Five Ways Common Curriculum Keeps Me Organized

Over the past two years I’ve had the distinctly gratifying and simultaneously terrifying experience of beginning my teaching career. As teachers, we begin our journey by assessing our learners and defining high growth targets, developing a robust arsenal of standardized less on plans and technology-aligned learning experiences, and creatively differentiating those activities for each of our students. Molding all of those goals into a comprehensive year-long curriculum is another challenge entirely. As it is with so many new educators, within weeks of beginning the school year I found myself lost in the abyss of faculty meetings, library resources, and professional development seminars – to say nothing of parent calls and meetings, progress monitoring, and the special education annual review process.cc-logo-ea8345429ede54f5e4d960950659bd25

Common Curriculum rescued me from uncharted territory. I had encountered CC early last summer buried in some random blog post or Pinterest board and, after giving it a shot this past year, I’m convinced I’ll never plan any other way. Common Curriculum focuses on the tactics of teaching: daily lesson plans. Scope and sequence mapping, unit plans, and inquiries obviously have their place in planning, but when it comes to actually crafting the minute-by-minute workings of the classroom, I found Common Curriculum to be invaluable to my own organization and my growth as an educator.

Here are five straightforward reasons you should consider getting an account:

1) It’s easy. Their website’s interface is simple and easy to navigate. After quickly setting up a Planbook you’re able to start tinkering around within a few minutes. Once you begin, you’ll notice that you can shift assignments around throughout your lesson, move them to a new day, or delete them entirely. If something comes up and you need to shift plans to the next day, CC allows it with the click of a button. Each day is totally customizable – including which classes you teach in a given day and the activities you plan for each period or block – meaning that you can implement your own style when designing your lessons. Creating these lessons is literally as easy as typing on your keyboard, and the web-based platform automatically saves your progress as you go. Upload files (just like you would to an email) and now your materials or resources are saved as well! Common Curriculum also links to my Google Drive, and seamlessly uploads materials I had already organized.

2) It’s safe. In addition to having my progress saved automatically, it’s highly comforting knowing that my curriculum isn’t living on a thumb drive or school-based software that can be discontinued next year if our district doesn’t renew our subscription. Like any geek, I live in a constant state of fear and anxiety, dwelling over whether or not my files are safe and accessible. Using Common Curriculum allowed me to save my work on the cloud, export it as an Adobe .pdf file, and still have it backed up on CC’s interface. My materials aren’t going to disappear from being lost, broken, or unsubscribed from. Relatedly, my lessons are saved so I can easily reference them next year, which also means next year I’ll be adapting my plans instead of starting from square one again. Some teachers have filing cabinets and drawers full of old handouts and workbooks that they’ve used (which is totally fine), but as a new teacher I have to admit that having every resource I used last year safely linked on a single document is pretty convenient.

3) It prompts me to use best-practices. When you begin setting up your Planbook you’ll be prompted to choose a lesson plan template for each course you teach. Some people like the Minimal template with the quick “Agenda” and “Notes” sections. Some people like the Basic or the 5E templates that each give a little more guidance when designing. Both of those are fine, and admittedly many of my own plans ended up utilizing the Minimal template, but what really intrigued me (and pushed me to write better lessons) was the Extra Detailed template. In this case the detailed sections include: Objectives, Bloom’s Taxonomy, Materials, Intro to New Materials, Direct Instruction, Guided Practice, Independent Practice, Extension, Assessment, Homework, Accommodations & Modifications, and Reflections. Obviously every lesson may not include all of those sections (CC allows you to delete, combine, substitute, or reorder them as necessary), but I found that something as simple as just having them listed as a rough guide reminded me to think about each one as I planned the daily activities of the classroom. My teaching improved because of this template.

4) It links to about a billion sets of standards. As I mapped out the skills, strategies, and content I wanted my students to explore, Common Curriculum helped me design my instruction to the specific standards aligned to my course. I teach social studies, so for me that meant the New York State Social Studies Framework’s Key Ideas, Conceptual Understandings, and Content Specifications, the New York State Common Core Learning Standards for Literacy in Social Studies, the National Council for the Social Studies C3 Framework, as well as frameworks and standards to reference from the National Center for History in the Schools, the National Council on Economic Education, the National Standards for Arts Education, and the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy. All of these are available on Common Curriculum to reference and link to your daily lessons.  With a Pro or Schools account, teachers can even utilize a standards tracker to map course outcomes over the course of the school year.

5) It’s digitally accessible to my students. I can seamlessly export all of this to my students’ iPads, the classroom SMARTBoard, or any computer/laptop. As a Pro user, I’ve linked my lessons to a website that I share with my students. I can choose which sections are visible to them, allowing them to browse the lesson’s materials independently. If a student is late to class or misses school, they can review the materials on their own time using this resource. I can link assignments online for students to complete, whether they’re printed handouts, webquests, or simple instructions for classwork. This also allows students to access a visible agenda for class, even previewing future classes if I mark them as visible in the CC interface. Not only does this lead toward a paperless classroom – it prompts students to seek and utilize digital resources, a timeless and necessary skill to build in the digital age.


Categories: Classroom Management, Common Core, Dif-abilities, Education in the 21st Century, Online Learning, Teaching Resources, Uncategorized | Tags: | Leave a comment

Glenn Greenwald talks civil liberties By Cassandra Negley

By Cassandra Negley


Published: Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 08:03

At its core, Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bayis supposed to induce some laughs as Harold and Kumar, and of course Neil Patrick Harris, engage in sex, drugs and unicorn hallucinations. But the entire premise of the movie is exactly what journalist and political blogger Glenn Greenwald spoke about with almost 300 Brockport students, faculty, staff and town residents last week: civil liberties.

