Hate Mail from Math Teachers

I like the Common Core Curriculum Standards. 

You’re rolling your eyes, muttering, if not swearing,  “She teaches English. Duh, no wonder she likes the Common Core.  But what about those of us trying to seat kids at the periodic table or draw them into angle construction? Huh?  Our instructional time is already spread too thin. There aren’t enough minutes in our class periods to get to all the things our curriculum demands and now we are being required to teach reading and writing, too?”

So before I start fielding hate mail from math teachers, let me explain.

Reading well and writing clearly are at the core of the Common Core (apologies for the bad pun–an occupational hazard).  Literacy is essential to every discipline.  In order to complete geometric proofs, kids have to be able to read carefully.  To write coherent lab reports that require more than the fill-in-the-blanks, kids have to be able to write concisely.

But even more than these basic skills is the thinking that close reading and crafted writing nurtures. When kids are asked to scrutinize passages, extracting details to support original assertions, they are developing intellectual patience and experiencing the frustration/success associated with providing evidence for their ideas.

And yes, the shift to the Common Core is less overwhelming for English teachers than for algebra teachers or chemistry teachers.  Our curriculum is skills driven as opposed to the sequential natures of math, science and even social studies where my colleague must guide her students from the Age of Exploration to this year’s presidential election.  English teachers can devote two days to a text by redesigning the core reading for the quarter. We are more able to trade depth for breadth. But make no mistake, it is a definite change for us, too.  We have to find the companion informational text to correspond to our other “literature.”

I am not saying it is easy for everyone to love the Common Core.

But occasionally giving kids logic games to solve or  reading an article about pros and cons of hydro-fracking as part of an Earth Science class  or perusing an excerpt from Common Sense in American history are examples of reading within the content areas that can be used to support the objectives of the Common Core.  No doubt that this is a shift in how we all approach instruction and no doubt it is very challenging to find appropriate and relevant readings.  But isn’t it possible that a little reading will go a really long way?