Clarifying Questions in the Common Core Classroom

If you think about your educational experience growing up, it may have looked something like this. The teacher asked the questions, students gave the responses, and the answer was either right or wrong. A correct answer was rewarded with “good job” and a smile. An incorrect answer was met with a shake of the head or a frown, and the student felt bad for getting the wrong answer, and didn’t always know why the answer is wrong.

With the Common Core State Standards, students are asked to validate their answers with evidence. Instead of accepting an answer as merely right or wrong, push students to support their answer with evidence by asking clarifying questions. Here are some clarifying questions that you could ask your students:

Why do you think that?
Can you explain that?
What is the support for your thinking?
What evidence do you have to support your answer?

I recently taught a lesson in a classroom, where the students talked about a photograph of a Native American woman peeling acorns in the forest. I asked the students, “Where do you think the woman is?” Sam responded, “She is in the forest.” His answer was correct, but I asked him to explain why he thought it was the forest, and he looked confused. He knew his answer was correct, but he wasn’t expecting me to question his response. After some think time, Sam was able to respond with evidence to support his thinking. Another student, Sara, said that she thought the woman was sitting in front of a sand castle. Instead of telling her, “That’s not right,” or “Try again,” I responded with, “Do you have evidence to support your thinking?” She took a moment to look at the picture, studied the woman’s surroundings, shook her head no, and revised her answer. She was able to conclude that the woman in the photograph was outside in the woods or the forest, and not at the beach. She told me why she changed her mind.

Think about the power of students having the ability to revise their own thoughts and finding evidence to support or refute their answers. Learning becomes more meaningful to students when you stop accepting a right or wrong answer, and ask students, “Why?”

What are your tips for asking questions?

Technology in the Common Core: What Do Students Need to be Able to Do?




While there are no isolated technology standards in the Common Core State Standards, technology is embedded across the the grade levels.  Many people are focused on students needing a device to take the assessment and not thinking about what students will need to be able to do with that device.  The assessment will not only require a computer for students to take it, students will actually be tested on their use of their device.

According to the language arts standards here are the three major things students will need to be able to do.

1.  Research

Students will:

Use search tools.

Interpet interactive elements on a web page.

Draw on information from digital sources.

2.  Writing

Students will:

Explore a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing including in collaboration with peers.

3.  Multimedia

Students will:

Ask and answer questions about key details in [multi]media…

Include multimedia elements…in presentations.

I haven’t separated the standards by grade level.  The same requirements exist at all grade levels with different amounts of teacher assistance and depth and complexity.

In future posts I will suggest sample activities to meet each standard.  If you want a preview, please check out my slideshare presentation, Technology in the Common Core.







Understanding Technology in the Common Core Standards

I’m reviewing technology use in the Common Core Standards this morning and thought I would share a few resources I’ve found for better understanding them.  Remember that I am based in California so the information related specifically to our state might not apply to you directly.

What is the difference between California standards and the Common Core?

There is a lot of overlap.  However, the Common Core standards are based on college and career readiness standards.  The Common Core:

  • Focus to a greater extent on text complexity and drawing information from sourcesAs I interpret this, students now have to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of different text sources (including digital) and comprehend information that comes from media  as well as text.
  • Address reading and writing across the curriculumThere’s reading in science as well as reading in language arts.  All disciplines require writing
  • Where’s the technology?Technology is a tool rather than a set of isolated standards.  I like this.  The Common Core speaks generally about students choosing a variety of texts (including digital) and publishing writing in a variety of formats including digital.

My sources: