Thursday, January 31, 2013

Nonfiction and the Common Core Standards

Ed Week has a discussion today about whether or not English teachers should have to teach nonfiction here since an ability to read nonfiction is required by the Common Core Standards.  There is much discussion about which books to use:

The problem here is that this is the same old template for teaching English that has been used for a hundred years.  Choose a book, drag the class through it, and then use it to “teach skills.”

Stephen Krashen, the UCLS researcher, says categorically that teaching skills is just testing skills.  Kids acquire skills through wide, avid reading.

And this is the catch—the elephant in the living room:  Assigning these difficult “texts” (I hate that word) makes all but the best readers dislike reading.  Mediocre readers don’t do much of the assigned reading (Do anonymous surveys of your students; you’ll see) and won’t read anything else, with an assigned book hanging over their heads.  So they read nothing.

The only solution is to open up curricula to student-selected reading.  Once kids start avidly reading, their skills soar.  Then, no matter what kind of fiction or non-fiction common core testing throws at them, they’ll do fine.  

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