Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the tag “Common Core State Standards”

Of Memos and Mementos

When I return to school on Monday I will return to countdown week.  Every day is finals, which means every day is closer to school ending. Pause… How do I feel about that? Umm, isn’t this what I’ve been waiting for all year?  Okay, maybe not all year, but pretty close to it.

The year started out with surprises:

1. New technology. Learn now.  You didn’t get the memo?

2. We moved the Senior Project up one month. Sorry, we forgot to send the memo.

3. Two classes have 30 students, while one has 14.  Maybe I should send a memo.

4. Common Core Standards implementation–no one counted on month long testing.  Forget memos–stock up on Tums.

Those were not the nicer surprises, although I did have a few of those as well:

1. “You’re my favorite teacher!” one of my special ed students reminds me every class.

2. All AP students stuck it out and didn’t transfer when the going got tough.

3. I received a glossing 8×10 photo of the “Three Hubri” decked out in their prom finery.

4. More freshmen passed than failed first semester this year.

The end of the year always surprises me when it arrives.  I can’t wait for summer to start, yet there is still so much I want to teach my students.  Unfortunately, they too want summer to start and their brains are beginning to resist anymore knowledge bits that try to drift in past their deflector shields.

Tick, tick, ticking the time away.

Really. Where did the year go?

The Fiction of Common Core

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Common Core State Standards may or may not rock your world, but it has affected you in someway if you are any of the following:

  • Educator
  • Parent
  • Writer

As an educator it has already affected your world. I’m not going there at this time. I feel your pain, and rejoice in your triumphs as we plod our way through this new-to-us (for the most part) curriculum.

As a parent it will affect your kidz education. In a good way. For the most part. Trust me, the CCSS is not as bad as you’ve heard. The main aspect of Common Core is getting our students to understand their world better through the development of critical thinking skills. A very good thing.

As a writer, I’m not sure how it will affect you. That depends if you write fiction or non-fiction. Non-fiction is getting the big focus in the CCSS makeover. If you think about it, most of what we read is non-fiction, ranging from the back of the Cheerios box to the science textbook to the summons to appear in traffic court. Learning how to break down the text, to synthesize it, paraphrase it, and process the information is indeed an important skill, one needed to be successful in this crazy info-laden world of ours. And yet And yet, we need to feed our minds with the language of fiction as well.  That’s where you come in as a writer of fiction.

You might have heard the doomsayers extolling the death of fiction by the hands of those horrible, terrible, no-good eduniks who dreamt up the CCSS curriculum. Meh. Don’t let them worry you. Keep writing about neverlands, tomorrows, pasts, and todays.  Here’s why: there are specific standard built around students reading fiction, specifically stories, fables, folktales, and myths from diverse cultures (ELA Standard RL 3.2) Common Core comes down to caring about  how students develop their critical thinking skills, instead of focusing on the content. Teachers can switch up the reading offerings as long as the material meets the standards–at least that’s what we are doing in our district.

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In fact, to be fair, much of the past English reading/language curriculums dwelt heavily on fiction selections. As in most paradigm shifts, we are now swinging towards the other direction. Non-fiction is now going to be more in the spotlight as  a result. It will all balance out, but give a couple of years at least. After all, skirts have risen and fallen with the times, and so shall reading content in the classroom.

Jane Austen: Smart Reading

If you are here it’s because the Jane Austen in the title tweaked your interest, right? Well, beyond being one of THE best writers in the literary canonical group of authors listed in the universal TBR list, she is actually a teacher. Actually, Stanford neurobiologists and English professor Natalie Phillips picked her book Mansfield Park to determine a connection between critical reading and brain activation patterns. (source: Luminosity)

Cover of "Mansfield Park (1999)"

Cover of Mansfield Park (1999)

The procedure went like this: an MRI scanned the brains of 18 participants as they read MP. These weren’t ordinary students, no struggling juniors or seniors assigned Janey as an honors read; no, these were PhD candidates. The reason being the researchers wanted to make sure close reading, the reading for analysis, was properly done. Going for a doctorate would probably ensure smarter reading practices. Participants read for “fun,” that is, casually read and then they were asked to close read.

Results: critical reading increased bloodflow throughout the brain, especially to the prefrontal cortex, which is considered to be the center of thoughts and actions and our social behavior.

Implications: close reading, the method of critically studying a text, indicates a connection between shaping and shifting cognition

My Understanding: Sheesh! I’ve been doing this for years. “Hey kids, read this and let’s figure out what it means.” Oh yea, this is what Common Core State Standards is all about–we give students higher level reading material and ask them to think about what they are reading. Like I said *I’ve been doing this for years*.

Okay, do I get my honorary PhD now?

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