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Uncommon Core

Uncommon Core
Where the Authors of the Standards Go Wrong About Instruction-and How You Can Get It Right

Foreword by Grant Wiggins

© 2014 | 224 pages | Corwin

Let’s face it, weak rivets notwithstanding, the Titanic wouldn’t have sunk if the iceberg had been spotted in time. And let’s face it, the CCSS won’t be classroom-worthy unless practitioners chart our course. Depend on Michael Smith, Deborah Appleman, and Jeff Wilhelm to help you navigate through some potentially treacherous waters.

Uncommon Core puts us on high-alert about some outright dangerous misunderstandings looming around so-called  “standards-aligned” instruction, then shows us how to steer past them—all in service of meeting the real intent of the Common Core. Smith, Appleman, and Wilhelm counter with teaching suggestions that are true to the research and true to our students, including how:

  • Reader-based approaches can complement text-based ones
  • Prereading activities can help students meet the strategic and conceptual demands texts place on them
  • Strategy instruction can result in a careful and critical analysis of individual texts while providing transferable understandings
  • Inquiry units around essential questions can generate meaningful conversation and higher-order thinking about those texts
  • Selection criteria that consider interpretive complexity can take us so much farther than those that consider textual complexity alone

Given the number of strategies, lesson ideas, and activities in the book, Uncommon Core is really less about the standards and more about timeless, excellent teaching and how to use it like never before to meet the Core ideals. Let’s put instruction where it belongs: back in the hands of the experts.

“Finally! A book with more light than heat on the issue of standards and their implications for learning.”
Coauthor of Understanding by Design

Foreword by Grant Wiggins
Chapter 1. The Promise and the Peril of the Common Core State Standards
What's to Like About the CCSS  
What's to Worry About  
What the Standards Leave Out  
Chapter 2. Old Wine in Broken Bottles: The Common Core State Standards and "Zombie New Criticism"
A Lesson From the Classroom  
Where the Authors of the Standards Go Wrong About Connecting Texts With Lived Experience  
How You Can Get It Right  
Sticking With the Standards (Not With the Instructional Mandates That Showed Up Later)  
Chapter 3. Using the Most Powerful Resource We Have for Teaching Students Something New: The Case for Background Knowledge
Where the Authors of the Standards Go Wrong About Pre-Reading Instruction  
Why It Matters  
Preparing Students to Comprehend  
How You Can Get It Right: Five Strategies That Connect Students With Critical Concepts  
Moving Students to Independence  
Chapter 4. Teaching for Transfer: Why Students Need to Learn How to Attend to Any Text
Where the Authors of the Standards Go Wrong About Closed-Ended, Text-Based Questions  
Why It Matters  
How You Can Get It Right: Six Strategies That Increase Comprehension and Independence  
Moving Students to Independence  
Chapter 5. No Text Is an Island: How to Get Students Farther With Text-by-Text Sequencing
Where the Authors of the Standards Go Wrong About Text-to-Text Connections  
Why It Matters  
How You Can Get It Right: Three Strategies for Developing Knowledge Across Texts  
Chapter 6. Aiming for Complex Interpretation: How to Be Street Smart About Choosing Complex Texts
Where Interpretations of the Standards Get It Wrong  
Three Ways to Choose the Right Books for Your Kids  
Chapter 7. Putting Our Money Where Our Mouths Are: Our Unit for Teaching "Letter From Birmingham Jail"
David Coleman on King's "Letter"  
An Alternative Approach: Our Unit for Teaching the "Letter"  
A Sample Unit: “Letter From Birmingham Jail”  
A Summary of This Unit's Approaches  
Principles of Practice  
Accountability and Assessments  
Final Thoughts  


Key features
  • Challenges the narrow focus on meaning resulting from the overuse of text-dependent questions
  • Presents activities that motivate and educate students while engaging them in considering questions of significance, interpretation, and context through the use of critical reading strategies
  • Explains how an emphasis on text-dependent questions of the sort Coleman advocates privileges literal meaning at the expense of interpretive significance and also oversimplifies the act of reading
  • Demonstrates how reading literature is an activity based on knowledge of conventions and how authors expect readers to apply what they know from their previous reading experience.
  • Shares activities that will help students gain conscious control over important interpretive conventions--all while they grapple with the specific demands of particular texts.
  • Encourages the use of pre-reading activities and highlights the research on the importance of developing and/or instantiating appropriate schema in order to improve a reader's comprehension.
  • Demonstrates how some of our most favored strategies such as pre-reading, prediction, using prior knowledge, and making personal connections all have the power to aid in the understanding and appreciation of all students

For instructors

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ISBN: 9781483333526

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