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Eric Sysoev
Eric Sysoev

The Common Core Companion: The Standards Decoded, Grades 6-8: Understanding and Implementing the Standards Across Content Areas



Are you a middle school teacher looking for a comprehensive guide to help you understand and implement the Common Core Standards in your classroom? If so, you might want to check out The Common Core Companion: The Standards Decoded, Grades 6-8: What They Say, What They Mean, How to Teach Them by Jim Burke and R. James. This book is part of a series that provides clear explanations, practical examples, and effective strategies for teaching each standard across different content areas. In this article, we will review what this book has to offer for grades 6-8 teachers who want to make their instruction more aligned with the Common Core expectations.




The Common Core Companion: The Standards Decoded, Grades 6-8: What They Say, What They Mean, How to



The Common Core Standards for English Language Arts




The Common Core Standards for English Language Arts (ELA) aim to prepare students for college and career readiness by developing their skills in reading, writing, speaking and listening, and language. The standards emphasize three key shifts: complexity, evidence, and knowledge. This means that students are expected to read and comprehend complex texts from various genres and disciplines; write and speak using evidence from texts and sources; and build knowledge through reading, writing, research, and discussion.


The book helps teachers understand what each standard says, what it means, how it connects to other standards, and how to teach it effectively. For each strand of ELA (reading, writing, speaking and listening, and language), the book provides:


  • A table that shows the standards side by side with key distinctions for each grade level



  • A glossary that defines the essential terms and concepts in the standards



  • A section that explains the rationale and purpose of each standard, with student prompts and questions



  • A section that suggests content to cover, lesson ideas, and instructional techniques for each standard, with examples and tips



  • A section that addresses the needs of English language learners and students with disabilities



Here are some examples of lesson ideas and instructional techniques for each strand of ELA:


Reading




  • Use text sets to expose students to multiple texts on the same topic or theme, and have them compare and contrast the texts using a graphic organizer



  • Use close reading strategies to help students analyze the structure, language, and meaning of complex texts, and have them annotate the texts using symbols and notes



  • Use text-dependent questions to guide students' comprehension and interpretation of texts, and have them cite evidence from the texts to support their answers



Writing




  • Use mentor texts to model different types of writing (narrative, informative/explanatory, argumentative) and have students identify the elements and techniques of each type



  • Use writing frames to scaffold students' writing process and help them organize their ideas, evidence, and analysis



  • Use peer feedback and revision strategies to help students improve their writing quality and clarity, and have them use rubrics and checklists to self-assess their work



Speaking and Listening




  • Use collaborative discussions to engage students in meaningful conversations about texts and topics, and have them use sentence stems and protocols to facilitate their interactions



  • Use multimedia presentations to enhance students' oral communication skills and help them convey their ideas effectively, and have them use visual aids and notes to support their speech



  • Use listening activities to help students develop their listening comprehension and critical thinking skills, and have them use graphic organizers and summaries to demonstrate their understanding



Language




  • Use word walls to display academic vocabulary words from various content areas, and have students use the words in their speaking and writing



  • Use mini-lessons to teach grammar, punctuation, and usage rules in context, and have students practice applying the rules in their own writing



  • Use word games and puzzles to reinforce students' knowledge of word parts, meanings, relationships, and origins



The Common Core Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects




The Common Core Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects aim to prepare students for reading and writing in different disciplines by developing their skills in analyzing, evaluating, synthesizing, and communicating information from various sources. The standards are similar to the ELA standards for reading and writing, but they are tailored to the specific demands and expectations of each content area.


The book helps teachers integrate literacy skills across the curriculum by providing guidance on how to select appropriate texts and tasks that support the literacy standards. For each content area (history/social studies, science, technical subjects), the book provides:


  • A table that shows the literacy standards side by side with key distinctions for each grade level



  • A section that explains the rationale and purpose of each standard, with student prompts and questions



  • A section that suggests content-specific texts and tasks that support the literacy standards, with examples and tips



  • A section that addresses the needs of English language learners and students with disabilities



Here are some examples of content-specific texts and tasks that support the literacy standards:


History/Social Studies





Use primary sources (such as letters, speeches, diaries) to help students analyze historical events and perspectives from multiple viewpoints Use secondary sources (such as textbooks, articles, documentaries) to help students evaluate historical arguments and evidence from different sources Use research projects (such as reports, presentations, essays) to help students synthesize information from various sources and communicate their findings and conclusions


