Common Core and Marzano Classroom Strategies, Part 4: Creating Scales and Constructing Lessons

Knowing how to develop a scale aligned with Common Core anchor standards will improve your ability to maintain rigorous instruction.

In Using Common Core Standards to Enhance Classroom Instruction and Assessment, Dr. Marzano documents strategies you can use to successfully implement Common Core State Standards. Last time, we talked about presenting and supporting quality claims. Today, we’ll discuss how the Marzano Teacher Evaluation Model can guide teachers through each of the Common Core anchor standards.

There are ten anchor standards in the Common Core State Standards English Language Arts, each of which can be found at every grade level. The least understood of the anchor standards is the tenth one: Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.

Common Core devotes an entire appendix – Common Core Appendix A—to define complex text at each grade level.

Ensuring that lessons are rigorous, and that they require students to use higher-order thinking skills, is very important. Systematic planning is key. These design questions from Domain 1 of the Marzano model can serve as a guide:

•  DQ1: Communicating Learning Goals and Feedback
•  DQ2: Helping Students Interact with New Knowledge
•  DQ3: Helping Students Practice and Deepen New Knowledge
•  DQ4: Helping Students Generate and Test Hypothesis

Begin with a scale for each standard
It all starts with the standard. The big ideas for each standard are used to formulate learning goals. For each learning goal, teachers develop a scale. The scale is key to ensuring students receive sufficiently rigorous and complex instruction. Use the following steps to construct a scale:

1. Begin your scale with a learning goal at the level you want students to achieve. Usually, that is going to be at the level of analysis on the Marzano Taxonomy. Analysis requires students to do one of the following:

a. Identify similarities and differences
b. Classify
c. Determine errors in reasoning
d. Generalize
e. Specify

2. At the level above your initial learning goal, construct a higher-level learning goal; for example, one that requires students to apply what they have learned in another context: decision making, problem solving, investigating, or experimenting. Students will be involved in authentic tasks requiring the use of higher-order thinking skills.

3. Next, at the level below your initial learning goal, articulate a less complex learning goal. This level of the scale requires students to perform tasks at the level of comprehension or retrieval. Comprehension requires students to know the main attributes of what they are learning or to use nonlinguistic representation to symbolize the main attributes. Retrieval simply requires students to recall, recognize, or execute the concept or process they are learning.

By creating scales with at least these three levels, you will ensure rigor, and aim to develop higher-order thinking in your students.

Constructing instructional lessons
As you construct your instructional lessons, be sure to include a Design Question 2 and 3 for each learning goal, and a Design Question 4 for each unit (a unit is a cluster of related learning goals). Design Question 2 correlates with the scale level that requires comprehension or retrieval. Design Question 3 correlates with the scale level requiring analysis. And Design Question 4 correlates with the scale level requiring utilization of knowledge.

You will also want to generate formative assessments for each level of the scale, so both you and your students can track student progress (Element 2, DQ 1).

By coordinating the instructional lessons and levels of the scale with the three highest levels of knowledge on the Marzano Taxonomy, you can ensure rigor, teach higher-order thinking skills, and fulfill the requirements of the tenth anchor question of Common Core!

To plan successfully for the new Common Core State Standards:

1. Develop scales with levels requiring your students to utilize, analyze, and comprehend or retrieve knowledge.
2. Understand the relationships between the three design questions under Lesson Segment, Addressing Content, and the learning goal/scale.
3. Consistently provide rigorous lessons for your students.

Techniques like these will be useful in successfully implementing Common Core. For a deeper dive into new Common Core State Standards, check out our regional Common Core conferences, coming soon to a location near you!

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