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Uncommon Core

Where the Authors of the Standards Go Wrong About Instruction-and How You Can Get It Right
By: Michael W. Smith, Deborah Appleman, Jeffrey D. Wilhelm

Foreword by Grant Wiggins

Uncommon Core puts us on high-alert about some outright dangerous misunderstandings looming around so-called “standards-aligned” instruction, then shows us how to steer past them.

Full description

Product Details
  • Grade Level: PreK-12
  • ISBN: 9781483333526
  • Published By: Corwin
  • Series: Corwin Literacy
  • Year: 2014
  • Page Count: 224
  • Publication date: April 15, 2014

Price: $32.95



Let’s face it, weak rivets notwithstanding, the Titanic wouldn’t have sunk if the iceberg had been spotted in time. And let’s face it, the CCSS won’t be classroom-worthy unless practitioners chart our course. Depend on Michael Smith, Deborah Appleman, and Jeff Wilhelm to help you navigate through some potentially treacherous waters.

Uncommon Core puts us on high-alert about some outright dangerous misunderstandings looming around so-called “standards-aligned” instruction, then shows us how to steer past them—all in service of meeting the real intent of the Common Core. Smith, Appleman, and Wilhelm counter with teaching suggestions that are true to the research and true to our students, including how:

  • Reader-based approaches can complement text-based ones
  • Prereading activities can help students meet the strategic and conceptual demands texts place on them
  • Strategy instruction can result in a careful and critical analysis of individual texts while providing transferable understandings
  • Inquiry units around essential questions can generate meaningful conversation and higher-order thinking about those texts
  • Selection criteria that consider interpretive complexity can take us so much farther than those that consider textual complexity alone

Given the number of strategies, lesson ideas, and activities in the book, Uncommon Core is really less about the standards and more about timeless, excellent teaching and how to use it like never before to meet the Core ideals. Let’s put instruction where it belongs: back in the hands of the experts.

“Finally! A book with more light than heat on the issue of standards and their implications for learning.”
Coauthor of Understanding by Design

Key features

  • Challenges the narrow focus on meaning resulting from the overuse of text-dependent questions
  • Presents activities that motivate and educate students while engaging them in considering questions of significance, interpretation, and context through the use of critical reading strategies
  • Explains how an emphasis on text-dependent questions of the sort Coleman advocates privileges literal meaning at the expense of interpretive significance and also oversimplifies the act of reading
  • Demonstrates how reading literature is an activity based on knowledge of conventions and how authors expect readers to apply what they know from their previous reading experience.
  • Shares activities that will help students gain conscious control over important interpretive conventions--all while they grapple with the specific demands of particular texts.
  • Encourages the use of pre-reading activities and highlights the research on the importance of developing and/or instantiating appropriate schema in order to improve a reader's comprehension.
  • Demonstrates how some of our most favored strategies such as pre-reading, prediction, using prior knowledge, and making personal connections all have the power to aid in the understanding and appreciation of all students


Michael W. Smith photo

Michael W. Smith

Michael W. Smith, a professor in Temple University's College of Education, joined the ranks of college teachers after eleven years of teaching high school English. His research focuses on understanding both how adolescents and adults engage with texts outside school and how teachers can use those understandings to devise more motivating and effective instruction inside schools.
Deborah Appleman photo

Deborah Appleman

Deborah Appleman is Professor of Educational Studies and Director of the Summer Writing Program at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. Her primary interests include adolescent response to literature, multicultural literature, and the teaching of literary theory to high school students. A high school English teacher for nine years, Deborah works weekly in urban and suburban high schools.
Jeffrey D. Wilhelm photo

Jeffrey D. Wilhelm

A classroom teacher for fifteen years, ?Jeffrey D. Wilhelm? is currently Professor of English Education at Boise State University. He works in local schools as part of a Virtual Professional Development Site Network sponsored by the Boise State Writing Project, and regularly teaches middle and high school students. Jeff is the founding director of the Maine Writing Project and the Boise State Writing Project.
Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Foreword by Grant Wiggins


Chapter 1. The Promise and the Peril of the Common Core State Standards

What's to Like About the CCSS

What's to Worry About

What the Standards Leave Out

Chapter 2. Old Wine in Broken Bottles: The Common Core State Standards and "Zombie New Criticism"

A Lesson From the Classroom

Where the Authors of the Standards Go Wrong About Connecting Texts With Lived Experience

How You Can Get It Right

Sticking With the Standards (Not With the Instructional Mandates That Showed Up Later)

Chapter 3. Using the Most Powerful Resource We Have for Teaching Students Something New: The Case for Background Knowledge

Where the Authors of the Standards Go Wrong About Pre-Reading Instruction

Why It Matters

Preparing Students to Comprehend

How You Can Get It Right: Five Strategies That Connect Students With Critical Concepts

Moving Students to Independence

Chapter 4. Teaching for Transfer: Why Students Need to Learn How to Attend to Any Text

Where the Authors of the Standards Go Wrong About Closed-Ended, Text-Based Questions

Why It Matters

How You Can Get It Right: Six Strategies That Increase Comprehension and Independence

Moving Students to Independence

Chapter 5. No Text Is an Island: How to Get Students Farther With Text-by-Text Sequencing

Where the Authors of the Standards Go Wrong About Text-to-Text Connections

Why It Matters

How You Can Get It Right: Three Strategies for Developing Knowledge Across Texts

Chapter 6. Aiming for Complex Interpretation: How to Be Street Smart About Choosing Complex Texts

Where Interpretations of the Standards Get It Wrong

Three Ways to Choose the Right Books for Your Kids

Chapter 7. Putting Our Money Where Our Mouths Are: Our Unit for Teaching "Letter From Birmingham Jail"

David Coleman on King's "Letter"

An Alternative Approach: Our Unit for Teaching the "Letter"

A Sample Unit: “Letter From Birmingham Jail”

A Summary of This Unit's Approaches

Principles of Practice

Accountability and Assessments

Final Thoughts





Price: $32.95
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For Instructors

This book is not available as a review copy.

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