Activity Guide

Implementing Common Core State Standards: The Role of the School Counselor

Counselors have learned a hard truth: college eligible does not mean college ready. The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are designed to address the need to consistently and strategically prepare students for success in college and/or career after high school. Success of CCSS implementation will require the full knowledge and commitment of secondary school counselors as a part of a strong school leadership team.

Participants will use the Action Brief for School Counselors as a starting point to increase awareness of the standards, create a sense of urgency around their implementation, and provide counselors with an understanding of their critical role in this initiative.

This activity uses the World Café protocol—a flexible, easy-to-use process for fostering collaborative conversations. The central concept is that the café is a place to bring people together around questions that matter. This process is also one that participants might find useful when tasked with guiding productive conversations in their school communities.



  • Pens and markers of various colors
  • Butcher paper, newsprint
  • Sticky notes
  • Large index cards
  • Music, snacks (optional)

Activity I: Activity Preparation

  • Participants may include the leadership team, the guidance staff and/or the administrative team. Show participants the short video: Common Core State Standards: Foundations (5:32 min.). Ask them to take particular note of the counselor role articulated in the video.
  • Next, ask participants to do a skim and highlight reading of Implementing the Common Core State Standards: The Role of the School Counselor. Use a highlighter to identify information and ideas of special importance, and mark ideas as  (things that “squared” with me/made sense), or  (things that are still rolling around in my head/I want to think more about) or  (things from this reading that I will use as “leverage” to create positive change/ideas I want to implement ASAP). You may want to post these skimming/note-taking symbols on a board or slide, where participants can see them as they read.
  • When skimming and marking is complete, invite the participants to participate in a World Café conversation.

Activity II: World Café

  • Cover tables (round if possible) with butcher paper or newsprint to give each table a “tablecloth.” Each table should also have several pens and/or markers of various colors as well as sticky notes. Ideally, the more the room approximates the atmosphere of a café, the better, including background music, beverages, and anything else that adds to an ambience that encourages rich conversation.
  • Ask each participant to review their circle, square, and triangle notes to identify one or more issues or pieces of information from the reading and/or video that they would like to discuss with colleagues. The issue should be framed in form of a question, such as, “What does it look like when a school has a collegegoing culture?” or “How will CCSS change my day-to-day counselor responsibilities?” Ask participants to record each idea on a separate large index card and hand them to the facilitator (café host).
  • While participants take a short break, sort the submitted ideas, eliminating duplicates, and “assign” one idea to each table by placing the card in the center of the table.
  • Tell participants that after reviewing the menu of ideas to be discussed, they should select the idea they want to focus on for the first round of this conversation and take a seat at that table. They are not obligated to select the idea they submitted if another idea intrigues them more.
  • Take note that:
    • It is not a problem if an idea goes unselected. Simply remove that card for the time being.
    • If the number of participants at a table is too large to facilitate an effective conversation (more than 6), divide the group in two (or even three) and allow the idea to be discussed by two separate groups.
  • Round I. Set a time limit for the first round (at least 20 minutes). Invite the “guests” at each table to begin a conversation about the chosen idea. Encourage them to use the markers and sticky notes to doodle or use words, symbols, or pictures to capture ideas, plans, or strategies that emerge as their conversation progresses. They should record their ideas directly on the “tablecloth.” Guests may leave one conversation and join another if their curiosity about a topic is satisfied before time elapses, or if the conversation is not addressing their needs.
  • Round 2. Conduct at least one more round where guests select a second group to join. Ask that at least one person stays at his/her original table and act as a host by starting the conversation with the new group. Encourage guests to review the “doodles” of the previous table occupants and add ideas, symbols, pictures, questions, connections, or even objections as the conversation progresses.
  • Conduct as many rounds as seems feasible and as time permits. Monitor conversations and use your judgment on when to conclude the activity. The idea is to discuss as many issues as the group finds valuable, but not to belabor an idea. When the conversation is done, it’s done.
  • Allow time at the end of the final round for participants to conduct a gallery review and capture, if they like, into their own notes, any ideas, strategies, or next steps recorded on the “tablecloths.”
  • Debrief the café conversation in two stages.
    1. Ask for feedback about the process: Was this an effective way to process/strategize around the topic of Common Core State Standards and the counselor role in implementation? Is the World Café protocol one you might use with faculty members, parents, or students?
    2. Ask for feedback about the content: What more will you need to learn about CCSS and your role as counselor? How will you try to access that information? Can you identify at least one action you want to take right away in relation to CCSS implementation in your school? How will you share the content you have learned today?