As we’ve begun examining each of the six instructional shifts called for by the Common Core, teachers have shared their own stories, often times lingering over many details that support the call for such changes.
For instance, we know that many readers are struggling to access grade-level text. We know that when this text is expository, the problem seems even more profound. Many of us lived through the awakening of the field to reading levels and the realization that many of our content area text books were written at far higher levels than kids could read independently. This, coupled with curricula that was loaded with content that demanded coverage, seemed to contribute to the demise of expository reading experiences in many classrooms.
Inviting all readers to access complex text is a daunting challenge, but most of the teachers that I am working with are eager to begin investigating and testing some different practices in service to this mission. This has looked a bit different in each district I am working in, and I will share some of these specific experiences in the days ahead. In the mean time, these approaches and resources have guided many of our beginnings:
- First, we’re finding it critical to start very small. Rather than tackling all of the shifts at once or attempting to overhaul an entire unit or semester’s worth of instruction in an effort to align to them, we’re beginning with the thorough study and implementation of a single shift: number three. Teachers have been charged with the task of fully aligning their curricula to the Common Core over the next year, and our work with unit design is enabling this well. When it comes to shifting instruction, however, attending to the development of a single plan or extended task seems to be far more appropriate. As teachers finish framing their first Common Core aligned unit, they are beginning this next phase.
- We’ve begun this work with an investigation of what this shift entails and conversations about what this will require of us individually and collectively. Teachers are being as specific as possible about what they feel they will need to learn, test, and receive feedback on in order to help all students climb this staircase of complexity as readers.
- We’ve also begun sharing our own expertise, pooling resources and strategies, and locating others that might support our efforts. Some initial recommendations for others who are interested in helping kids access complex text: Kelly Gallagher’s Deeper Reading, How to Do a Close Reading by Patricia Kain, What is Close Reading? (tutorial, samples and guidance notes included), Advancing Our Students Language and Literacy: The Challenge of Complex Texts by Marilyn Jager Adams, Elfrieda H. Hiebert’s Text Project (including her considerations for struggling readers), and The Art of Close Reading from the Critical Thinking Community.
What resources do you recommend? Which thinkers and experts in the field could inform work with this shift further? What are your experiences with readers who are sizing up this staircase of complexity?
My work with this shift has me thinking deeply about frustration tolerance. How do we help readers build it? How do we do so ourselves? What does it mean to persevere and which strategies can empower all of us?