As California begins the process of adopting the federal Common Core Standards, teachers are required to examine their teaching. The Common Core, as I understand it so far, focuses on teaching content in a deeper way. Students will be required to think critically, be creative, collaborate, and communicate. Much of this we already do.
In my district this year, we are focusing students on providing evidence from the text for their conclusions. In my Reading Workshop, students write letters to me once a week about what they are reading. They are required to respond to my last letter to them, summarize oh so briefly the section they read this week, and fill one page of thoughts about their thinking–supported with evidence from the text.
Here is an example of a student letter (even cooler because it’s about my novel!):
Dear Mrs. Ulleseit,
Thank you for complimenting me on last week’s letter. I really did try to include all the points you covered in class. You make it so easy because you read us so many books.
This week I continued reading In the Winds of Danger by Linda Ulleseit. In this section, Nia has an encounter with Jenett, pregnant wife of the barn leader.
Early on, the text says, “With her snarkiest tone, Nia asked, ‘Having a bad morning, Jenett?’” This tells me that Nia is upset with Jenett. When I use a snarky tone with my mother, it’s usually because she’s not letting me do something I want to do. I love and respect her, but I am upset with her. Since Jenett is the wife of Nia’s barn leader, Nia probably respects her. In this section, however, Jenett is spying on her and acting weird. Nia is self-conscious and ends up being snarky.
Showing how different Nia is with Jenett than other characters, there are more friendly interactions with Gregory and Ana. When Nia is in the tavern, she approaches Ana and politely asks to join her. Ana agrees, and the text says, “Ana sounded delighted.” Clearly Ana likes Nia. Later in the chapter, when Jenett stalks off after a confrontation with Nia, Geoffrey asks Nia if she’s okay. A bit later, he leaves her some flowers and a nice note. These are things boys do if they like you, which Geoffrey wouldn’t if Nia wasn’t nice to him.
I predict Nia and Geoffrey will work together to start a new barn that will dominate the Aerial Games. The text has already said that Nia will lead. It’s only a matter of who she will work for. I think she will work for Geoffrey.
This student referred to the text and quoted it in a couple of places. Nice job! Bring on the Common Core. My students are ready!