The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are a reality in many classrooms. These standards call for a different way of teaching — and teachers have strong and varying opinions about it. While some believe the standards encourage students to think more deeply and fully about what they’re learning, other teachers see real challenges, such as the lack of quality CCSS-aligned resources supplied to them.

Jean Adams, a high school math teacher and TpT Teacher-Author says, “We are a state that’s transitioning to Common Core standards by creating our own set of Florida standards. Last year, I taught Algebra 2 Honors, and our students had no textbook for the course. To help teachers, I created a set of foldables(R) so students would have a written record of lessons, rules, and procedures to hopefully alleviate the stress of not having a resource.”

TpT to the rescue! TpT’s talented, tenacious Teacher-Authors are stepping up to create resources that not only support the standards but make make meaningful connections to them in new and creative ways. Who better to create deep, rich, relevant resources than the educators who live CCSS every day?

English Teachers Express Themselves

Expository, Non-Fiction Lessons on Modern Issues: Bundle #2 of Five Lesson PlansLaura Randazzo says, “Curriculum is changing dramatically this year on high school campuses, thanks to Common Core. In English, for instance, there’s a big push to add more informational text lessons as a complement to our standard literature units. My Expository, Non-Fiction Lessons on Modern Issues: Bundle #2 of Five Lesson Plans (grades 8-12) has everything a secondary English teacher needs to meet those new Informational Text standards in an easy print-and-teach format.”

OCBeachTeacher explains, “With the Common Core’s emphasis on research and argumentation, high school teachers must provide students with instruction for writing formal argument essays. Many students are new to the concepts that are required for this task, making it challenging for both them and their teachers. I’ve developed a month-long unit called Argument: Research & Essay Unit Using “Room for Debate” (grades 8-12) that makes teaching the argument essay much more manageable for everyone.

The unit simplifies the process with multiple activities for understanding argumentation, writing thesis statements, and reading and annotating sources. Furthermore, the teacher acts as a facilitator, guiding students through the writing process as they outline, draft, provide peer feedback, and then finally write their polished argument essays. I developed this unit after teaching English 101 at the local community college and now use it with juniors in high school. It definitely gets students prepared for college!”

Independent Reading: "Book of the Month" for High School (Grades 9-10 & 11-12)“English teachers dealing with the Common Core need routine,” says Secondary Sara. “My Independent Reading: “Book of the Month” for High School (Grades 9-10 & 11-12) resource can help. Teachers can also hit the recommended CCSS poetry exemplar texts in a fun, pre-made routine with my Poem of the Week: a Year of Poems with Audio and Video! (grades 7-10).”

“My poetry resources contain detailed notes on how they align to Common Core Standards. They’re also designed to provide scaffolding for struggling students,” explains Ms Fullers Teaching Adventures. “Here’s Common Core High School: Poetry Practice with Campion and Dickinson (grades 9-12).”

Common Core Question Stems and Annotated Standards for ELA Grades 11-12From Secondary Solutions: “While I’m no longer in the classroom, I attend and present at conferences and work very hard to keep my thumb on the pulse of education. I recently created SmartFlip Common Core Reference Guides, after I had trouble REALLY addressing the skills the Common Core threw our way. These spiral-bound SmartFlip Common Core Reference Guides contain color-coded annotated standards along with hundreds of question stems to address every single ELA standard. You’ll find ready-to-go question stems that can be integrated into any lesson, activity, or assessment, helping ELA teachers spend more time creating quality Common Core aligned lessons, rather than coming up with their own ideas about exactly how to address the standards. The more teachers rely on quality materials that are already created for them, the more time they can spend time doing what matters most: teaching!”

Here are Common Core Question Stems and Annotated Standards for ELA Grades 9-10 and Common Core Question Stems and Annotated Standards for ELA Grades 11-12.

TASK CARDS for Common Core Reading Standards - Grades 9-10“The Common Core Standards and benchmarks are very broad. Teachers have to really take the time to think about what skills students need to learn in order to fully demonstrate their understanding of each standard,” says An Educator’s Toolbox. “I have a resource that breaks down each English reading standard into little skills, with a task card for each. Teachers can easily pull a few task cards for any text and be confident they’re covering the ELA standards. Plus, each card has a graphic organizer to help students process the questions. Take a look: TASK CARDS for Common Core Reading Standards – Grades 9-10.

“All of my products have been aligned and labeled as to which Common Core Standards they meet,” says the English Teacher’s Pet. “I have an 8-word-a-week vocabulary packet that uses words taken from the ACT rolls and works students through definitions, context applications, and analogies of words, covering many of the ELA language and vocabulary Common Core Standards. Here it is: ACT Vocabulary Semester Unit Worksheets and Answer Key (grades 8-12).”

