With the implementation of the new Common Core Standards teachers everywhere are trying to wrap their brains around how these standards will look in their own classrooms. Being a busy mother of three, hauling my own children to dance and sports, on top of writing for The Educators Room and managing my classroom responsibilities of grading papers, writing lesson plans, and reading guided reading books my time is precious. I know yours is too. That is why I was so utterly excited last Sunday night when I picked up a digital copy of Common Core Literacy Lesson Plans: Ready-to-Use Resources, 6-8, edited by Lauren Davis, from Eye on Education and began reading. The editor of this fantastic resource has classroom experience and a passion for engaging students in learning. This is evident in the lesson, extension, and assessment ideas in the book. Common Core Literacy Lesson Plans: Ready-to-Use Resources, 6-8 has many research based activities I implemented the very next day in my classroom, is well-organized for easy use, has assessments provided and space for reflection. I read until I was forced to stop when my two-year-old stole the iPad for game play.
The first ah-ha moment I had while reading was when I saw references to running records and Fountas and Pinnell, research-based teaching I already use in my classroom. The book starts with a planning checklist to guide novice teachers through implementing a lesson and remind experienced teachers of important practices when adapting the lessons to their own classroom and needs. There are also reminders for struggling readers and reference to “stamina and persistence while reading” which fit into Habits of Mind. Again, good practices I am already using in my classroom.
It is important to me as an educator to work smarter and use already created resources that fit into my teaching style, philosophy, curriculum and classroom needs as seamlessly as possible. Common Core Literacy Lesson Plans: Ready-to-Use Resources, 6-8 is an excellent example of a tool that does this. The organization of the book is set up simply with thirty-five lessons plans including an overview, CCSS ELA standards for grades 6-8, objectives, background knowledge, materials, step-by-step instructions, differentiation, assessments, and a place for your own notes. Each lesson follows this same set up and is quick and easy to read through. I implemented ideas from Lesson Plan 2: What’s the Big Idea? Tracing a Theme on Monday with my higher reading groups in fourth grade. There are more resource ideas at the end of each lesson and other books, poems, and text you can use. This makes it simple to adapt a lesson if you do not have the exact text. Organized in four sections: Reading, Writing, Speaking & Listening, and Language; saves a teacher time and is one of the many high points of the book.
Formative and summative assessments are important in all classrooms and both are woven into the lessons in Common Core Literacy Lesson Plans: Ready-to-Use Resources, 6-8. Formative assessments are scattered throughout the lessons with teacher observation, student sharing, and handouts provided in the book. Summative assessments are included at the end of each lesson. There were a few rubrics that I would not use with students. Lessons 1, 3, 11, 12, 20, 23, have rubrics that are scored more subjectively than I like to use. It would not be hard, however, to take the learning objectives and create a rubric that better matches my needs. You may find them perfect for your assessment style and need no changes. I liked that the rubrics were not all the same generic rubric; they matched the lessons and there were other assessments as well including graphic organizers, questions about evidence of thinking, writing pieces, and short reflections. I did not feel like the same assessment was used over and over as you often find in pre-written lessons.
I know as an educator I struggle with reflection the most. Making myself take time to write down my thoughts about how lessons went, what I need to do better, and what worked well. I love the section after every lesson for notes. “After implementing the lesson, reflect on what worked and what you would change the next time.” This is an important part of the process we use to teach. The fact that the editor includes this in the book shows it is recognized, respected, and speaks highly for the quality of educators contributing to the lessons provided. The time you will save using this book instead of trying to find ways to implement CCSS ELA into your classroom can be spent reflecting on the lessons you use from the book. This reflection will only make you stronger as an educator. Kudos to the editors for including this important, and yet often overlooked, step.
There were minimal parts of the the book that I found I personally did not agree with. There are a few ideas for advanced students that include homework. I do not believe advanced students need more work to be challenged. This suggestion was rare though, and there were other great suggestions such as different text selections, pairing students to peer teach, and having small group discussions while other students are silent reading. Many of the lessons also tie to one literature piece. This is easily remedied, however, by the additional resource list at the end of each lesson. One reminder: this book is directed to a very specific audience. While the lessons and standards are for English language arts, I was impressed with ideas for implementation for science and social studies classes. Furthermore, while it covers standards for sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students, I was able to easily adapt things for my fourth grade class. The many research based activities, simple organization, varied assessments, and reflection space outweigh the few minor things I found that did not match with my personal teaching.
Are you interested in what the new CCSS ELA standards are? Do you want to know how to implement them into your classroom? Are you wondering how on Earth you will find the time to write new lessons? Do you find yourself strapped for time but want to challenge your kids? Answers to all of these questions can be found in Common Core Literacy Lesson Plans: Ready-to-Use Resources, 6-8 from Eye on Education. Grab a copy today, wrestle your e-reader away from your kids, and have fun implementing these activities in your classroom!
Disclaimer: This book was provided to The Educator’s Room free of charge by the publisher. However, neither The Educator’s Room nor the reviewer received any compensation for this review. The opinions contained in this review are those of the reviewer alone and were written free of any obligation or agreement with the publisher. If you have any questions regarding book reviews, see our full disclaimer or contact the Book Review Editor.