MS teachers learn to teach writing along Common Core guidelines

LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - A long time program to help teachers improve their classroom skills is tweaking its curriculum this year to include an in depth focus on Common Core. The Live Oak Writing Project is putting on a four week work shop at the USM Gulf Coast Campus. Teachers who participated said Common Core is about teaching the students how to think rather than what to think.

The teachers said for far too long education has been about teaching students how to circle the correct answers on multiple choice question tests and not how to read and understand information then draw conclusions. As a result, they said many students are lacking in problem solving skills. Rebecca Ray teaches at Jeff Davis Elementary in Biloxi.

"We haven't really taught them how to think," said Ray. "They don't know how to analyze new material. It was really showing up because you could present the same information in a different way and they couldn't do it."

"It's a really hard skill to learn to think on your own and develop your own ideas, especially when for so many years they've trained to a, b, c, d, eliminate," said Cagney Weaver, a teacher at North Bay Elementary. "Things like that, which are great skills but in the broader world of college and career, you're not going to have an a, b, c or d. You're going to have to think things through and analyze them and justify your reason for selecting a strategy that you used."

During the workshop, elementary, middle and high school teachers will learn to teach writing according to Common Core standards.

"I think Common Core is incredibly important," said Meredith Billings, a teacher at West Elementary in Gulfport. "I think it teaches life skills. It teaches them things that are going to follow them throughout their lives. No, this is not the end all curriculum that is going to be a miracle worker, but it does teach them life skills they need to be successful in their careers."

Common Core mandates teaching writing in all subjects, not just English classes.

"We're trying to say that the teachers have to work with those in Social Studies, those in Science and try to find a way to incorporate writing in their classrooms," said Live Oaks Writing Project Director Catherine Tibbs. "It's not just being taught in that English or Language Arts classroom. They take it into the other areas, and they may take it a step further so they're all teachers of writing."

"Every career has some piece of writing," said Weaver. "Whether you're typing something on a computer, filling out a form, whatever it may be. You need to know how to use those literacy skills across all areas."

Teachers from the Gulfport, Biloxi, Harrison County and Picayune school districts are taking part in the workshop.

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