I have nothing but great things to say about the English/language arts Common Core! I don’t think it is some left wing Communist plot to take over our children’s minds. Far from it. Instead, the Common Core may be the antidote we need to innoculate a nation of mindless people willing to accept others’ opinions as their own. I think the Common Core may help individuals in our society learn to think for themselves, expect politicians to support their assertions with credible facts, and require media to stick to the facts without filling our heads with their owners’ agendas. If successful, the Common Core just might stave off “idiocracy” a little while longer.
I do think the ELA Common Core is one of the best frameworks I have seen for ELA in my 21 years as a teacher. I applaud the insistence that students apply concepts learned instead of parroting back low level definitions and facts, grapple with concepts instead of than memorizing key events in a novel to get a good grade, and analyze what they read for the purpose of uncovering author’s personal biases.
These are the types of skills necessary for success in our world, skills I have seen diminish during my tenure. It is because these skills have declined over the years that I worry about our country’s future. These are the skills that allow a person to accurately analyze issues and identify personal agendas, to separate fact from elegantly phrased rhetoric. The Common Core expects something from our kids that I want for them – to think for themselves and support their opinions with sound evidence. I further hope my students will then be able to write and speak intelligently about the views they have.
Here is a breakdown of the Common Core reading standards from my perspective. I hope you will see how these standard give students the tools necessary to think for themselves:
The reading standards for the ELA Common Core are divided into two categories: Reading Literary Texts (RL) and Reading Informational Texts (RI). Each category is divided into standards that contain specific skills students need to understand what they read: 10 reading standards for literature and the same 10 reading standards for informational reading. They were, from what I can see, designed to create a literate person who can analyze what they read and then write and speak intelligently about what they read. Let me show you what I mean.
The reading standards are particularly well put together as they focus on different skills a student needs to understand a piece of writing both as a reader and as a writer. If a student can effectively apply these skills to a text, they will be an expert on it!
The first three reading standards focus on key ideas and details of the text:
The first standard in RL and RI teaches students how to cite information from their reading to support their opinions and answer questions about the reading. People who can do this understand what the text was about.
The second standard in RL and RI teaches students how to figure out the theme or central ideas of a text and write an objective summary about the text. This skill is vital to understanding a text.
The third standard in RL and RI teaches students how the key people, places, things, and ideas in a text interact. In short, this skills helps students understand the causes and effects in a text.
The next three reading standards focus on craft and structure of the text:
The fourth standard in RL and RI asks students to look at the author’s choice of words and how it affects the tone of the piece. This is a key skill in today’s world. If people can’t figure out why an author or speaker chooses a word, they can very easily be duped into believing what the author is saying by how well they say it.
The fifth standard in RL and RI asks students to look at the way a text is organized. Knowing how a text is organized better helps a reader understand it.
The sixth standard in RL and RI asks students to figure out the author’s point of view in different ways throughout the grade levels. This is very important because it is important to know why an author is writing something and how his or her point-of-view might influence the opinions voiced in the writing.
The next three reading standards focus on how the author weaves his or her knowledge and ideas into a text:
The seventh standard focuses on comparing and contrasting written text with other types of communication such as speeches or multimedia versions. This is a valuable skill in today’s world where so much of what a student learns is through movies, speeches, videos, and television.
The eighth standard does not exist in literary reading because it is focused on analyzing arguments. It expects students to figure out the author’s viewpoint, analyze the support the author uses, and decide if the support used is relevant and sufficient. This will help students decide if an argument is valid.
The ninth standard focuses on comparing and contrasting two written texts. In literature, the student compares historical fiction to non-fiction in order to figure out what the author included or left out. In today’s world where so many students think every movie is fact, this will help them figure out that media can and does manipulate.
For informational texts, students analyze two pieces written about the same topic and analyze how they present information similarly or differently. If most Americans were able to analyze viewpoints in this way, there is a very good chance that FOX news and MSNBC would be out of business!
The final standard expects students to be able to read texts and their current grade level:
The tenth standard simply wants students to be able to read texts at their current grade level. I have seen a decline of student reading levels over my 21 years of teaching, so it makes sense that we should try to get our kids to be able to read and understand challenging text.
Clearly the creators of this framework paid close attention to experts in the field of writing instruction as the Common Core mirrors the best practice strategies I have been taught and tried to incorporate in my own classroom. These are the very same standards I was required to understand and demonstrate as I earned my National Board Certification.
These standards require students to first understand what is being said, then asks them to look at how it is being said, and finally asks them to compare it to other points of view. If that is a left wing conspiracy that is pushing for a communist agenda, then I am all for it!