The Common Core has been taking a beating lately.  Personally, I think people are mostly upset about the assessments, and I think there’s some validity to that.  However, it’s important to remember the intention behind these standards.  They give us a snapshot into what grade level expectations look like both in and out of the context of preceding and subsequent grade levels.  They also provide a common structure for each grade level, so that the progression of skills is exceedingly clear.

My colleague and I were debating the importance (or lack thereof) of some standards the other day, until we came to a consensus that all of the standards play a critical role, only in different ways. We came up with a three-dimensional model for how the Common Core is structured, in an effort to conceptualize the reading process and the types of skills we’re asking our students to do in each dimension.

The 1st dimension is Key Ideas and Details.  This refers to the literal details within a text.  In Informational Text, students are expected to find the main idea, key details, as well as explain procedures and quote/refer to text accurately.  Similar skills are expected in Literature in terms of examining literary elements and quoting/referring to text accurately.  If students are only mastering this first section, their learning takes on a very linear form.  In the past, most assessments have only assessed these types of outcomes; however, only assessing these means that we’re not teaching students to think about and beyond the text critically.

The 2nd dimension adds Craft and Structure into the mix.  This is where students look specifically at vocabulary, word choice, text structure, and even multi-media elements that authors use in order to construct their message. As you can probably guess, this takes more complex thinking–thinking that places higher on Blooms.  For instance, students will have to analyze for structure, and evaluate for proper word choice and text features.  In the first dimension, students generally need to identify or explain.

The final dimension takes synthesis into account.  The third dimension adds layers, repetitive layers of the first two dimensions, as children are encountering more and more texts, either on the same topic or applying the same skills.  With each new resource, children are able to integrate the knowledge they’ve gained into their own ideas.  In fact, the spiraling nature of the Framework for Mediated Action can find itself within this, too.  With each stimulus the students encounter (i.e., the texts or other resources you provide), they interpret them, make decisions about the text, and begin to interact with it, modifying their original interpretation of the topic within the context of their background knowledge. This process repeats with each text or resources they encounter and begins to spiral upwards, much like the coils on a spring.

Taking into consideration all three dimensions of literacy help you to frame your instruction, making it much richer for your students, and much better use of your time with them.

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