The Common Core Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects (CCR) have arrived and they are here to stay. CCR has been around since 2009-2010 and the sun still rises and sets, the tides roll in and out and April 15th remains the deadline for filing our taxes. We might as well adjust to their presence, and their influence. After four years, it seems rather clear that the CCR call for an interdisciplinary approach as we teach our individual disciplines.
The CCR are clear that our students should emerge from the K-12 system, “… ready for college, workforce training, and life in a technological society…” (CCR, Intro, p. 4) This readiness is defined as, “… the ability to gather comprehend, evaluate, synthesize and report information and ideas, to conduct original research in order to answer questions or solve problems, and to analyze and create a high volume and extensive range of print and nonprint texts…” (CCR, Intro, p. 4) They emphasize, “… writing to persuade, to explain and to convey real and imagined experiences.” (CCR, Intro, p. 5) This sounds less like “Big Brother” demanding conformity and more like best practice in critical thinking and communication across the disciplines. Not so scary anymore, eh?
The CCR go on to describe in greater detail those students who are college and career ready. The CCR lists seven (7) characteristics of those students:
- They demonstrate independence.
- They build strong content knowledge.
- They respond to varying demands of audience, task, purpose and discipline.
- They comprehend as well as critique.
- They value evidence.
- They use technology and digital media strategically and capably.
- They come to understand other perspectives and cultures.
These are laudable, achievable goals. Our concern should not be with the standards themselves, but with the methods we employ to guide our students to those ends. Our argument is that artifacts teach; that the use of artifacts – objects from the real world – in the classroom teaches the skills that the CCR require. Over the next several blog entries we will take each of the characteristics and demonstrate exactly how artifacts teach the specifics of the CCR. We’ll begin with “Students Demonstrate Independence.” We’ll use an object. We’ll demonstrate the process of analysis, problem solving, communication and leadership that emerges. In short, we’ll demonstrate that artifacts teach.