The Times West Virginian

Headline News

December 2, 2013

Critical thinking hallmark of Common Core class

New standards outline skills students should have at each grade level

(Continued)

MIDDLETOWN, Del. — oooooo

Back in Lawson’s classroom, fifth-graders are continuing work on a lesson about points of view.

Students are clustered in groups as Lawson reads aloud Judy Blume’s 1974 short story, “The Pain and the Great One.” Unlike previous years, when students were asked to remember basic details about the plot and characters, the questions this year weren’t as simple.

She assigned each student a character in the book and then told them to write an email message from that character to a friend.

“I need to see all pencils moving, friends,” she says.

In classrooms at non-Common Core schools, the assignment might have been filling out a work sheet with questions about which character said what. Now, the students are being asked to take the reading a step further and to critically question whether their character was an honest narrator.

“It’s not in the story. You will have to infer here,” Lawson says.

Students don’t seem to mind.

“We’re doing things, not just sitting there and listening,” fifth-grader Jon Warner said after the lesson. “My opinions matter.”

In fact, students are encouraged to disagree with their classmates and push them to defend their thinking.

“Are we allowed to have different opinions about this?” Lawson says, urging her students to share differing opinions about the picture book. “Yes, as long as you have evidence to back this up.”

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