Prompt Pack Argumentative {Obesity} Sample Essay, Prompt, StimuliJulie Faulkner says, “I’ve seen several changes since I first started teaching secondary ELA 12 years ago, and now we live in the Common Core world. When I first started teaching (including when I taught at the college level), I used cohesive thematic unit plans with connected ideas — most focused on literature, followed by a paper. Then my state switched to focus on SPIs (State Performance Indicators), and the test that went along with memorizing those. Everything seemed fragmented and rote, but that’s what we had to do.  Now, a Common Core style of teaching suggests we move back to more cohesive units that produce logical thinking grounded in close reading and writing about texts of all sorts. I’ve been slowly adding in mini units here and there in my class to meet those needs; here are three of my product lines:

1. Hot Topics Informational Texts Close Reading Lessons (Example resource: Informational Text Close Reading Activity Hot Topics {Dangers of Energy Drinks}, grades 7-12)

2. Poetry Close Reading Lessons (Example resource: Thanksgiving Close Reading Lesson: “Entitlement or Gratitude” Theme Across Texts, grades 9-12)

3. Prompt Packs for various modes that require textual evidence (Example resource: Prompt Pack Argumentative {Obesity} Sample Essay, Prompt, Stimuli, grades 7-12)”

Poems About Poetry: Four Close Readings with Constructed Responses“The two biggest changes for me with the Common Core were incorporating more nonfiction and going deeper instead of wider,” says Brynn Allison. “I believe nonfiction should be present in the English classroom as well as science, history, math, and other subjects. Students are reading in all classes and should be reading nonfiction in all classes.”

Brynn explains that going deeper rather than wider means trying to cover less of the textbook and doing close readings of selected texts. She adds, “I find myself using less and less of my literature anthology, and instead choosing texts that I know will engage my students and are worth a closer look. For this reason, I use a lot of excerpts from longer texts and poetry. In a close reading, students look at individual words, phrases, and lines — and they must provide evidence from the text to support their responses. A perfect example of doing close readings and really digging deep would be my Poems About Poetry: Four Close Readings with Constructed Responses (grades 8-12).”

Social Studies Teachers Speak Up

“Addressing Common Core in the secondary classroom is a challenge,” says Michele Luck’s Social Studies, “but there are foundation-setting resources that can help teachers (and students) practice the skills they need to be successful at all levels. Analyzing primary sources is one of those foundational skills that can be utilized across curriculums. I’ve created many different primary source analysis activities, but my most popular is my United States Complete Primary Source Analysis Bundled Set Civil War- Modern Day resource (grades 6-12).”

Mr Educator – A Social Studies Professional says, “Because of the Common Core’s emphasis on thinking, writing, and analytical skills, I’m moving more towards a standards-based grading system. This is tough in a history class since so much is simply content knowledge. But now that we have the literacy standards, I’ve found these are easy to measure on a ‘pass/fail’ basis. I use daily ‘I Can’ statements that I’ve molded into a daily log format, and I’ve integrated the measurable goals of the Common Core with our current history standards. It’s working great, though it can get confusing for parents at times because of how it works into the overall grade. I’ve created a handful for different units; take a look. They’re editable, too!”

Spanish American War Document Analysis TimelineA few words from Students of History: “It’s easy for high school history teachers to have negative views of the Common Core, but there are actually real positives in the way it emphasizes historical thinking skills as opposed to just adding more facts for students to memorize every few years like some standards do.

The excitement of history lies in students interpreting and analyzing and forming their own opinions. The Common Core offers an opportunity to focus on the big topics and engage more with them. Instead of just creating timelines, students must ‘analyze a series of events and determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them.’ My Spanish American War Document Analysis Timeline (grades 6-12) resource offers a great way to do this.

Likewise, students are no longer just expected to describe what life was like during various time periods; they need to ‘compare the point of view of two or more authors’ and analyze various perspectives of an event to understand all sides. Evaluating Reconstruction Interactive Project (grades 5-12) has students evaluate the post Civil War era from six different perspectives to help them gain a meaningful understanding of what the period was really like.”

Science Teachers Weigh In

Learning Goal Tracker {EDITABLE}“I was on the Department and Administrative Councils at my University during a curriculum change,” recounts Mrs Brosseau’s Binder. “I saw first-hand how post-secondary institutions have to deal with inconsistencies in standards, so I understand the need for the Common Core Standards. We had to introduce new courses to make up for the differences in understandings, which was a huge undertaking.

