Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Two Literate Responses to the Common Core ELA

brain pickings
Fiction - Creative Nonfiction - Literary Nonfiction - Informational Text.  I am talking here about print text, not about genre or content or paper v. digital publication.  In a k12 environment of interactive digital text, audio text, visual texts and audio-visual texts, in a k12 environment of the supremacy of engagement, in a k12 environment where "fun lessons" are more sought after than challenging or deep-understanding lessons, in a k12 environment increasingly integrated with mobile digital tools, in a k12 environment increasingly pressured (despite the previous list) to approach text with analysis and rigor, what is a teacher to do?

I find confusion everywhere.  It is a fact that hard texts are not as much fun as easy or just right texts.  Should this change the curricular content of the ELA classroom?  On the one hand, it seems a student-centered thing to do.  On the other hand, the Common Core lays out a rigorous reading platform that does not seem much in step with lit circles and choice reading - much less with differentiation.

ELA teachers who wrestle with this at any level would do well take a deep breath and think about reading.  Do the prevalence of internet and digital texts mean that the nature of how we read must change?  There is a lot of talk about this, but not, I believe, much new pedagogy beyond that centering on the reading of informational text.  A lot of talk, a lot of commentary, most of which revolves around engagement, social media and attention span, but not much new pedagogy.

How we read text is not changing and will not change.  The options for non-text and extended-text reading are growing and changing.  That is a good thing.  But it does not mean that plain old reading of text - or the publication of just plain text - needs to change.

I think all ELA teachers should read the two articles below.  Both make the case for reading as a powerful and personal sense-making, creation-making...what?  Exercise. Mechanism. Tool.  Pleasure.  No matter.  What matters is that k12 kids become adult readers of text.  That is a goal of the Common Core, after all.

  • How We Will Read: Maria Popova - only one post in a series of interviews called How We Will Read (you can quickly access all of the posts here). Steven Johnson asks the same questions of each interviewee.  I suggest you read this post deeply then browse through others, following one question across several responders.
  • How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read - brain pickings - this is a literate review by Maria Popova of a book by Pierre Bayard.  

Read these articles for insights into how reading is done, encouraged, offered and approached in your classroom. Creating pleasure for a k12 child is often not about bells and whistles, but about attitude.

A dividend for the teacher who undertakes my exercise is this: it is an exercise in comparing texts and following threads.  Something we better know how to do because we expect our students to do the same.

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