Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Writing and the Common Core Curriculum

I have been in the field of education for a long time. Before I decided to turn my pen to writing novels, I wrote professional education pieces and more lesson plans than I can count. I’ve been around long enough to see the recursive nature of curriculum development. I left my position at Cincinnati Christian University just as the National Common Core Standards were beginning to become part of the everyday language of teachers and teacher education departments. And, “no,” to the teachers out there who are wondering if I left because of the common core. As I said, I have been in the field long enough to see curriculum swing, spiral, and spin. Change seems to be the only constant in education.

So what does this have to do with writing a novel? Out of curiosity, I began searching the internet for ways teachers are teaching writing and/or literacy using the common core standards. I found numerous references to tools such as story maps and timelines, topic summaries as well as summarizing a story in a sentence or two, and charts to help students develop characters. I also saw suggestions for teachers to have children draw pictures of the story first or at least a picture that gives an overview of the story as a whole. And revision? There are numerous suggestions out there for both revising and editing.

These are tools I have used in my writing and even referenced in this blog on many occasions.

Story maps and timelines? Check out “Making the Calendar Work for You” (posted January 8, 2013) Use old calendar pages to help students map their stories sequentially.

Summaries? See “The Single Sentence Story” (posted January 1, 2013) Boil the story down to a single sentence. And lately I’ve been reading movie descriptors or television program entries. The writer for these clips packs the entire movie in one sentence. Powerful!

Charts to develop characters? Read “She’s a Real Character” (posted January 4, 2013) Integrate technology in your writing classroom by having your students create spreadsheets for their characters. I use my spreadsheet all the time as I write.

Draw pictures of the overview of the story? Been there, done that. See “Write the End of the Story First? You Have Got to be Kidding” (posted April 24, 2013)

Revision? Take a look at “Writing and Trash” (posted March 12, 2013) Note: I differentiate between revising and editing. Revising has to do with structural changes or changes with ideas and concepts. Editing is fixing the mechanics. Editing is something I do as a go along, but mostly when I reread my entire manuscript.

Those are just a few examples. Hmmm. I am writing along with the common core? Or could it possibly be that the Common Core is based on good writing practices? I think if I were teaching in a middle childhood classroom or in a high school setting, I might try to have my students write a book one semester. Start with a single sentence, create a timeline, draw a picture of the story they hope to tell, develop a spreadsheet for the characters, and write, revise, then write some more.

I am no longer in the classroom. I am a writer. I have just finished my second novel. Well, I have the story line complete. It is a little over 67,000 words. I held 80,000 as a goal, but the story came to its natural conclusion at 67,000. Now the real fun begins, and with it the focus of my blog. I will need to change the focus  to the art of revising…and editing…and rewriting…and…well, you get the idea.

On another note, I am having a crazy but  fun week. Can't wait to tell you all about it next week!

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