CORE Facilitator

A summary of my position as CORE Facilitator.

Overlooking my new community, with Mt. Emily in the background.

This past summer, my family made the move from Wyoming to Oregon.  I am now working at Eastern Oregon University, a small state college that primarily serves a rural population.  I am one of two instructors in our CORE program.  This program is designed to serve first year students using a developmental framework.  Students are enrolled in these courses based on placement test scores.  Many of my students are first generation and/or non-traditional.

CORE is part of the university’s Integrated Studies Program and counts towards General Education requirements.  The first course that students take, CORE 101, is paired with a writing course (WR 115).  With no more than 20 students per cohort, they attend the same CORE and writing sections back to back.  I have two cohorts this fall with a different English/Writing faculty partner for each.  This structure is intended to help develop community in the cohorts and to take advantage of some of the benefits seen in small learning communities.

CORE 101 is basically a college survival course, while WR 115 is a basic intro to college writing.  In CORE, we focus on improving students’ literacy, critical thinking, metacognition, reflection, and study skills.  The seminar introduces students to university resources and the culture and traditions of higher education.  We also strive to help students become integrated into the wider EOU community.

CORE 102 is an inquiry course where the primary focus is career and academic major exploration.  It includes personal assessment of student values, interests, and abilities.  Students also develop skills in financial literacy and health/wellness awareness.

It is now finals week, and I am wrapping up my first classes of CORE 101.  I have learned a great deal and I am retooling 101 for next term and working on my syllabus for CORE 102.  I have always enjoyed working with students on study skills and metacognitive processes.  I regularly integrated college prep skills in my high school courses and it’s interesting being just on the other side of that.  I have always enjoyed working with people in situations that involve change and transformation, and this is certainly one of those.

While I am not directly teaching history or social studies, this background in critical and analytic thinking is very beneficial.  I plan to remain active and involved in the social studies community while connecting with professionals in first year experience and university developmental programs.

I really love the small town and small school atmosphere of this university.  Our largest lecture class on campus is about 100 students and none of my own classes are over 20.  The university highly values the benefits that come with small class sizes and greater faculty/student interaction.  My husband and I have really enjoyed teaching here so far.  It’s a great community to be a part of.

Do you have any questions about this new position or the program?  Do you work with students on study skills at any level?  Are you involved in a first year experience program? Do you have any other questions?  I’d love to hear from you.


SBG: Historical Analysis Through Critical Reading

Transcript of Lady Bird Johnson’s audio diary from 11/22/63 (JFK's assassination), Page 1

I’d like to present my next step in the Standards Based Grading journey.  I find myself asking other people about the process they used to develop their standards for their classes, so here is my own process thus far.

In order to create standards for the reading component of my 10th Grade U.S. History course, I have looked over several sets of standards, pulled out the elements related to reading, looked for commonalities, considered my own professional knowledge of the subject, and then selected and set up what I would like my own reading standards to be for my course.  In the interest of sourcing, here is a list of the main standards I consulted in developing my own list:

If you’re familiar with the Strengths Finder from Gallup, I am definitely an Input person. (Yes, this is another multiple intelligence/personality/preference/etc. deal. My employer asked my team to take the strength evaluation this past year.  It made for some interesting discussions and better understandings about how to leverage our individual talents on a team.  But that’s a whole other discussion!)  Some people think I’m a bit crazy when I look at so many different resources, but this helps me to internalize what’s out there and synthesize all that information into something I find useful.  After looking over the primary skills I wanted to use, I developed two categories: primary and secondary sources.  While these categories are very similar, there are some differences that are important for students to grasp.  It also allows students to prevent putting the skills into one little box and thinking they can only be used for one type of document.  I am hoping this will help students translate these ideas into other content areas.  The skills are as follows:

Skills for Historical Analysis Through Critical Reading

Primary Sources

1. Determine and summarize the central/main ideas of the primary source.

2. Analyze the source

SOAPStone Analysis Method

3. Create generalizations and inferences about the primary source and/or about the historical event based on implicit and explicit information.

-Accuracy, relevance & bias

-Determine credibility

4. Cite evidence from the primary source and your own historical knowledge to support your generalizations and inferences.

5. Compare and contrast this primary source with other points of view.

Secondary Sources

1. Determine and summarize the central/main ideas of the secondary source.

2. Analyze the source

SOAPStone Analysis Method

-Historical Fact vs. Historical Interpretation

-Reliability of sources & evidence used to support the author’s claims

3. Create generalizations and inferences about the secondary source and/or about the historical event based on implicit and explicit information.

-Accuracy, relevance & bias

-Determine credibility

4. Cite evidence from the secondary source and your own historical knowledge to support your generalizations and inferences.

5. Compare and contrast this secondary source with other points of view.

This is the basic list I can use to create more specific resources (such as detailed descriptors and rubrics).  I would greatly appreciate any comments and feedback you have on these standards/skills.  Thank you!

