Lee County teachers train for Common Core

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Mississippi’s new curriculum standards will require students to do more critical thinking.
This week, the Lee County School District trained several of its teachers on ways to teach those skills through reading passages.
Mississippi is among 46 states that have adopted the Common Core State Standards, which are designed to better ensure students are prepared for college or the workforce after they graduate. Students will be tested on them during the 2014-15 school year.
In preparation, Lee County invited presenters from the University of Mississippi’s Writing Project to introduce close-reading concepts to its middle- and high-school teachers. Close reading means students read fewer texts but go more in-depth, reading a piece multiple times, analyzing it and referring back to it to make arguments.
“We are looking for ways students’ thinking will shift and how classroom instruction will change,” said Mary Ann Parker, a presenter with the Writing Project. “This will broaden critical thinking.”
Language arts teachers were trained last week and science and social studies teachers attended this week.
Parker took the teachers through an exercise where students would read a passage and write questions about it. They would start by asking simple questions, but would advance to asking probing questions inquiring how and why. Finally, they would be asked to make connections between what they read and other texts, situations or ideas.
“The main thing is it helps us develop critical thinking skills with our students,” said Saltillo High School U.S. history teacher Chuck Hampton. “Education is trying to go to the John Dewey approach that students learn better when they answer their own questions. We want to try to get them to think for themselves.”
Added Mooreville High School U.S. history teacher Kevin Long: “This is about the students being more interactive instead of me being a one-man show.”
Lee County Schools Chief Academic Officer Kathy Mask said as the district prepares for the new curriculum, it is working to train its teachers on various strategies.
“So much of the Common Core is going to require students to look at different texts, cite evidence and connect texts,” Mask said.
chris.kieffer@journalinc.com