Academic journal article New England Reading Association Journal

Reading Cross-Training: Meeting the Challenges of the Common Core with Common Instructional Routines for Readers of All Ages

Academic journal article New England Reading Association Journal

Reading Cross-Training: Meeting the Challenges of the Common Core with Common Instructional Routines for Readers of All Ages

Article excerpt

The conventional wisdom is that students learn to read in grades K through 2 and read to learn in grades 3 through 12. It is also assumed that young students need to be taught the habits of learning, such as organizing materials and persisting at tasks; whereas older students have mastered these dispositions. There is little doubt that instruction changes as students mature and advance from primary, to middle to secondary grades. This article examines one aspect of a district's curriculum and instruction redesign process to align changing beliefs about contemporary reading practices from kindergarten through grade 12 in a coherent fashion. Similar to the multiple ways crosstraining benefits physical performance, we propose that there are essential fundamentals of reading instruction that should be included at every level.

A visit to any first grade classroom will find students categorizing words in a literacy center or in small teacher-led groups reading segments of leveled text, making meaning using metacognitive and semantic analysis comprehension strategies. An observer would see the teacher explicitly instructing and encouraging academic habits, such as sustaining attention and transitioning smoothly from one activity to the next. A 10th grade classroom across our nation would most likely be less predictable. A visit might reveal whole class or small-group discussion of a historical theme or formulating a research question of students' own design, prior to reading. At this level, it is doubtful that one would observe the teacher instructing explicit comprehension strategies and encouraging the learning habits taught in the elementary classroom. It is expected that students at the upper grade levels have mastered discrete comprehension skills and self-regulatory behaviors, such as keeping track of one's goal, re-engaging with the text after an external distraction, or adapting to changing task demands.

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) prompt educators to question these divisions of thought. Teachers across the grades in Bloomfield, a district just north of Hartford, Connecticut, have reexamined their assumptions and subsequent responsibilities. As a result of this reflective process, educators now recognize that increased literacy levels occur when adults first adjust their belief system about their collective responsibility to be teachers of reading and then adapt instructional practices common to all students district-wide, kindergarten through grade 12. This fundamental change in belief systems has impacted student achievement in reading, changed instructional delivery, and contributed to a more contemporary view when designing units of study aligned to the CCSS.

Bloomfield, Connecticut, is noted for its large insurance companies, newly built churches and golf courses, and for the diversity of its population in race, age and socioeconomics. The school district serves approximately 2,100 students, with a 91% minority population. Household income has been described as bimodal, with a median income of $53,812. Forty-eight percent of students are eligible for free and reduced lunch amid a community known for its high level of formal education (Stoltz, as cited in Ainsworth, 2013). It is a district of high contrasts and high expectations.

By all indications, the Bloomfield Public Schools is in a turn-around mode. Following a four-year decline in state mastery testing, reading scores began an upward trend in 2011. Progress towards closing the reading achievement gap between state and district performance has been substantial. Targets have been set based on aggregated reading matched cohort data for grades 3-8. As shown in Figure 1, the upper trend line provides the state performance, while the lower trend line displays the district's performance. Through coordinated and collaborative effort focused on interdisciplinary literacy instruction Pre-K-12, the Bloomfield Public Schools closed the achievement gap in reading by exceeding the state by . …

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