Monday, February 11, 2013

Common Ground, Common Core

In 2004, my book Skyscraper was published.  In 2010, it went out of print. I wrote a post about it, Skyscraper RIP, a eulogy for a book that was well received, but really because I loved the experience of researching and writing it.

Lazarus, you aren't the only one.  I'm happy to say that Skyscraper is alive once more, in some classrooms at least. The story of its resurrection, however, is also the story of how some publishers and school systems will be handling Common Core.

Scholastic has published a series called Math Reads. Marilyn Burns, whose resume in teaching and designing math curricula seems impressive, headed a team of other teachers to create it.  Here is a description of their product:

Math Reads is the NEW math and literature program from Marilyn Burns. Designed to support the Common Core State Standards for K–5, each grade-level collection of books brings math alive and serves as a springboard for math instruction.
Each grade-level Math Reads program includes:
  • 25 children’s literature titles (5 copies of each)
  • Lessons written by Marilyn Burns and Math Solutions authors
  • eBooks of select titles for interactive whiteboards
  • Math Solutions’ Math and Literature professional development book

If you look at the curriculum for Math Reads' 5th grade, you'll see Skyscraper has been included and is in some very good company, including Hottest, Coldest, Highest, Deepest by my I.N.K. colleague Steve Jenkins, Pennies for Elephants by a friend Lita Judge, Wilma Unlimited by the always good Kathleen Krull, and Mordicai Gerstein's The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, an extraordinary book I've blogged about before.

So this Math Reads series contains good fiction and nonfiction books (although only 5 copies of each per classroom), additional titles in eBook format, and lesson plans to use all these books to satisfy Common Core. Hopefully, teachers and students will be exposed to good literature they might not have ever seen.  Hopefully it will spur a greater interest in reading as well as a better understanding of math.  It will help overworked teachers adapt to the demands of Common Core quickly and, again hopefully, once they get their bearings, they will feel confident to use their own ideas and own favorite books to enrich their teaching. These are possible positive outcomes of this series--along with good profits for Scholastic.

It also seems to be a model we will see more and more as publishing and education fulfill both the needs and opportunities that Common Core has created in terms of nonfiction in the classroom.  I'm not advocating for this model, I mentioned it to start a discussion of what other models and reactions we'll see.  What we think about them.  What we realistically hope to see.  What we think are practical and will work.  

What do you all think?  I'm particularly interested in what all the teachers, librarians and other educators who read our blog have to say about the matter.


Unknown said...

Great that your book lives on and someone can look at a nonfiction book and see the possibilities for teaching math, Susan. It doesn't surprise me that Marilyn Burns has done this. She has always been innovative in math education. But so are we. See how our iNK consultants discuss using nonfiction to teach math in this video on the iNK website

The authors in Authors on Call, the videoconferencing division of iNK Think Tank have developed a promotional package where we each take one title and show how it can be used to meet the CCSS with input from each author. Our work this year is ground-breaking. We're collaborating with teachers and curriculum people to develop our own unique strategies for using our books in the classroom. We will be opening membership to educators to develop a forum to discuss these ideas. If anyone wants to see this package, please contact me.

Sandy Brehl said...

Susan, of all the various materials being "pumped out", yours landed in an authentic, best of the best category.
Marilyn Burns has written many math-based books for kids of the highest quality, reused year after year in classrooms across the country. They are authentic literature, and she never fails to advocate for using "real" books with kids.
I'm excited that Skyscraper is back, but even more excited to learn about her program and efforts to focus on authentic literature as a base for instruction in this coming wave of commercial packages.
Good news for you, for teachers, and most of all for the kids.

Kathleen Krull said...

What happy news for you, Susan--congrats. And thanks for the mention. Scholastic seems to be on the CC ball - I thought this was enterprising of them -

Susan E. Goodman said...

Well, it's no surprise that Scholastic would be on the CC ball, but I'm glad to be reassured by Sandy and Kathleen that my little island in the vast ocean is good and respectable.

One reason I wrote this post was because I wondered what other models for adapting to CC are either out there, proposed, or do some of us think should exist. Vicki has reported on one good one, but what else?

Mary Ann Cappiello said...


In response to your question about how other's are responding to the ways in which nonfiction can play a role in CCSS-based curriculum, I offer our text set approach. You can find more about it here:
Mary Ann

Susan E. Goodman said...

Mary Ann, thanks for your post. I followed up on Classroom Bookshelf, and love the premise of your book, TEACHING WITH TEXT SETS, which seems as if it will be of great value to teachers in general and even more so in light of Common Core.

I also noticed that you teach at Lesley. Wow, me too. Small world.