Tag Archives: CCSS

Rarely Assessed Standards

My UCLA Social Studies Methods professor Dr. Emma Hipolito is simply god’s gift to History teachers. I can honestly say that I probably would have quit teaching within my first two years if it weren’t for Emma’s nurturing and kindness. She gave me my first chance to present my work to academics. In short, she helped me find my strengths. Anyone who went through UCLA’s Center X teaching credential program can attest to how dedicated she is to the success of her students. Dr. Hipolito finished her dissertation Social Studies Teachers and The Common Core: A Study of Instructional Practices last year. It is a fantastic read and deserves a wider audience. My biggest takeaway is that Emma has quantified how the teaching of speaking and listening skills is severely neglected in most classrooms.


Hippolito (2015) found a majority of Social Studies teachers struggled to explain how they helped students develop speaking and listening skills. While these teachers regularly reported using small and whole-group discussions, their students were rarely assessed on their participation. Only 15% of teachers surveyed spoke confidently about their speaking & listening instruction.

This mixed methods study surveyed 217 California Social Studies teachers and conducted interviews with 20 High School teachers in order to assess how teachers are shifting their instructional practices in response to the CCSS standards. The survey data resulted in three key findings.

First, teachers – particularly those working in low-income schools − are concerned about the academic preparedness of students to engage in the Common Core. Nearly two-thirds of all teacher participants agreed or strongly agreed that students “are not academically prepared to engage in these types of activities.” However, a statistically significant 85% of the teachers in 101 low-SES schools agreed or strongly agreed with this statement, as compared with 48% of teachers in affluent communities.

A second finding was that high school social studies teachers are implementing some of the practices associated with the CCSS. These include the use of primary sources, the consideration of the origins and purpose of a source as an aspect of reading in history/social studies, and the use of critical thinking question to promote reasoning. However, teachers less frequently focused on critical reading practices that examined perspective, bias, and analysis of multiple sources on a similar topic. Relatedly, the development of speaking and listening skills is an area that is currently neglected in classrooms in California.

A third finding is that many social studies teachers in California report that neither they nor their colleagues are prepared to teach the CCSS. Only 30.8% of all survey respondents reported that they were “very” prepared to teach the Standards to students. Despite over 60% of teachers participating in four or more days of professional development, only 15% reported that the CCSS were “very” integrated into the practices of teachers in their departments.

Three other findings emerged from the interviews: (1) Teachers believe that a CCSS’s skill-based approach means less coverage and more in-depth work with fewer historical topics. (2) Interviewees at low-income schools had more tools and strategies to support literacy development than did teachers at high-SES schools. (3) Educators want more time to plan, more time to work in content-alike groupings, and more instructional resources provided for them in order to implement the CCSS.

I am interested in learning how schools and districts are re-shaping their professional development offerings in response to CCSS. I have yet to find any well-articulated courses on how to teach speaking and listening to adolescents. Have you found any gems I should be familiar with? If so, please add them in the comments section. Congratulations to Dr. Hipolito. I hope you influence a few thousand more Social Studies teachers.

Marie Antoinette Speech Assignment

I operate a flipped classroom where my content lectures are delivered online, this allows my World History students to spend class time readiMarie Antoinetteng Marie Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser. Four days per week, we have 30 minutes of sustained silent reading (SSR) where students maintain an unfamiliar word log, then one day per week, we have small group discussions where they practice using the words in their logs. To master Common Core speaking and listening standards, my students will need to give a three minute speech on (1) Marie Antoinette’s childhood, (2) her marriage to Louis XVI, (3) her role as a mother, (4) her performance as Queen of France, or (5) her overall historical legacy. Students will be divided into groups at random and assigned one of these general topics. Speeches will be given over the next month as we complete the book and study the French Revolution.

This post covers how students will brainstorm in small groups to choose a topic, a purpose, and create a roadmap for their speeches. The advice comes from a combination of our school’s Academic Decathlon coach, the awesome Ms. Kerry Sego and the inspiring work of Erik Palmer and his excellent book Well Spoken: Teaching Speaking To All Students.

Topic: This is the subject of your speech. In this case, it is about Marie Antoinette. Will it focus on her relationship with her father, mother, siblings, husband, children, her subjects, or other royals? Will the speech be about growing up a Habsburg, Marie Antoinette’s schooling, or the role of music in her life?

