Common Core Standards: Helpful Summer Reading for Teachers
Designed to provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, the initiative (currently adopted by 44 out of 50 states) has proven less than digestible for many educators.
Luckily, there’s help — in the form of a little summer reading. Here are a few books designed for teachers to help explain the standards, share activity and lesson plan ideas and troubleshoot common issues with teaching the Common Core (like working with advanced students, or helping kids develop the vocabulary necessary to meet reading and writing standards).
And if you’re against the Core, well, there’s one for you too!
Books for Learning the Common Core Standards by State
First, the basics. You can always visit the official Common Core website to get full standards and guidelines, but if you want something you can keep on your desk (or a visual aid) you might like these books and tools.
- Understanding Common Core State Standards by John S. Kendall
This book touches on a fairly neglected topic in the frenzy of learning the new standards: why the Common Core has been developed and its goals, benefits and possibilities.
- The Complete Common Core State Standards Kit Pocket Chart Cards by Carson-Dellosa
This set of 97 cards cover each of the Common Core standards and are divided by the following subjects: math, reading and writing. This kit is an organized system that allows you to quickly and easily show your students what the standards are. Plus, each card includes an “I can” statement in the back, making it easier for younger students to understand.
- The Common Core Companion: The Standards Decoded: What They Say, What They Mean, How to Teach Them by Leslie Blauman, James (Jim) R. Burke
This book covers standards for literature and informational texts. It also provides teaching ideas, recommendations for “cultivating critical habits of mind,” and a glossary of academic terms you’re likely to encounter in your career.
- Common Core Curriculum Maps
Sorted by units, which contain focus standards, student objectives, suggested works and sample lesson plans/activities, these maps provide a standards checklist for each grade (with citations, so you can’t miss them).
- Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating Achievement by Lucy Calkins, Mary Ehrenworth, Christopher Lehman
Consider this book a guide to helping students digest complex texts and improve their critical thinking without boggling your own mind (since it’s also a guide to interpreting the standards-based mandates you’ve been getting). It breaks down what the standards say (and imply, and leave out), and suggests ways to motivate your students through difficult reading.
Mixing it up with the Common Core
Who says the Common Core has to be a slog? Not these books, which offer offbeat, fun ways to work on required skills.
- Teaching the Common Core Math Standards with Hands-On Activities by Judith A. Muschla, Gary Robert Muschla
This book has ideas for activities that helps students sharpen their critical thinking, math reasoning and problem-solving skills, while also getting them to interact with fellow students, communicate their ideas, and apply their understanding to new problems. Note: All three authors are math teachers, and one is a member of the state Standards Review Panel for the Mathematics Core Curriculum Content Standards.
- Instant STEM Activities -- Common Core Standards by Chalkboard Publishing
There aren’t any Common Core Standards for science yet, but students will get a nice thinking skills workout from this book of STEM-oriented activities, which is helpful for math and literacy standards.
Troubleshooting the Common Core
Think you’ve got a unique problem with teaching the Common Core? Chances are, somebody else has had it too — and they’ve written a book about it!
- Vocabulary for the Common Core by Robert Marzano, Julia Simms
This book addresses the troubling gap between many students’ vocabulary and the complex language that Common Core reading contains, head on. It offers ideas for incorporating CCSS vocabulary into normal lessons, helps teachers track progress and provides insight into how new words are learned.
- Common Core CPR: What About the Adolescents Who Struggle ... or Just Don't Care? by ReLeah Lent
It’s important to focus on the big-picture Common Core goals of strengthening independent and critical thinking skills to empower and engage struggling students. This book will teach you how to do it.
- A Teacher's Guide to Using the Common Core State Standards with Gifted and Advanced Learners in the English/Language Arts by Joyce VanTassel-Baska Ed.D., Claire Hughes Ph.D., Dr. Elizabeth Shaughnessy-Dedrick, & Todd Kettler
This book offers ideas on how to keep gifted and advanced students engaged and interested during class. This guide also sheds light on students’ different types of learning styles.
- Uncovering Student Thinking About Mathematics in the Common Core, High School: 25 Formative Assessment Probes by Cheryl Rose Tobey
This Common-Core aligned book doesn’t stop at teaching math standards — it helps teachers understand where students are getting lost. With specific instruction ideas to target common conceptual and procedural mistakes, the book covers math units ranging from probability to logarithms.
Help With Reading and Writing
Since the Common Core is so big on critical thinking skills, getting students to read more closely and write more mindfully (i.e., not just parroting what they read) can be challenging for teachers. Here’s a look at some resources that will help you cover reading and writing in class.
- The Common Core Writing Book, K-5: Lessons for a Range of Tasks, Purposes, and Audiences by Gretchen Owocki
As the author notes, "We must avoid paths that cast educators as secondary decision makers or that offer quick solutions or static packages." Good writing comes from exploration of a topic, not reciting canned answers, and this book helps teachers design curriculum that empowers students to do just that.
- Reading, Thinking, and Writing About History: Teaching Argument Writing to Diverse Learners in the Common Core Classroom by Chauncey Monte-Sano, Susan De La Paz, Mark Felton
Not all subjects — like history — have Common Core standards, but that’s no reason not to flex students’ CC muscles. This book offers curriculum ideas that combine history lessons with Common Core values, such as argumentative writing and critical thinking.
- Texts and Lessons for Content-Area Reading: With More Than 75 Articles from The New York Times, Rolling Stone, The Washington Post, Car and Driver, Chicago Tribune, and Many Others by Harvey Daniels (Author), Nancy Steineke (Author)
Since the Common Core is based on real-world skill building, what better reading lesson materials could a teacher use than actual articles? This book has plenty of articles, paired with ready-to-go lesson plans.
Bonus Book: Are you anti-Common Core? Glenn Beck is on your side!
Written by Cathy Vandewater