Common Core vs. Reading Workshop
I’m finding myself in a conundrum as I plan my Mini-Lessons for the upcoming year and try to incorporate some of the new CC requirements regarding complex texts.
The way it has been described to me, is that in the workshop model we will use complex texts to model strategies but students will still work in “just-right” texts for independent reading/practice. A few things with this:
1) In the past we (my grade-level department) have been told to use picture books as read-alouds because they are short and get to the point. We have also been told it is “okay” to use chapter books as models/read-alouds. My dept. ran with this leniency because we truly feel that students gain a lot from following a novel all the way through. Our department head still hasn’t said we can’t do that but she has said that she would much rather see us using shorter texts and not reading full novels.
Well, in trying to do that, and still align to the common core, I am facing difficult. There are still a few picture books that, while simple in language, have some deeper meaning to get at (Riding the Tiger by Eve Bunting comes to mind) but I find most that I have in my arsenal lacking at being “complex”. All of the examples that have been shown to us are really geared more toward high school. I’m thinking maybe some short stories and myths/fairy tales might fill this void, I just also need to align them to the units/standards so it will take some time.
2) I have expressed concern to my department head that while I think complex text is important ( I really do, I think our students have been babied as far as their reading accomplishments) how useful is a model of complex text when it is so far beyond my students’ capabilities? ELL students? Students at a 3rd grade reading level in the 7th grade? 7th grade texts are beyond comprehension. However, I can’t hold back my on-level or above students either. If the text is too difficult, the “lower” (for lack of a better word) students will not learn anything from the lesson. If it is too easy, the “higher” students will understand but will of course remain bored an unchallenged. I suppose the solution lies in conferences but I am one person with 100 students and do not get to all my students nearly as often as is expected/I would like.
3) In the same vein as above, how is the modeling of complex text really going to help students when they are not working in more complex texts? Exposure is important, sure, but my district has long ignored pushing students out of their comfort zone by letting them settle into their just right books without pushing them to challenge and improve. This is going to be a goal of mine in my teaching this year.
I hope this post didn’t sound to whiny. I’m just trying to work through some of my dilemmas I’m facing as I incorporate complex texts into a model so long focused on working on the students’ level. Actually, as you can probably tell, I made some progress as I typed this up.