Common Core: Refurbish Your Collection with CCSS in Mind
By Peg Glisson
Time to put your money where your mouth is! You’ve weeded at least some areas of the collection; you’ve talked with your administrator about the need to add to the collection to support CCSS, particularly its on-grade-level thrust and emphasis on nonfiction. It’s time to select and purchase. What? How?
Make sure you know the curriculum-it could well be changing! Many states and districts are realigning curriculum to better match Common Core Standards. Others are maintaining content, but perhaps changing emphasis. Talk with grade level and/or department chairs to confirm what they are teaching; if you are in a public library, check with the school library chair or individual librarians.
Spend some time refreshing your understanding of the CCSS’ Anchor Standards for English Language Arts/Literacy; everything hangs off these. Everything! Reading impacts all areas of the curriculum and is taught in all areas. Standard 10 “Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently” is the same in the K-Grade 5 and Grades 6-12 level standards. (Pages 10 and 35)
Next review the triad for determining complexity of text:
1. Quantitative, which measures word frequency and sentence length
2. Qualitative, which considers primarily a text’s construction and meaning
3. Task or purpose for a student’s reading a certain text and what he brings to that reading. Qualitative and task analysis requires a person, making judgments about those components.
ELA Standards Appendix A outlines the Standards’ approach to text complexity. But, like curriculum, it is evolving! In September, 2012, CCSS released a supplement to Appendix A, which presents some new research on both quantitative and qualitative measurements, a scale for cross comparison of quantitative tools, and more guidance on qualitative determinations (structure, language conventions and clarity, knowledge demands, and levels of meaning or purpose). The third element (reader and task considerations) is unchanged.
The supplement expands from CCSS’ using only lexile recommendations to including five other measurement tools for determining reading difficulty, each of which allows for the climb up the staircase of complexity. Once a grade level is fixed, librarians and teachers should go on to qualitative and reader task analysis to more accurately predict a grade level for the text. A chart to help evaluate qualitative elements is now included.
The supplement recognizes that, particularly concerning narrative fiction, qualitative features may override quantitative measurement. The librarian’s (and teacher’s) expertise is critical here. This addresses some of the issues around the Core’s exemplar texts listed in Appendix A.
Feeling awash in words? Achieve the Core has posted a guide, assembled by SAP, explaining the four features of text complexity that you may find helpful.
Now that you are sure of curricular needs and you know the CCSS criteria, you can begin selecting and ordering books. Most likely, most of your time, energy, and money need to be spent on building up literary nonfiction-high quality, well-written, informative text. Think Jenkins, Gibbons, Murphy, Aronson, Montgomery, Walker, and others like them. Their books are the types CCSS is calling for, with age-appropriate complex text and rich language. Look at the catalogs or websites of the publishers who publish them to see what other nonfiction books they have, and then start checking reviews. Pay attention to the ads in professional journals, and then check for full reviews for those titles. Don’t disqualify series; just be selective, again referencing full reviews. A good review should comment not only on content, but also on the language, sidebars, points of view, and documentation-all necessary for readers to progress up the stairway of complexity. (CLCD is a great time-saver for checking reviews since you find so many in one place.)
Many professional journals now have articles or columns focusing on quality nonfiction. There are some excellent blogs concentrating on nonfiction and/or Common Core, such as Kathleen Odean’s Great Common Core Nonfiction, I.N.K. (Interesting Nonfiction for Kids), Nonfiction Monday, The Nonfiction Detectives, Nonfiction Bookblast, and archives of Marc Aronson’s School Library Journal blog Nonfiction Matters. Other blogs, like Booklist’s Bookends, Embracing the Child, often feature nonfiction.
Remember also to check award sites, including ALSC, YALSA, and those of other professional organizations like NSTA (science teachers) and NCSS (social studies teachers).
What about fiction? You probably need to strengthen there as well, particularly if you have a lot of “pop” fiction on your shelves. Your collection should include a range of genres, allowing readers to acquire information from a variety of perspectives, not just expository text. The element of choice is critical in terms of engaging the reader! Also, teachers may need to change their required fiction texts to more closely align to the triad. Be ready with suggestions for them.
To support CCSS, school and public library shelves must be filled with those books best suited to your students’ and patrons needs’-books that are engaging and enlightening, books that will challenge their thinking. Building such collections will take time and hard work. Two other articles in this issue of the CLCD Newsletter, one focusing on primary grades and the other on middle school, demonstrate how using the CLCD database can facilitate your efforts. Good luck, and happy hunting!
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