Last week I dinged that video for claiming that close reading is a teaching technique (it's an approach to reading). I was critical of the idea that close reading helps students “conquer complex text,” if that includes language complexity as measured by Lexiles. I didn’t like the idea of reading the book to the kids; I’m a fan of reading texts to kids (see recent NewYork Times article on this), but not the texts the kids are supposed to be reading. Finally, I didn’t like how rereading was being approached. Here is the rest of my thinking about this lesson. Hope it’s useful to you.
This example of leveling—adjusting the difficulty of text to suit the ability of the reader—comes courtesy of Newsela, an online reading program for students in grade three through high school that offers stories about current events “written to multiple levels of complexity.” Although Newsela went live less than 18 months ago, the notion of leveling students’ reading material goes back more than six decades. Today, technology is changing the nature of this long-established pedagogical practice. At the same time, proponents of the Common Core are raising new questions about the educational value of leveling, seconding the standards’ emphasis on having all students grapple with the same “complex texts.”
The University of Maryland, Baltimore County has an excellent resource for history teachers. The UMBC Assessment Resource Center for Historyoffers sample assessments based on readings from six eras in U.S. history. The assessments include multiple choice question and performance tasks based on close reading exercises. The performance task assessments include scoring rubrics, sample responses from students, and the documents that students need in order to complete the performance tasks. Click here (link opens PDF) for a sample performance task.
Words like "explicit," "implicit," and "inference" sound like a foreign language to most students, yet the Common Core expects students to "read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it." Students must be able to identify both explicit and implicit
Our education lists are compiled by Deborah Hofmann, senior editor of the New York Times best-seller lists. She created this one by looking at every adult nonfiction title that was reported each week to the New York Times best-seller lists though May 31, in both print and electronic formats.
As she explained in December, Ms. Hofmann classifies a book as “education” if it tries to “teach the reader, or tell us how we learn or why we learn — or, sometimes, why we do not.” This time, however, she narrowed the criteria slightly by removing any books that might more appropriately be classified first as “parenting” rather than “education.” So, for instance, Andrew Solomon’s “Far From the Tree,” No. 8 on that earlier list, does not appear here.
A text set is a group of texts that share a common theme. Text sets are frequently found in elementary school classrooms, and they can also be a great resource in the middle grades, across the content areas. In my own middle school classroom, I found that text sets encouraged students to explore different aspects of a topic using resources that differed in genre, format and complexity.
ReadWorks is based on the highest quality research on reading comprehension and can also help you meet Common Core and state standards. ReadWorks is free and meant to be shared, so please tell every educator you know to register today.
Stamina is crucial in becoming a strong reader. Students need to read longer texts, and students need longer texts read to them, so they can develop the stamina they need to become successful independent readers.
As a middle school reading teacher, I constantly find myself thinking, “If my students knew the meaning of more words, they would be better readers.” I am not alone in this sentiment. Many teachers ask themselves and one another, “How can we help our students learn more words, increase their reading volume and improve their comprehension?” There are only 24 hours in a day and students get one to two hours of ELA instruction at best.
Deb Gardner's insight:
How to help students work with and learn more Tier 2 vocab words.
Often, there is a reaction of “what about the fiction” from the English teachers because reading is considered an English classroom task. So, doesn’t this mean that English class will now be full of informational text? But, what is often missed is the paragraph and footnote of the ELA CCSS page 5 that states: “The percentages on the table reflect the sum of student reading, not just reading in ELA settings.” In a 66 page document, who can blame us for gravitating towards the charts to make sense of it all? Let’s face it; we, as a society, love a good visual…consider the Infographic’s meteoric rise to fame.
This year I revisited the infographic as a means for assessing nonfiction reading and research. Although some students are still finishing their projects, this year’s results far surpass last year’s because I changed my approach to marry the infographic to nonfiction reading (factual information) and data gathering through authentic research.
Deb Gardner's insight:
While infographics don't take the place of writing, they do offer students another way to collect, synthesize, evaluate and communicate their learnings in another way.
ReadWorks is a free service that I have been recommending for about a year now. It provides teachers with hundreds of lesson plans and more than two thousand reading non-fiction and fiction passages aligned to Common Core standards. Recently, ReadWorks expanded again. The latest expansion includes poems and question sets. The collection is organized by grade level. In the collection you will find poems by Frost, Dickinson, Stevenson, and other notable poets.
