Inquiring into the Common Core

Books

Nancy Fichtman Dana, Jamey Bolton Burns & Rachel Wolkenhauer

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    Acknowledgements

    Praise forInquiring Into the Common Core

    “This book is clearly a must read for any educator responsible for implementing the Common Core State Standards. Through authentic classroom examples, the authors present a compelling argument for using inquiry as both a powerful professional learning design for developing teachers’ expertise in the implementation of the Common Core, and as an effective instructional approach to actively engage students in their learning of the standards.”

    Amy B. Colton, Executive Director

    Learning Forward Michigan

    “In Inquiring Into the Common Core, Nancy Dana has provided practitioners with another ‘go to’ book for ideas and guidance. Teachers, principals, and central office administrators will discover a very helpful book full of useful examples and references for implementing the Common Core State Standards. Once again, Nancy and her colleagues guide educators through the inquiry process with a focus on increased student learning. Inquiring Into the Common Core presents a well-conceived process for using teacher and student inquiry to implement the Common Core State Standards.”

    Cynthia Simonsen, Director of Learning and Instruction

    Anacortes School District, WA

    “In the book Inquiring Into the Common Core, practitioners will find a roadmap, travel guide, and even ‘snap shots’ of inquiry work with the Common Core standards. As we travel a new path in education with the Common Core standards, the pioneers of this book and the teachers at Woodson Elementary provide practical tips and motivate us for the journey. Readers will learn how to use Common Core standards as the map and inquiry as the vehicle for the learning ride of a lifetime! THIS is how we should approach bringing the Common Core standards to life in our classrooms.”

    Kathy Christensen, 2010 Florida Elementary Reading Coach of the Year

    Immokalee, FL

    “A well-organized, easy-to-read format makes Inquiring Into the Common Core a great resource to guide teacher inquiry, discussions in professional learning communities, or a schoolwide book study. Centered around the stories and reflective voices of teachers, this book provides authentic and practical tools and resources for educators to effectively engage in the complex and rewarding work of understanding and applying these new standards for student learning.”

    Mary Conage, Title I Director

    Pinellas County Schools, FL

    “We must answer the call of the Common Core to empower our teachers as professionals and inquirers. Dana, Burns, and Wolkenhauer provide a framework for how to go about this work in a clear and urgent manner. The Common Core is clear about what to teach. How to teach is up to us. To reach the promise of the Common Core, we must position ourselves as studiers of our own practice. As good as we are, we can always get better; this is the inherent message of Inquiring Into the Common Core. Inquiry is not a scary thing!”

    Katherine Reed, Teacher Development Specialist

    Hamilton Southeastern Schools, IN

    Inquiring Into the Common Core is an excellent resource for educators who want to make the conversion to Common Core successfully. For anyone questioning the purpose of this broad movement in education, the authors provide us with the What, How, and Why. Most importantly, this book helps to eliminate any fear associated with the transition to Common Core. This is a ‘teacher friendly’ book; the authors truly understand and convey the complexities of the modern classroom and the relationship between teaching and learning. The way the authors have successfully and effectively linked learning theory to instructional practice is truly refreshing.”

    Neyland G. Clark, Superintendent

    South Harrison Community School Corporation, IN

    “Using inquiry as a means of addressing the Common Core standards is a wonderful way to transform the learning experiences for everyone. With teachers and students as learners, leaders and inquirers, the inquiry process provides a great framework for diving into the Common Core standards. This book highlights possibilities for teaching and learning with the ingenuity of teachers and the resilience of students as they venture into the raised standards of the Common Core.”

    Donnan Stoicovy, Principal and Lead Learner

    Park Forest Elementary School, State College, PA

    Foreword

    Inquiring Into the Common Core is not a “how to do it” book but rather an engaging and beautifully written narrative of Woodson Elementary School and how the leadership—and the teachers changed the school culture—for themselves and their students. Led by a visionary principal and vice principal, the school situated in Duval County, Florida, which has a preponderance of high-need and high-poverty students, took on two huge ideas—the Common Core and inquiry.

    The school had not been successful for five years in trying to reach students using pacing guides and test preparation as their guide. Enter the Common Core Standards and teacher and student inquiry. Instead of telling the teachers what they had to do, the school, through its leadership, took up the idea of “inquiry as a stance” in teaching. Teachers began to engage students in asking questions, involving them in seeking answers, discussing, writing, talking together, and more. With guidance and persistence, teachers came to see that student inquiry, when done with care and support, also turns out to “cover” many of the standards in the Common Core but in a different way than what they had been doing.

    Through the eyes and experiences of two teachers, we begin to see how teachers can remove the restrictions of test prep and substitute inquiry as a means of studying their own practice and, at the same time, teaching students to inquire, investigate, engage, research, write, and generally develop skills in critical thinking, problem solving, and collaborating with their peers.

