Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Appreciating Teachers: Shannon Papcun Utilizing LDC Tools and Seeing Results

May 06, 2014

One of Shannon Papcun’s 4th graders recently wrote a detailed, thoughtful essay responding to a book about Hurricane Katrina.

Pounding, terrified, whimpering, whooshing, banging, stunned, sandwiched, snatched, gushing, the girl typed, repeating words the author used to describe her experience during the storm. I think these nine words are very important because they make the book come to life. I also think she saw that in a way they bring more color into the book and because it was a very frantic time for the character, Berry and it sounded horrific!

The girl was not a top performer. Yet her writing—like that of her classmates—showed such sophistication and stamina that Papcun was convinced that teaching to the Common Core standards was beginning to make a difference in her classroom. “The kids’ ability to freely write is definitely greater,” says Papcun, who teaches at Victor Falls Elementary School in the Sumner School District, east of Tacoma, Wash. “Their interest in nonfiction is much higher because of knowing how to research.”

Papcun’s work to create Literacy Design Collaborative (LDC) modules for elementary students is also contributing to the successful implementation of the Common Core for teachers in her district and across her state. Papcun, her school’s 4th grade team leader, says LDC has helped her colleagues better understand what the Common Core standards are asking of students.

“Initially teachers thought, ‘Main idea? This is the same. Compare and contrast? This is the same,’” Papcun says. But now they understand that in addition to grasping the main idea of a passage, students also need to identify how it’s supported by vocabulary, she says. They need to be able to explain why subheadings are important and provide evidence.

Papcun, who became certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards shortly after earning her teaching license 10 years ago, first went to an LDC training session last year, where she was among a just handful of elementary teachers.

LDC, which has been more widely implemented in middle and high schools, is meant to help social studies and science teachers teach literacy skills related to the Common Core. LDC provides teachers with classroom-ready templates that they can customize with different texts, writing assignments, and assessments. Working over the Internet with a veteran elementary teacher and LDC coach from Pennsylvania, Papcun has now developed three LDC units. One is on Washington’s geographical regions. Another is a life science unit on animal adaptation.

In the new unit, “kids were learning about adaptation, but they were also learning about all the different types of texts you read in nonfiction,” Papcun explains in a video about her virtual training experience and the higher level of work she is seeing from her students.

She also created a third unit on Washington state government, relating it to the student government structure in her classroom. Using their laptops, the students wrote essays and presented examples of what is allowed and not allowed under the First Amendment.

“I thought, the kids got it,” she says. “Oh my gosh, this is working.” 

 
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