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What Common Core Will Mean For Science, Social Studies And Other Classes

John O'Connor
StateImpact Florida

This story is part of a series from The Hechinger Report and StateImpact Florida looking at how Florida schools are getting ready for Common Core standards. Read — and listen to — the first two stories here and here.

It makes sense that Florida's new K-12 math and language arts standards based on Common Core will mean changes for those classes.

But science, social studies – even gym classes – will also change when every grade starts using the standards this fall.

At Tampa’s Monroe Middle School, near MacDill Air Force base, science coach Janet Steuart said the standards are bringing changes to her classes too.

Monroe Middle School science teacher Andrea Groves works with a student. Many science classes will add more reading and writing assignments as Florida finishes the switch to new K-12 math and language arts standards this fall.

“There will be more emphasis on how you write in science,” Steuart said. “How you write with clarity. How you take a position; you defend it; you use evidence, pictures, text – whatever you have to defend it.”

Common Core outlines what students should know in math and English classes at the end of each grade. The emphasis on writing is the third, embedded set of standards within Common Core – literacy.

Common Core calls for students to read and write more outside of language arts classes. And they should pull evidence from their assignments to support their work.

That might mean more non-fiction books or reading historical or technical documents in addition to close readings of classic novels or poetry.

Steuart says there’s this writing assignment as an example.

“Defend the classification of the platypus as being a mammal,” she said. “What characteristics does it have that maybe it shouldn’t be? It lays eggs. So is there enough evidence that it should be a mammal or is there enough evidence that, no, we’ve got to revise that?”

For some districts the new emphasis on reading and writing will be a shock.  A Common Core recommended reading list includes science texts about earthworms, the moon landing and Euclid’s treatise that is the basis of geometry.

But Hillsborough County schools have been adding reading and writing assignments to courses the past few years.

Seventh grade Civics teacher Tony Corbett says not much will change when Monroe Middle completes the switch to the new standards next school year.

“It just gives us 10 things to focus on that we’ve already been focusing on,” Corbett said. “They’re already supposed to be able to summarize. They’re already supposed to have vocabulary. They’re already supposed to do main idea. They’re already supposed to do primary documents. And that’s pretty much what the focus of Common Core is.”

Common Core will even mean changes for physical education classes. Teachers might need to work in math and writing assignments.

Some districts post vocabulary lists in the gym – or create math games.

It’s something Monroe Middle PE teacher Shane Knipple said he already does.

“We always try to integrate different subject areas as much as we can,” Knipple said. “A lot of science, and definitely a lot of math with scoring, counting and things of that nature.

Students running a mile outside on the track were calculating whether they were still on pace to finish in eight minutes.

Knipple said the changes Common Core will bring to PE classes are just good teaching.

“A lot of times in education they put things under different names when it’s something you’ve been doing all along,” he said. “True P.E. teachers that do what they’re supposed to do, I think we’re probably doing most of what we need to do already.

Monroe Middle gym teachers said they’ve been told more changes will happen over the next few years. But like teachers in other subjects, they’re confident they will be ready.

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