Teachers' Common Core Planning Toolkit
A guide for elementary teachers

The Process in Action:
Envisioning one classroom

What might it look like in an elementary classroom if a teacher followed this planning process? 


The teacher in a primary classroom spends the first six weeks of school using the Responsive Classroom approach to articulate hopes and dreams, craft classroom rules, introduce materials, establish routines, etc. This work on building a community forms the basis for the first Social Studies unit. (In addition, the teacher is responsible for some instruction about our nation's Constitution for Constitution Day on September 17.) She has decided to focus primarily on the Preamble and has found several books that will be useful.

Her unit of study for Literacy is Launching the Readers Workshop, and this includes books about people around the world who make tremendous efforts to become literate and gain or provide access to books.

What follows is an example of how this teacher might integrate some Common Core objectives and shifts into her six-week plan, centering on the concepts listed above. (Note:  Some of the texts used are beyond the complexity band levels for first grade. This is appropriate in the early grades and early in the school year, when the teacher uses read-alouds to lay the foundation for independent work later. Teachers working with older students might use many of these same materials—and others listed in the resources below—in slightly different ways or for different purposes. This scenario is intended to stimulate thinking about the possibilities in your classroom.)

Details of materials mentioned are listed on the Resources page.


Week 1  

The teacher uses two daily read-alouds—one at literacy time and one after lunch-- to advance the themes of friendship and leading a literate life. This includes some poetry as well, from the anthology Wonderful Words. (RL.1.4. Identify words and phrases in stories or poems that suggest feelings or appeal to the senses.)  The teacher focuses primarily on RL.1.1. Ask and answer questions about key details in a text.

She also conducts many community-building activities as part of social studies. Morning Meeting is a place for learning names and practicing social skills.

Week 2

Two daily read-alouds continue, with the addition of booktalks or mini-lessons around “book friends” (such as Henry and Mudge, Poppleton and friends, Frog and Toad, George and Martha, Elephant and Piggie, etc.) to build upon the friendship theme and introduce children to series that are available in the classroom library and school library. (RL.1.9. Compare and contrast the adventures and experiences of characters in stories.)

Poetry continues to be part of the read-aloud experience with the collection called Good Books, Good Times.

Classroom rules have been brainstormed, based upon the hopes and dreams of students. (A document much like the Constitution will be drafted later.)

Week 3

Two informational texts are added as read-alouds—Biblioburro: a true story from Colombia, a biography of Luis Soriano, who (at great personal risk and expense) brings books to poor children in remote areas of Colombia, and My School in the Rainforest: how Children attend School around the World . The class discusses the difference between stories and books that have information. (RL.1.5. Explain major differences between books that tell stories and books that give information, drawing on a wide reading of a range of text types.)

During Writer's Workshop, the teacher begins a series of lessons on opinion writing.  Students offer opinions on their favorite toys, restaurants, and games. (Soon they will offer opinions about texts.) They know that they must provide a reason for their opinion. They can illustrate a picture and complete a simple prompt such as “In my opinion _______ is the best game to play. I think this because ____.” (W.1.1. Write opinion pieces in which they introduce the topic or name the book they are writing about, state an opinion, supply a reason for the opinion, and provide some sense of closure.)

As Constitution Day approaches, during social studies the teacher reminds the children of their work brainstorming rules for the classroom—rules that will keep everyone safe and help everyone to learn. She talks about a day coming up on the calendar that celebrates the signing of a set of rules for our country as well—rules that keep everyone safe and our country running smoothly. She reads from Norman Pearl's informational text The U.S. Constitution. She highlights the fact that the writing of these rules was not easy, that many of the framers had different opinions, but that they finally agreed upon them. The vocabulary words government, delegate, framer, preamble, and amendment are discussed and defined and recorded on a chart that will be a running list of high-frequency and domain-specific (Tier II and Tier III) words the class learns during the year.

Week 4

Twice daily read-alouds continue. Some books this week, along with guided practice, reinforce caring for the books we read, so that the classroom library remains in good condition.

In Reader's Workshop, over several days, the teacher adds an interactive close reading of  Frog and Toad Together. (RL.1.10. With prompting and support, read prose and poetry of appropriate complexity for grade 1.)  She develops some text-dependent questions around key details (What ways did they try to solve the problem of eating too many cookies?), vocabulary (How did the author help us to know what “will power” means?), and making inferences (Did Toad’s actions cause the seeds to grow?). At the end of the week, during Writer's Workshop, the students respond to this prompt:  “In your opinion, is Frog a good friend to Toad? Be sure to give at least one reason with evidence from the text.”  (If the class had access to a set of iPads, this assignment might be done using the ShowMe or Educreations apps. These allow students to draw a picture and narrate it to show their thinking.) 

In social studies, the class returns to their brainstormed list of class rules. The teacher challenges them to reach agreement on the three rules that they deem most important for their classroom community. Students work in small groups to discuss and share their opinions and reasons for the rules they chose. The teacher reminds them that they are doing the same kind of work that the framers of the Constitution did.

Week 5

An informational text is read-aloud--excerpts from My Librarian is a Camel, by the same author and in a format similar to My School in the Rainforest. The teacher uses these texts side-by-side in a discussion about the way they are set up, including some text features that help to understand what the book is about. (RI.1.5. Know and use various text features (e.g., headings, tables of contents, glossaries, electronic menus, icons) to locate key facts or information in a text.)

Debbie Bertram's books, The Best Place to Read, and The Best Time to Read are read aloud, and followed up with another written opinion piece:  “In your opinion, what is the best place or the best time to read? Remember to give a reason.” 

The teacher does an interactive close reading of David Catrow's We the Kids: the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States. Over several sessions, each important phrase is examined and “translated” with help from the illustrations, so that students understand the meaning of this all-important introduction to our nation's Constitution. (RI.1.6. Distinguish between information provided by pictures or other illustrations and information provided by the words in a text.)


Week 6

As a culminating whole-group activity, the class composes its own Constitution, complete with a preamble explaining their reasons for drafting such a document. (We the children/students of Room 27, in order to... do establish the following rules for our class:)




IntroductionStep 1Step 2Step 3The Process in ActionResources