Last month’s article outlining Kansas’s move away from the state standards to the new Common Core Standards shared one example of how the standards are changing.
These changes might best be understood by looking at how the authors of the new standards outline the types of reading and writing students should be asked to do during their day at school.
The types of reading students should be asked to do are separated between two categories, “literary” and “informational.” Literary reading is the type we adults were asked to do when we read classics like “The Great Gatsby” or “Romeo and Juliet.”
As adults, many of us have learned how to read very different kinds of texts. Assembly directions, maintenance manuals and organizational guidelines are not written in William Shakespeare’s English!
Remembering how the Common Core Standards focus on college and career readiness, the balance between these two types of reading leans toward more informational reading as students work their way through school.
In the fourth grade, guidelines state the balance between literary and information reading should be about 50-50. By the eighth grade, students should spend about 45 percent of their reading with literary texts and 55 percent of their reading with informational texts. By the time a student is a senior, the guidelines call for 30 percent of the reading to be with literary texts and 70 percent of the reading to be with informational texts.
Students will be asked to write and/or speak to three different purposes: “to persuade,” “to explain” and “to convey experience.” The first two of these types are more common in the workplace than “conveying experience.”
As fourth-graders, 30 percent of communication should be spent on persuasion, 35 percent on explanation and 35 percent on conveying experience.
As eighth graders, students will be asked to increase their persuasive communication to 35 percent and reduce their conveying experiences to 30 percent.
As a senior, students will be expected to spend 40 percent of their communication efforts on persuasion, 40 percent on explanation and only 20 percent on conveying experiences.
This outline of writing and speaking is not limited to what will be happening in the English classes, but also in history, science and technical studies and other academic areas throughout a student’s day at school.
Experienced teachers are generally encouraged by what they have seen during their study of the English and Language Arts standards. The new guidelines seem to allow for more creativity and deep thinking than the standards we have used for more than a decade.
Although it is intimidating to leave what we have known so well, one of our teachers stated, “It will be fun to teach again.” This is an encouraging first impression.
We hope our patrons are equally encouraged by the changes you will see with the transition to the Common Core Standards.
Greg Brown, in addition to being Hillsboro Middle School principal, is the curriculum coordinator for USD 410.