Common Core standards will change reading lessons, writes Timothy Shanahan in The American Educator. To start with, the new standards specify the complexity of reading texts at each grade level, writes Shanahan, an emeritus professor who directs the Center for Literacy at the University of Illinois in Chicago.
That’s a big change. For years, teachers have been told each student should read a “just right” book that’s not too hard (frustrating) or easy (boring). Common Core will require much harder texts, writes Shanahan.
Unfortunately, teacher preparation typically includes few tools for helping students to learn from challenging texts. No wonder teachers so often resort to reading the texts to students, using round-robin reading, or, in history or science, not using the textbook at all.
Common Core proponents also want to cut down on time spent preparing students to read, so more time can be spent on “close reading,” Shanahan writes.
Reading preparation includes discussions of relevant background information, explanations of context in which the text was produced, previews or overviews of the text itself, “picture walks,” predictions, and purpose-setting.
. . . If students are to read about tide pools, for example, teachers are counseled to start out by asking questions such as, “Have you ever visited a beach? What plants and animals did you see near the shore?” Or if students are to read Charlotte’s Web, they might first learn the biographical details of E. B. White’s life.
. . . I recently observed a primary-grade reading lesson that included such a thorough and painstaking picture walk (previewing and discussing each illustration prior to reading) that eventually there was no reason for reading the eight-sentence story; there was no additional information to be learned.
“Close reading” puts the stress back on reading, he writes. But there’s evidence that some preparation aids comprehension. That’s important “at a time when texts are supposed to get harder for kids.”