Saturday, August 2, 2014

Jim Averbeck and Ed Porter: Positioning Your Work For The Common Core

Jim Averbeck is an author, illustrator and author/illustrator of picture books (including the Charlotte Zolotow Honor Book, In a Blue Room) and novels. His first novel is just out, A Hitch at the Fairmont, and it has been positioned for use with Core Curriculum State Standards.

Ed Porter is a former superintendent of schools in Long Island. Currently, he is an educational consultant who, among other things, coaches schools in understanding and implementing the Common Core Standards.

Jim Averbeck (left) and Ed Porter

Ed and Jim start with explaining that The Common Core is evolving. "Call it Common Core 1.0"

You can check the standards out at

The handout packet is hefty, and its cover is a map of which U.S. states have adopted Common Core (most), which have similar standards (a handful), and which have rejected it (four.)

Ed gives us an overview of the evolution of Common Core so far.

Today, we're asking students to have skills and attributes beyond what the old K-12 standards could offer them. Things like self-regulation, critical thinking and problem-solving, effective oral and written communication and resilience.

And Common Core is one of many responses to this. Another response is "The 4 C's in STEM: Collaboration, Creativity, Communication and Critical Thinking."

Jim and Ed also share a metric called "Webb's Depth of Knowledge" that breaks down knowledge about a book into four levels. Here are examples of text questions at each level:

1st level of knowledge: What are the names of the characters?
2nd level of knowledge: What happened?
3rd level of knowledge: Why did something happen?
4th level of knowledge: What would happen if…?

Common Core aims to have students go deeper, into those 3rd and 4th levels.

Jim aims to have his book and Common Core tie-in

"Easy for teachers to choose, easy for teachers to use."

Jim explains how texts are evaluated to be used in classrooms, based on "text complexity." It's a mix of Quantitative (like Lexile scores determined by computer - Jim's Hitch book was a Lexile 770, recommended for grades 3 and 4), Qualitative (like judging the complexity of the story, an evaluation performed by educators, and based on this analysis by teachers, Hitch moved up to 4th through 6th grades) and Reader & Task measures (individual teachers choosing things for individual classes and students.)

So what might we do to help teachers choose our books to use in the classroom?

There are group exercises through, like one that demonstrate to attendees how contemporary and speculative fiction can tie into the common core, and also tap into those 3rd and 4th levels of knowledge.

Jim shares his advice on what to do before the writing, during the writing, and after the book is published.

Here's one example for each:

Before: connect your fiction to research

During: Include appendices and author notes that surfaces research where appropriate

After: Create a "Common Core Selection Guide" that summaries the text complexity

They walk us through a page from the actual "Common Core Activity Guide" Ed created for Hitch! You can see and download the entire guide at Jim's website here.

And they even share a giant list of where to distribute your supplemental materials.

So much great information!

1 comment:

  1. Sounds great guys. Check this out! We need to include the arts in this great discussion