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Recap of Common Core In The Classroom – Parent Information Night

Filed in Archive by on February 13, 2014

More than 150 people turn out to learn more about Common Core impact on BC curriculum

BCSD_CCNightFebTo help parents better understand what Bethlehem’s curriculum under the state’s new Common Core Learning Standards looks like to students in the classroom, a panel of teachers and librarians gathered for an evening forum on February 10 at Bethlehem Central Middle School. The forum, Common Core In The Classroom, was the second of two evening events sponsored by the district to help ease concerns about the Common Core and provide advice and at-home resources for parents and students. The February event attracted more than 150 attendees.

Teachers at the elementary, middle and high school level described aspects of the curriculum that have been influenced by the new standards, such as writing and close reading in ELA to algorithms and fractions in Math.

Click the image above to view a PDF of the Power Point presentation from the Feb. 10 parent information night, Common Core: In The Classroom. The videos that were part of this presentation are showcased in the below outline.

Click the image above to view a PDF of the Power Point presentation from the Feb. 10 parent information night, Common Core: In The Classroom. The videos that were part of this presentation are showcased in the below outline.

The evening also featured a panel discussion and question and answer session with key educators. Discussion included an update on how students are responding to the reformatted curriculum, explanations of the purpose behind some of the changes and commentary on New York’s rushed implementation of testing aligned to the Common Core. The panel also addressed some of the confusion created as changes under Common Core were introduced at the same time as other new reform mandates, including the Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR).


The parent forum was taped to provide those who could not attend the meeting a chance to hear some of the dialogue on Common Core and review how classroom changes are taking place. Below the full video is also a topic-by-topic breakdown of what was presented for those who do not wish to view the entire video.

Full Video of Common Core In The Classroom on Feb. 10, 2014


The following is a topic-by-topic breakdown of what was presented on Feb. 10, 2014. You may click on a particular title to jump to a section. Each highlighted link will lead to the video of the entire event, but it will be positioned at the part of the video featuring discussion of that specific topic.

ELA: Writing | ELA: Close Reading | Library Resources: Elementary | Library Resources: Secondary

Math: Use of Algorithms | Math: Concepts in Fractions

ELA: Writing by Valorie Falco, Elementary Teacher

View a video of Falco’s presentation

There are three types of writing…

Narrative Writing:

  • Informs, instructs or entertains
  • Conveys a real or imaginary experience
  • Is often in the form of fictional stories, memoirs, personal narratives, anecdotes and autobiographies

“Some of the most powerful writing kids can do is writing about their own life. That is part of why you’ll see students doing this at every grade level.” – Valorie Falco

Informative/Explanatory Writing:

  • Conveys information accurately
  • Increases the reader’s knowledge of a subject, understanding a procedure or enhances comprehension of a concept
  • Students draw from what they know and primary and secondary sources
  • Is often in the form of literary analyses, scientific and historical reports, summaries, instructions, manuals, memos and reports

Examples of work done in informative writing are how-to books in kindergarten and chapter books in second grade.

“At every grade level students will be thinking about what they know and how they can tell people what they know.” – Valorie Falco

Argument/Opinion Writing:

  • A concept, issue or problem is presented with an argument or opinion
  • The purpose is to change a point of view, bring about an action or ask the reader to accept the explanation of a concept, issue or problem
  • Students will evaluate literary work and defend their judgments with evidence from the text. K-5 students will provide examples, offer reasons for claims or explain cause and effect

“We get most questions about Argument Writing. With Common Core it seems like this type of writing took over, but it really didn’t. There’s an emphasis on helping kids defend what they say using textual evidence, finding facts to back what they’re saying – in the writing and in the reading. The emphasis of this type of writing is no bigger in our curriculum than the other forms.” – Valorie Falco

Writing Resources for Parents:

Video: A Lesson in Informative Writing: Chapter Books, Mrs. Reed’s Class, Grade 1

Video: A Student Reads Her Chapter Book: Grade 1



ELA: Close Reading by Andy Baker, ELA Supervisor & Teacher

View a video of Baker’s presentation

“To closely read text is not new, the Common Core didn’t invent it. It’s been around a long time.” – Andy Baker

What is Close Reading?

