Welcome to Read – Write – Connect, Inc.

the Internet home of Leah Mermelstein.

Best Writing consultant 002 copyLeah is an internationally recognized literacy consultant who specializes in K-5 Reading and Writing Workshop. She is the President and CEO of Read-Write-Connect, INC. She is also the author of Reading/​​Writing Connections in the K-2 Classroom, (Allyn & Bacon), Don’t Forget to Share (Heinemann) and the co-author of Launching the Writing Workshop (with Lucy Calkins) (Heinemann).


Selected Works

DVD

Quality Writing Instruction
This brand new DVD will assist teachers with high quality writing instruction.

Non-fiction

Don’t Forget to Share: The Crucial Last Step in the Writing Workshop
This brand new book will show you how to make your share sessions more instructional.

Nonfiction

Reading/Writing Connections in the K-2 Classroom: Find the Clarity and Then Blur the Lines
This book demonstrates how through careful, explicit assessing, planning, and teaching every student can understand and use the reading/writing connection to become stronger readers and writers at the same time.

Units of Study for Primary Writing: A Yearlong Curriculum: Launching the Writing Workshop
This book shows teachers how to launch a joyful and rigorous Writing Workshop in their classrooms.

QUICK LINKS

E-mail the author

Authors Guild

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Leah Mermelstein
536 Grand Street, Ste. 501,
Hoboken, NJ 07030
(917) 503-1947

leahmermelstein@earthlink.net

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Blog Posts are Below:

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Using the Common Core Standards to Support the Planning of a Language Arts Curriculum

 

 

During the summer, I spend my days running week long summer courses for teachers that address both Reading and Writing Workshop. One of the things I do during these courses is to help teachers plan cohesive curriculum calendars for both reading and writing.  This year, many of the teachers are asking me how to plan a curriculum calendar that takes into account the common core standards.

Next, I want to share two quick tips I give teachers during these courses.

Start with conversation: It’s often tempting, especially with all of the buzz surrounding the common core standards, to begin a planning session by looking at the common core standards and then creating a curriculum based upon them.  I don’t think this is a good idea. Rather, I believe it’s important to start with conversations about what your hopes and dreams are for kids in the area of reading and writing. Once you’ve had that conversation, I would then create a curriculum calendar that reflected those beliefs. Next, I would compare the curriculum calendars you created to the common core standards. Finally, I would make revisions if there were things mentioned in the common core standards that were not reflected in your present curriculum calendars. This process works well for Reading and Writing Workshop teachers for a number of reasons.  First, when teachers have a conversation and then create a curriculum calendar based upon that conversation, they often create a plan that covers many of the common core standards without even realizing it.  Not only that, but I have found when teachers plan in this manner they often create a plan that exceeds what is asked for in the common core standards.  I have also found that looking at the common core standards as the final step deepens the actual conversation around this document.  Rather than just read the document quickly, teachers bring their prior experiences, their previous conversations and their drafted curriculum calendars to the table.  All of these artifacts enables teachers to talk better about what they are already doing and how to how to integrate what’s missing.

 

 

 

 

Think Outside the Box:  Many schools have asked me if they should remove poetry from their writing curriculum calendars since poetry is not part of the common core standards in writing. My answer is a resounding no. I have seen so many kids find their way into writing through poetry but I do understand the dilemma that schools are in because they are feeling the pressure to align their work with the common core standards.  This is when I believe that people have to be creative and look for ‘out of the box ways’ to align important curriculum with the common core standards.  As I look through the writing section of the common core standards, I see words such as description, opinion, narrative, explanatory, etc. Even though the genre of poetry isn’t mentioned, I can teach many qualities of writing such as the ones stated above through poetry.  I know that I could teach a great poetry unit that excited and motivated kids, as well as aligned with the common standards

 

I would love to hear any tips or questions you have about planning using the common core standards.

Copyright, 2011

15 Responses to Using the Common Core Standards to Support the Planning of a Language Arts Curriculum
  1. Sharon E. Davison
    July 6, 2011 | 5:13 pm

    This is a great post. I agree it is vital for teachers to talk out the essential learning, what they want to see within the context of each standard.
    I use the Common Core as a basis/structure to teach within and around as a basis for lessons. Many times when I am working with young children they often have many authentic ideas that almost always are in line with the focus of a lesson. Being too rigid can often prevent the flow of ideas and learning to occur. It is important to have the Common Core present when planning as it helps keep the conversation focused on what we are accountable for, but also a menu of opportunities to enrich our lessons and help ensure equity. I always find myself having higher expectations at times than what is in the Common Core and looking for ways to enhance the standards throughout the curriculum.

  2. Leah Mermelstein
    July 6, 2011 | 5:19 pm

    Hi Sharon,
    Thanks for your comments and I’m so happy to hear that you also find that your standards are often higher than what the Common Core Standards lay out. These standards should help us plan, not take us away from watching and listening to kids and teaching from what they show us they want and need. I have been reading your blog and now that things are a bit calmer I can’t wait to respond to it.

  3. Patrick H. Pomerville
    July 6, 2011 | 5:21 pm

    Good post. Our teachers at our school are currently involved in putting together curriculum calendars, units etc… and this is a great way for them to start out the process. Thanks!

  4. Leah Mermelstein
    July 6, 2011 | 5:24 pm

    Thanks, Patrick and I’m glad it will be helpful! Keep in touch.

