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LDC: Potentially Useful Tool for Common Core Unit Design

Published on Wed, 08/29/2012

satellite dishes in the desert

Formed in 2009, the Literacy Design Collaborative (LDC) recently released a thorough, well-researched process for developing middle and high school units that fully address Common Core English Language Arts (ELA) standards at a very specific level.

Only one of 13 sample modules (on the Cold War) stands out for its exemplary discussion of primary sources. It is well worth a look. (Even this module needs better citations for its sources.) Another strong module on the Gettysburg Address focuses on that text alone, and models highly useful analytical tools. Unfortunately, some of the other history modules are weak (especially one on 19th Century ideologies), relying far too heavily on textbooks and canned websites.

All the modules include a sometimes overwhelming, though possibly quite useful level of detail. Usefulness will depend largely on the extent to which a school/district allows some flexibility with its own lesson and unit templates (or employs a structure compatible with LDC).

Each module includes a rubric for the culminating student assignment. Rubrics give a four-point scale for each of seven "scoring elements":

  • • focus • controlling idea • reading/research • development • organization • conventions • content understanding.

The rubric from the Cold War module reflects great care and detail.


To support development of your own tasks, LDC provides what it calls "fill-in-the-blank 'shells'." They offer three distinct templates, for reading and writing:


  • • argumentation • information and explanatory • narrative

The initiative just began to release its materials in Summer 2012. One hopes future modules will more effectively model historical thinking. Also useful would be samples of student work for each module.

LDC backs up all this with an excellent and accessible collection of research, presentations, and articles in several formats. LDC's website is simple, clear, and easy to navigate.

ASCD's EduCore site offers additional explanatory materials on the LDC process in print, prezi, and video.

The LDC is a "loose collaboration" of several organizations. LDC's work has been funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


Rich Cairn

Civics and Social Studies Curriculum and Instruction Specialist, Collaborative for Educational Services
Rich Cairn founded Emerging America in 2006, which features the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources program at the Collaborative for Educational Services, and the National Endowment for the Humanities Landmarks of American History program, "Forge of Innovation: The Springfield Armory and the Genesis of American Industry." The Accessing Inquiry clearinghouse, supported by the Library of Congress TPS program promotes full inclusion of students with disabilities and English Learners in civics and social studies education.