals for the students to write their responses? I plan on giving students a sample of what is expected during the first month of school. Through this activity, I will train students to become more independent at writing their own responses to literature. I decided to simply use a chart paper to write directions for responding to the book they hear. I will change the responses out with each new book. As the year progresses I will provide less support. 


For the "picture" area I can use sentence strips to ask the students to draw things like: Draw the front cover/back cover/title page of the book. Draw your favorite part of the book. Draw the characters in the book. 

For the "write" area I can ask the students question like: What did you like best about the book? Who are the characters of the book? What is the setting of the book? What was the problem? How did the problem get solved? 

I will save the money from not making copies for other important things, like purchasing more journals. 

I hope to post more center ideas and copy saving ideas in the future. 

Today I tried this lesson out. It was difficult for some students to follow along. I am maybe being over zealous thinking that 1st graders could do this on the first day of school. I am sure with practice they will be able to produce quality literature responses. 

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If your interested in teaching reading using the Common Core go to my website course page at: or my Fresno Pacific University website at:

Literacy Center Rotations

Teachers you need to devote 2 hours a day 5 days a week to literacy centers. It is important to start them within the first two weeks of the school year. Do your DRA or other assessment to get your students grouped into homogenous reading groups the first week of school. Next, set up 4 homogenous groups based on their assessment scores. During the first two weeks you must train, train, train and do some more training on expectations at each center. 

Once you start centers and everyone is trained give yourself the freedom to float around the room. Do not put your self at the teacher reading table the first week of center rotations. You can put an activity at that table each day. It is important for you to do more training while you are moving about the room. 

On the third week of school you are ready to start centers. You can now feel comfortable with letting your students be independent at the centers. At this point you will be a able to focus on your reading groups. Now, I am a realistic teacher and know that you are going to have interruptions from students while teaching small groups. It is to be expected, but if you train your students well you will have fewer interruptions. 

My rotations include:

  • Reading with Teacher: This rotation happens everyday. This is a small group instruction center where I provided guided reading. I always start my first rotation with the group that needs the most help and end with the group who are more skilled readers (I am always more energetic at the beginning of centers thus giving my most to those who struggle with reading). 
  • Journal Writing: This rotation happens everyday. This includes a small group of heterogeneous students working at their seat. They can write about topics on a topic list, a thematic writing, free choice writing, etc. 

  • The students rotate through these rotations one time per week.
    • Poetry: Students build a poem with sentence strips.

    • Word Building: These are scrambled sentences or vocabulary exercises using thematic words.
    • Computers: Blogging, other Web 2.0 activity, or reading.
    • Library: Students can switch out books they have at their desks for new books. They can free read in the library.

    • Writing: Thematic Writing. Students write about the thematic unit we are studying. 

The important things with doing center rotations are: Start early in the year; Train them very well on what you expect; Do not deviate from your routine. 

Learn more about teaching reading under the Common Core State Standards here. Sign up to take ELA 925 Reading: Common Core and Curriculum Mapping here

Is This Common Core Teaching?

This summer my friend and colleague Caryl Martin and I are conducting our 6th annual Writing Camp. We are both Teacher Consultants who went through the San Joaquin Valley Writing Project (SJVQWP) and model our practices after the theory behind the National Writing Project. Our goal is to give student campers opportunities and experiences which are hard to come by in a regular classroom setting. We provide students with real life experiences and opportunities to write about. 

With Common Core State Standards on our minds we are trying to incorporate some of the practices that the new standards lay out. We are giving students the chance to read, explore, create, and write. Which are all things SJVWP has always advocated. 

During this weeks' Writing Camp we are exploring nature. 

