Sunday, April 26, 2015

Common Core Challenges

                                                           Image from Google Images
In hallways, in faculty rooms, in team meetings, in board rooms, on soccer sidelines,and around kitchen tables, a new Great Debate has ensued. Looking at the tests, from afar, this week has certainly fueled  questions. Were they easy? Were they hard? Were kids prepared?  Do workbooks aligned with the CCS prepare kids best? How should we best prepare kids for the tests AND to be avid, eager, lifelong readers and writers? 
This is MY blog and I do not KNOW the answer; however, THIS is MY thinking!

The CC shift encourages us to challenge all readers with more complex texts that may be "outside" their comfort zone.  It encourages rereading and analysis.  It encourages us to focus on the author's chosen words and meaning rather than on our own connection to the text. Is this something we can all do?  Yes indeed.  Truth be told, some of us may have become a little too comfortable making text-to-self connections a bit too much.
The CC shift asks readers to unpack the text themselves and challenges the take a picture walk mentality.  While I can't totally dismiss the value of taking a picture walk and understanding the author or the text genre, it is possible that perhaps, some of us may have gone a little too far with this. Perhaps we "forgot" that we were scaffolding our support and empowering readers? 
The CC shift encourages us to use text-dependent questions. This focus has changed my own teaching of reading even for beginners.  We talk about author's words and find "proof" right there in the text rather than from our memories.  
The CC shift says that we should focus on reading rather than on strategies.  I think some of us may have gone a little overboard with those old Strategies that Work.  It's not about identifying strategies, it's about using them! 
I guess you could infer that I am not opposed to the standards and I am willing to rethink my teaching and student learning.  
  • I do think we need to plan our teaching and student learning, perhaps more carefully than some of us have in the past. You need focused planning for focused teaching. 
  • I do think we need to pull our students (and ourselves) outside of our comfort zone with challenging texts and a focus on reflecting on what we learn from texts. Reading in our comfort zone is just one part of preparation for life-long reading. 
  • I do think that real, meaningful texts and real, meaningful discussions are the best test preparation.
  • Teachers, who understand theory and practice, not programs, not workbooks, teacher life-long readers and writers.
  • I do think test question writers should have at least a Master's Degree in Education :)

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