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Blending content and skills in Common Core

FRIDAY, APRIL 04, 2014 14:01 PM

The Common Core State Standards emphasize the acquisition of skills in a way other initiatives do not. That means that students are given lessons teaching them to develop critical thinking skills and the ability to analyze texts, to name a few examples. Teaching kids how to examine the information they receive is an important mission and knowing how to analyze is a skill they will use throughout their lives. For example, kids who can think critically will be ready to tackle the challenges presented in college and during their careers. 

Of course, some are concerned that by focusing on the development of skills (such as the ability to search for specific information while reading) causes students to miss out on content. However, that's not the case. Students who learn under the Common Core graduate with both critical thinking skills and knowledge of subject matter.

English/language arts
You can find examples of how the Common Core balances skills with content by looking at English/language arts guidelines. Some states choose to assign classic novels that challenge students' understanding of sound writing.  While every state chooses its own specific reading list, the students will read regardless of where they live. In addition to providing children quality content, teachers take their classes deeper in the subject matter.

For example, reading Shakespeare exposes them to a classic, and the discussions held thereafter will develop their critical thinking skills. Students might have to learn to read beneath the surface of a text and extrapolate information about the plot or characters. Once they have the information, they must connect it to the larger story. For instance, knowing that "wherefore" means "why" is a great insight. But until it's applied, students don't know that when Juliet says, "Wherefore art thou, Romeo?" she really means, "Why are you, Romeo? Because that name means we can't be together." They can use the ability to find and apply information while reading anything, not just Shakespeare. 

Lessons taught in math classrooms can be another example of blending content and skill acquisition. Students will have to learn a variety of math topics, but they will do so in a way that teaches them how to use math in everyday situations, as they would have to at a job. For example, word problems might connect classroom content with life, as students must apply the topic to a life situation. Word problems are versatile tools that allow teachers to create a variety of scenarios in which students can use math. 

When they reach adulthood, a child might become, say, an architect. They will have to know how to use the complex topics they learned in school (i.e. geometry, trigonometry, etc.) to design sound structures.

Overall, the Common Core encourages states to create programs that introduce solid content and promote the acquisition of critical thinking skills.