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Tonight I spent my Friday night reading through the Common Core Appendixes on Reading. The Appendix basically overviews different types of text complexities appropriate for each grade level and presents different example grade-appropriate texts broken down by their ‘complexity’. They use a 3 prong approach in determining what exactly a “grade-appropriate” text actually is: qualitative, quantitative, and reader’s ability. Qualitative measures include sentence structure, meaning, and other measures like vocabulary. Quantitative measures basically only measure word length. A Reader’s ability, technically labeled as “Reader and Task” is highly subjective but basically measures the ability, motivation, and background of a potential reader for a text.

Taking the time to sit down and read the rationale behind our government’s selection of texts was oddly satisfying. I started on this quest because I was so flustered by Common Core’s insistence on reading U.S. Seminal documents, and searched for justification for their inclusion. Climbing further down into the rabbit hole, however, I didn’t find much of an answer to my query but still gained valuable insight into how and why certain texts are included while others are excluded. It’s funny to me how language and reading can be broken down and measured to its most basic components, such as word length, to determine the “appropriateness” of a text. I guess we should give some sort of esoteric political philosophy textbook to lap up a nice serving of “isms” and “tions” to our students to bolster their vocab!

At the end of all this, however, I feel both excited and anxious at the immensity of the task before us English (and other subject) teachers: given our students’ 5th/6th grade reading level, high EL population, and low motivation, I don’t know where to begin chipping away at their hard shells of ignorance (aka – thick skulls).Praise the Lord that I teach freshmen who will hopefully get better teachers down the assembly line!


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