The Common Core and Thinking Strategies

The integration of thinking strategies within the Common Core Curriculum frameworks enables students to deeply understand and retain the important concepts of the Core. Below is an example of a lesson plan which selects one Common Core Objective and illustrates how the thinking strategies from FIE are infused within the lesson.

Model Lesson Plan for Integrating Cognitive Strategies
With a Common Core Curriculum Requirement

[From History/Social Studies Grade 6]
Common Core Standard RH.6-8.8, History/Social Studies:
Distinguish among fact, opinion, and reasoned judgment in a text Cognitive Instrument: Comparisons, from the “Instrumental Enrichment” Standard program

Lesson Objectives:
1.Students will acquire strategies for comparison of ideas and events
2. Students will apply comparison strategies to written works showing statements of fact, opinion, and reasoned judgment
3. Students will identify relevant similarities and differences among works of fact, opinion, and reasoned judgment

Materials: Written accounts of the Battle of Gettysburg in the form of:

2 letters written by Union and Confederate soldiers
2 officers’ statements of planned strategy and outcomes for the Battle
2 historians’ accounts of the Battle (e.g., Doris Stearns Goodwin)
Instrumental Enrichment Comparisons Instrument (Standard), pages 1 and 3—see samples at the end of the Lesson Plan.


1.Teacher distributes page 1 of Comparisons Instrument, explaining that the process involves identification of similarities and differences among pictures or words
2. Students discuss as a group the differences among the pairs of pictures on page 1(see sample at end of Lesson Plan); teacher mediates the discussion
3. Students discuss as a group the similarities among the pairs of pictures on page 1 Principle: a statement of difference needs to be as comprehensive as possible
Principle: a statement of similarity needs to be as specific as possible by using a series of descriptors or adjectives to narrow the categories.

Students work in pairs to identify similarities and differences between the pairs of words on page 3. Compare pages 1 and 3 for processes used.
Principle: Comparisons with words is more ambiguous than with pictures because of the variety of interpretations possible from the written words

Students share their conclusions, discuss agreements and disagreements, and may change their opinion based on what others may have said.
Principle: A successful comparer uses what she/he sees, knows, and can infer

Metacognitive Question for students: When you are describing to another person how she or he should effectively make comparisons, what would you tell them
to do first, second, and third in their minds before beginning the task?

Application or “Bridging”: What are some applications that we can think of, for applying comparison as a skill? (comparing two products at the time of purchase, choosing friends carefully, deciding on the better way to solve a math problem if there are 2 choices, comparing two possibilities for a part-time after-school job, helping the family make a decision on the better place to take next year’s vacation, etc.

Teacher: Now we are going to use our comparison skills to make distinctions between actual fact, opinion, and reasoned judgment, within
our ongoing study of the Civil War, particularly today with the Battle of Gettysburg. Let’s first develop definitions for “fact”, “opinion”, and “reasoned judgment”. ( Indicate that a “reasoned judgment” is based on (a) evidence gathered, (b) stated assumptions, (c) a stated assertion, and (d) using logic to argue for defending that viewpoint. Facts are established by good evidence with witnesses when possible. Opinions are personal views of an event, which might be affected by a personal bias or viewpoint which others may not share.)

Discussion question: what were the differences between the Northern and Southern plans for battle, as reported in the summary of what the 2 officer reports (Union and Confederate) tell us about what happened? (Make a list of students’ ideas on white board or screen)—“facts”

Discussion question: what were the differences between the two viewpoints as reported in the 2 sample letters written home by the Union versus the Confederate soldiers who were present at the battle? – “opinions” (Make a list on the white board or screen)

Discussion question: What were the differences between the two viewpoints as argued by the 2 historians writing about the battle (Northern and Southern)? (make a list on the white board or screen)—“reasoned judgments”

Teacher: What sources of evidence were used by the historians? How logical are their arguments? What assumptions are each making?

Meet in groups of 4 to make a list of the similarities and differences between the objectivity shown by the officers vs. the soldiers vs. the historians’ accounts. Choose a moderator for each group, who will report on the group’s decisions.

Instructions for Groups: Analyze how the three Northern accounts are similar and different from each other; how the three Southern accounts are similar and different from each other; how the two soldier accounts are similar and different, even though they represent different sides; how the two officer accounts are similar and different even though they represent different sides; how the two historian accounts are different and similar even though they are writing from different perspectives.

Groups report their ideas to the large group; large group discussion in reaction to the group reports.

Summation question: How did we use the strategies learned in the Comparison Activities in FIE to effectively compare these several views of the Battle?

Summation point: In the study of history, these three kinds of sources may complement each other and each provide some useful information in creating the full picture
of a past event, but only if we look critically at who made the statements and what their possible biases might have been. But we can never be 100% certain of the entire truth in history because we are dependent on individual human perceptions and biases both at the time of the event as well as at a later time long after the events.

Each student is asked to write a one-page account of their own personal view of what “really” occurred at the Battle—a Synthesis.
Assessment Criteria:
1.Level of active involvement in the discussions by each student
2.Degree to which the small groups reached their own reasoned conclusions in the time allowed
3.Depth of critical reasoning shown by the students in making judgments about the veracity of the different sources
4.Degree to which students made a clear “bridge” from the FIE Comparisons activities to the application to the subject-matter content of the Battle
5.Quality of the synthesis papers written by students in terms of: defensible viewpoint, logical argument, appropriate use of knowledge of the Battle, and accuracy of written expression (spelling, grammar, organization).
Cognitive Skills Developed: Analysis, Comparison, Identification of Similarities and Differences, Active Listening to others’ Viewpoints, Synthesis, and Revising an Opinion based on others’ statements and new evidence to consider.