Document Based Questions—Support and Materials

Many of you may already be using Document Based Questions in your 6th grade classroom but if you are not, it is an excellent resource to consider. DBQs reinforce important Common Core outcomes including building content knowledge with rich non-fiction; reading, speaking and writing using evidence, and navigating complex text and its academic vocabulary.

You can watch teachers reflect on DBQs and speak to the alignment with CCSS and specific literacy outcome. You can receive a free DBQ binder by participating in the district inservice course on World History DBQs. Register here.

The website will also be adding a tab with DBQs later this fall. And If you have already taken the training but would like additional support implementing DBQs, please contact Angela Orr or Katie Anderson.

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BAP Essential Understanding–Planning Tool

Kristen Campbell, the K-12 Professional Learning Facilitator with the Northwest RPDP, and Cathy Schmidt, the Striving Readers Elementary Training Coordinator, have synthesized key information from the BAP into a nice planning tool. They pulled the Big Ideas, Key Understandings, and Story Synopsis’s from each BAP and put them in one document. For the purposes of yearly planning and developing units, these may prove quite useful.

3rd Grade Essential Understanding for HM BAP

4th Grade Essential Understanding for HM BAP

5th Grade Essential Understanding for HM BAP

You can now access all the BAP and scaffolded writing lessons in the ELA tab at

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Promoting Civic Education through Open Discussions

A big part of doing Common Core well involves kids engaged in rich and rigorous conversations. The positive benefits of this have been documented in several posts on this blog including this one from Dr. Lauren Resnick and this one from Dr. David Pearson. A less obvious outcome is how open discussions promote civic proficiency. Although maybe not obvious, it has been documented and the research supporting this is shared in the following video here. In it Dr. David Campbell, from the University of Notre Dame, outlines how students engaged in open classroom discussion are more likely to become proficient in civics—even accounting for home environment. Begin at minute 11:39 with the big payoff being shared at 16:20.

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Presentation to Board of Trustees, August 12, 2014

I was asked to present to the Washoe County School Board of Trustees on the implementation of the Common Core State Standards. The time to speak was brief—10 minutes—and in that time I moved the trustees through the principles that guide the work we have been doing in K-6 ELA over the last three years. These include

  1. Let’s honor our classroom peers/governance and allow them to hear the CCSS message unfiltered
  2. The resources we use and promote are vetted, scalable and free
  3. This takes time. We have to be patient.

A brief mention of the Core Task Project was also included as well as the Core Task implementation Project.

You can download the PowerPoint here and watch a video recording of the meeting here. (The CCSS presentation begins at 2:51:40)


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More/New Common Core Inservice Courses Available

A number of new Common Core inservice classes have been added to the Solution Where catalog. You can read the descriptions of each course below and click here to register for those that fit with your professional learning goals.

CCSS Foundational Skills: This course is designed to give teachers a close look at the Foundational Skills standards. We will look at what it takes to make children fluent and comprehensive readers. We will dive deeply into ways to use Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, Fluency, Vocabulary and Comprehension in the Common Core classroom.

CCSS Writing to Sources: This course will instruct participants to use the CCSS/NVACS, SBAC Assessment Rubrics, Publisher´s Criteria, BAP, Close Reads, and other resources to shift instruction to support students in citing evidence from text and media to write opinion/argumentative and informative pieces. Discussion will focus on how participants can more closely align classroom practices to the Common Core State Standards, the SBAC Assessment, and the Publisher´s Criteria. Participants will leave with a clear understanding of how to pull evidence out of text and use it when writing informative and opinion/argumentative pieces.

CCSS ELA Blended Learning, Unpacking Syntax: To support teachers in meeting the new CCSS Nevada Academic Content Standards, this blended learning course is being offered to K-5 teachers focusing on the role of syntax in text complexity. The course is designed to support planning, learning, classroom implementation, and reflection around the Language Standards and teaching grammar in context. We will use Mignon Fogarty´s Grammar Girl´s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing (provided) and Judith Hochman´s Teaching Basic Writing Skills (provided). We will also hear from other ELA experts about how to navigate syntax teaching.

Shifting your Instruction to the Core: This on-line course will improve teacher knowledge of the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy, and will support teachers in providing a rigorous, relevant curriculum for all students. Participants will explore and discuss the six instructional shifts embedded in the CCSS for English Language Arts and Literacy. A variety of resources will be used to consider the implications of shifts in the current practice.

Small Group Literacy Instruction and the Core: This is an 8-hour course designed to support teachers with using complex and grade level text within small groups. Participants will look at what makes a text complex, how to support students with the text and develop a plan for using small group instruction around a piece of text. This course is designed for educators working with 2nd grade students and above. The course will meet for 2 hours on four different weeks.

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Free Next Generation Science Standards Videos

Paul Anderson, a high school teacher who publishes under the name Bozeman Science, has created sixty Youtube videos for the Next Generation Science Standards. If you are a NGSS novice like me, the videos are proving well worth the view. Each is short—roughly six or seven minutes—and cover the 8 Science and Engineering Practices, the 7 Crosscutting Concepts, and the 44 Disciplinary Core Ideas. When you couple the quality with the fact that they are free, you have some solid professional learning.

Before writing this post, I watched the video on Practice 4—Analyzing and Interpreting Data. Andersen not only explains the Practice but also provides suggestions for application in the elementary, middle and high school grades. He also anticipates student and teacher misconception and offers ideas to mitigate potential confusions.

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Core Task Project Inservice Course Posted

If are interested in moving through the Core Task Project, you can earn a half credit by signing up for the course here. Most people reading this blog know of the CTP but if you need a reminder

The Core Task Project considers how to align classroom practices to the CCSS, Next Generation Assessments and the Publisher’s Criteria. Through an exploration of the close reading strategy, participants will consider implications for all areas of literacy instruction. Participants will be expected to try a close reading exemplar lesson with their students so that they are able to reflect and debrief in the follow-up session.

The dates for the course are September 9th and 23rd with classes beginning at 4:00 pm and ending at 8:00 pm.

If you are not a Washoe teacher, you can still take full advantage of the protocol that was featured in Ed Week and by Fordham. Do not hesitate to contact us and we can share all of the resources we use and respond to specific questions.

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