    The authors do an excellent job in teaching us how real-world teachers and their students learn to inquire as they document the move to “inquiry” using the Common Core. It is just this kind of narrative that we need! To complete the job, the authors share lessons learned in the process of change for the school and the teachers: (a) Teachers must be involved in the process of change; (b) in the process, teachers learn to collaborate with one another; (c) inquiry encourages using multiple standards; (d) inquiry legitimates asking questions; and (e) openness as an attitude is critical.

    There continue to be workshops, policies, and numerous platitudes about the Common Core, and there is professional development about how to teach for inquiry. But this book has an authenticity hard to find, integrating these ideas and practices together. It moves us from What is the Common Core? to What is inquiry? to the classrooms of Lareal and Mary. In doing so, we get the kind of learning from practice that reveals the theory in a way that is intimately connected. The authors have done a masterful job connecting the Common Core to inquiry to what it looks like in elementary classrooms.

    This is a must-read for teachers, principals, and policymakers as it reveals the realities of practice with leadership for positive change.

    Preface

    The Common Core is everywhere! Forty-five states, the District of Columbia, four territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity have adopted them. Common Core workshops, websites, conferences, webinars, and inservice days abound. With the proliferation of so many resources and events related to the Common Core, there is much knowledge that can be found “out there” about the standards. What has been far less captured is the knowledge that can be found “in there,” inside the intimacy of schools and classrooms as teachers and administrators work to figure out what the Common Core means personally and professionally to them.

    We have been fortunate to work inside the school and classrooms of Carter G. Woodson Elementary located in Duval County, Florida, as the dedicated and courageous teachers and administrators in this high-need, high-poverty school have worked to implement the Common Core. To do so, they have used the process of teacher inquiry, defined as the systematic, intentional study by teachers of their own practice, to kick off their own Common Core implementation journey.

    Seeing the power teacher inquiry held for their own professional learning, the teachers at Woodson became intrigued with the notion of translating inquiry as a professional development mechanism into a pedagogical approach to their teaching. In the process of this translation, they realized the ways that engagement in student inquiry provides a ripe context to actualize the Common Core in individual classrooms.

    About the Book

    This book was written to capture the story of Woodson Elementary School and the ways inquiry has helped the educators in this building embrace the Common Core State Standards and become the architects of their implementation. In capturing a real story of the Common Core as it begins to play out in practice, we hope to provide insights that will both help and inspire the Common Core journeys of educators across the nation as they breathe life into the Common Core, translating these standards from theory into practice for themselves.

    In some ways, the story of Woodson Elementary and its quest to implement the Common Core that appears in the pages of this book is analogous to Sebastian Junger's best-selling novel The Perfect Storm. In this novel, Junger re-creates for the reader the meteorological conditions that converged to create what meteorologists refer to as “the storm of the century.” Junger described both the conditions and the impact the storm had on the people caught in it.

    At Woodson Elementary, three conditions converged to create powerful learning opportunities for both the adults and the children who inhabit the school: (a) the adoption of the Common Core State Standards, (b) teacher inquiry, and (c) student inquiry. In this book, we re-create for the reader a brief overview of each of these “conditions” in Chapters 1, 2, and 4 respectively, and we share the impact this “perfect storm” had on the teachers, administrators, and children of Carter G. Woodson Elementary in Chapters 3, 5, and 6. In contrast to the destruction of the perfect storm reported in Junger's novel, however, the perfect storm reported in this book resulted in an exciting rebuilding of the schooling experience for the teachers, administrators, and children of Carter G. Woodson Elementary School.

    As the focus of this book is on three different constructs (the Common Core, teacher inquiry, and student inquiry), we do not go into great depth on any of these topics. Rather, we provide an overview with a list of some of the many fine books and resources available to learn more should you be inspired by the work at Woodson and want to delve more deeply into the content, professional development mechanism, and pedagogical approach to teaching that fueled Woodson's implementation of the Common Core. While you won't find everything you need to know to become an expert on the Common Core, teacher inquiry, or student inquiry contained in these pages, you will find enough to get you started should you choose this path to begin or continue your own Common Core implementation journey.

    Chapter Overview

    This book contains six chapters. As previously stated, Chapters 1, 2, and 4 provide explanations of the Common Core, teacher inquiry, and student inquiry, respectively. These chapters are organized by a series of questions and answers that provide simple, basic information about each of these components of the Woodson experience.

    Following the chapter on teacher inquiry, Chapter 3 shares the story of Lareal, one of the many teachers at Woodson who used the process of teacher inquiry as a professional development mechanism to learn more about the Common Core State Standards and gain insights into the ways they translate into her practice. After studying literature on the Common Core, Lareal developed an interest in integrating more nonfiction texts into her first-grade curriculum and studied her quest to do so and the resulting impact on her first-grade learners.

