Informational Text and the Common Core

Informational Text and the Common Core

Debra Rosenblum (Henderson University School, USA & Florida Atlantic University High School, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6046-5.ch072
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Abstract

Currently, teachers of reading and language arts are being asked to look closely at what materials are being used in their classrooms. As of today, 45 states have become proponents of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). These standards have been created to “ensure that students are equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to be globally competitive” (NGA, et al., 2008, p. 24). These standards mandate a higher percentage of what has come to be termed informational text. The first question that needs to be answered is what exactly is the definition of informational text and why is it important? The largest change noted in the shift to informational text is the percentage of text required. Informational text covers a very broad spectrum of reading material including biographies and autobiographies: “books about history, social studies, science, and the arts”; “technical texts, including directions, forms, and information displayed in graphs, charts, or maps”; and “digital sources on a range of topics” (Maloch & Bomer, 2013, p. 209). In the upper grades, the different subject areas are generally taught by a variety of teachers. These content area teachers are experts in their fields and much of their information is strictly informational in nature to begin with. The problem is that “Most teachers are not taught how to teach reading” (Gewertz, 2012, p. 1). This leads to the question of how teachers are utilizing informational texts in their classrooms. This chapter explores informational texts and the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).
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Background

For many years the focus of ELA has been narrative literature. Prior to the CCSS, Florida has focused on the Sunshine State Standards, which placed a greater emphasis on narrative text. The standards are constantly changing. Moving further into the 21st century, universities and employers are recognizing that the current generation is not well-versed in tackling materials relating to their studies and occupations. With this revelation comes new ideas regarding fixing this deficit in the ability to read and understand complex, informational text. The implementation of the Common Core State Standards is seen as the magical elixir to combat this growing problem. Research being done is identifying a split between the narrative (fiction stories) being taught in the younger grades and a decline in test scores beginning in the fourth grade when testing incorporates mostly non-fiction, informational text. This creates a dilemma for ELA teachers who recognize the value of fictional literature in creating critical thinkers.

The necessity for schools to promote cooperation between ELA and content area teachers is paramount to success. Content area text is informational in nature and with proper guidance content area text could help bridge the gap between narrative and informational text. This would leave the door open for ELA teachers to continue using narrative text in their classrooms without jeopardizing student achievement.

The importance of informational text cannot be downplayed as it is noted that the vast majority of text found on the Internet today is informational. This Common Core concept is being implemented to “ensure that students are equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to be globally competitive” (NGA et al., 2008, p. 24). The goal is to keep US children competitive in the growing global workforce.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Fourth-Grade Slump: Represents the watershed at which time the cumulative lack of opportunity with informational text shows up on achievement tests, given the weight of emphasis on informational relative to narrative text ( Jeong, Gaffney & Choi, 2010 ).

Informational Text: Text written with the primary purpose of conveying information about the natural and social world…and [having] particular text features to accomplish this purpose ( Maloch & Horsey, 2013 ).

The Great Divide Approach to Literacy: Elementary students are asked to write “creative” sorts of texts, and secondary students are suddenly asked to write exposition and argument” ( Maloch & Bomer, 2013 AU58: The citation "Maloch & Bomer, 2013" matches multiple references. Please add letters (e.g. "Smith 2000a"), or additional authors to the citation, to uniquely match references and citations. ).

College and Career Ready: Ready graduates must possess the ability to read complex informational text independently across numerous disciplines and topic areas” (The Aspen Institute, 2012 AU55: The in-text citation "The Aspen Institute, 2012" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ).

Expository Text: Include technical words and a larger proportion of high-frequency academic words compared with narratives, making them more lexically challenging for young readers” ( Neuman & Roskos, 2012 ).

Content Area Teachers: Experts in their fields and much of their information is strictly informational in nature ( Gewertz, 2012 AU56: The citation "Gewertz, 2012" matches multiple references. Please add letters (e.g. "Smith 2000a"), or additional authors to the citation, to uniquely match references and citations. ).

Literacy (New): New forms of literacy call upon students to know how to read and write not only in the print world but also in the digital world” ( Schmar-Dobler, 2003 ).

Common Core State Standards: The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were researched, written and developed by professional educators and education experts from across the United States and agreed upon in 2010 through a state led initiative by the National Governor's Association (NGA) and Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). Florida's State Board of Education voluntarily adopted the CCSS in 2010 followed by more than 40 states in 2011. The CCSS provide clear educational standards, while allowing local districts and schools the flexibility needed to deliver quality instruction in the classroom. The standards, which are not to be confused with curriculum or instruction, are designed to ensure all students, regardless of demography, graduate high school prepared to enter college or the workforce. Moreover, the standards are internationally benchmarked and provide our students with an edge in the global jobs market by ensuring mastery of knowledge and skills needed to perform today's high-skill, high-wage occupations. The Department strongly supports the full implementation of CCSS in the 2014-15 school year and is focused on providing local districts the support needed for a successful transition to CCSS (FLDOE).

Rhetoric: Sources, statistics, and anecdotes the authors use to make their arguments in books ( Gewertz, 2012 AU57: The citation "Gewertz, 2012" matches multiple references. Please add letters (e.g. "Smith 2000a"), or additional authors to the citation, to uniquely match references and citations. ).

Global Workplace: “In 1980, the global workforce consisted of workers in the advanced countries, parts of Africa and most of Latin America. Approximately 960 million persons worked in these economies. Population growth—largely in poorer countries--increased the number employed in these economies to about 1.46 billion workers by 2000. But in the 1980s and 1990s, workers from China, India and the former Soviet bloc entered the global labor pool. Of course, these workers had existed before then. The difference, though, was that their economies suddenly joined the global system of production and consumption. In 2000, those countries contributed 1.47 billion workers to the global labor pool, effectively doubling the size of the world's now connected workforce.” ( Freeman, 2005 ).

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