In a world of technology with instant internet access, it seems as though perhaps common knowledge is no longer something to be taken for granted. Before the age of word processors, I was able to spell pretty much any word that was thrown at me. Now I have become so reliant on spell check that I stumble at times over the simplest of words. It is frustrating.
That being said, what is so common about common core? I know, different use of the word. But still, I would hope that common core would be common knowledge or that it would become such. Common core is not changing the content but rather changing the engagement of the students toward how the content is disseminated. (BTW, I spelled that correctly!)
Instead of simply reading a book, common core relies heavily on questioning and analyzing its contents. Does this mean that reading for pleasure is no longer accepted? NO. It means that reading leads to a deeper understanding. I have always been of the belief that reading teaches more than I could ever teach someone. However, reading and questioning what you have read teaches even more.
Should libraries/librarians change everything that they have done in the past to meet common core standards? I don’t think so. I think we should just be pushing the analysis level of what is being read or researched.
It’s not so hard to do on a small-scale to get started. When a student returns a book after reading it, ask them a few questions about it. Don’t drill them; just be interested in what they have to say about the book. From this the “why” and “what if” questions can arise. Granted it is not a full lesson to meet common core standards, but it is a way of helping students to engage more about what they are reading.
If you are a teacher (not just English teachers) this method can work for you as well. Remember what I said about reading being a great teacher? Yep, that means for all content areas. A student who becomes more analytical about novels should certainly be able to transfer that ability to a math or science problem, right? Students who question what they read in a book will hopefully be able to use that same skill to question issues in social sciences. Recognizing sentence structure used in both fiction and non-fiction certainly helps the student as a writer and to analyze literature…and, well, that should be a given in an ELA class.
Fine Arts, you ask? Why yes. How much inspiration for painting or sculpture in period form can come from reading about a certain time period? Would a play or manuscript be better understood if the setting were better understood through reading background information? The history and uses of food and spices could enhance a culinary arts class.
In science, current events can be used weekly, if not daily. How many articles are there in the news that relate to science? The 24 hour period before 10:00 p.m. on Tuesday, June 24, 2014, there were 6 articles that related to biology, 3 for chemistry, and 1 for physics on the New York Times website. This was a search conducted using the terms listed above. If you go to a topic such as “disease” you get about 23,800 articles. Hmm, bet you could narrow it down to a certain topic. Especially since that website lets you search articles back to 1851.
Wait, articles all the way back to 1851? What that what??? That means…No way! You are kidding! Nope, not kidding! Social studies gets covered, too. How much more interested would students be in looking at actual news articles and corresponding pictures of 1945 events than just what a very dry, very boring textbook has to say about it. Doesn’t the thought of reading one of those textbooks just make you want to roll your eyes and groan? If you type in Hiroshima, Japan and search back through 1851, you get 2960 results. You can see the before, during and after of the bombing. What a concept. Studying a country, not just a year.
I could go on and on and on….But I will not.
Reading is not the main ingredient (spell check caught me here) of the common core standards. But I am a librarian/media specialist after all. I love to promote reading. I love to see the understanding come alive when students find just the right book and learn to like and then love to read.
I love to see students succeed; it is the biggest part of what makes my job so enjoyable. Well, that and the fact that I am surrounded by books!