Common Core Reading: Focus on Fiction - Half of the Balanced Reading Diet

If you know me, or even if you don't know me, but you follow my blog, you know a few of my favorite things...

1) Picture Books
2) Reading Workshop
3) Teaching Reading

Although I wouldn't necessarily classify it as a "favorite thing" I have come to passionately embrace the new Common Core State Standards.  I think for me, I realized last year that I was in a position of influence and assumed a lot of responsibility in learning what it is it meant to teach "the Common Core way." I realize the Common Core standards are not perfect, but I do like that every state (with the exception of Texas and Virginia) has the same set of standards, objectives and literacy expectations when it comes to ELA, I also like that the Common Core doesn't seem to be a prescribed set of lesson plans nor does there seem to be an overemphasis on assessment. I also do not believe the Common Core standards to be all-inclusive. For example, I believe the Common Core lacks some heart, the affective domain of readers.  The Common Core does not address the attitude, motivation and and passion necessary to be a lifelong reader and lover of books--that my friend, comes from YOU, their reading teacher.  And guess what, from my experience, students' passion for reading, or science or any subject or topic for that matter, is directly proportionate to YOUR passion, enthusiasm, attitude and love of it, trust me! It's so true and this is part of the "art" of teaching, and as much "latitude" and "shades of meaning" there is in the Common Core, the documents themselves and the words contained within them, are really just about the "science" of teaching...the formulas and suggested recipes for success.   The Common Core does not tell teachers how to help develop a child's "reading identity" and this is vital for your readers to become passionate and emotional readers, the ones who LOVE books and tell you all about it, exuberantly and enthusiastically! As teachers, we must share our passion for reading with students and understand that the "heart" of reading must be taught and not overlooked just because it's not in the Common Core. Creating this reading culture and classroom community of readers must not only exist in a Common Core classroom, but will ignite the fire and passion for other learning, too, and this is key!  Like I tell audiences in my presentations, the new standards do expect more of students (and teachers) than before, but the comprehension strategies that students must still do and think as a reader, are just as necessary and essential as before as well.  The Big 5 areas of reading (Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, Vocabulary, Fluency and Comprehension) under No Child Left Behind are still there, just housed in different strands of the Common Core ELA.  Even the instructional shifts.....

1) Building knowledge through content-rich fiction and non-fiction (50/50 split)
2) Reading, writing, and speaking grounded in evidence from the text
3) Regular practice with complex text and its academic vocabulary

....were research based best practices before the Common Core.  Didn't we always tell kids to read a "balanced reading diet"...reading a mix of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, etc?  Yes, we did.  
Didn't we always ask kids to identify where in the text they had a question, connection, inference and to jot down that part in the book that made them have that thinking? Yes, we did.   And didn't we always understand the importance of all tiers of vocabulary, not just Tier 3 academic words? Yes, we did...thanks to both Marzano and Beck and McKeown.   

With all this said, teaching the Common Core standards for reading literature, if anything, has become a bit more focused with just about as much emphasis on the essential comprehension strategies as before.  Although you will not find the terms, "predicting, background knowledge, schema, visualizing, and synthesizing" in the language of the standards, the expectation that students must predict, access background knowledge, use their schema, visualize, and synthesize are built into the framework of the anchor standards when they say...