Purpose: This is the point your speech will be making. Was Marie Antoinette was a victim of her mother’s ambitions? Do you want to call attention to her philanthropic gifts? Should she be remembered as the greatest Queen of France? Or for never maturing beyond her selfish, teenage indulgences?

Provide a Road Map: Give your listeners an overview of your topic and purpose. Make sure your main points are clearly stated. Use transitions such as first, another example, next, and finally. Refer back to your main point so the examples seem connected to it. This is where you demonstrate that you can move beyond merely possessing knowledge to creating something meaningful that can inspire an authentic audience.

Introduction: Does it state your topic? Does it clearly state your purpose? Do you begin with an attention-grabber?

Body Paragraphs:  Do you have interesting examples? Quotes? Statistics? People? Does your speech progress from point to point clearly? How can you move evenly from one idea to another?

Conclusion: Does the ending of the speech summarize what you have said rather than merely restate or repeat it? Does the speech end with a strong or interesting point? What should the audience do with the information you have given them?

Tone: Your speech is not a formal expository essay. Spice it up with stories, imagery, humor, and background knowledge that your audience will appreciate. There are sensitive and fascinating insights in this book that offer a thoroughly nuanced picture of the queen. How do you want them presented?

After you have written your speech:

  1. Read it aloud, slowly, pausing for emphasis (remember your audience is listening, without being able to read what you have written), so you must present your information slowly.
  2. Time your speech. It must be between 2:30 – 3:00 minutes.
  3. Type it (if you can) double-spaced.
  4. Save it on your computer. This way you can make changes easily.



  1. Memorize your entire speech. This is a must.
  2. Present your speech, do not read it, or act it out. Use a senator’s voice.
  3. Look your audience in the eyes, glancing now and then to your written copy.
  4. Stand still. Do not play with your papers, sway back and forth, or twirl your hair.
  5. Revise your speech. Make necessary changes for an easier delivery.

CCSS Presentation Materials

Goal-setting approaches to student writing

I wrote a paper on the results that happened after implementing this program at two high schools. I give this presentation to inspire teachers to consider alternative grading methods and increase the number of writing assignments they require of their students. I have found that over the course of the year my students can double, if not triple the amount of words they put on a page in one class period. The next trick is to partner with an English teacher, who can help them take the quantity they are now proficient in and turn it into quality writing. I have found that this level of competition really motivates students. This work has borrowed heavily from Chip Brady and the excellent curriculum at The DBQ Project, who provided inspiring professional development and encouraged me along the way.

Peer review with tech

Many high quality studies influenced my decision to start evaluating student writing quantitatively, De La Paz, S. (2005), De La Paz, S., & Felton, M. (2010), Monte-Sano (2008, 2011) and (Monte-Sano & De La Paz, 2012). I strongly feel that History/Social Science departments should report descriptive statistics about their students’ writing in order to derive a common set of writing expectations by age and grade level. Further, recent advances in automated essay scoring may make it possible for students to receive feedback from a computer before approaching the teacher to partner in improving the writing together. See this Lightside Labs Revision Assistant video and feel free to expand on this annotated bibliography tracking the major players in the automated essay scoring market. K12 teachers should provide input to the companies developing these products and the lefty-Liberal in me hopes all of these products will eventually be open source, like the PaperRater product that my students recently used on a speech project.

Peer review without tech

Most of the work I reference here came from O’Toole (2013), Brookhart (2013), and Bardine and Fulton (2008). Learning by evaluation has long been used by English teachers, it is time for history teachers to embrace the practice. If the CCSS are truly able to get us off the breadth vs. depth Historical coverage treadmill, History/Social Studies teachers are going to need tools and strategies to assess the writing they assigned. Having students read each others writing gives them much needed context. Before I wrote my dissertation, I read dozens of others on the same subject. History teachers will need to learn how to use mentor texts and provide general feedback instead of making margin notations on every paper they receive. English teachers have used peer rubrics and criteria charts to help students with their writing. It is time for history teachers to start incorporating those tools into their classrooms.

CCSS Presentation Resources

Free Plagiarism Tools


Robo-Readers are Better than Human Readers


Flunk the Robo-Readers


Where Does Automated Essay Scoring Belong in K12 Education


Free Robo-Graders

Hemingway App


Revision Assistant


Paper Rater


Peer Review Tools

LDC Rubrics


Sample Online Rubric


Criteria Chart


Economic Systems Criteria Chart


Peer Review Discussion Guide


Economic Systems Argumentative Rubric


Providing Effective Feedback


Video Tutorials

Changing Weak Writing into Strong Writing