Common Core Standards: ELA
Or, “How to Succeed in School, Business, and Life Without Spending a Fortune on Classes.”
This tenth standard asks for students who can read a wide variety of texts and understand them, even if the text is particularly dense, tedious, or jargon-filled and even if the reader has no prior experience with the information in the text. In college, students with this skill will be able to navigate the textbook and research assignments in any class; in a career, the ability to read and understand new and difficult things is an inexpensive step toward a promotion, requiring little more than a library card and free time.
There have been many musical acts that break up, and sometimes a solo career of one member takes off to greater heights than the ensemble. Justin Timberlake makes it look easy, but a solo performance may not be as simple when students have to take all of this information and apply it to texts on their own. Attempting to understand a text in class under your instructive, angelic guidance and the stench of the kids that just came from gym is easy; conditions are perfect for your students. But put a student at home with their book and a PS3 controller sitting before them and most will go for some RPG fun. Much as you’d like to keep them under your watchful gaze forever, your students must be able to understand different texts independently. You’ve worked to give them to tools to be successful; now they just need a nudge (sometimes a shove) out of the nest.
After all the blood, sweat, and tears in class, you are finally ready to venture out on your own, young padawans. To choose complex texts you may want to consider readings that are on par with, or at the same level as, some of the texts you’ve read in your classes. Reading independently is clear enough, but to prove true proficiency you must be ready to intelligently discuss your ideas regarding more complicated topics or themes in literature. As you read, picture your favorite language arts teacher telling you to “dig deeper” or “provide text evidence.” Those phrases that made you groan all year should become your best friends. And we won’t even say, “I told you so.”
Variations on a Theme
Unfortunately, your students are probably not going to leap out of their seats, snatch the baton from your hands and run with it. Some prodding will be necessary. Some suggestions. Graded homework assignments. Threats and bribes. You know, the usual motivators. Start with some text suggestions:
- Types of Literary Texts to Consider
- Novels: Not the Graphic kind (though there are some great graphic companions to classic novels that can help get reluctant readers interested).
- Poetry: Both classical and contemporary. Please, please, please include contemporary poets. If we only expose our students to Shakespeare and Wordsworth, they will continue to regard poetry as that mysterious, unfriendly houseguest that comes around once or twice a year to make life difficult. Show living poets a little love.
- Short Stories: These can be a quicker way to delve into in-depth discussion and are great for practicing their multi-text skills.
- Types of Informational Texts to Consider
- Speeches: These can be as full of figurative meaning as the fictional texts and offer great opportunities to connect with your school’s history curriculum.
- Persuasive Texts: Look for editorials or scholarly essays to practice those argumentation skills.
Soul Meets Book
Lovely students, it may be a long journey from timid read-alouds in class to involved solo readings, but it’s time to get out of the passenger seat and move into the driver’s. Kick the teacher out of the car and enjoy the ride.