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Engaging Common Core: Reading to See How the Words Work

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Following is a post (second in a series on breaking down the Common Core ) from guest blogger Susan Weston, a Kentucky education consultant who often works with the Prichard Committee:

As I noted in an earlier post, I think one of the best ways to work with the public around Common Core is to go right to the text.

So, here's a next set of thinking about what the public needs to know.

Consider three more reading standards:

4. Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone

5. Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.

6. Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.

The lines above are the second set of Common Core anchor standards, focused on "Craft and Structure," and listed right after the three on " Key Ideas and Details ."In Kentucky and most (not all) other states, teachers are now working to equip students to do those three things by the end of high school, so that they will be ready for college and career success.

I think standards 4, 5 and 6 are smart things to expect. Words don't mean the same thing in every sentence, and readers need to be able to use all the available clues to figure out how each part of a story, article, opinion piece, technical manual, or other reading works.

I am delighted that Kentucky teachers are working out how to meet these added standards, moving step by step from kindergarten to the end of high school to get Kentucky students ready to read this way as adults. I'm at least as delighted that similar work is underway for my Georgia nieces, my Pennsylvania niece and nephew, and all their many classmates.

For public engagement activists, my key point here is that Common Core specifics can be engaged as quickly as I just did it, using fewer than 300 words to share concrete thought about the real words of the real standards. In a public discourse full of anxiety, doubt, and fear, that sort of specificity can be an important step toward shared understanding and effort.

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