Collaborate, Differentiate and Integrate with the Common Core
Presenters: Cindy Mullen and Jen Carey, third-grade teachers with Hartville Elementary School in Lake Local Schools, Stark County.
Summary: Two of the six third-grade teachers at this elementary building described what they are doing together to collaborate on developing lesson plans that are differentiated for students of various abilities, are tied to Common Core and new Ohio standards in multiple disciplines and build student computer skills. They described two month-long units the six teachers have taught for several years. Their success is high: 85 percent of their OAA scores were in the advanced or accelerated levels, despite the fact that a high number of students are from low-income families.
- Teachers throughout Lake Local Schools are required to have 30 minutes of collaboration time each day. The third-grade teachers at Hartville also spent time during the summer to jump start their projects. The teachers believe that no one has time to do it all by themselves, nor can teachers fit in everything if they teach only one lesson at a time. So they work together as a team and prepare instruction that incorporates multiple content areas.
- Teachers design the units by identifying essential questions about what they want students to learn. Then they choose how they will learn information by selecting engaging activities that make real-world connections.
- All students answer the same essential question(s) that are placed in student packets. Teachers differentiated these lessons according to depth of writing and research expectations, which are explained in the low, medium and high level student packets. Teachers also encourage students to help each other and they do so easily. Hartville classrooms are less about teachers talking in lecture style than giving students activities where they learn by doing and working together.
- The first project, focused on these questions “What is an oil spill?”; “What is our responsibility to be a part of the solution to this problem?” and “Why should we be socially responsible in our world?”
- Students read books and websites, and view videos. They also did an activity in which they created an oil spill in a pie plate and had to figure out how to contain it and clean it up with various tools provided. They created an environment in which the spill happens, with animals and vegetation. Students later wrote about which cleaning method worked best. Wrote thank you notes to those who donated materials for exercise. This unit integrated social studies, science, reading and math (did charts).
- Another unit supported new standards stressing research skills. Students answered one of two essential questions: Why is your animal able to survive in its habitat? (middle- and struggling-readers and writers). Or “Why is your biome unique and how would it effect the planet if it would be destroyed” (for advanced students).