From Anchor Standard 1 - "students must read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text...students must also acquire the habits of reading independently and closely, which are essential to their future success."  From this, we know that making "logical inferences" does not happen without making predictions and visualizations.  The main difference between predictions and inferences is that predictions can be checked and confirmed, inferences can only be determined and interpreted.  And I love what Emily Kissner says, in her blog post about Visualizing in the Common Core, "Visualizing is a kind of inferring. When readers visualize, they fill in missing details with their own background knowledge." And speaking of background knowledge, you won't find the term "schema" in the Common Core documents either.  Now the authors of the Common Core aren't saying that accessing background knowledge isn't necessary for comprehending text, what I believe they are saying is that readers will do that anyway.  According to David Pearson, faculty at UC Berkeley, he hypothesizes that reader response and a reader's background knowledge as part of the text transaction, was something reader's did anyway as part of a reader's "in the head" process of reading, and that too many classrooms spent too much time making text-to-self connections which are encounters "outside the text" where the Common Core emphasizes spending most of the time "inside the text" other words, readers are naturally going to do this, we are just not spending time teaching this...they're already doing it and will continue to do it.  On a side note, actually I bet too many students were making irrelevant connections, we called coincidences like "Oh, I have a cat, too" in which that doesn't really help us understand text more deeply, AND a fair amount of students making false connections just to "fit in" to the reading conversation, that is, students saying they had a pinata at their birthday party even when they didn't....instead we should have been focusing their attention to a more powerful self-monitoring of connections and that's disconnections.  When a reader can say, "I am nothing like this character" this is a more powerful contrast that is worthy of recognition and attention. 
Not only is part of the natural process of language comprehension, not just reading comprehension, when students get to standard 3, they must "explain how the character's actions contribute to the events" which they must relate to the character and how the character feels in order to do this.  Then in anchor standard 7 which states that students must "integrate and evaluate content presented..." that's synthesizing.  Yes, students must summarize, but when students synthesize they allow their thinking to change through the course of text based on the "content presented."   So, you see, all the great reading strategies shared with us by Keene & Zimmerman,  Debbie Miller, and Harvey and Goudvis are all there, you just have to do a little interpretation of your own...which, by the way, is liberty and prerogative the Common Core authors grant to all teachers...thank you very much, I'll take it!  

So, with all this said, you can be assured that with a few instructional shifts, you are still a great reading teacher and doing what's best for kids.  In my attempt to embrace the Common Core and hang onto all the best practices of reading comprehension of the past, I have spent a good bit of time this year focusing on fiction.  I jumped in with both feet last spring on the Informational Text standards, and wrote a very comprehensive blog post on the topic, which received attention from the North Carolina state department of education.  However, fiction is just as important as Kylene Beers says in her new book, Notice and Note, fiction is what is most like our lives, it actually helps us be better humans and relatable to others.  I love that! 

One of the things I've always tried to do as a reading teacher, through reading books by Debbie Miller and Harvey and Goudvis, and Tanny McGregor is to help my students understand the best way to show their thinking.  When I taught first grade and still uploaded documents to my website, I added this to give my students ideas and suggestions for the best way to show (read and respond in writing) their understanding of text. 

As you can see the entries are dated 2008, but the strategies are still essential.  Today, I still am trying to figure out the best to invite students to show their thinking and the Common Core places a high emphasis on writing about reading.  I always felt it best to model for them several ways to show and write their thinking so students could choose the best one for them.  As you can see from the picture above, I would show them how to create their own graphic organizer and charts...this was hard for some students, but they eventually got the hang of it.  This year I've been working on a set of reading response sheets aligned to the Common Core, for all Reading Literature standards, RL.1-10 for Kindergarten through 2nd grade, and I'm so pleased to finally share it with you.  This has been a 9 month journey of editing and refining, but it's finally done.   This is a comprehensive, all-inclusive set of reading response writing sheets for students to show their reading comprehension understanding through by writing about what they've read. 

Hello Common Core Reading by Jen Jones

This bundle has over 220 reader response pages for every comprehension skill and strategies included in all the reading literature standards....this is by far the most comprehensive reading document I have created to date.  Although fiction should technically cover half of your school year and nonfiction should take up your other half of the school year, first and second grade teachers at my school have told me that this could well cover an entire year of reading instruction. I was fortunate that I was able to "test" it out on the students at Lake Myra and the K-2 teachers are thrilled to have the resource at a "perk" for actually having used in their reading lessons.  A few students in Mrs. Chatterton's class, jumped at the opportunity to win a chance to be featured on my blog with their entries below, demonstrating some of the sheets from the product.  

And Syndey's summary of My Rotten Red Headed Stepbrother....

...inspired me to add a Summary page to the document, which I originally did not include. 