My Learning Goal Tracker {EDITABLE} (grades 7-12) can ensure you hit those targets with all of your students. It’s really easy to turn standards into goals. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Use this tracker daily so students can see the value of every lesson.
  2. Write the goals from the student’s perspective. ‘I will be able to…’ is much more powerful than ‘You will learn to…’
  3. Have the students reflect on the goal at the end of the lesson. Have they accomplished the goal?  If not, what do they need to do to complete it?
  4. Let the students write the goals sometimes. After giving them the material or lesson, ask them, ‘What do you think the main objective was for today’s lesson? Did you accomplish that?’
  5. Print out the Learning Goal tracking page on colorful paper. This one is really important. It’s not useful if the students can’t find it in their binders.”

High School Science Reading: Zombie Ants and Fungal Parasites - Sub PlanFrom Science and Math With Mrs Lau: A lot of English teachers are now being expected to start using informational texts to supplement their traditional literature texts in order to assist students with Common Core reading and writing tasks. This is a big shift! Science teachers are also expected to start reading better informational texts apart from the textbook. To help with this (and to create some great sub plans for science or writing teachers), I have several lessons like High School Science Reading: Zombie Ants and Fungal Parasites – Sub Plan (grades 9-12). It’s an adaptation of a real scientific journal article and it asks students to analyze data and answer a lot of higher-thinking type questions.”

“Common Core threw many non-English high school teachers for a loop,” admits Science Stuff. “Now it’s necessary to cover the huge amount of subject matter and cover the Common Core Standards. To that end, I produced a bundle of materials that contains a set of Common Core science task cards, standards checklists, mini posters for display, and graphic organizers that can be used with any science informational text. Take a look at Common Core Bundle Grades 9 and 10 Science and Technical Subjects and Common Core Bundle Grades 11 and 12 Science and Technical Subjects.

Math Teachers Make Great Points

Math Board Game - Geometry - Volume - Sphere, Cylinder, Cone, PyramidA few thoughts and tips from Hilda Ratliff:

  1. Secondary math teachers who teach for understanding, not memorization, will transition easily to the Common Core Standards.
  2. We should require students to explain their reasoning when problem-solving.
  3. Be well-prepared before you begin teaching a unit. We must be aware that some topics have been moved from one course to another. For example, arithmetic and geometric sequences along with recursive and explicit definitions of functions are now found in Algebra I.
  4. Use various teaching methods. One way to keep students engaged as they’re reviewing is to play a game. I have high school board games with challenging questions that are great for practice or review. Two examples are my Math Board Game – Geometry – Volume – Sphere, Cylinder, Cone, Pyramid (grades 8-10) and High School Algebra Board Game – Linear and Quadratic Equations (grades 9-10).

Math 8.EE.7 Equations Exit Ticket/Mini Quiz Bundle Simple Moderate ChallengingPiece of Pi says, “I’ve incorporated more formative assessments into my math classroom — I’m giving three short mini-quizzes (exit tickets) each week. And I make sure to put the student learning targets from each ticket right into my grade book, so it tells more of a ‘story’ of specific concepts they’re mastering. In addition to implementing the Common Core Standards, our district has recently implemented co-teaching. So it’s more important than ever to differentiate among students of all needs in my 8th grade math classroom. The use of quick formative assessments has helped students to retain the concepts. With every unit test, I add in previous exit ticket problems so students see the connections and know they’ll use the skills in the future.”

Take a look at Math 8.NS.1 Exit Ticket/Mini Quiz Set – Rational Irrational Numbers (free) and Math 8.EE.7 Equations Exit Ticket/Mini Quiz Bundle Simple Moderate Challenging.

21st Century Math Projects frequently uses short quizzes with his students as well. “Just 2-4 questions are enough,” he says. “Keeping track of this is very important and can help you chart growth across specific Common Core Standards.

Scaffolded Math and Science takes a different approach with her Special Education students. “Common Core has made it more important to differentiate assessments in my Special Education Algebra 2 classroom. Because the standards are so rigorous, I like to provide various ways for students to show what they know. I give sorting activities and task card activities that cover the same material as quizzes, and I weigh many of our class activities the same as quizzes. By doing this, I’m allowing students who struggle with taking quizzes to succeed, too. My biggest challenge as a high school Special Ed Math teacher is overcoming the defeated feelings that have built in my students from years of failure, so it’s important for me to offer various ways for my all of them to find success.”


The educational world is constantly changing. And there will always be questions. But one thing remains clear to us: Educators are the experts. That’s why TpT Teacher-Authors are the right individuals to bring the most relevant resources to your classroom. Just like you continue to be there for your students, TpT’s Teacher-Authors will continue to be there for you. We’re all in this together.


(Feature image: Thanks to Loreen Leedy for the Apple Frames Clip Art and Amanda Pauley for the AP Print font.)