The Common Core Ready Classroom

Creating a Classroom Culture That Supports the Common Core: Teaching Questioning, Conversation Techniques, and Other Essential Skills
By Bryan Harris
(Routledge, 2013 – Learn more)

welch, lena 1st yr tchReviewed by Lena Welch

This book is a very quick read. In fewer than 100 pages a teacher can learn a little more about building culture and teaching essential skills that support the Common Core.

Rather than taking space to “unpack” the standards for the millionth time, Harris supplies teachers with tips on running a classroom, asking questions, and staging conversations.

Two welcome surprises

creating a clrm culture welchThe first chapter was a welcome surprise. It introduces two requirements that Bryan Harris feels are necessary in a Common Core learning environment. The first one is respect for students. Harris goes into detail explaining how to demonstrate respect in a classroom and why it is necessary for learning.

From past learning experiences as a student and current experiences as a teacher, I can say that the tips that are in this section are on target, including the ideas for building relationships. The second part of Chapter 1 goes into setting up the learner-focused classroom. There are some strong activities in this section that will give teachers ideas for activities that model thinking and risk taking. The end of the chapter goes over how to handle students who are afraid to take risks.

Succinct chapters packed with useful ideas

The chapters continue in this way. The author presents a theory then provides short examples of using that theory in the classroom so that teachers can see how it all fits together. The chapters cover managing behavior, rigor, questioning, critical thinking, and academic thinking. Each chapter includes a brief description of the concept, activities that model the concept, examples of how the skill can be well implemented, and what can happen when it isn’t implemented well.

Each chapter is short and doesn’t stretch out the text with big words and theories but offers modeled scenarios that teachers can easily apply in their everyday work.

If a school or teacher would like to use this book for more structured professional development, a list of reflection questions can be found at the end of each chapter. These questions are designed to promote further thinking on each topic as well as to encourage the reader to investigate his or her own classroom practices and find ways to implement ideas from the book into daily practice.

Helpful tips for most any classroom

This book is a strong read for teachers who are looking for easy-to-implement ideas to strengthen student learning. It is a fast read that aligns with the Common Core. It doesn’t include any lesson plans. I find this to be a good thing as this suggests that the activities can be applied to any topic or grade level.

Teachers will find examples of assessments, discussion, and questions that will all be useful in the classroom. I find myself turning to the chapter on questioning, as this is something that is very useful to me. I am sure that other people will find some fresh tips that will be useful for them.

Lena Welch teaches seventh grade science in Columbus, Ohio at an online K-12 charter school. When she isn’t teaching, she loves to read, write articles for HubPages, manage The Clot Spot, a website for pulmonary embolism survivors, and volunteer at a local science museum. Lena has gathered a number of college degrees and certifications including a Bachelor of Psychology, Masters of Occupational Therapy, and middle grades science and language arts teaching certification.


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