  5. Lucy Malka
    July 6, 2011 | 8:55 pm

    You are on target with your thinking. There is much to be taught about reading and writing through poetry.
    When teachers plan using the core standards first the resulting curriculum is static and narrow.
    Hope all is well.
    Lucy

  6. Leah Mermelstein
    July 6, 2011 | 9:03 pm

    Hi Lucy,
    Yes I agree that curriculum is static and narrow when teachers only look at the Common Core Standards. It’s great to hear from you and I hope you are having a great summer!
    Leah

  7. Joanna Palumbo
    July 7, 2011 | 3:51 pm

    Leah,
    At PS 230 we were considering Poetry to be another “structure” that scaffolds kids. Many of the elements in our past poetry units were “easy” and “fun” for kids, and kids played with language more and were more daring in expressing themselves. The structure of poetry is a great entry point for many kids, and poetry writing was more like “just right books” in reading – more fluent for some kids, especially our ELLs. We often find the the best Kindergarten writing bursts onto the pages in what was previously our April poetry unit. Alas, Common Core Standards loom over us now and we’re trying to fit in more nonfiction writing without completely leaving poetry behind. Do you know the book “When I was Young in the Mountains?” This was one of my touchstone texts one year. One of my favorite poems ever was by Mohammed (age 6) who, after listening to Cynthia Rylant’s voice often enough, wrote:
    When I was young in Bangladesh
    There were monkeys on the street
    And a man sold sweet beans in a paper cone
    That were so good to eat.

    How can we not teach poetry?

    • Molly McClaskey
      July 19, 2011 | 5:11 pm

      Thanks for this refreshing and revealing post that shares Mohammed’s poem based on Cynthia Rylant’s. This is evidence enough about the power of poetry. While poetry is a genre in it’s own right it is also a vehicle for teaching all kinds of writing elements and makes writing more accessible to some students. While it may not be a specific focus in the Common Core it has a place, if for nothing else, as a teaching tool in which to teach and practice many of the concepts/skills in the CC.
      Thanks for sharing this!

  8. Leah Mermelstein
    July 7, 2011 | 4:09 pm

    Hi Joanna,
    Oh I love that poem!!!!!!!!!! I so love what you said about how poetry can sometimes be a ‘structure’ that scaffolds kids. For some kids, I agree it really is ‘just right writing.’When I look at the poem by Mohammed, the beauty of that poem is the descriptive nature of it and also how he narrates an important part of his life. He does both of those beautifully in a 6 year old friendly way. Both of those ideas (narration and description) are part of the Common Core Standards. Perhaps there is a way that teachers at your school can have some studies that are not genre based. In that way, kids can choose their own genre during that study (even poetry 🙂 ) and teachers can use that time to provide scaffolds for kids as well as address the Common Core Standards.

  9. Bobbe Pennington
    July 8, 2011 | 1:33 am

    I agree that the most important thing we can do is have the conversations about what we know kids need and THEN look at how our curruculum maps fit into the Common Core. In Joanna’s post, I loved her analogy that poetry can be to writers what ‘just right’ books are to readers….incredible jump- starts. We should never throw away what we know is important, but, instead, find ways to integrate those things into the latest mandates in ways that don’t overwhelm children. It just struck me that there are some good nonfiction books written in poetry, such as Moonshot by Brian Floca. Putting our heads together will help us to generate rich ideas for thinking outside the latest box.

  10. Leah Mermelstein
    July 8, 2011 | 12:00 pm

    “We should never throw away what we know is important, but instead find ways to integrate those things into the latest mandates in ways that don’t overwhelm children.”

    Thanks, Bobbe for that statement. It’s really, really important as people go into next year using the Common Core Standards to remember that. I find any new mandate is forever interesting because it allows us to slow down and think about why we’re doing what we’re doing and then add/take out things things if/when necessary. I have seen some amazing new studies because of the Common Core Standards (ie the Persuasive Letters, Special Places Units that Joanna’s teachers at PS 230 did: http://bestwritingconsultant.com/writing-units-of-study-that-allign-with-the-common-core-standards.) As long as we let these new mandates improve our thinking, rather than force us to change things in a way that we know isn’t good for kids then we’re on the right track.

  11. Maria Muldner
    July 13, 2011 | 6:37 pm

    I know many schools are in the same boat as we are in in that they are trying to create reading and writing curriculum calendars based on the Common Core Standards. I also know that many schools have consulted with Leah to refine their practice – and for good reason- she is fabulous at this! However, if you haven’t worked with Leah on curriculum, you haven’t seen some of her best work yet! We spent two full days working with Leah on our curriculum calendars and I have never seen curriculum with such clarity.

    To her earlier point, we had a great discussion around poetry and whether or not to leave it in for the reason that it was abstract and difficult for some, but decided that there most definitely was a place for it in 2nd and 3rd grades. In fact, we found that many of our students who were slow to write, thrived in this unit.

    Thank you, Leah for all of your guidance and expertise! I look forward to keeping up with the latest on your blog.

  12. Leah Mermelstein
    July 14, 2011 | 1:16 am

    Maria,
    Thanks, I’m so glad it was helpful. I loved working with such a group of professionals and I look forward to hearing our the curriculum plays out next year. KEEP IN TOUCH!

  13. Molly McClaskey
    July 19, 2011 | 5:22 pm

    Leah, I appreciate this forum in which to communicate and think together about the Common Core and it’s influence on literacy planning and curriculum. I think the Common Core offers a guiding structure and foundation upon which to build and orchestrate a year of writing and reading curriculum as well as the additions we want to hold onto or develop. I feel confident in the writers and researchers of the Common Core and have even greater faith in our teachers who will know what to save, what to adjust and what engages students.

    • Leah Mermelstein
      July 19, 2011 | 8:54 pm

      Molly, I agree with you. I think the Common Core Standards, if used properly, are a great opportunity for loads of great talk about how best to meet our diverse students’ strengths and needs!

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