Academic journal article Middle Grades Research Journal

THE "LITERATURE" OF LITERATURE ANTHOLOGIES: An Examination of Text Types

Academic journal article Middle Grades Research Journal

THE "LITERATURE" OF LITERATURE ANTHOLOGIES: An Examination of Text Types

Article excerpt

The Common Core State Standards standards represent literacy skills that students should perform across all content areas using both literary and informational text. These standards particularly emphasize the use of informational text across all content areas by increasing the amount of this text type on assessments. The 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) was the first time policy specified the proportion of text type by grade level, showing increased emphasis on informational text with the advancement of grade level. The Common Core State Standards further supported with this text type division: 50% literary and 50% informational text in the fourth grade year, 45% literary and 55% informational text in the eighth grade year, and 30% literary and 70% informational text in the 12th grade year.

This focus on increasing the amount of informational text reading stems from a history of students who have difficulty reading these types of texts (Carnegie Council on Advancing Adolescent Literacy, 2010; Heller & Greenleaf, 2007). Researchers argue that students must have exposure and access to a variety of text types, and be provided direct, explicit instruction on how to use and comprehend these texts types (Carnegie Council on Advancing Adolescent Literacy, 2010; Kamil et al., 2008). With these new text type divisions in play, it is important to examine the types of texts used in classrooms, particularly in English language arts classrooms, since it is in these classrooms that the much of the literacy instruction for secondary students has traditionally occurred (Bean & Harper, 2011). Thus, this study investigated the types of texts used in literature anthologies, a widely and commonly used text in English language arts classrooms.

BACKGROUND

Authors of the Common Core explain that "this division [of literary and informational text] reflects the unique, time-honored place of English language arts (ELA) teachers in developing students' literacy skills while at the same time recognizing that teachers in other areas must have a role in this development as well" (Common Core State Standards Initiative, 2012, para. 7). Despite these intentions, this split of literary and informational text has caused several misconceptions to emerge. Many ELA teachers have reported that administrators and district personnel have required a cut to literature in favor of including more informational text-cuts that have angered and frustrated ELA teachers (Short, 2013). Sandra Stotsky's (2012) opinion piece in The Huffington Post further fueled this fire, spreading a heated debate across major national newspapers and web sites about the types of texts that should be taught in ELA classrooms according to Common Core {The Huffington Post, 2012; Layton, 2012; Petri, 2012; Pimental & Coleman, 2012). She argued that the strong emphasis on informational text could result in decreased analytical thinking and decreased teaching of significant literary works.

In response, many have reemphasized the original intent of the Common Core's text type division. Short (2013) pointed out that because nonfiction and informational texts are receiving more attention, especially in the younger grades, this emphasis does not translate to a deemphasis of fiction and literary texts. She states, "This belief is a misunderstanding of the standards, which are an attempt to correct an imbalance, not to establish a new imbalance where kids are not reading enough fiction" (para. 2). Additionally, the 50/50 literary versus informational text split in the middle grades and the 30/70 split in high school does not translate to secondary ELA teachers teaching all of these texts. Shanahan (2012) explained that "they [teachers] need to understand that these requirements govern not just the ELA class, but students' entire school reading experience. Thus, how much informational text students need to read in any class is somewhat dependent on what they are doing in their other classes" (para. …

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