1. Informational, Informational, and more Informational: By high school, 70% of a student's reading should be informational. Think informational, not non-fiction. The good news is that it isn't all to be done in the Language Arts classroom. The CCS suggest that within the ELA classroom, 55% should be informational. Our school will have a definite advantage in this area as our vocational majors read a lot of informational texts. When trying to decide what this means, think of text books, how-to manuals, and scholarly articles.
2. Argument, not Persuasion: The art of persuasion is missing from the CCS. It is replaced with the argument. Students should be using logos rather than pathos to meet this standard. The arguments should focus on a serious subject. Students should look at all sides and attempt to arrive at the "truth". Assertions should be based on evidence and avoid emotion. There is also a strong focus on logical fallacies. A good method for teaching the argument is to use the claim, data, warrant model. For more information, see appendix A of the CCS.
3. Text Complexity: There will be a great push to increase text complexity. The greatest change will be in the upper elementary area. Since the 1950's, our school texts have decreased dramatically in complexity. In general, there is a 300 point lexile difference between a grade 12 text and a first year college text. The CCS will attempt to raise a student's ability to read critically at a higher level.
4. Vocabulary: Vocabulary is critical to a student's ability to comprehend this higher text complexity. Schools should implement a rigorous vocabulary program to aid student's reading comprehension.
5. Research: The CCS place much emphasis on a student's ability to find relevant sources and assess their validity. Our school plans on scaffolding the research units. For example, in 9th grade, the research unit will focus on source validity. In 10th grade, they will focus on source validity and using data to support a claim. In 11th grade, they will use skills from 9th and 10th grade and extend the ideas into synthesizing multiple sources on a single topic.
6. Project Based Learning: PBL is the way to go with the CCS. Model units put out by the CCS show multi-standard units with a single focus. For example, a unit may last for several weeks, cover many standards, but be on a single topic. Students should have a showcase at the end of the unit utilizing 21st Century skills. The focus on marketable skills in the CCS stipulates that students practice cooperative learning, problem solving, and real world topics. All of this works well with traditional project based learning.
Overall, I am optimistic about the Common Core Standards. It seems that if you are a non-traditional teacher and embrace 21st Century teaching and learning, you should fare well. I like that there is a consideration for staging a project based assessment in addition to the traditional multiple choice test. I believe it will allow students with different talents to showcase their learning. We all have much to learn yet about the new standards, but having a country-wide initiative to improve the education of all of our students seems like a good first step in improving America's placement in World standings.