Common Core standards

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.

Prior Knowledge: Can We Really Level the Playing Field?

Spoiler alert: This blog entry is a two-parter. The first part (today’s entry) describes a problem to which the second entry will offer some nifty practical solutions (nope, no practical solutions today).

Guided Reading and the Common Core

The term "guided reading" is causing a lot of confusion. Most of us now use it as shorthand to refer to those instructional procedures recommended by Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell in their book, Guided Reading (1996).

The problem with that conception of the term "guided reading" is that it actually conglomerates three separate aspects of instruction into one idea. And, that’s where the problem is.

Final Notes on Complex Text Requirements

Last week I replied to some of the remarks about text complexity that were made on the Valerie Strauss’s Washington Post column. Here are a couple more.

Snappy Responses on Challenging Text Debate

Last week, Valerie Strauss devoted her Washington Post space to an article challenging the idea of teaching with challenging text, including my articles. The posting got lots of response showing fundamental misunderstandings of the issues on this. I am reprinting some of those responses along with my rejoinders to those.

Handwriting in the Time of Common Core

My father, who had no more than an eighth grade education, wrote in a beautiful Palmer hand. His oneroom schoolhouse education did not promise to take him far, but it did allow him to place words on paper in an elegant and readable manner. And, this skill had practical utility beyond its aesthetic beauty, since he worked for many years as a bookkeeper.

But the public value of handwriting has diminished during the ensuing century. In fact, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) don’t even mention handwriting, cursive, or manuscript printing.


"When I say to a parent, "read to a child", I don't want it to sound like medicine. I want it to sound like chocolate. " — Mem Fox