Monday, June 17, 2013

The Informational Text Revolution: CCSS and the Changes We All Face

This blog is already structured around subjects (the easiest way to reach those subjects is by clicking the name of the subject in the logo at the top of the page). These subjects are laid out by the way I teach them in my classroom... correction the way I taught them in my classroom. The incoming Common Core State Standards (CCSS) will surely have an impact on that.

Now, the CCSS doesn't change the fact that in 5th grade I teach American history and geography. CCSS doesn't change the fact that, here in New Mexico, Social Studies is still covered by the New Mexico Standards and Benchmarks (those standards for Social Studies are available HERE).

The CCSS, after all, cover English Language Arts and Mathematics. An article put out by the New York Times on December 13, 2012 titled Fiction of Non-Fiction? Considering the Common Core's Emphasis on Informational Text asked if the focus on informational texts within the CCSS is detrimental to student learning and love of reading. The article also has a great resource, a quick little questionnaire that can be given to students to see how much they read outside of fictional literature (the answer: probably not much). I know that I'm guilty of having certain books I like to read every year (The Castle in the Attic, The Giver, Holes, and The Lightning Thief to name a few). Well, "the CCSS deemphasizes reading as a personal act and emphasizes textual analysis" (Calkins 2012). And before I dig too deep here, I'm going to just say that the CCSS for literature and informational text are the same, so I'm going to leave it at that.

When it comes to all these informational texts, as I said previously in the post titled Informational Text Free Digital Resources: Gearing up for the Common Core, it's not a matter of many of us going in a direction with literacy that we've never gone before, it's just a more mindful approach to the usage of some strategically chosen texts, and for students to not only be exposed to various texts, but to know their interests and steer them towards informational texts that pique their interests. Also, we have to be mindful of the fact that there is a different between reading for a fact hunt and reading to gain understanding and comprehension of an idea.

BUT, this doesn't mean that informational text reading just becomes about student interest and leave it at that. The research shows that students need to be reading for 90 minutes per day optimally, and that is actual holding a book in their hands reading time (Allington 2005). That's a lot. I usually give my students 25-35 minutes per day of individual reading, and the vast VAST majority of that reading is fiction based literature.

In the coming weeks, I will be laying out how to get started in the reading and writing classrooms (or at least how I will start), including how to assess student readiness and reading levels quickly and efficiently, and how to teach thematically (using The Lightning Thief and teaching Greek Mythology simultaneously for example). I will also be revisiting my units for Social Studies and Science, and focusing them on informational text and writing based approaches. It should be a fun time, but in the end, I feel that it will better prepare me (and anyone who finds these resources and uses them) for what lies ahead.

So stick around, bookmark my page, and come back soon. I'm already getting everything lined up, I just don't like to post things until they're finished. Look for more tomorrow!


Allington, Richard, 2005. What Really Matters for Struggling Readers: Designing Research Based Programs, 2d ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Calkins, Lucy, Mary Ehrenworth, and Christopher Lehman, 2012. Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating Achievement. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

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