I'm writing a series of blogs titled "Get Common Core Ready" that are inspired by my next book Creatively Teach the Common Core Literacy Standards with Technology (to be published by Corwin in spring 2015). This first blog will focus on helping students to transfer their pen and paper annotation
My father, who had no more than an eighth grade education, wrote in a beautiful Palmer hand. His one-room schoolhouse education did not promise to take him far, but it did allow him to place words on paper in an elegant and readable manner. And, this skill had practical utility beyond its aesthetic beauty, since he worked for many years as a bookkeeper. But the public value of handwriting has diminished during the ensuing century. In fact, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) don’t even mention handwriting, cursive, or manuscript printing. Nevertheless, It is evident that the standards writers expect kids to learn some form of these—since the standards explicitly call for students to engage in written composition; and this would be hard to do if one had no way of getting words on paper.
ReadWorks is a free service that has cataloged hundreds of lesson plans and nearly two thousand reading non-fiction and fiction passages aligned to Common Core standards. Vocabulary lists and lessons are the latest addition to ReadWorks. Now when you select a passage and a lesson in ReadWorks you can find a list of key vocabulary words to go with the passage. Click on a word in one of the vocabulary lists to find its definition and a list of sample uses of the word. At the bottom of the vocabulary list you will find PDF of practice exercises to give to students.
What I’m saying is that in the past we taught strategies—overtaught strategies???—but we then asked students to apply them to relatively easy texts (texts at the students' instructional levels). Now, the new standards are asking us to ignore strategies while assigning harder texts.
Deb Gardner's insight:
Great article on the discussion of teaching reading strategies.
Bottom line: "I would encourage you to continue to teach comprehension strategies as a scaffold for dealing with challenging text. The point would be to make it possible for kids to make sense of truly challenging texts; the use of strategies could be enough to allow some kids to scaffold their own reading successfully--meaning they might be able to read frustration level texts as if they were written at their instructional level."
We both teach history in the Los Angeles metro area – Aaron in Compton USD, a large public system, and Jody in an independent day school. We often plan together. Although our methods may sometimes differ, we have the same goal for our eighth graders: We want our students to read, comprehend, and analyze text.
So the question is: how to make them responsible for the material? We aren’t going to have them answer the questions at the back of the book. (Are there questions in the back of our history books anymore?). So it begs the question: what do we do so that
(1) the students will read; and
(2) the students will understand and be responsible for what they read?
Our shared answer: We taught our students how to annotate as they read and study history.
We were excited to attend the session, “Reinvigorating Traditional Literature with Relevant Nonfiction to Meet the Common Core,” presented by Stacey O’Reilly and Angie Stooksbury at the 2013 NCTE. And of course we were eager to follow up on their excellent presentation by reading their new book, Common Core Reading Lessons: Pairing Literary and Nonfiction Texts to Promote Deeper Understanding (Routledge 2014). In their book, they offer student and teacher-friendly ideas and activities for combining informational text with Frankenstein, Romeo and Juliet, Animal Farm and other classic literary pieces. There’s a lot of good material to work with here!
The Daily Five establishes a very low standard for teaching by emphasizing activities over outcomes, and by not specifying quality or difficulty levels for student performances. Teachers can successfully fulfill the Daily Five specifications without necessarily reaching, or even addressing, the standards.
Perhaps, teachers could animate the Daily Five framework with goals and proficiency standards from the common core. I think any of the activities could be stretched or shaped to somehow address the core standards. And, yet, I wonder if it’s worth the extra time this represents. What does it add?
Fourth grade is a significant juncture for readers because the Common Core State Standards prescribes that 50% of reading material should be nonfiction. One of the critical skills on Common Core-aligned end of year assessments is compare and contrast. By the end of the fourth grade, students need experience in comparison for both fiction and nonfiction works. Practice in comparison not only improves a student’s close reading abilities, but also enables educators to gauge student comprehension and interpretation.
Although U.S. kids have made progress in decoding words, leading to a slight uptick in elementary-grade reading scores over the past two decades, they’re still shaky at the second part of reading—understanding what they sound out.
Over the past 60 years, reading comprehension has changed its emphasis from the mastery of skills and subskills that are learned by rote and automatized to a focus on learning strategies, which are adaptable, flexible, and, most important, in the control of the reader (Dole, Duffy, Roehler, & Pearson, 1991). One of the most efficient strategies for which there is an influx of research and practice is training students on text structure knowledge to facilitate their comprehension of the expository texts.
After decades of imposing rules and packaged lesson plans on teachers, of bashing teachers as the primary problem with education, of sucking the joy of learning out of the classroom, and of attempting to standardize teaching as if children were widgets in a factory, some of us see the CCSS as an opportunity to bring creativity, collaboration, and autonomy back to the teaching profession.
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