Developing an Award-Winning Learning Resource: Teaching Common Core ELA Standards

What makes a Golden Lamp-winning product? The best of the best of the REVERE Awards winners, Golden Lamp products are chosen based on excellence in key areas like content & pedagogy (or approach), adaptability, engagement, creativity, usability, and overall experience. In a recent webinar the 2015 winners discussed the challenges and key steps in making a product that truly enhances effective teaching and learning. Below, Douglas Rife, Publisher at Solution Tree Press, talks about the 2015 Professional Resources Golden Lamp winner Teaching Common Core English Language Arts Standards: 20 Lesson Frameworks for Elementary Grades. Rife discusses how they made the book accessible to a variety of teachers, the competition faced by  for-profit publishers, and the challenges of tackling a complicated topic.

Watch here and continue reading more about Teaching Common Core ELA Standards.



Background and Process

Douglas Rife, Publisher: Teaching Common Core English Language Arts Standards is intended for elementary teachers. The twenty CCSS-based lesson frameworks guide teachers’ instruction of reading, writing, speaking and listening, and language skills, giving them a starting point for integrating standards into their curriculum.

[This book] grew out of a conversation with the authors, Patricia Cunningham and James Cunningham, at the International Reading Association [now the International Literacy Association] conference in 2013 about their observations of teachers’ frustrations with implementing the Common Core ELA standards. Teachers knew they had to incorporate the standards into their curriculum, but they weren’t sure how to begin or how to combine related standards into a single lesson plan. What we found was that teachers often had a lot of information about the CCSS, but they had considerably less practical guidance about how to integrate the standards into their classroom instruction. The Cunninghams said that teachers needed a recipe for successful integration of the CCSS, and that’s how this book began.

Teaching Common Core English Language Arts Standards presents twenty CCSS-based lesson frameworks that elementary teachers can use to teach critical reading, writing, speaking and listening, and language skills. Many being grounded in the gradual release of responsibility model, the tools encourage students to build mastery and confidence as they become independent readers and writers. Teachers can use the lesson frameworks exactly as they are, or they can adapt them to the needs of their classrooms and grade levels.

Sarah Payne-Mills, Copy Chief: The Cunninghams were a dream to work with! Before production even started they reached out to the Press for formatting and editing guidance to ensure the book’s content and message for readers were consistent. Throughout the editing process the authors were focused on making the text and lesson frameworks as practical, engaging, and hands-on as possible. During development, we collaborated to ensure each lesson framework furthered teachers’ instructional planning. This involved making headers and sections parallel, giving the lesson frameworks catchy names, and pulling helpful tips into the margins. It was clear from the start that the Cunninghams deeply cared about helping teachers and that carried on throughout the process.

Douglas Rife: One of the biggest challenges the authors faced when the book was still in the concept stage was deciding how to structure the lesson frameworks: Should they create lesson plans by grade? By skill? By standard? Which way of organizing the content would be most effective and useful for elementary teachers? Most of all, the authors shared a mutual desire with Solution Tree that this book be adaptable, regardless of the curriculum teachers had in place, the needs of the students they had in their classrooms, and the grades they were teaching. Ultimately, the Cunninghams decided that lesson frameworks based on three main goals—to improve students’ reading comprehension, to improve writing skills, and to improve independent reading and writing—gave the book the structure it needed to remain focused, yet very flexible.

Results and Next Steps

Douglas Rife: Teaching Common Core English Language Arts Standards: 20 Lesson Frameworks for Elementary Grades is a ready-to-use book. Teachers can read the book today and use the tools and lessons in their classrooms tomorrow. It’s unique among other books on the topic in that it combines a gradual release of responsibility model with integrated standards-based lesson plans that accommodate flexibility from classroom to classroom and grade level to grade level. It simplifies a complex topic without sacrificing content or fidelity to the Common Core English language arts standards.

Kelly Rockhill, Program Manager for Products Marketing: We are continuing to explore creative ways to get this quality book in educators’ hands. New marketing strategies we’re exploring involve author interview podcasts, increased presence in the blogging community, and more effective use of the authors’ own platforms to promote their book. Authors are the most credible and enthusiastic promoters of their work, and we are striving to build more of a connection between our marketing reach and the reach of our authors.

The necessary characteristics of a high quality learning product:

Douglas Rife: A high-quality learning product must blend research with practice in such a way that readers are able to implement proven strategies with ease. These resources must also be boldly innovative and willing to tackle the tough questions educators face today.

In addition to the authors (Patricia and James Cunningham) and Solution Tree staff quoted above (Douglas Rife, Sarah Payne-Mills, and Kelly Rockhill), recognition for their contributions to Teaching Common Core English Language Arts Standards goes out to:

Lesley Bolton, Editorial Director
Caroline Weiss, Managing Editor
Rachel Rosolina, Senior Production Editor (copy editor for this book)
Laura Kagemann, Designer

Learn more about the REVERE Awards. The 2016 competitions are now open for entry.

Educational Standards