I love talking to teachers from other parts of the country. There’s so much brilliant, unpublicized stuff going on in classrooms all over the place. It may be popular to wring our hands about a failing system or unacceptable status quo, but there are pockets of staggering innovation and genuine excellence all over the country. When teachers get together to exchange great ideas, it really can be transcendent.

I spent last Thursday through Saturday at the Gates Foundation’s ECET2 (Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teachers & Teaching) Summit in Scottsdale, Arizona, as part of a delegation from the Center for Teaching Quality— the host of this blog. I’m still digesting the flood of information from the event, but here is one fantastic, ready-to-use classroom tool I discovered that I did not know about before the conference:

The Literary Design Collaborative (LDC)

Teachers from two districts in Kentucky (Fayette County & Kenton) blew me away in this breakout session innocuously titled “Tools for Implementing Common Core Standards and Improving Teaching.”

The LDC is piloting teacher-designed “modules” or highly structured templates in which classroom teachers can plug in content and push students toward comprehensive, rigorous writing tasks that fit like a glove with Common Core.

For example, LDC tasks look like (from LDC Guide for Teachers):

After researching ________ (informational tasks) on ___________ (content), write a _________ (report or substitute) that defines ___________ (term or concept) that explains ____________ (content). Support your discussion with a piece of research.

Add for optional increase in rigor: What ______________ (conclusions or implications) can you draw?

This seems simple, but it’s not. I’d bet a lot that many classroom teachers lack confidence in crafting units and fly by the seat of their pants, jumping from lesson to lesson, feeling their way through the darkness without a consistent long-range plan. (Can you tell I’ve been there before?) The LDC unit-planning tools, complete with models, rubrics, and pacing calendars (all flexible and adaptable) can essentially guide any teacher in crafting quality literacy-centered instruction.

The word

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