“Think Cold” reads the title of Marilyn Singer’s poem about Humboldt Penguins, creatures who inhabit the hot, dry coastal deserts of Peru and Chile in her 2012 collection: A Strange Place To Call Home: The World’s Most Dangerous Habitats& The Animals That Call Them Home. Although, “newly published poetry collection” and “State Standards” seem to be phrases at odds, bright teachers and children show how creativity lives among the standards. Are you a parent or teacher worried that newly adopted public school learning standards will crush our children’s spirit as much as “No Child Left Behind” which should have been called, “Test the Children As Much As Possible”! Is there room for fun in the newly mandated Common Core State Standards? Veteran literacy coach and current classroom teacher, Kim Eiler of Killingly Public Schools would answer this question with a most enthusiastic, “Yes, of course there is fun in standards!” Kim’s language arts curriculum has been developed over the past fifteen and my co-teacher, Lynne Rudolph-Farrell, a veteran Certified Special Educator and I adapted Kim’s work to suit the needs of our students.
Through my membership with The Connecticut Reading Association, I was introduced to over a dozen new books that are aligned with the Common Core State Standards. Paperback books can usually be purchased for a few dollars per copy, in contrast to hard-cover picture books, which usually cost between $15.00 and $20.00 per copy. However, as a current member of The Connecticut Reading Association, I won a grant for $750.00 which will be used to cover the cost of the picture books. The CRA financially supports teacher-developed projects, as opposed to pre-packaged computer programs or publisher created materials. I further developed Kim’s curriculum, focusing on newly published picture books in order to meet the needs of my teenage students at Nathan Hale-Ray High in East Haddam, Connecticut. The photos, maps, charts and drawings found in picture books help to stimulate multiple intelligences, and can be used in regular English classes to support creative writing assignments and critical thinking in general. If you are not already a member of your state’s local affiliate of the International Reading Association, I strongly urge you to research the benefits of joining. You will become eligible for a mini-grant, and if the development of your project progresses, you would be encouraged to compete for a larger grant available through the IRA’s central office.
As all public schools move from state to national standards, referred to as “Common Core State Standards” most educators are applying these ideas to their current curriculum. The standards from the Common Core (which have been adopted by public schools in nearly all of the fifty states) such as "speak audibly, and express thoughts, feelings and ideas clearly" can be traced from K to 12th grade. Nobody could possibly argue against these being important life skills for students of all ability levels. An added benefit of obtaining the newly published picture books will be the teenager’s opportunity to share these beautiful books with the students in Mrs. Laurie Hall’s full-day Kindergarten class at East Haddam Elementary School. Seen here are Kylie Wrinn, Mikayla Alger, and Amanda Argazzi with the newly- acquired reading books. (Photo credit Kyle Del Pivo) For more information on Connecticut Teaching Grants, please visit www.ctreading.org, and if you live in another state or country, visit www.reading.org and join The International Reading Association today!