Likely to recede is the traditional focus
reflecting the classical ideal that through
literature we come to understand the
patterns and truths within ourselves
and about our world. As Albert Einstein
once noted, the value of a liberal arts
education is not to memorize facts but
to train the mind to think in ways that
cannot be acquired from textbooks
alone (Frank, 2002). Nor from immersion in informational or procedural
texts, it could be added.
Defenders of the career-oriented
common core will argue that there will
still be abundant curriculum devoted
to literature and the arts. On paper,
this will be true; the common core
endorses the study of literature. But as
any practitioner can tell you, there are
rarely enough hours in the day to cover
what needs to be taught. Choices must
FIGURE 1. Six Common Core Instructional Shifts in English Language Arts/Literacy
PK– 5, Balancing Informa-
tional and Literary Texts
Students read a true balance of informational and literary texts. Elementary school
classrooms are, therefore, places where students access the world—science,
social studies, the arts and literature—through text. At least 50 percent of what
students read is informational.
6–12, Knowledge in the
Content-area teachers outside the English language arts classroom emphasize
literacy experiences in their planning and instruction. Students learn through
domain-specific texts in science and social studies classrooms–rather than
referring to the text, they are expected to learn from what they read.
Staircase of Complexity
To prepare students for the complexity of college- and career-ready texts, each
grade level requires a “step” of growth on the “staircase.” Students read the
central, grade-appropriate text around which instruction is centered. Teachers are
patient, create more time and space in the curriculum for this close and careful
reading, and provide appropriate and necessary scaffolding and supports for
students reading below grade level.
Students have rich and rigorous conversations that depend on a common text.
Teachers insist that classroom experiences stay deeply connected to the text on
the page and that students develop habits for making evidentiary arguments both
in conversation and in writing to assess comprehension of a text.
Writing from Sources
Writing needs to emphasize use of evidence to inform or make an argument
rather than the personal narrative and other forms of decontextualized prompts.
Although the narrative still has an important role, students develop skills through
written arguments that respond to the ideas, events, facts, and arguments pre-
sented in the texts they read.
Students build the vocabulary they need to access grade-level complex texts. By
focusing strategically on comprehension of pivotal and commonly found words
(such as discourse, generation, theory, and principled) and less on esoteric literary
terms (such as onomatopoeia or homonym), teachers constantly build students’
ability to access more complex texts across the content areas.
Source: Adapted from Common Core Instructional Shifts, by New York State Education Department, 2011. Retrieved from EngageNY at http://engageny.org
/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/common-core-shifts.pdf. Used with permission.