Book In An Hour: A Classroom Strategy

This past winter I had the opportunity to attend a workshop with Organization of American Historians distinguished lecturer, Dr. Lendol Calder.   This is the first place where I came across the strategy called Book In An Hour.  Since then I’ve tried to find additional internet resources on this strategy, but they appear to be few and far between.  I know other people would find it useful, so I decided to write up the strategy and post it here on the blog.  If you know of additional resources or ways to adapt this strategy, I would enjoy hearing from you.

What: The Book In An Hour strategy is a jigsaw activity for chapter books.  While the strategy can take more than an hour depending on the reading and presentation method you choose.

Why: While many teachers view this activity as a time saver, I view it as a way to expose students to more literary and historical materials than I might have been able to do otherwise.  There are many books that I would love my students to read, but I know that being able to do so is not always my reality.  This strategy gives me an avenue to expose them to additional literature and other important historical works without taking much time away from the other aspects of my courses.  It also provides opportunities for differentiation.  This strategy can be adapted to introduce a book that students will be reading in-depth.  Instead of jigsawing all of the chapters, use the same strategy with only a few selected chapters to create interest and engagement.


  1. Decide if you are going to divide students up into groups or jigsaw with individual students.  If you are using groups, I recommend making them heterogeneous or creating them in a way that subtly facilitates differentiation.  I also encourage you to give each student in the group a role (facilitator, recorder, reader, questioner, creative designer, whatever fits the needs of your adaptation of the strategy).
  2. Divide the book into sections.  You can either break it down so each group/individual has approximately the same reading load (these sections can be randomly assigned) or differentiate and assign sections based on reading skills. Be sure each student has their assignment written down somewhere.  You could write the chapter assignments for each group on large note cards or bookmarks, hand out a direction sheet that includes the assignments, have students write them down, etc .
  3. Hand out the reading sections to groups/individuals.  Some teachers choose to take apart the actual books, rebinding them so students only have the section they are assigned.
  4. Students then read their assigned sections.  If you are using groups, it seems to be better to allow them to read their section together in class.  There are several methods you can implement as students read to improve comprehension and to help them prepare to present their information to the rest of the class.  If they are in a group, they may read together and complete the set of tasks you give them while doing so.  They may also read individually, with set times to stop and complete the group tasks before reading more.  The tasks that you can have students complete as they read include asking questions (since they only have part of the story…this is also a great opportunity to work with students on asking higher level questions), identifying plot, setting, characters, chronology of events, significant events, cause/effect, compare/contrast, documented evidence (in historical scholarship and other research readings), items related to a theme or focus question, presentation ideas, and anything else that fits your purpose.  Students can record their findings on a teacher-created template, notebook paper, index cards, or anything that works for you.  Lendol suggested using big paper, 12″ x 18″ or larger.  The paper is placed in landscape position and the left side is folded in about ¼ of the of length of the paper.  Below is a diagram of how he set it up for his students.  Note: In the questions section, students can be directed to use a number of responses or prompts such as “I wonder if…”, make predictions, ask about missing prior events/knowledge, ask leveled questions (using a structure such as Bloom’s Taxonomy), etc.

    The paper is folded to create the sections, and the front becomes a flap that folds over.
    The paper is folded to create the sections, and the front becomes a flap that folds over.
  5. Have students create their presentation.  You can give them a specific format, or leave the choice up to them.  Options include (but certainly are not limited to): skits, posters, cartoons/comics, movies, Keynote or PowerPoint presentations (please not just slides to be read…students should present!), song playlist or soundtrack that highlights themes, events, characters, etc.  You can incorporate technology and have students create a webpage, wiki, blog, Glog, Wordle, podcast, and more.  The sky is the limit for ways the information can be brought together.  Do whatever best fits your class and your purpose.
  6. Have students present their information, using your selected method, to the other students in the class.  Be sure that there is a way for students to interact and get answers to their question.  They need to see the whole picture when everything is done.
  7. It is a good idea to have a whole class conversation on the themes or focus question for the book.  Direct the conversation to meet your needs and discuss how the book fits in to your overall unit plan.  It is good to be sure students understand why this book was important enough to study.  You can also have charts to be filled out as a class (poster style or on the white/chalkboard) that include topics such as historical events, themes, characters, plot, setting, timeline, cause/effect, compare/contrast, etc.
  8. You can let the final discussion or presentations be your method of assessment for the book, or you can have students complete a synthesis activity using numerous writing styles and prompts or other methods you find useful.

I suggest obtaining student feedback on Book In An Hour, especially the first few times you use it, so you may better tweak it to the learning needs of your students.  This is an interesting strategy that has the potential to motivate students to read the entire book on their own.  Again, if you have ideas for other adaptations, questions or other feedback, please feel free to comment.  I’d love to hear how this works in your classroom.

Resources Consulted: