I am going to be a BS detector. The Common Core State Standards are made to appear complicated. Fancy codes and scientific sounding big words are used to wow the public. But if you look at the standards, they’re nothing innovative or new!
Take vocabulary. Teachers have been teaching vocabulary since the beginning of time. Go west and you can see pictographs, a phrase or idea, on the cave walls from Puebloans (or Anasazi) Native Americans.
If you have been a teacher of reading or language arts, even math, you have always taught vocabulary. Yet, to hear Common Core aficionados (devotees, enthusiasts, fanatics—I know my vocabulary) talk, Common Core is necessary to suddenly help teachers teach vocabulary!
Here’s a passage from a popular Edutopia article about Common Core and vocabulary.
Following are 11 strategies, supported by education and memory research, for teaching critical CCSS words while keeping the cognitive verbs in mind: analyze, evaluate, compare, delineate, etc. Cognitive verbs require processing skills that are automatic (unconscious) to free up working memory space, the area in the brain that holds new information and connects it to long-term memory.
Note all the scientific wordiness. The activities provided to teach vocabulary (found here) are excellent and worth a try, but teachers have always had good ideas when it comes to teaching vocabulary.
What’s troubling with Common Core is little children are getting bigger words to learn without scientific proof that this is appropriate! There’s also no evidence that “core selected” words are necessary for children to learn.
With Common Core BS we are led to believe they have figured how the brain works and what it should mean to learning vocabulary. Also from the Edutopia article:
To process and store the academic vocabulary of the standards, our students’ brains require an efficient automatic memory system. This system, also called nonmotor procedural memory, stores information that is repeated, such as multiplication tables, song lyrics, words and definitions. Actually, this statement is incorrect. Word meanings are semantic memory and procedural memory concerns how to perform a task.
But my point is that while adding this scientific information may be interesting, it is nothing new either. Students can remember with repetition. We have always engaged students in rhyme and singing lyrics.
All of this technical, complicated writing is designed to amaze. Strip away the peel of BS and it is the same vocabulary instruction teachers have always employed.
Also remember. The best kind of teaching is simplified. It’s made easy for others to learn.
I am reminded of Dr. Ken Brewer at FSU, who taught Intro to Statistics. Dr. Brewer knew many students who had to take his class feared statistics (like me), so he wrote a book that simplified the subject. He used plenty of real life examples. The class was lively. I not only got through it, I learned a lot and enjoyed it.
I could tell you that my brain’s automatic memory system or procedural memory stored that statistical information well within my brain. But all you really need to know is that I learned and never forgot how to be a good BS detector, especially, in this case, when it comes to Common Core and vocabulary.