Reading Strategy Instruction and the Common Core State Standards

I had wine and Cheese with Dr. Tim Shanahan at the SoMIRAC annual conference in early April. I asked Dr. Shanahan where strategy instruction fits within the Common Core. He replied by saying, “the Core doesn’t mention it at all”.  Prior to asking him this question, I had already sat down with the ELA standards and looked closely at each one beginning with Grade K. As I progressed through standard 1 and 2, I noticed that strategy-based instruction works best for younger readers (grades Pre-K to 2) who are acquiring literacy skills at the basic level, but it starts to lose ground with intermediate level readers who are in what Dr. Chall called the reading to learn stage and the multiple view points stage (Challs Stages of Reading Development).

Levels of Literacy

See for yourself. I challenge you to download a copy of the CCSS ELA standards and use the  Reading Strategy Instruction vs Close Reading comparison chart. At which grade would you say that Strategy Based Instruction loses its robustness?

4 Responses to Reading Strategy Instruction and the Common Core State Standards

  1. Josephine Brinkman says:

    I teach high school English both mainstream and English Language Development from ELD I-ELD IV. Large classes every year even larger this year along with modifying the standards already in place will be a new learning curve. I teach after school Credit Recovery for those who fail English 9 first or second semester. Many of these students are my English language learners and Special Ed students. Improving the standard of teaching is of the utmost importance but when one teacher is in a class of 48 students how much does one really think can be taught efficiently and effectively?

    Those of us that currently teach in this type of situation know well, that yet another program has been sold to our educational leaders, and are making a lot of money off the backs of our districts, teachers, tax-payers, and ultimately our students. I love learning, I am a lifelong learner. I love teaching. But teachers today have only so many hours in a day to accomplish with any success teaching students to become citizens with a global vision. If teachers who are actually on the front lines day in and day out were brought into the decision making process, entrusted to demonstrate and utilize the rigorous methods, strategies, and common-sense driven curriculum that teachers themselves design, maybe, just maybe we would not be in the situation we are in today in education. Of course there are citizens who say that “those that can do, and those that can’t teach.” How many of those concerned citizens have ever taught a day in their lives? To all those out there who think they know more than trained professional, certificated teachers who have dedicated their lives to your children, and who have not taught I challenge you all to “Go get a teaching credential and try to do it better.”

    While it is true that change is a necessary part of becoming an evolved society, so too are a checks and balance system that monitor the goings on of decision makers who are pushing for these “common core” standards. Many citizens not just teachers believe that this current trend sweeping the states is nothing more than another “elixer” that will rid schools of incompetent teachers, and guarantee that every student regardless of ability level will become “proficient” by 2014 and that by God, none will be left behind. Too bad there isn’t some “core” movement to rid education of the incompetent leaders that become ensnared and bamboozled by the costly “product of the hour.” If only teachers could be valued for the years of costly education, post-grad education, the long hours spent at home grading papers, calling parents, meeting parents, in-services, not to mention the time away from their own children’s open houses, plays, and field trips. Teachers have paid dearly into a system that no longer appreciates their blood, sweat, and tears, sometimes giving their lives in their role of educator. However, like my fellow loyal, hardworking, colleagues, we do what we are told because we love our students, we want to improve their lives, we work hard to give them the tools to become productive members of a global society. I can’t tell you how many in-services I have been to that go on for hours listening to a “talking head” espousing the wonder cure these common core standards will provide for our underperforming districts and states, how many in-services to teachers present their ideas, strategies, plans to improve the state of education. Ask a teacher how many times they have been asked their opinion and ideas and have it embraced or accepted. They are rare if any.

    So in response to the question of what “strategies” are not included in the “common core standards” why not question society about the other components that lead to under performance in education? Why are students so unmotivated? Why are so many students hungry when they come to school and can’t concentrate? Why are so many students passed every year when they can’t pass a single class? Why are students allowed to come to school every day sleep deprived? Why are they so disrespectful to teachers and each other? Why are parents allowed to stand back and point fingers at teachers for their students not passing? Why are strategies left out of the common core standards package? What about common sense, respect for the teachers who show up every day willing to be a part of the change but ignored because someone somewhere has sold the leaders in education a bottle of “feel good, this will solve all your woes” which in reality is nothing more than a very expensive bottle of placebos.

  2. The idea that strategy instruction is lacking in Common Core is an interesting one. Being a Standard Course of Study some say pedagogy wouldn’t or shouldn’t be present. The power of CC is embedded in its rigor; it allows for best practices and teacher decision making. Empowerment in best instructional practices has been missing for many. The rigor, involved in the shifts (lexiles, academic vocabulary,informational text), requires great readers. Best practices, including strategic reading, is necessary to rise to the challenges and standards. I believe preparing teachers to use a variety of best research practices, to produce the most strategic readers, is an ongoing process. Moving students from ‘learning- to- read’ to ‘reading- to -learn’ is essential and has room in any standard course of study.

    • Deb Teitelbaum says:

      Janine, thank you for your concise and cogent response. I view the standards as a destination. How I get there is up to me.

  3. Dr. Dea says:

    I tend to disagree that the standards do or do not support reading strategies. They don’t mention them; they move beyond naming strategies or reading skills to accentuate deeper cognitive thought. Actually, in order to determine which of the classic or canonical reading strategies to teach, one needs to target the standards. For instance, predicting (a reality in reading if dramatic irony is ever to have effect) is mentioned once in the standards but not as a reading strategy, rather as a language standard for grade 2: Use knowledge of the meaning of individual
    words to predict the meaning of compound words (e.g., birdhouse, lighthouse, housefly;
    bookshelf, notebook, bookmark). Rather, teachers are empowered as professionals to make instructional decisions based on their knowledge of reading research.

    Reading strategies, depending on a student’s reading proficiency with a specific type of text, may be appropriate instruction at any grade. The goal of strategy instruction is automaticity, the inherent application of a thinking process or approach that results in deeper understanding or ability to analyze a text or texts. Sometimes, even at my age and stage of maturity, I call on an explicit strategy to make sense of a complex text. Even in literature, an area of my reading expertise, I ask questions on a second reading and perhaps even a third reading to conduct a really close textual analysis. I wrote a blog the other day on a Sarah Holbrook poem and in writing that piece, posed questions to myself, some even aloud:

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