Common Core brings crew to BCS

Published 8:37 pm Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Lorraine Griffith (left) teaches Common Core Curriculum Maps tools to a group of Beaufort County Schools’ second- and third-grade teachers Wednesday. Today, film crews are recording Suzanne Brantley (right) teaching sample curriculum maps units to her class of third-graders at John Cotten Tayloe Elementary School for a nationally used training video. (WDN Photo/Vail Stewart Rumley)

If you walk into John Cotten Tayloe Elementary School today, you may just think you’re on the set of a Hollywood movie — lights, camera and action included. These lights and cameras are provided by the Common Core Curriculum Mapping Project. And the action taking place? It’s in the classroom. It’s teaching.

The film crew arrived in Washington with Lorraine Griffith, the educator who led area second- and third-grade teachers in consecutive three-hour seminars at the Beaufort County Ed Tech Center on Wednesday. Griffith is the lead writer of Common Core Curriculum Maps for English Language Arts, developed to go hand in hand with the Common Core State Standards adopted in North Carolina in 2010.

Griffith was part of the team that united educational state standards and practical teaching applications with the curriculum maps, by providing the actual tools to help teachers create the “content-rich curriculum” and the means to help their students thrive in the new learning environment.

She shared the ways to create curricula for the shifts in educational focus because of the new standards. For second-graders, the shift applies to reading fluency, encompassing more than  just the ability to decipher words — it involves comprehension, understanding the use of language and, to a lesser extent, speed. They’ll need that skill when they move to third grade and that grade’s shift to informational texts. Rather than reading a chapter about the U.S. Constitution, these students will be getting their information from the primary source — the actual U.S. Constitution.

Glenda Moore, Beaufort County Schools’ grades K-5 curriculum coordinator, and Ashley Padgett, grades 6-12 curriculum coordinator, explained that going directly to the source is one of the reasons why the study of language will be of greater focus.

“What’s beautiful about this is that they’ll have poetry, nonfiction, fiction, oral compositions, all revolving around a common theme,” said Padgett.

According to Moore, interaction between teachers and students will be more flexible, more open-ended and more conversational.

“We’re making our kids think,” said Moore.

Today, a few teachers at John Cotten Tayloe School will have the opportunity to implement the new teaching style in their classrooms. The footage taken will be part of a Common Core Curriculum Maps (ELA) training documentary that will be used by teachers in all 50 states.

Moore is credited with creating the opportunity to be a part of the documentary that will be instrumental to all public-school teachers in the country.  A two-year long email conversation with Griffith paved the way for the free seminar with Griffith and the film crew’s arrival.

“We are so fortunate to have (Griffith) here,” said Moore. “She’s the lead writer of the K-3 curriculum maps. You can’t get better than the person who wrote it.”

The “movie” being filmed in Beaufort County today won’t have a blockbuster opening weekend. According to Padgett and Moore, the payoffs will be much greater.