Andrew Miller

Authenticity to Support Common Core Instruction and Assessment

How do we support our students in being career and college ready? This is not a new question, and educators continually struggle with what that even means. We leverage rigor and relevance as keys to prepare students for the postK–12 world, but what does that look like? What are some practical ways to promote rigor and relevance and target specific Common Core State Standards? One key method, which is not new, is authenticity. Teachers can support students in meeting the Common Core by creating more authentic reading and writing tasks. Here are some ideas to consider as you target specific Common Core standards in instruction and assessment.

  1. Authentic Written Products
    The Common Core does not dictate the vehicle with which students can show their writing skills. No matter what specific writing strand of the Common Core you are targeting (argumentative, narrative, or informative), consider having students create assessments and products that mirror work from the real world. Letters, blogs, podcast scripts, infographics, press releases, guides, and the like can provide not only voice and choice to students, but create engagement to do relevant and meaningful work. Pick appropriate authentic products that can align to specific standards so that students can write authentically.
  2. Authentic Reading of Primary Sources
    Create contexts for students to read primary and not secondary sources. Not only does the Common Core call for the ability to cite a variety of sources and read a variety of texts, but primary sources can help provide relevance in the classroom, as they are more authentic. Reading and scaffolding authentic texts can help create reading engagement in the classroom.
  3. Authentic Roles
    Students of all ages like to take on roles that real people do in real life. Now, I am not saying they are actually performing these roles (pretend can be good, too), but sometimes you can create a space to practice. Students can be architects and use math skills to create effective bridges, and they can be poets to tell the stories of homeless youth in the community.
  4. Authentic Collaboration
    The Common Core has a speaking and listening standard at every grade level that calls for "collaborative discussions." This is a great opportunity to have students tackle real-world challenges and problems in teams and build collaborative skills. We know collaboration is a valuable skill, and we can make this collaboration more authentic through real-world scenarios, challenges, and problems.

As you continue to support students in meeting the Common Core standards, consider authenticity as a model to create a space where relevance and rigor are at the forefront of your instruction and assessment. The Common Core is only the "what," and we educators must use our methods of "how" to support all students. Authenticity can be one of these "hows."

Andrew K. Miller is an educator and consultant. He is an ASCD Faculty member and a National Faculty member at the Buck Institute for Education. Connect with Miller on Twitter @betamiller.

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