If you missed the movie, Harold (of South Korean descent) and Kumar (Indian descent) set off to Amsterdam to chase after Harold’s girl for a fairy tale ending. In typical Kumar fashion, he sneaks a marijuana bong on the plane and attempts to use it. Passengers see him, scream “terrorist,” “bomb” and “poison gas” allegations and eventually the two friends are tackled by U.S. Marshalls, sent back to the U.S. and promptly tossed into Guantanamo Bay, the detainment and interrogation facility the U.S runs in Cuba. 

Obviously Kumar had done wrong, but the reason they’re immediately thrown to the Bay is because they’re believed to be terrorists with a bomb on a plane, a huge scare to the U.S. after Sept. 11. They aren’t given due process or a trial, they’re simply thrown in jail. 

It’s not a common thread of conversation, the issue of civil liberties. These civil liberties, as defined by Greenwald Thursday, March 7 during his lecture, “On Liberty and Justice in the Twenty-First Century,” are “absolute in their nature.” He describes them as a list of limitations imposed on the government by the people. These limitations are neither ambiguous nor circumstantial: They are certain rights every person is entitled to. 

“Collectively, we’re willing to let government assert power over us as long as it doesn’t cross certain lines,” Greenwald said to the crowd. 

Civil liberties is a topic that commonly fuels his columns for The Guardian, a U.K. newspaper, and speaking engagements, which he schedules around TV appearances and time at home in Brazil. 

“I actually have fantasies my tombstone says ‘Glenn Greenwald: civil liberties extremist,’” Greenwald told the crowd. 

His Brockport lecture, brought together by Nicholas Lind and the history forum, focused on how citizens are stripped of these civil liberties and why it happens. One guiding factor was the difference between wartime and peace. He mentioned multiple times how the current generation, the college students sitting in front of him, have only ever known war. These students have only had a political consciousness shaped by a post-9/11 world. 

Greenwald wasn’t always a columnist, but he was always working for personal rights. He worked as a constitutional and civil rights litigator in New York City, his hometown (he’s originally from Queens), before starting his own award-winning political blog and eventually transitioning to his current job atThe Guardian. He said he made the move to increase his reach and that he also has full editorial control. 

He has certainly increased his reach through the column, but also through his various TV appearances. Before the lecture, while granting an interview to The Stylus outside the New York room, Greenwald was like a celebrity. One group of town residents came through, enthused to see Greenwald up close, and exclaimed how they loved watching him on TV. 

He’s been on The Colbert Report (a college favorite) Fox News, C-SPAN, NPR and MSNBC. His calm in the face of heated debates is something he attributes partially to his time as a trial lawyer

“There’s always horrible surprises that threaten to sink everything you do [as a lawyer], and if you show the jury that you are shocked or surprised or bothered, even if inside you’re dying emotionally, they’re going to pick up on the fact that something awful just happened,” Greenwald said in an interview before the lecture. “But if you’re able to project a sense of calm and even confidence, it’s contagious and infectious. So if [there is] some horrible piece of evidence or someone says something devastating to your case, if you don’t show it a lot of times people won’t realize it and if you treat it as though you have everything under control, people will assume that you do.”

He said his passion about what he writes and observes is what keeps him writing. Compared to other political journalists, he said he got into writing about politics because of his passion behind the issues. He’s talked with Muslim communities about persecution and with families of 5-year-olds who’ve been killed by drones, both of which are issues he has very strong feelings about. 

“I think the minute you start to lose control of your emotions, you’ve basically lost the argument becuase you lose the abillity to stay focused on what ultimately will persuade people,” he said. “It’s hard because inside you want to strangle people, often, or yell and scream in express of your emotions.” 

Greenwald’s lecture showed this passion for civil liberties and background as a lawyer. It was a well put-together speech about how our civil liberties are being taken, war tactics are being used at home on Americans and it’s all happening with citizens’ sometimes unknowing consent. 

Even when citizens realize there’s a fear in the general population, they can’t do anything about it. 

Greenwald spoke of WikiLeaks, an online organization that publishes secret information and leaks. He wrote a column about it and urged people to donate money to the organization so these leaks could keep happening. The response he said he got was hundreds of people who wanted to donate, but were afraid that if they did, they would “end up on some government list somewhere or even be subjected to criminal liabililty if they’re retroactively declared a terrorist group.”

Greenwald said these people weren’t paranoid, but instead very rational people who were very thoughtful and well- rounded. 

“These people had given up their own rights because they’re afraid government would punish them even though this document says that they can engage in exactly that activity without fear of recrimination,” Greenwald said. 

Yet, he closed his lecture with ways we people can do something about everything they had just heard, because not many can escape things such as Guantanamo Bay as easily as Harold and Kumar. 

He said the one clear lesson of all history is that any structure built by human beings can be altered or torn down if there are humans with the right passion and strategy. 

“If success isn’t being made in whatever cause you believe in, it isn’t because it’s impossible or because defeatism is the only rational reaction,” he said. “It’s because you just haven’t found the right means and the right mechanism and the right strategy to go about to achieve positive change. Once you realize that, the questions no longer becomes, ‘Is there anything that can be done about it?’ The question you wake up everyday focusing on is ‘What is it that I can do with  my talents and my abilities in order to make this happen?’”




Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

%d bloggers like this: