Monday, December 24, 2012

Common Core and Text Selection

Everyone knows about the Common Core and text complexity by now. But the real question is "what do we do with it and how do we justify the texts we are choosing?"
I am lucky to work in a school with a principal who allows me to choose the texts I want to use in my language arts classes. But the question still remains, "what texts should I choose?"

I look at the Lexile scores of the texts that I choose but that is only one criteria. I can choose a text with a Lexile score in the range that Common Core says it should be for the grade level I am teaching, but if that text will hold no interest for the group of students I am teaching, I won't accomplish much in the way of learning. So I believe it is also important to consider the population being taught when choosing a piece of literature or nonfiction text. Yes, it is also important to choose a quality piece of work, one that has the components of what it is you wish to teach, but if the piece does not interest the students, you might get a few who actually follow along and learn something, but the majority will just turn you off.
Some might not agree, but I have found that middle school students need to be at least a little bit interested in what you are talking about if you want them to become active learners.

One theory about text selection is that texts should not be judged based on genre, difficulty, or intensity. This stems from the idea that each reader responds differently to text. A reader may form strong connections to a text that is traditionally classified as unchallenging or unsophisticated and weak connections with texts that are considered to be the greatest works of all time (Lewis, 1961). "In the end, what makes a text worthwhile is the reader's interpretation, not the genre or popular viewpoint." Philomena Marinaccio-Eckel

It is impossible to choose texts that will make all the students excited, therefore we need to make sure that we are allowing students to choose their own reading materials.
The value of self-selected books and TIME to read are what is important. Therefore, it is important to make sure that all classrooms have lots of texts available for students to check out and read. Since I teach 6th, 7th, and 8th grade Language Arts (reading and english) in two period blocks, I have the luxury of allowing my students TIME to choose books and read in my class. It is a running joke with my principal that when she comes in my room, sometimes the students are JUST reading!! She says this because when she was a teacher and her principal would come in the room and the students were reading quietly, the principal would leave because they were JUST reading, like that was not important. Luckily, my principal sees the importance of time to read!!!

So, is Common Core just reinventing the wheel? Is it just returning to the type of educational system that was in place 60+ years ago? Is it just reaffirming what we Language Arts teachers have known all along, that reading is the key to good education?

I hope that teachers everywhere are finally figuring out that we don't HAVE TO TEACH EVERYTHING! In our ever evolving world, we need to teach students "how to learn." Teach students where to find information and stop with all the memorization of useless facts. Spark curiosity, but don't give all the answers. (as if we even could!)
Is Common Core good? Well, I am definitely a fan since it is allowing me to actually teach with the intensity I have always desired.