Tuesday, May 17, 2011

PLN: Book Study - Focus, Chapter 2

Focus by Mike Schmoker is broken into two sections. Section I is about what and how we teach literacy.

Take-aways from Chapter 2, What We Teach:
  • Curriculum is the factor that determines how many students in a school will learn. (Marzano)
  • Students need: “meaningful reading, writing, speaking and thinking – around an adequately coherent body of content in the subject areas.” (28)
  • Critical thinking relies on content knowledge.
  • We need learners who “can survey a wide range of sources, decide which is most important and worth paying attention to, and then put this information together in ways that make sense to oneself and, ultimately others.” (Gardner in Schmoker 34)
  • Students need close reading, discussion and writing in EVERY course.
  • David Conley believes these four standards could replace almost all current k-12 English language arts standards.
    • Read to infer/interpret/draw conclusions
    • Support arguments with evidence.
    • Resolve conflicting views encountered in source documents.
    • Solve complex problems with no obvious answer. (38)
  • Conley’s research team also advocates for increasing the amount and quality of writing students are expected to produce.
  • We should teach fewer standards in greater depth.
  • Great question raised by Ravitch about Common Core State Standards: Shouldn’t we study CCSS intended effects and unintended consequences in pilot schools before we go national? (42)
  • When selecting the “power standards,” ask will students need this beyond the test date? Does this have value in multiple disciplines? Is this necessary for success at the next grade level? (Reeves) Consider:
    • Endurance
    • Leverage
    • Readiness for the Next Level
My biggest ah-ha for this chapter was about what we teach. I used to teach in a state that had 90-ish standards for high school English. In seventh grade, students were expected to read and write in seven different genre! It was insane the amount of standards that were required. Now with the movement to Common Core, there may be power standards, but have they been piloted? Have they been vetted? We haven’t even developed the assessments yet! Here we are, as a nation, going down a path that has some major lingering questions. Will folks look back on this as they do NCLB and think, Well, it was a good idea at the time.?


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