Science





Use scientific texts (such as journals, articles, textbooks) to help students understand scientific concepts and phenomena from different disciplines Use scientific experiments (such as investigations, demonstrations, simulations) to help students apply scientific methods and practices to test hypotheses and collect data Technical Subjects




  • Use technical texts (such as manuals, instructions, diagrams) to help students understand technical processes and procedures from different fields



  • Use technical projects (such as designs, models, prototypes) to help students apply technical skills and tools to create or improve products or systems



  • Use technical reports (such as proposals, evaluations, recommendations) to help students communicate technical information and solutions to various audiences



The Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practice




The Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practice describe the habits of mind and behaviors that students need to develop in order to become mathematically proficient. The standards are not specific to any grade level or content area, but they apply to all mathematics learning and teaching. The standards are:


  • Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.



  • Reason abstractly and quantitatively.



  • Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.



  • Model with mathematics.



  • Use appropriate tools strategically.



  • Attend to precision.



  • Look for and make use of structure.



  • Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.



The book helps teachers foster a culture of mathematical thinking and reasoning in their classrooms by providing guidance on how to implement the standards for mathematical practice. For each standard, the book provides:


  • A section that explains what the standard means, with student prompts and questions



  • A section that suggests content to cover, lesson ideas, and instructional techniques for each standard, with examples and tips



  • A section that addresses the needs of English language learners and students with disabilities



Here are some examples of problems and activities that engage students in the mathematical practices:


Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them





Use open-ended problems that have multiple entry points and solutions and require students to make sense of the situation and devise a plan to solve it Use problem-solving strategies (such as guess and check, draw a picture, work backwards, use a table) to help students organize their thinking and monitor their progress Use self-assessment and reflection questions (such as what do you notice? what do you wonder? how do you know? what did you learn?) to help students evaluate their understanding and identify next steps


Reason abstractly and quantitatively





Use number talks to help students develop their number sense and fluency and reason about the relationships between numbers and operations Use algebraic expressions and equations to help students represent and analyze patterns and relationships and manipulate symbols and variables Use proportional reasoning tasks (such as ratios, rates, percentages, scales) to help students compare and interpret quantities and units in different contexts


Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others





Use mathematical discussions to help students communicate their ideas and arguments using precise language and evidence and listen to and respond to the ideas and arguments of others Use mathematical writing to help students articulate their reasoning and justify their solutions using words, symbols, diagrams, and models Use mathematical errors and misconceptions to help students analyze and critique the validity and accuracy of their own and others' reasoning and learn from their mistakes


Model with mathematics





Use real-world problems that have relevance and meaning for students and require them to apply mathematics to model situations and solve problems Use multiple representations (such as graphs, tables, charts, equations, diagrams, simulations) to help students explore and interpret mathematical models and connect them to the context Use mathematical modeling cycles (such as formulate, compute, interpret, validate, report) to help students refine and improve their models and communicate their findings Use appropriate tools strategically




  • Use manipulatives and concrete materials (such as base-ten blocks, fraction strips, algebra tiles) to help students explore and visualize mathematical concepts and operations



  • Use calculators and technology tools (such as spreadsheets, graphing software, online applets) to help students perform calculations and analyze data and functions



  • Use measurement tools (such as rulers, protractors, compasses) to help students measure and construct geometric figures and objects



Attend to precision




  • Use mathematical vocabulary and symbols to help students communicate precisely and concisely using the language of mathematics



  • Use units and labels to help students express and compare quantities and dimensions using appropriate units of measure



  • Use estimation and rounding strategies to help students check the reasonableness and accuracy of their calculations and results



Look for and make use of structure




  • Use patterns and sequences to help students identify and generalize mathematical structures and relationships



  • Use properties and rules to help students understand and apply mathematical concepts and operations



  • Use decomposing and composing strategies to help students break down and recombine numbers, expressions, equations, and figures into simpler or equivalent forms



Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning




  • Use repeated calculations and computations to help students notice and describe patterns and shortcuts in their methods and results



  • Use recursive processes and algorithms to help students generate and extend sequences, functions, and models



  • Use generalizing and abstracting strategies to help students formulate and test conjectures, rules, formulas, and theorems based on their observations and reasoning



The Common Core Standards for Mathematics




The Common Core Standards for Mathematics aim to prepare students for college and career readiness by developing their conceptual understanding, procedural fluency, application skills, and adaptive reasoning in mathematics. The standards emphasize three key shifts: focus, coherence, and rigor. This means that students are expected to master a focused set of topics in each grade level; connect their learning across grades and domains; and balance their understanding of concepts, skills of procedures, and ability to apply mathematics in real-world situations.


