Reading: The nonfiction revolution

“Mom will you read to me?”

For a decade and a half I’ve been responding to this question with stacks of books for each of my three children. My kids grew up alongside Harry and Hermione at Hogwarts, and Laura Ingalls Wilder on the Western plains.

We burned through A Wrinkle in Time, Treasure Island, and the Inkheart series, and — much to my chagrin — scoured every page of those Magic Tree House books. But there’s one kind of writing that we rarely read, one that experts now recommend every teacher and parent take special pains to make a part of their children’s education.

Call it the nonfiction revolution. Where children’s reading and writing has mostly been composed of make believe — fairytales and talking animals and, as teendom approaches, overwrought coming-of-age dystopias — now educators. impelled by new educational standards, are extolling the importance of factual, informational reading. Read full article.

Math: Deep, not wide

It was Valentine’s Day at Argonne Elementary School in San Francisco and Kathy Angus was teaching long division to a squirming class of fourth and fifth graders. Ignoring the undercurrent of barely suppressed excitement in anticipation of the party after lunch, Angus demonstrated several different ways to solve a single problem on the whiteboard. Somehow, Angus kept the kids’ attention, and the room grew animated as students raised their hands to explain the various ways they derived their answers.

“This year is about division, division, division,” Angus said later, as kids made their noisy way to recess. “The kids are learning different strategies for solving division problems, and looking at the same division problem in a number of different ways.” Read full article.

Writing: All about evidence

One recent morning at Gateway High School in San Francisco, the kids in Laura D’Amato’s ninth grade humanities class were hunting for evidence.

The assignment? The class recently started a research project on social movements around the world, and that morning they were reading articles on their topic and taking notes. As D’Amato quietly circled the classroom, checking notes and answering questions, the students pored over articles, looking for evidence to support their theses. Their final papers will be three pages long but they’re required to write six pages of notes (eight pages for honors students). “We’re in the information gathering phase at this point,” D’Amato told the class. “We’re putting the net out and gathering as much evidence as possible.”

Parents can expect to hear the word “evidence” a lot under the new Common Core State Standards — beginning in the earliest grades. As the standards are rolled out in schools across the country, even very young children will be expected to provide evidence to demonstrate how they know what they know. In kindergarten, for example, students may “show evidence” by pointing to pictures in a book they’re reading. In math, they may stack blocks to show that three plus three equals six. By the fourth grade, kids will be asked to write argument papers with multiple reasons for their opinion, each with concrete pieces of evidence. Read full article.

What’s next?

Wondering what’s in store in high school? Check out Your high schooler and Common Core: a cheat sheet.

Share on Pinterest