Do you feel the urge, the inclination, the looming pressure to dip your toe into the Common Core State Standards? Do you feel overwhelmed at the prospect of aligning your district’s entire adopted curriculum all by yourself? Do you have an upcoming evaluation using the new TPEP system and don’t know how to impress your evaluator? Do your eyes blur over when you look at the CCSS either online, as a paper copy, or as an app on your phone? Have I got the answer for you: the Basal Alignment Project (here and here)!
I first heard about the Basal Alignment Project last June. I felt all the emotions listed above. Like you, I didn’t know where to turn but knew I needed to make changes to my practice and my planning to help my students meet the new CCSS.
Prior to discovering the Basal Alignment Project, I read the CCSS ELA. I knew the major shifts. I knew how the standards progressed through the elementary grades. However, when it came to making shifts, increasing rigor, and requiring students to site evidence, I was at a loss.
Enter Basal Alignment Project (BAP)!
This ‘project’ is a group of teachers who sat in a room (real and virtual) and wrote Common Core aligned lessons and questions. The texts they chose are found in the country’s most adopted materials: HM Medallian, HMH Collections, HMJ Journeys, Pearson Reading Street, and others.
Getting started was easy. I looked at my curriculum map for the year and the list of stories offered on the BAP. I felt a tad disappointed because not every story in Reading Street (my district’s adopted materials) is on BAP. (More about that later.)
Before I printed out the lesson, I ensured the page numbers in the lessons and handouts matched our student materials. Some stories are so fantastic and well loved, they are in multiple basal series. If the lesson is written for HMH Collections, for example, the pages offered to students to find evidence may be incorrect.
Pages correct? Check!
I then printed out the lessons and made sure they worked within the reading group structure at our school (90 minute walk to read). I also considered the needs of my students. For example, I have quite a few ELL students in my group. I was careful about the words I choose to introduce to them and I was thorough about strategies they would need to determine meaning.
Lessons modified to meet the needs of my students? Check!
The rest of the week was a piece of cake planning-wise. Someone had already done the work for me. The questions were not only of high cognitive demand, but had enough evidence in the text for students to find the answers. The sequence of the questions lead to the culminating project or extension project.
Text dependent questions of high rigor offered to students in a supportive way? Check!
At the end of the week, I was confident that I not only kept up with the scope and sequence required by my district, but I was beginning to meet the CCSS.
Dipping my toe into the CCSS without having a stroke or mental breakdown? Check!
After working with the BAP for several stories, I can now use the well-edited questions as a model. Because the BAP doesn’t offer all the stories in my anthology, I will need to write my own questions. This is not something I’m willing to tackle soon (see notes above about blurry eyes and potential nervous breakdown). Each week I do not have a BAP lesson, I can write just one high quality culminating question. Using the BAP as a guide, I know the qualities of a high rigor question.
Dipping my toe into some CCSS item writing? Check!
Here’s my biggest learning from the BAP: the students are capable of this work. My reading group consists of students who are reading below grade level and have limited language and comprehension skills. However, the first time I presented the BAP lessons, they answered most of the questions accurately with sufficient evidence.
Students meeting the CCSS? Check!