10 Chapters
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Chapter 4: Preparing Texts for Daily Instruction

Brad Cawn Solution Tree Press ePub

4

PREPARING TEXTS FOR DAILY INSTRUCTION

Whether or not to commit to using more rigorous texts and tasks should not be the question; rather, the question should be how—on a given day, in a given unit, given students’ current level of capacity and understanding—to do so. Here again is that key planning shift for teachers: the text serves as not only the core of content learning but also the tool by which teachers make determinations for how best to support student learning.

Indeed, in choosing to use a complex primary source or scientific journal article, a teacher’s control over what and how to use the text—the purpose, the content focus, the length—is not limited. In fact, preparing texts for teaching is a strategic act of enabling student access. The goal is to leverage the texts—not to mention your ability as an expert reader—as a teaching tool and, conversely, to be proactive about avoiding the potential frustration, disinterest, and distractions that might cause hesitation about increasing complexity in the first place. This chapter discusses two ways of leveraging text as a teaching tool and avoiding potential challenges. The first section discusses how to cluster texts in order to solve rich content-area problems. The second section discusses how to present those texts to students, ensuring access to the ideas students can use to solve the problems.

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Chapter 2: Shifting to Complex Texts

Brad Cawn Solution Tree Press ePub

2

SHIFTING TO COMPLEX TEXTS

Text complexity, as the next three chapters make clear, has upped teaching complexity. For students to read and understand grade-appropriate complex texts independently and proficiently, high school teachers must be more intentional about selecting what students read, more conscious of when they expose students to certain texts, and simply better at how they help support students’ understanding of these texts. Without a shift in teaching commensurate with the new demands for text complexity, it is unlikely that students will be college and career ready in accordance with the new criteria (Williamson, Fitzgerald, & Stenner, 2014). Texts and teaching, in other words, must both be up to standard in order to foster learning capable of meeting these new demands.

The fundamental difference between next-generation standards like the Common Core and previous iterations of state learning benchmarks is the expectation for what and how students read; it is now an actual standard, and students will be tested on it. That standard, Reading anchor standard ten, is the critical outcome of your work during a given year: it represents students’ ability to comprehend—“independently and proficiently”—appropriately rigorous texts with the appropriate intellectual rigor. This is at the core of the work, no matter the content area, but it is also a benchmark for daily instruction. What texts you select and how you support students in meeting the demands of the content are what many of the grade-level articulations of Common Core Reading standard ten defines as the “scaffolding as needed” to enable all students to engage in and do work that is up to standard (NGA & CCSSO, 2010). This is complex work, but the two principles underlying text complexity are themselves quite simple.

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Chapter 6: Creating Rigorous Tasks

Brad Cawn Solution Tree Press ePub

6

CREATING RIGOROUS TASKS

Changes in teaching brought forth by next-generation standards are necessary if students are to master the increasing demands to comprehend and critique complex content. Next-generation standards like the CCSS have done more than simply raise the complexity of texts—they’ve called for reading, writing, and thinking skills that go beyond traditional definitions of comprehension and therefore go beyond what is typically included in curriculum, instruction, and assessment practices (Goldman & Lee, 2014). Thus, significant adaptation of instruction is likely for many teachers. They will have to carefully and concurrently select and design tasks and texts, provide strategic discipline-specific skills instruction, and increase deliberate opportunities to practice complex thinking and reasoning processes with complex texts (Goldman & Lee, 2014; Williamson et al., 2014). This is no easy task.

Enactment starts with a clear vision about what it would look like to be up to standard—that is, the task and expectations for student performance. Begin, then, with the end in mind: the writing components of the assessments that will define students’ college-readiness (such as SBAC), college entry (such as the ACT), or college credit (such as AP). With the Common Core in hand, examine examples of the college-readiness or entrance assessments your students take, first by considering each task individually: what does it demand of students, and how is this different from previous iterations of the assessment, or from other similar assessments? Next, look across the tasks. What seems to be the trend, the connection, in the design and demands of the next-generation assessments?

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Chapter 5: Collaborating—Reading to Teach

Brad Cawn Solution Tree Press ePub

5

COLLABORATING: READING TO TEACH

For nearly three decades prior to the creation of the Common Core in 2009, the dominant paradigm of literacy instruction focused on what is sometimes referred to as the “just right” book. What students read was determined by what they could read—what was just right for them as determined by the teacher and assessments. When students struggled, what was just right changed: Shakespeare written in contemporary English, a summary of a laboratory report or article rather than the original document, the textbook summary of primary sources, and so on. The text met students where they were.

Those days are over. The new standard is for texts to meet students where they could or should be. In articulating as a standard the reading of grade-appropriate complex texts independently and proficiently, Common Core Reading anchor standard ten makes clear that all students need to have every available opportunity to engage in grade-appropriate complex texts; it is the teacher, not the text, who must now serve as the primary support in enabling student access and understanding of disciplinary content (NGA & CCSSO, 2010).

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Introduction: The New Standard

Brad Cawn Solution Tree Press ePub

Introduction

THE NEW STANDARD

The relationship between standards and instruction can often be paper-thin—literally. We’ve all been there—drawing up a unit or lesson and then dropping the standards on top right before hitting the print button. As high school teachers, we know our students and our content—instruction is surely aligned to standards. But does our instruction address the standards? It’s not always clear.

Teaching that is up to standard is different. It starts with standards–aligned instructional goals paired to high-quality texts and content. It is learning centered, prioritizing the literacy skills and conceptual knowledge needed for students to be proficient and independent thinkers, readers, and writers in the content area you teach. It is dialogic and inquiry oriented. Student work that is up to standard is different, too: it is complex, knowledgeable, and divergent and creative, to use just a few of the descriptors from the Common Core State Standards (CCSS); it does not fit into a template. This is rigor.

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