In this interview, you’ll hear from Anne Goldfeder, an 8th grade ELA teacher who has been teaching at J.H.S. 226 Virgil I. Grissom for twenty years. Anne talks to CommonLit’s Literacy Specialist, Rob Adams, about adopting CommonLit 360 and why students and teachers love the curriculum.
Rob Adams (Literacy Specialist, CommonLit): Tell me a little bit more about yourself and your role at Middle School 226.
Anne Goldfeder (8th grade ELA teacher, J.H.S. 226): My name is Anne Goldfeder and I have been at J.H.S. 226 for the last twenty years. I teach 8th grade and I have been teaching accelerated ELA classes for the last seventeen years. I am also a coach and a mentor for other teachers in the building, so I wear many hats.
Rob: You are someone we would consider an expert teacher. Could you describe what makes a great English lesson?
Anne: First of all, you have to have lessons that are high-interest for students. At the same time, the assignments need to be rigorous in order to advance students intellectually.
Rob: In what ways does the CommonLit 360 Curriculum help you achieve a class like the one you just described?
Anne: CommonLit, in my opinion, is high-interest for students. My students love reading CommonLit. We have two separate curriculum programs in our school for English. My students are always saying, “When can we go back to CommonLit?” They really enjoy the readings. The selections that CommonLit has are exceptionally strong. I think the reading assignments are also very rigorous at the same time.
Rob: Can you share more about a specific CommonLit 360 lesson or unit you taught that was successful?
Anne: I would go with the first unit for 8th grade: “Bad Behavior.” The readings were all gripping readings that the kids looked forward to every day. What made it so good is that CommonLit provides all the elements you need for support, such as vocabulary and slide decks. In addition, the themes of the readings are powerful and real which enhanced discussions. Everyone had something to say and share out on the topics.
Rob: Teachers obviously have many responsibilities to balance. They often ask us how easy or difficult it is to use a curriculum. What is your experience?
Anne: The CommonLit curriculum is extremely easy to use for teachers. The guidelines that the teachers are provided help with the lessons. The way that CommonLit formats the unit and the individual lessons — it is very easy to put your own spin on a lesson. I can’t say enough about it — it is just easy to do!
Rob: How does CommonLit’s curriculum help students prepare for state tests and rigorous high school work?
Anne: Overall, all three units that I have taught are rigorous, requiring students to follow a close reading protocol. The vocabulary words are also a huge asset which I reinforced throughout each unit. The end of reading comprehension tests are challenging for students as well, which also helps for testing. This does help them perform better on both the state tests and their Regents exams.
Rob: Do you hear similar things from other teachers in your school about CommonLit?
Anne: Students love to discuss their opinions on matters. My students, in particular, are working on developing their own ideas. The teachers in our school would back me up on this — the discussions are very rich because of what we are teaching through CommonLit.
Rob: What was it like for you when you found out you would be teaching a new curriculum?
Anne: Once I saw the first unit, I was totally sold. I always look for high-level interest and rigor in the reading materials. I want students to build and develop their own thinking so they can be independent thinkers.
Rob: What advice would you give a teacher if they were feeling hesitant?
Anne: I would tell the teachers to review the units and give it a chance.
Rob: Let’s shift to talk about the support you’ve received from CommonLit staff. How would you evaluate CommonLit’s trainings?
Anne: Teachers, including myself across grades 6, 7, and 8, were so excited when we were introduced to the program for the first time. We saw that it covers everything from the initial slide deck to the daily teaching to the Exit Tickets at the end to the final assessments to the writing pieces. CommonLit’s training has been supportive and ongoing. My colleagues and I have benefitted from ongoing training and feedback from the CommonLit staff. When they visit our school and observe the classes, the comments are supportive and extremely helpful. In addition when we have needed a quick check in by telephone, they are always available within a reasonable time.
Rob: What has it been like supporting novice teachers who are teaching CommonLit?
Anne: I think that [the curriculum] really helps new teachers, as well as veteran teachers. It provides structure. So all the new teacher has to do is inject their teaching style and personality. Having this solid structure for new teachers makes it so worthwhile.
Rob: How has CommonLit helped your team during this period of remote learning because of COVID-19? Is the curriculum compatible for distance learning?
Anne: Students are doing all of the readings online and all of the writing exercises. I love the fact that I can go online to a text they are working on and see the kids annotating in real time. Through this feature, I can really pick up on student understanding.
Getting Started with CommonLit 360
CommonLit’s 360 Curriculum Edition 1.0 is available now to all teachers with CommonLit teacher accounts. You can browse the 360 Curriculum here. To learn more, we encourage you to:
- Join a “Getting Started with CommonLit 360” Webinar: We will be running weekly “Getting Started with CommonLit 360” webinars, where our team will provide an overview of the curriculum and answer your questions through our Q&A. Register here to attend an upcoming webinar.
- Review the CommonLit 360 Curriculum Overview Guide with your team: A great place to start learning more with your team is this comprehensive guide to the curriculum. It answers all of the questions you might have and provides ways to get in touch with our team about a full school or district rollout.
For all inquiries related to CommonLit 360, please direct them to firstname.lastname@example.org.