The term “Close Reading” comes directly from the Common Core Standards language to emphasize reading closely into what the text says and also to draw inferences from the text. We train students to first read for a literal understanding and interpretation of the basic meaning of the text as a starting place, and then have them decipher a deeper meaning from the text as they delve into it again.

“The goal is for students to do this on their own. We want to challenge students and have a teacher that is guiding them, but also so they develop the skills they need to do it independently.” – Andy Baker

The Process of Close Reading:

  • Read the text once for basic understanding and meaning (mostly with the teacher) to make sure literal understanding of the text is attained
  • Going back to the text again to look for greater detail or meaning. This would be reading for authorial intent, analyzing the language and word choice, for example

“As we shift to a Common Core alignment, we’re training kids to go back to the text. When you answer a question it shouldn’t be just off the top of your head, you want to go in and back it up with pieces of the text. Close Reading trains students to do that.” – Andy Baker

Video: Close Reading Lesson, Kids Get Diet of Junk Food Commercials, Grade 6

View the handout of the reading passage covered in this video [PDF]

How Parents Can Help:

  • Facilitate your child in the selection of appropriate reading materials (see presentation by librarians)
  • Encourage your child to read; create routines for reading as a family
  • Talk to your child about what they are reading
  • Ask them questions deeper than plot or theme so they analytically think about the text and return to the text to search for evidence

Library Resources: Elementary by Pam Held, Elementary Librarian

View a video of Held’s presentation

“What the libraries do is support the learning that is going on in the classroom.” – Pam Held

School Library Websites

The library websites are the hub for all library print and online resources. The resources we use can help parents choose appropriate reading material for their children and help pair fiction and informative texts on the same topic.

Links to the logins for online databases are available on these websites, please ask your librarian for the password.

How to Choose Books for Children: Pairing the Right Book to the Right Child

What you should consider when choosing books for children:

  • Interest level
  • Age appropriateness
  • Prior knowledge
  • Lexile

Library Resources: Secondary by Silvia Lilly & Jennifer Brown, S.S. Librarians

View a video of Lilly and Brown’s presentation

At the secondary level, librarians serve in a much more collaborative role with the classroom teachers. Since reading and writing really touch all subjects in secondary grades, it is important the print resources the libraries offer work directly with what is going on in the classroom and lessons.

There are also many other online resources that the middle and high school use on a daily basis, that you can also use at home. Silvia Lilly and Jennifer Brown discuss these resources in their presentation, in addition to navigating through the school’s library webpages.

School Library Websites

Math: Algorithms & How We Teach by Dave Hurst, Math Supervisor & Teacher

View a video of Hurst’s presentation

Why the Changes in How We Teach Math?

The most common question Dave receives from parents is “why we are exposing students to new and various methods to learning math?” Common Core focuses on teaching students concepts in math by using both traditional and alternate algorithms. Dave explained “an algorithm is a step by step process for doing something.”

“Traditionally, in math in the US, there was always a thought that there was one way, the right way, to do things,” said Hurst. “When you teach algorithms in that isolated fashion, it leads to a procedural understanding, a memorized set of steps to do something, instead of conceptual understanding.”

“Students have to understand what it is they are doing, why they are doing it and they have to be able to think through it,” explained Hurst about changes in math due to Common Core. “Teaching alternate algorithms, alternate ways to do something, lets students see the problem in a different light that explains the underlying concepts of math. This will also help students understand different kinds of math, such as algebra, later in their academic career.”

The Algorithms and How They Work:

Video: The Standard Addition Algorithm | Click to view on YouTube

Video: Partial Products Algorithm | Click to view on YouTube

Video: Partial Products Algorithm – The Array Model | Click to view on YouTube

Video: The Lattice Method | Click to view on YouTube

Math: Fractions & Grade Spiraling by Kelly Ward, Elementary Teacher

View a video of Ward’s presentation

Why the Changes in How We Teach Math?

According to the teachers present, questions from parents about lessons in fractions are second only to questions about multiplication, as explained by presenter and teacher Dave Hurst. Kelly Ward will take parents through the changes in how fractions are taught, and show the progression from grade to grade, otherwise known as “spiraling” in the Common Core Standards.

Video: A Lesson in Fractions and Spiraling in Math | Click to view on YouTube

Panel Discussion with Question & Answer Session

View a video of the panel and Q & A session

If you have specific questions regarding the Common Core, please contact your child’s teacher or principal, or visit the Common Core homepage.