You can take a look at the some sample pages below or look at the 40-page preview file (which features full page views) of more pages from the product. 

Also included in the product are 21 pages of suggested mentor text (picture books) to use to teach each comprehension strategy, skill and standard, RL.1-10 for K-2.  No more searching around to find the best book to teach point of view, or plot...I've done all the work for you!  

Anyway, I hope you like what I've done and I hope you check it out!  As an incentive to pick it up, I'm putting everything in my TpT store on sale for one day, tomorrow, 3/17.  So, you don't want to miss out.

If you have any questions, just feel free to leave a comment or email me,

Thanks! :-) Jen

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Jess said...

This is such a great packet! I wish I had this at the beginning of the year! I also love you suggestions for mentor texts! Thanks for this post!
Rambling About Reading

Jill H said...

Ha - Should have checked for a post when I got your "I'm having a sale" text at 1 am while I was working on yearbook!! Coolio feature - You are awesome. I had already downloaded the preview to check the packet out - fabulous. I appreciate your post so much. It is information I can share with my team (and leadership) when our district tends to be "foggy" (at best) on what to look for with ccss- Thanks as always!!!

- Michael's Wife said...

This is incredible! PLEASE make one for grades 3-5!!! My district is implementing Common Core Reading next year and I'm excited about the new standards but I'm at a loss as to where to begin and how to teach the new standards. My district is very fuzzy as well when it comes to how to teach the new standards and the training we have received thus far hasn't been very helpful.

Stacey Colegrove said...

Your post caught my eye with the "loves" and the positives about the Common Core. I also share in your loves and am feeling very connected to educators (around the country!) due to these shared standards. I completely agree with you, about utilizing the tried-but-true reading/writing steps we've always used--they are vital! Thank you so much for your post. I feel inspired to start the day! We are working on summaries this week, so your new page caught my eye! Have a wonderful week, Stacey

Mrs. Wilson-Scott said...

WOW! As a teacher at Sonora Elementary school, I am so excited to have these resources! Thanks so much for sharing. Our second grade teachers just switched over to the Lake Myra way of doing their Literacy Block and this will fit right in when the kids are reading their Browsing bag and finish a book! I love all of this... it is as if you read my mind.
Thanks so much for all of this hard work!

Stephanie Wilson-Scott
2nd grade
Sonora Elementary

Anne said...

I see that you have these labled K-2, but some of your previews looked appropriate for 3rd grade. What are your thoughts on that? Have any 3rd grade teachers tried them out? I LOVE your blog and your explanations make things clear for me!

Jennifer Jones said...

I just spent the last 15 minutes cross-checking my packet with the 3rd grade RL standards, a lot is covered, here's what is not, not at RL.1 sheets ask students to "refer explicitly to the text as a basis for their answer"; RL.4 has no sheet for literal vs. non-literal language; RL.5 does not have a sheet about "building on earlier sections"; RL.7 does not have a mood page. Now, I could a few pages, or you can wait for the 3-5 version. It's totally up to you.

Anonymous said...

I was wondering in what packet might I find the "I Can Identify the Parts of a Story". This would be great for our kindergarteners to use next week.

Jennifer Jones said...

You will not find anything in the packet called "I Can Identify Parts of a Story" because standard RL.3 isn't quite worded that way. What you will find is many sheets to support students "identifying, characters, setting and key details from the story." Anything in the RL.3 section meet standards related to parts of the story.

Melissa P. Brittany P. said...

You are amazing! This is a must have! Thank you for sharing all of your incredible ideas!

Miss 27 said...

This miss one of the best blog posts I've readabout Common Core. I share a lot of the same opinions about the standards. Good teaching is good teaching. I am also embrasing the standards not because "they are here and they're not going away" but because I have seen how the rigor and clear expectations helps students, parents and teachers. Thank you for sharing this post and your thorough bundle. I am looking forward to using it.

Melissa Etheridge said...

Dear Jen,

I just found your site as I was tooling around on TpT. I love your layout and your ideas. I teach seventh-grade ELA, but I love creating products for all ages. Keep up this great work.


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