Common Core and More . . .

8 10 2012

There is a change in the air.

Yes, change, as the cool, crisp bite in the early mornings wakes us to the coming of fall.

And, yes, change, as we ponder the Common Core State Standards  and how our English language arts classrooms might need to evolve to make certain that we teach our students to meet these standards and more.

star in apple
Apple star image by paloetic, Flickr Creative Commons

So what kind of changes do the Common Core State Standards signal for the English Language Arts Classrooms?

Tonya Perry, an NCTE author and university educator in Alabama, identifies the big three as:

  • a change from persuasion to argumentation; from emotion to logic
  • a change from literary and recreational text to informational text; and
  • a change from English Language Arts in isolation to making connections to other content areas.

Augmentation, English teacher, Stephen Heller explains is all about perspective-taking and being able to see a question, an issue from multiple perspectives and present an informed opinion.    Marc Aronson calls this process inquiry and reminds us that “all of nonfiction inherently has a point of view.”

Midterm brings a change in our course as well.  We’ve worked hard to learn about important theories of literacy, learning, and literature and begin to create a pedagogical framework with guiding principles.

Here’s our framework so far.

Learning Through Literature with Young Adults Framework (click to enlarge)

You may be curious about the “seekers.”  That’s inspired by Marc Aronson’s argument that we need to raise beyond the both the artist and the moralist perspective on teaching literature.

The moral group is right about one thing, teenagers are examining their beliefs, their lifestyle, and looking for answers —  emotional answers, relationship answers, but also philosophically, religious, moral answers. As with the art crowd, I urge the morals people to go further. Don’t just try to pass on the preset conclusions we’ve settled for. Celebrate this hunger, this yearning, this beginning0of-the-quest sensation that hits some teenagers like a lightning blot.  They must surpass us, go further in their questioning than we have.  If we try to end their search just as they begin it, we derive the world of their curiosity, their passion, their commitment.  Just as the art crowd has to risk encouraging readers to like materials they themselves do to appreciate, the moral folks need to trust teenagers to be seekers.

If we teach our students to become seekers, to engage in inquiry by reading deeply (beginning with an “anchor” book as Aronson suggests and Miedema would applaud for the opportunity to read slowly and deeply), taking multiple perspectives, and developing an argument along with a reflective trail revealing their thinking . . .

Then that’s the Common Core State Standards.

And more?

The more that we would add would be that seekers are learning functional, cultural, and critical literacy (Cummins & Sayers, Brave New Schools) and that all three types are required to become successful personally and professionally in the twenty-first century — to grasp the big, the global picture and understand one’s place in it.

And more?

I couldn’t find the word creativity in the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in History, Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects but I know they serve as a springboard for inquiry and thinking that is logical, yes, but, also emotional.  Creativity is a curious blend of cognitive, intrapersonal, and interpersonal learning.  Dan Pink’s six elements also reflect this complementary union: design, story, symphony, empathy, meaning, and play.

So our pedagogical framework supports our teaching of creativity which is usually included in any listing of twenty-first century skills along with collaboration and a global perspective.  Plus teaching creatively to encourage the creativity of our students can also provide the opportunities for free expression and personal response that Oldfather and Dahl (1994) have recognized as vital for motivation in the English Language Arts classroom.

I am hopeful that the big change that the Common Core State Standards brings will help us focus on the students and what they need to know, understand, be able to do rather than the “teaching of books” and literary criticism that has dominated the English Language Arts classroom.  I am hopeful that more teachers like Curtis and Tracey will see the potential of the “Common Core and more” as providing the license to as teach seekers as  Tracey commented in the backchannel, September 27th:

I also think Curtis has a great point about teaching critical thinking versus teaching specific literature.  Honestly, the content of the curriculum doesn’t matter nearly as much as the practical skills our kids take away that applicable to their entire lives & general well being.

Looking forward to our work in The Change Project where we work first as students engaged in inquiry about a question related to the essential question “Is universal equity possible?” and then as teachers designing a collaborative critical inquiry inspired by an “anchor” book by Aronson.




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