    Following the chapter on student inquiry, Chapter 5 shares the story of Mary, one of the many teachers at Woodson who used the process of student inquiry as a pedagogical approach to her teaching to seamlessly integrate the Common Core State Standards into her instructional practice. Mary's story takes the reader through her establishment of an inquiry culture with her fourth-grade students at the start of the school year, Mary's introduction of the inquiry process to her students based on the book Why? by Lila Prap (2005), and Mary's implementation of an entire inquiry-based unit on conservation that culminated with her students’ own investigations related to the unit. Mary's story details the ways engaging students in inquiry allows teachers to address several Common Core anchor and grade-level standards through a single project.

    Finally, we conclude this book in Chapter 6 by looking across the stories of Lareal and Mary and all we have learned about Common Core implementation through our work at Woodson. We summarize what we have learned in five lessons we hope will be useful in your own quest to implement the Common Core.

    In contrast to other books you may have read that focus on the conception, history, and organization of the standards or provide sample lesson plans and curriculum mapping guides, we hope Inquiring Into the Common Core gives you a structure to feel successful as you begin to implement this new set of standards daily and provides support for you as you construct new knowledge around the standards and how the standards translate into your classroom with your students. Our work at Woodson has indicated that inquiry can assist teachers in this uncertain time of reform and also help them to make sense of what the implications of the Common Core standards are for their teaching practices and for the structures of their classrooms. We wish you well as you embark on your own Common Core implementation journey, and we hope the story of Woodson will be useful along the way.

    Acknowledgments

    We have long been passionate about the process of inquiry and the power this process holds for transforming the teaching and learning experience for both the adults and the students within the schools they inhabit. As a result of a shared passion for inquiry with the outstanding educators at Carter G. Woodson Elementary School, we had the honor and privilege of being invited into their world of practice to better understand the ways the process of inquiry could be used to help the entire school enact the Common Core. We are grateful to all the educators and children at Woodson Elementary, to whom this book is dedicated, for opening up their personal and professional lives to us, and allowing us to capture their story on these pages in an effort to help other educators delve more deeply into the Common Core and what it really means for practice.

    Our work at Woodson was supported by the Lastinger Center for Learning located in the College of Education at the University of Florida. Center Director, Don Pemberton, encouraged us to focus our work with inquiry on the Common Core and subsequently write about it. We thank Don, and all of our Lastinger Center colleagues, for being outstanding cheerleaders of this work and for their tireless efforts to make life and learning conditions better for educators and children in high-poverty schools.

    Jessica Leeman helped us illustrate the differences between teaching for fact/recall and teaching as inquiry by giving us access to her lesson plans and teaching practice. We also thank Jessica for allowing us to use her work to help others.

    We thank Dan Alpert and all the fantastic people at Corwin for their belief in this work and their help in capturing it on the written page.

    Finally, we thank our friends and families who patiently supported our writing, especially during the crunch time of finishing the manuscript where they graciously agreed to split the time they normally would be spending with us with our computers. Tom, Greg, Kirsten, David, Dawson, Elle, Karen, Joe, Alan, and Phyllis, we thank you for your love and understanding as we penned the pages of Inquiring Into the Common Core.

    About the Author

    Nancy Fichtman Dana is currently Professor of Education in the School of Teaching and Learning at the University of Florida, Gainesville. She began her career in education as an elementary school teacher in Hannibal Central Schools, New York. Since earning her Ph.D. from Florida State University in 1991, she has been a passionate advocate for teacher inquiry and has worked with numerous schools and districts across the nation and abroad to develop programs of inquiry as well as conducted extensive research on the process. She has published eight books and over fifty articles in professional journals and edited books focused on teacher and principal professional development and practitioner inquiry. Dana has received many honors, including the Association of Teacher Educator's Distinguished Research in Teacher Education Award and the National Staff Development Council (NSDC) Book of the Year Award.

    Jamey Bolton Burns is currently a district coordinator for the Lastinger Center for Learning in the College of Education at the University of Florida, Gainesville. In her role of district coordinator, she develops and implements differentiated professional development for teachers, coaches, and principals and facilitates teacher inquiry leaders throughout the district. She works intensively with Title I schools across the district and recently developed a professional learning community of principals and coaches who are systematically studying their implementation of the Common Core State Standards. She has also coordinated an alternative Educator Preparation Institute through the University of Florida where she trained alternatively certified teachers in high-need schools. Before working with the Lastinger Center, she was an inclusion teacher in both second and third grades and worked in a reading clinic helping students with dyslexia, ADHD, and Autism.

    Rachel Wolkenhauer currently serves as Teacher-in-Residence for the Lastinger Center for Learning in the College of Education at the University of Florida, Gainesville. She began her career as a third- and fourth-grade teacher and became an avid teacher researcher. In her role as Teacher-in-Residence for the Lastinger Center, she develops and facilitates inquiry-oriented professional development for preservice teachers, inservice teachers, and school administrators. Her work emphasizes practitioner inquiry as a mechanism for teacher leadership and as a pedagogical approach that encourages highly engaged teaching and learning.

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