Under the Common Core, students are supposed spend half their reading time on non-fiction in elementary school, 70 percent in high school. English teachers aren’t happy about the shift from literature. Susan Pimentel, a lead writer of Common Core standards, defends the stress on non-fiction in a Hechinger Report interview.
The “literacy” part of the English Language and Literacy standards includes reading in social studies, science, and technical subjects, says Pimentel. Seventy percent of reading in all classes should be non-fiction.
It’s really important that in science and history classes, students have access to important primary texts and that they be able to figure out what the speaker is trying to say. In English, there should also be great literary non-fiction, so students can uncover the meaning and understand the author’s perspective.
In talking to college professors and employers, Common Core writers discovered a “four-year gap” between high school graduates’ skills and the demands of college and careers, says Pimentel.
A New York City teacher is using literature to teach computer science, writes Emmanuel Felton on the Hechinger Report.
“Literary texts are informational texts,” says Lev Fruchter, who teaches at a school for gifted students.
He’s developed a computer science curriculum, STORYCODE. Fruchter uses works like Moby Dick, where characters talk about science, and “what if” science fiction. However, he says “implicit” STEM stories are the most powerful.
Frank R. Stockton’s 1882 short story The Lady, or the Tiger? helps students understand binary choices.
In the original story, a king discovers that his daughter is having an affair. To punish the princess’s lover, the King puts him in an arena with two doors. Behind one door is a woman the king thinks is an appropriate mate for the lover, behind the other is a tiger. Meanwhile, the princess learns from the tiger keeper which door is which, but the question is whether the jealous princess will lead her lover to his death or into the arms of another woman.
In coding terms, this is a 1-bit story, with the solution either being 0 if she chooses to send him to his death or 1 if she sends him to the other woman.
But Fruchter likes to add more layers. Fruchter adds that the lover knows about the princess’s jealousy and has to decide whether or not to trust her. It is now a 2-bit story with four possible versions. Fruchter then adds in that the tiger keeper is in love with the princess, thus introducing the possibility that the tiger keeper lies to the princess, making it a 3-bit story with eight possible outcomes.
Each students writes a version of the story, then retells it in code. For example 110 “could translate to the tiger keeper telling the princess the truth, the princess telling her lover the truth, but her lover doesn’t believe her.”