Common Core: The Fuss Over Non-Fiction
Q: What changes will this mean in my Readers' Workshop?
One change that the Common Core demands is “close reading” of texts, both literary and informational. You will likely find yourself spending several days in a row on one particular informational text, going “deep” and guiding your students in analyzing what they read in a way that perhaps you are not used to. You will need to become more comfortable yourself with informational texts by reading more of them on your own and choosing quality texts that will help you accomplish your teaching objectives. And you may not “cover” as much perhaps in terms of quantity, but rather mine the riches of fewer texts in deep discussions. You may want to consider different sources for the informational texts you teach with—quality magazines, for example, rather than entire books.
In much the same way as you teach the structure of literature and narrative texts (characters, setting, problem, solution, etc.) the Common Core requires a close examination of the structure of informational text. You will be stepping back from the text and looking at it as a whole. How is it “built?” Does the writer use a compare-and-contrast structure to make his points? Problem-and-solution? Cause-and-effect? Or is the text written as a chronology of significant events?
At the upper elementary levels, you will be helping students to integrate and synthesize information about the same topic from multiple texts. In this way students will discover a range of facts and opinions because different authors will have different perspectives on a topic. You'll be teaching students how to look at texts with a critical eye, noticing how a topic is introduced and elaborated upon, asking them to determine the author's purpose and point of view, determining what claims the writer makes and whether or not she gives reasons or evidence to support those claims. You'll go “deep” by examining how individual sentences or paragraphs or sections fit into the overall structure of the text.