It is hard to read about the education field these days without coming across Common Core. Teachers everywhere are learning that common core reading standards cannot be separated from literacy development without losing learning time in the classroom. There are many ways teachers can work through common core reading standards, but it may be necessary to ignore the order and form in which they are written and focus on which skills work together. In order to teach all of the standards by the end of each year, a teacher must create reading lessons that incorporate many standards. This will help students in their literacy development as well.
Creating Explicit Reading Strategy Lessons
While common core reading standards describe the kinds of comprehension that students must demonstrate, they do not specify the specific strategies that students may need for this comprehension. Literacy development is successful not only when students learn discrete skills but also when they understand when to use those skills. Teachers may be able to find lessons that already show which standards are covered, but after some experience with combining standards, teachers will be able to identify standards on their own. Often the best course of action is working toward a master’s degree in literacy, which enables teachers to find themselves in a supportive community where they can develop lessons collaboratively.
Common Core Reading Standards Across the Content Areas
The common core reading standards are rigorous, and they are notably different from the ELA/reading standards that many states currently use. One of the biggest differences is that the common core establishes requirements for both English language arts and content area literacy in history/social studies and science. This is good news for students who love nonfiction, as many of them do because increasing nonfiction reading and comprehension is a big part of aligning learning with the common core reading standards. One great book that can help teachers learn how to match up fiction and nonfiction in the curriculum is Melissa Stewart’s book Perfect Pairs: Using Fiction & Nonfiction Picture Books to Teach Life Science, K-2. When teachers begin to seamlessly integrate reading into content area subjects, students’ literacy development can improve exponentially.
Shifting Instruction for Maximum Literacy Development
In order to incorporate common core reading standards properly, teachers must make a shift in how they instruct. This shift is what will truly make the difference in literacy development. Teachers need to move into instruction that
- Expects active participation of all students.
- Facilitates the learning process rather than hands out the information.
- Makes their content literacy expertise visible to all.
- Creates carefully structured situations that allow students to self-solve problems.
- Encourages students to draw on their abilities to discover answers by themselves rather than rely on adults to supply the facts.
Vocabulary Emphasis Increases Literacy Development
One of the biggest shifts in aligning common core reading standards with literacy development is the new emphasis on vocabulary. Recommendations from education researchers like Robert Marzano made vocabulary development a significant part of the new common core curriculum. One of the best ways to work on developing vocabulary with kids is through reading in the content areas. This helps students master the information by allowing them access to the language of content experts. True literacy development occurs when students naturally incorporate strong words correctly into their reading, writing and speech.
Though many teachers have been worried that the common core reading standards will be unwieldy and difficult to manage, these same teachers can accomplish this management through small steps that incorporate more than one standard into literacy lessons. In the past, educators who wanted to meet the needs of the many diverse students in their classrooms lost sight of the bigger picture goals. The purpose of the common core is to keep that bigger picture in sight for all students.
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