Teaching to the Core: What Does Good Language Arts Instruction Look Like?
Parents often wonder what good teaching looks like in the classroom. Now that the Common Core is being implemented in all SFUSD classrooms and across the state it becomes more and more important for parents and educators to build an understanding of how good instruction looks.
There are three key shifts in the new Common Core English Language Arts standards
Reading a balance between fiction and non-fiction texts.
In the past, the English standards favored stories, novels and other non-fiction. District adopted text books reflected this in that most of the books children read in class during Language arts time was spent reading stories, novels, poems and other types of non-fiction. Students only encountered fiction in Language Arts classes in science, and social studies.
Reading, writing and speaking about texts
When educators talk about this they often say that there is a new focus on “referencing the text” or “finding evidence” in the text. In the past, many educators focused on asking students questions like: “How do you feel about this text?” or “What does it remind you of?”. These are great ways to get students to connect with what they are reading. Educators agreed that students needed more practice supporting their new learning by using quotes, facts and plot details pulled from the text itself.
Exposure to “academic language” and complex texts
Previous standards did not provide any guidance for teachers about our expectations for the level and complexity of language in the texts students were expected to be able to read.
Two factors that educators consider when judging the complexity of a text:
- Academic language is another way to talk about vocabulary. Science reports or news articles are good examples of texts that contain a lot of specific academic language.
- Text complexity refers to the sentence structure in a text or the quality and amount of figurative language. Shakespeare’s plays are a great example of text that is very complex and rich with figurative language.
It is important for students to be able to understand increasingly complex texts so that they will be successful in college and career. With the previous standards, many educators defaulted to “easier” texts with limited vocabulary. In this way, many educators were technically “addressing the standards” (e.g. identify main ideas from a text.) yet failing to prepare students for college and career pursuits.
So what does good Common Core instruction look like? How do I know if this is happening in my child’s class?
Teaching is a practice. It is helpful to define educational concepts. Nonetheless, it is when we put them into practice that we see what they really look like in the classroom.
in that regard, a colleague of mine recently shared a great video from the Teaching Channel that highlights what good instruction looks like when it is aligned work with the new standards (Thanks Jeff!). Please note: for teachers who have been doing this type of teaching all along, there will now be added encouragement, resources and support in serving students in the way these teachers have known was best.
Check out the video and let me know what you think in the comments below. You will have to click on the picture or link below as I have not yet figured out how to embed this type of video.: