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Literacy & The Common Core

Capacities of the literate individual (Common Core, Introduction, 7)

Power upTry It!
How does the school media specialist already contribute to each of these six characteristics of a literate individual.
What do you do specifically?

The good news is that we're already "on target". We just need more power to move to the next level.

Literacy and the Common Core

A primary focus of the Common Core is literacy in all its forms.

The popular novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies can be read on paper or as an interactive eBook and has an iPhone/iPad app that follows the story and enhances the fun. Learn more by watching the App Trailer.

When the standards movement began a decade ago, I worked on a project in New York to determine where students were deficient in each content area. I wasn't surprised to find that most of the problems were associated with general literacy skills that crossed subject areas.

We found that students had a tough time identifying the main idea in a body of text regardless of whether it was a science textbook, article at a website, or a math story problem. They also had trouble sequencing information, following instructions, and making predictions.

We found that students were effective at answering simple questions and summarizing facts. For instance, they could write a report about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake

Today the same kind of activity might be enhanced with a multimedia poster-making tools like Glogster: example 1example 2example 3.The ability to embed text, photos, maps, audio, and video is wonderful, however it still doesn’t get to the root of the problem. Students are simply summarizing. They aren’t getting to the higher levels of thinking.

What about an activity that asks students to make a comparison? Compare a disaster than happened in the past with one that occurred recently. How do disasters impact society differently depending on when and where they occur? You could start with an infographic showing the recent earthquake in Japan.

Or, start with a video or images from the historical eruptions of Mount Vesuvious in Italy?

Whether categorizing invertebrates, comparing characters in a novel, or conducting an in-depth investigation of a social issue, students need skills in observing, questioning, applying prior knowledge, evaluating information, making calculations, organizing ideas, drawing inferences, and reflecting on the process of thinking.

These generic inquiry skills provide the foundation for historical investigations and scientific thinking yet are often overlooked when it comes to direct instruction. We just assume that students know how to ask relevant questions, describe relationships, and find meaning in texts. Unfortunately, this isn't the case.

The Common Core standards and AASL standards are the keys to bridging content area understanding with key literacy skills. Go to Thinkfinity for links to the major content area organizations.

Inquiry is the process of formulating questions, organizing ideas, exploring and evaluating information, analyzing and synthesizing data, and communicating findings and conclusions. It's the type of activity that children and adults do every day when they read a map while on vacation or calculate costs when shopping.

Unfortunately, not everyone is well-prepared to deal with the demands of a fast-paced, technology-rich world containing endless opportunities, choices, perspectives, and conflicts.

So.. what do we do?

Our job is to help students understand the process of inquiry, access and use information in all its forms. and effectively communicate their findings.

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Share something you do the promote literacy skills.
Share your ideas on our Answergarden page in 20 characters or less.


How does this work in today's curriculum with different teachers focusing on particular disciplines?

Explore the websites associated with the many content area educational organizations for ideas. Search for inquiry, research projects, or related terms to find lots of ideas. You can find many of these at Thinkfinity.

The Common Core State Standards adopted by most states provides an easy way to think about the integration of literacy, research, and media skills across the curriculum. According to these standards,

"To be ready for college, workforce training, and life in a technological society, students need the ability to gather, comprehend, evaluate, synthesize, and report on information and ideas, to conduct original research in order to answer questions or solve problems, and to analyze and create a high volume and extensive range of print and nonprint texts in media forms old and new. The need to conduct research and to produce and consume media is embedded into every aspect of today's curriculum. In like fashion, research and media skills and understandings are embedded throughout the Standards rather than treated in a separate section" (ELA, p. 4)

For instance in history, it's called "Historical Thinking". Students use historical thinking to analyze, interpret, and draw conclusions from historical events. Students are asked to conduct historical research, evaluate primary and secondary sources, compare points of view, and construct timelines.

Along with the Common Core, two other groups have focused on standards associated with inquiry.

First, the Standards for the 21st Century Learner from the American Association of School Librarians provide a more detailed look at each aspect of the inquiry process.

  1. Inquiry, think critically, and gain knowledge.
  2. Draw conclusions, make informed decisions, apply knowledge to new situations, and create new knowledge.
  3. Share knowledge and participate ethically and productively as members of our democratic society.
  4. Pursue personal and aesthetic growth.

Students are asked to "follow an inquiry-based process in seeking knowledge in curricular subjects, and make the real-world connection for using this process in own life".

The National Educational Technology Standards for Students from the International Society for Technology in Education focus on higher-order thinking skills and digital citizenship and include five areas:

Power upLet's take a quick look at the Common Core Standards. Look for items that connect with Standards for the 21st Century Learner from the American Association of School Librarians.

By the way, the Google's URL shortener works great!

The Role of Media Specialists in Standards Support

What's the role of the media specialist in supporting standards? The key is collaboration!

By combining data about "how students are progressing" and the wealth of resources available through the school library media center along with a comprehensive information literacy program, the school library media specialist plays an essential role in promoting student achievement. The key to success is building partnerships with teachers and administrators to address the changing needs of learners.

Consider all the places where you could find quality information about student performance and the learning environment. While standardized tests provide one source of information, the school library media specialist has access to other evidence that can assist in making data-driven decisions about teaching, learning, and the school library media center.

Identify Performance Gaps. What specific performance gaps can be identified using standardized test data?

Consider all the places where you could find quality information about student performance and the learning environment. While standardized tests provide one source of information, the school library media specialist has access to other evidence that can assist in making data-driven decisions about teaching, learning, and the school library media center.

Data About Students

Compare Alternative Assessments. How are multiple measures used to get a broad picture of student performance? Are these alternative measures effective in bridging standards and standardized test items?

Analyze Use of the Collection. Is the collection being used effectively to address the learning needs and performance gaps of students?

Assess Student Information Fluency. Are students able to apply information skills across the curriculum to address their learning needs?

Examine Individual Differences. Can performance gaps be associated with specific learning styles, background experiences, or other data that can help focus revised instruction? How can we reach all children, not just the low or middle group?

Data About Learning Environment

10,000 Days of Thunder by Philip CaputoMap the Collection. What resources do we have? Learn more about collection mapping at SLMS at eduscapes.com.

Connect Collection and Curriculum Mapping. How does the collection reflect the needs of the curriculum?

Integrate Information Resources and Technologies. How are resources and technologies being integrated into learning experiences?

Infuse Information Skills. How are information skills woven throughout the curriculum?

Address Performance Gaps. How can the teaching and learning environment be enriched to address performance gaps?

It's time to think differently about fiction, nonfiction, and literacy.

Power upTry It!
Are you using data to support your curriculum decisions?

Or, are you using hunches and traditions as your guide?

A Dozen Ways to Power Up

Try a dozen innovative ways to address these "big impact" literacy problems!

Trash1 - Identify main idea

2- Identify relationships and make connections

3 - Sequence events

4 - Identify details

5 - Distinguish fact from opinion

6 - Identify cause and effect

7 - Compare and contrast viewpoints

8 - Defend a position

9 - Identify the problem and solution

10 - Make predictions

11 - Find meaning

Hammer and the Anvil12 - Draw conclusions

Explore more ideas for connection nonfiction, technology, and fluent thinking.

Power upTry It!
Examine the dozen key skills.
What skills and activities would you add?

Share your ideas.

Seek tools that will help address these key skills. For example DocsTeach allows used to create interactive activities that make use of primary source documents.

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