By Laura Barrett
S arah Marie Jette’s fourth-grade Arlington classroom looked like a poster for the Common Core State Standards.
During a reporter’s visit in late October,
Jette’s students were busily working on iPads in
the beautiful new Thompson Elementary School
building, examining 19th-century photographs of
children putting in long hours in the dangerous
Lowell textile mills.
Nine-year-old Audrey Loeb explained, “When I
first found out about this project I thought it was going
to be really hard. I never did a big project like this
before. But we just did it step by step, and it was easy.
“We have to find out information from a lot of
different places and sort it into something,” Audrey
continued. “We started out collecting photos on the
iPads of people working in the mills. We had to
notice what people were doing, what objects they
used and what activities were going on. We wrote
some sentences about what we saw.
“We also got written materials,” she added,
pulling up a scan of an article from 1842. “We have
to say if it was a firsthand or secondhand document,
what kind of document it is, what year it was, who
created it, whom it was written for and what it says.
We wrote down two facts about the documents. We
also watched a video that showed how the mills
worked and how people who worked there weren’t
Once they had collected all of their materials,
the students would use the Explain Everything
application to create a booklet that they could print
or share online.
Off to one side in Jette’s room sat a loom that
was bought with privately raised funds to supplement
the project. Students have taken turns on the loom to
get a feel for weaving.
Linda Hanson, co-coordinator of K- 5 literacy for
Arlington, said the Lowell mills project is an ideal
example of the Common Core in action.
“It’s been 20 years since the Massachusetts
frameworks were established, so this is a really big
reset,” said Hanson, who is also president of the
Arlington Education Association. The Common
Core State Standards — adopted by 45 states and the
District of Columbia — were incorporated into the
Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks in 2011. “We
Hanson said that the Common Core English
language arts standards call for all students to do the
kind of “higher-order thinking” that students who
take Advanced Placement courses are expected to do.