  • On Monday we started our learning in a classroom. The students wrote about what they know about nature. One of our goals is to get the student to understand decomposition of debris from trees and other plants. In the school yard the students collected leaves, grass clippings, and other natural material to put in their buckets. We added some soil, water, and a few earthworms. The students made predictions about what would happen to the material in their buckets by Friday. 
  • On Tuesday we took the students to a wetlands area near the Kings River. Because California had such little rain this year it was definitely not wet, but there was still plenty to explore nonetheless. With nets, magnifying glasses, bug jars, and cameras in hand the students set out to see what they could find. They saw squirrels, red tailed hawks, blue jays, grazing cattle (not natural to the land, but they were there), grasshoppers, and spiders. After their adventure they sat down right there in the wetland area and wrote about their experiences. 
  • On Wednesday we got a little closer to the Kings River where there was water flowing. We dipped water from the river to look at with magnifying glasses and microscopes. The students saw water striders, water spiders, mosquito larvae, and small fish. They looked closely at duck feathers, butterfly wings, and mosquito larvae under the microscopes. Of course they wrote. An additional writing was to compare and contrast the two environments from both days. 
  • On Thursday we read From Seed to Sunflower and How Seeds Move. The students wrote, on chart paper, what they knew about seeds before the stories and wrote again after. We discussed what seeds needed to grow, soil, sun, and water. We introduced the word hydroponic. We asked the students if they knew what "hydro" meant. Some responded with "water." They then planted seeds on a sponge. It was an interesting conversation in discussing why the seeds would grow without soil. Finally, the students chose one thing they learned about to write an I am poem. 
  • On Friday we will have a reading. The students wrote invitations inviting their parents to come to our Writing Camp Reading. They will each read some of their writings and we will all enjoy a snack. 

With every effort possible, Caryl and I are trying to explore new and creative ideas to get students motivated to write. We have been doing this for the past six years. Every year we learn something new and try to take back these real experiences to use in our classrooms the next year. 

I feel like the Common Core State Standards are getting us back to this real teaching and hopefully away from test centered teaching. I am excited to see this change come about in our educational system. I hope that districts see it the way I see this progression. I hope that districts and teachers do not fall back into using inadequate teachers editions as a crutch for teaching true authentic reading and writing. 


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Shared Writing

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Creating Writing Based On Exploration

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Learn more about the Common Core Reading Standards at: Reading: Common Core and Curriculum Mapping or at ELA 925.

CCSS Shift #1

Balancing Informational & Literary Text:

  • The first shift in teaching the CCSS is Balancing Informational and Literary Text. The following information are some changes we will have to make in our teaching.
    • Students will read increasing amounts of informational text. In K-5 students will need to read 50% literary text and 50% informational text. By the twelfth grade 70% of the text they read will be informational. This is more in balance with what we read as adults. In our work places 80% of what we read is informational.
      • I have found in my experience student like reading informational text. They seem to be more engaged in learning about things that interest them and often that includes subjects found in informational books. 
    • We need to invest in student's background knowledge during their elementary years in history and science. 
      • If you are studying a topic in history or science it is important to go deep into the topic. Students need to start building a deeper understanding of history and science topics. By going deeper into one topic they will be greatly building their vocabulary.
    • Informational text are more challenging. Students will need to pay closer attention to details as they read. 
      • This may be true, although I find once students have gained a grasp of the structure of expository text they can access it. If students are engaged by a text, no matter the text type, they will pay close attention to what they are reading. The key is finding what they enjoy reading. 
    • To teach complex informational text there will be more demands of time, greater level of planning, or planning for individual students.
      • If we are going to be asking students to go deeper into text we are going to need to stay a step ahead of them. We, as teachers, are going to need to spend time in text ourselves. There is a greater level of planning for higher level questioning and getting students to critically think about texts. The days of pulling out a scripted text book are over (I hope).
    • Teachers need to rely on text to give information instead of relying on video, discussion, or going to some place as a way to replace the text.
      • This is not saying abandon videos and field trips. We need to have students learn from the text. The videos and field trips must be used as extra, not as a replacement to text. 
    • Elementary teachers can now extend their history and science block in their day.
      • The overemphasis of stories has taken our history and science blocks away. With this increase on teaching informational text I am excited to see time being devoted to history and science again. 
    • Literacy and writing will no longer fall only on English teachers. Content teachers will also need to teach reading and writing.

Learn more about the Common Core State Standards and how the standards will change education in America by taking my course ELA 925: Common Core: Reading and Curriculum Mapping           © Jeromy Winter 2011