Visual Digital Tools can Play a Meaningful Role in Teaching Common Core Subjects
Yes, it can. And, if used properly, visual learning offers teachers and students a simplified path to meeting the challenges associated with ELA Common Core, including quantity, rigor, and a lack of precise resources.
In terms of quantity, teachers are asked to teach and students to learn over 60 standards in 180 school days. In terms of rigor, many standards are cognitively-demanding and require higher-level thinking skills, such as multi-variable analysis and evaluation. Finally, there aren't many comprehensive resources available for the middle and high school standards. Even the most skillful teacher would be challenged. However, when teachers and students use digital instructional tools that are carefully crafted for each standard, the learning process becomes easier and more precise for everyone involved.
Standards Based Digital Instructional Tools
Standards based digital instructional tools can take on many forms, depending on the standard. They can be a multi column/row table, an example guide, a flow chart, or Venn diagram. The power of visual learning is unleashed if the tool intricately fits the standard. For example, if a teacher is teaching an analysis standard, such as “compare and contrast,” a Venn diagram would be the best tool to use because it naturally points the mind to the task of comparison. But, for some of the writing process standards, such as “use a formal style,” or the language application standards, like “use a particular grammar topic,” an example guide is probably the best option because it sets the stage for demonstration. Furthermore, for the writing style standards, such as “persuade using claims, reasons, and evidence,” a flow chart or table would make sense because it ensures that each component is being captured in a logical order (See the example provided).
My experience teaching a grade level quantity of standards using this approach has convinced me that when a consistent, tailor made digital instructional tool is used throughout a sequence of skill based lessons, teachers and students reap many benefits.
Benefits of Using Digital Instructional Tools for Common Core
Engagement Clarity: A learning standard becomes more academically comprehensible when students can see what it entails. Digital instructional tools take the guesswork out of instruction and put both students and teachers on the same page, creating a more powerful connection between lessons and outcomes.
Student Centered: Students can choose a developmentally appropriate topic of interest to read, write about, speak to, or listen to and use the digital instructional tool as the vehicle to show their skill based learning that has taken place.
Lesson Precision: Because many of the standards involve accounting for multiple variables in one exercise, it becomes difficult to keep track of all of the moving parts. Digital instructional tools help organize all of the variables in a logical sequence to ensure that all components are accounted for in a single, pointed lesson.
Efficiency: As the instructional pace has picked up with so many standards to teach and learn, maximization of time has become of the essence. Digital instructional tools maintain classroom attention on the standard(s) and ensure lessons are productive for students in an environment where every minute counts.
Example Digital Instructional Tools
This standard asks students to examine and assess how a literary source text is interpreted in various productions. With this table, students are able to write the text name at the top and version names in the first row, analyze how each version interprets the source text in the second row, and evaluate each version's interpretation in the third row.
Analyze multiple interpretations of a story, drama, or poem (e.g., recorded or live production of a play or recorded novel or poetry), evaluating how each version interprets the source text. (Include at least one play by Shakespeare and one play by an American dramatist.)
Story/Drama/Poem Source Text:
This standard asks students to find pertinent information, utilize searches, evaluate the value of the information, quote/paraphrase the information in a non-plagiaristic manner, and cite sources. With the first table, students are able to write the research question/topic at the top and brainstorm related search terms inside. With the second table, students are able to quote and/or paraphrase findings in the second column, cite sources in the third column, and assess the credibility of those sources in the fourth column.
Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.
The Visual Edge: Graphic Organizers for Standards Based Learning, Common Core 6-12 (Letuchy, 2015) is the iteration of standards based digital instructional tools. The eBook (and book) contains one for each English, History, and Science standard for grades 6-12. They can be used in modeling, practice, assessment, portfolios, and projects. The Visual Edge enables visual learning, and provides the ready-made instructional clarity, precision, flexibility, and efficiency needed to master the quantity and rigor of Common Core.