Common Core standards

Teaching Visual Literacy Makes a Big Difference

Would you add some thoughts about visual literacy, that is, questioning the artist/illustrator in the same way we are questioning the author/text … prior to analyzing the text. Thank you.

I’ve been carrying this question around for a while, trying to think up a good answer.

On the one hand, I’ve never been a big fan of “visual literacy.” It’s not that I’m insensitive to the idea that pictures have value, but I’ve never been willing to put pictures on the same plane as the printed word.

Informational Text and Young Children

So the woman who runs my local children’s book store told me that more and more parents of young children are asking for “nonfiction beginning readers” because “that’s what Common Core wants.” Really? In kindergarten and first grade? Aren’t beginning readers supposed to develop their decoding and word recognition by reading simple stories (the ones populated by talking pigs).

Why Standards-Based Teaching Has Failed to Raise Reading Achievement

Standards-based educational reform goes back to the early 1990s. Since then, test scores have see-sawed a bit, but for the most part we are doing about as well as we’ve been doing since 1970 (when we first started collecting national reading data).

That means standards-based reform has not led to higher achievement. Establishing educational goals and aligning teaching to those goals to ensure kids succeed has not happened.

Examples of Close Reading Questions

As a principal, I want my teachers to teach student how to read a text closely. After going through your Powerpoint, reading the questions you suggest and the responses, I think professional development in developing questions would be required to ensure they were actually asking the right kind of questions.

Concerns About Accountability Testing

Why don’t you write more about the new tests?

I haven’t written much about PARCC or SBAC — or the other new tests that other states are taking on — in part because they are not out yet. There are some published prototypes, and I was one of several people asked to examine the work product of these consortia. Nevertheless, the information available is very limited, and I fear that almost anything I may write could be misleading (the prototypes are not necessarily what the final product will turn out to be).

Our Interview with Writer Elizabeth Rusch

At a recent conference, I had the chance to meet Elizabeth Rusch, the author of several of “Scientists in the Field” series (a consistently excellent series) — and discovered that I knew many of her other books. They range from picture books to narrative nonfiction with lots in between. I was intrigued and wanted to ask her more questions than time allowed.

So Liz Rusch agreed to an interview. Not surprisingly, she takes her work very seriously. What shines through with all of her well researched work is a respect for the subjects — and for readers.

Close Reading: A Video Replay

Last week, I provided a link to a close reading video that a reader sent me. The link purported to present a model “close reading” lesson.

Although, there was much to like about the lesson, I complained that it wasn't close reading. Close reading is not a synonym for reading comprehension (or even "really good reading comprehension").

A Close Read of a Close Reading Video

My daughters are Erin and Meagan. When they were little, Meagan would get upset because we always “ran Erins,” but never “ran Meagans.” That’s cute when a little one doesn’t know the meaning of a word. But such miscommunication can be a real problem in Common Core State Standards implementation. It’s getting so that I hate to hear the term “close reading” because it is misused so often these days. A comment from a reader of last week’s blog entry challenged me to evaluate an online video of a close reading lesson.

Why Reading Strategies Usually Don't Help the Better Readers

Last week, I explained why disciplinary reading strategies are superior to the more general strategies taught in schools. That generated a lot of surprised responses. Some readers thought I’d mis-worded my message. Let me reiterate it here: strategies like summarization, questioning (the readers asking questions), monitoring, and visualizing don’t help average or better readers. They do help poor readers and younger readers. I didn’t explain why better readers don’t benefit, so let me do that here. Readers read strategically only when they have difficulty making sense of a text.

Prior Knowledge: Part 2

Last week, I focused on a controversy over prior knowledge. Common core has discouraged enhancing reading comprehension through the introduction of information external to a text.

That challenges the most popular ways of introducing texts in schools — such as telling students information about the text topic or exploring student knowledge relevant to the topic. CCSS proponents bridle at such practices. They want students to become independent readers, which means they’d be able to read texts effectively without extra information — information not provided by the author.


"A book is like a garden, carried in the pocket." — Chinese Proverb