The book helps teachers understand what each standard says, what it means, how it connects to other standards, and how to teach it effectively. For each domain of mathematics (ratios and proportional relationships, the number system, expressions and equations, functions, geometry, statistics and probability), the book provides:



A table that shows the standards side by side with key distinctions for each grade level A glossary that defines the essential terms and concepts in the standards A section that explains the rationale and purpose of each standard, with student prompts and questions A section that suggests content to cover, lesson ideas, and instructional techniques for each standard, with examples and tips A section that addresses the needs of English language learners and students with disabilities


Here are some examples of lesson ideas and instructional techniques for each domain of mathematics:


Ratios and Proportional Relationships





Use ratio tables and tape diagrams to help students represent and compare ratios and rates in different contexts Use unit rates and unit conversions to help students solve problems involving proportional relationships and dimensional analysis Use graphs and equations to help students model and analyze proportional relationships The Number System




  • Use number lines and models to help students understand and compare rational numbers and their opposites



  • Use algorithms and properties to help students perform operations with multi-digit numbers and decimals



  • Use fraction models and equivalence to help students perform operations with fractions and mixed numbers



Expressions and Equations




  • Use algebra tiles and area models to help students understand and simplify expressions with variables and exponents



  • Use balance scales and inverse operations to help students solve equations and inequalities with one variable



  • Use tables and graphs to help students represent and analyze relationships between two variables



Functions




  • Use mapping diagrams and tables to help students identify and describe functions and their inputs and outputs



  • Use graphs and equations to help students compare and contrast different types of functions (linear, nonlinear, proportional, nonproportional)



  • Use function notation and rules to help students evaluate and generate functions from various representations



Geometry




  • Use nets and models to help students calculate the surface area and volume of three-dimensional figures



  • Use coordinate planes and transformations to help students graph and describe geometric figures and their properties



  • Use angles and triangles to help students apply the Pythagorean Theorem and its converse to solve problems



Statistics and Probability




  • Use dot plots, histograms, and box plots to help students display and analyze data distributions



  • Use measures of center and variability to help students summarize and compare data sets



  • Use probability models and simulations to help students calculate and interpret probabilities of events



Conclusion




The Common Core Companion: The Standards Decoded, Grades 6-8: What They Say, What They Mean, How to Teach Them is a valuable resource for middle school teachers who want to enhance their understanding and practice of the Common Core Standards. The book provides clear explanations, practical examples, and effective strategies for teaching each standard across different content areas. The book also addresses the needs of diverse learners and offers tips for differentiation. Whether you are looking for a professional development tool or a reference guide, this book will help you make your instruction more aligned with the Common Core expectations.


If you are interested in buying or reading this book, you can find it on Amazon or on the book's website. You can also check out the other books in the series for different grade levels. We hope you enjoyed this article and found it useful for your teaching.


Buy The Common Core Companion: The Standards Decoded, Grades 6-8: What They Say, What They Mean, How to Teach Them on Amazon


Visit The Common Core Companion: The Standards Decoded, Grades 6-8: What They Say, What They Mean, How to Teach Them website


FAQs





  • Who are the authors of the book and what are their credentials?



The authors of the book are Jim Burke and R. James. Jim Burke is a veteran teacher, author, and consultant who has written more than 20 books on teaching and learning. He is also the founder of the English Companion Ning, the largest online community of English teachers in the world. R. James is a former teacher, administrator, and curriculum director who has worked with schools and districts across the country to implement the Common Core Standards. He is also the co-author of The Common Core Companion: Booster Lessons, Grades 6-8: Elevating Instruction Day by Day.


  • How is the book organized and formatted?



The book is organized into five chapters, one for each content area: English Language Arts, Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects, Mathematical Practice, and Mathematics. Each chapter is divided into sections that correspond to the strands or domains of the standards. Each section follows a consistent format that includes: a table that shows the standards side by side with key distinctions for each grade level; a glossary that defines the essential terms and concepts in the standards; a section that explains the rationale and purpose of each standard, with student prompts and questions; a section that suggests content to cover, lesson ideas, and instructional techniques for each standard, with examples and tips; and a section that addresses the needs of English language learners and students with disabilities.


  • How can teachers use the book as a professional development tool or a reference guide?



Teachers can use the book as a professional development tool or a reference gu


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