Common Core: Keep it or Junk it?

Posted by Raye Wood on Tue, Feb 12 2013

Don't be fooled by the title of today's blog. We aren't thinking about keeping or junking the Common Core Standards but rather looking at a strategy for helping students to be engaged learners, readers and thinkers. Best of all? The teacher becomes an almost invisible facilitator while students lead the lesson.

Keep it....or Junk it?

Recently I went to a professional development workshop. We are focusing on better questioning, using texts with more rigor and getting students into the front seat of their learning. This may be easier in some places than others. What I mean is, children who are read to at home and taught to think criticially through discussions at home, have an advantage over children whose primary babysitter is the television.

During this workshop we focused on how to help our inner city students to become more engaged and active learners. In other words, how can we kind of push ourselves as teachers out of the front seat in the learning car and put the students there instead? 

Enter the Keep it or Junk it strategy. The facilitator of the workshop shared this video with us, from Teaching Channel. It is absolutely powerful when you really pay attention and notice that for seven entire minutes, the teacher stands by the window and doesn't say a word.


1 Keep, 2 Junk.....3 Cloud?!

Fascinating, isn't it? I sat in that PD and had to literally force my mouth closed a few times. I was in awe of how much ownership the students had over that lesson. One thing that my colleagues and I didn't understand was the "Cloud". What did that really mean?

As noticed in the video, the students ask their classmates if they should keep it, junk it or cloud it. Students simply raise the correct number of fingers to show their vote. Upon further inquiry and digging into the other video from this teacher available at Teaching Channel, I figured out what the "Cloud" is. As you watch the video, when they go with "cloud" you'll notice the student draws a cloud around the word. It turns out that if you pay attention to the students who are voting, they end up "clouding" the word when they are about half and half of whether or not to keep the word or junk the word. The "Cloud" is like a parking lot. Rather than spend a lot of time disagreeing about why that word is or isn't relevant, they put it in the so-called parking lot to come back to later.

Clever, isn't it? I haven't been able to try this strategy yet in my own classroom but I definitely will. I want my students to see themselves as leaders in their learning and this seems like an amazing strategy to help them accomplish just that.

If you decide to try it, please let me know how it worked out. I'd love to hear your thoughts about it.

Raye Wood

Raye Wood is an upper elementary ESL teacher in Michigan. She regularly blogs at The Caffeinated Teacher. You can follow her on Twitter as @RayeWood.
Posted in Common Core

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