A Common Core Conversation

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I’d like to use comments about my last post as a springboard for today’s. In a reply to the way I’m trying to use the Common Core with my picture book, a writer worried that my CCSS-inspired questions could make my book “less interesting by being turned into a series of didactic, less interesting questions to be answered, and I worry even young children will see it.”

This comment brought me back to the first time I took my then two-year-old to storytime at my local library. It’s a great library, but I was appalled that the children had to sit facing front (albeit on the floor) and pay attention to an authoritative (if fun and friendly) speaker standing before them. I also have to admit that I send that same daughter, now eight, to a Montessori school.

On the other hand, since I’ve begun to pay my own school, book store, and library visits, I’m pretty sure questions can, at least in person, generate interest in and even love for books.

I think I wasn’t clear in my last post. I developed Common Core–inspired questions as part of a larger plan.

1) I wanted to understand the Common Core.
2) I wanted stories, not just non-fiction, to be understood by schools, libraries, and book stores as worthy of Common Core attention. I care about this because I’ve seen little signs placed near shelves with non-fiction at Barnes & Noble, for example, and never near stories. Does the fact that our kids are poor in non-fiction realms, such as STEM subjects, mean that story has to be pushed aside?
3) I want to pay book visits. I like them. But planning for them is surprisingly demanding. By the time I drafted my CCSS-inspired questions, I’d already read + asked questions of my own to several groups, and to kids from two to eight. I decided it would make sense to use my experience with visits and my new understanding of the Common Core to structure future visits. I don’t think my visits will be less fun or interesting because I’ve taken the time to think carefully about how they’ll unfold. Future visits will be very much like what I’ve already done but with less winging it.
4) Hence, I just (today!) published a revised website for “One Bright Ring” (onebrightring.com), which I’ve been working on for a couple of months. Clicking the Visits button takes people to the section where I describe storytime visits and school visits, and the differences I offer for different ages. For kindergarten through third grade, I offer CCSS-inspired questions for the teachers to see, not the students. I don’t read the questions to the kids, and in my experience so far, kids participate eagerly in oral Q&As.

On my site, I offer PDFs for teachers (and home-schoolers) of first through third grade. These PDFs contain my CCSS-inspired questions, my answers to the questions (and I say up front that many questions don’t have a single answer), and the Common Core standards I use for that grade. Teachers, librarians – whomever! – can use these PDFs, or not, however they wish. I wouldn’t have spent as much time on them as I did if I didn’t hope they would be helpful.

Let me conclude by circling back to my commenter’s fear of incipient didacticism and my own horror of my daughter having to face front and pay attention at the library. These seem like well-founded fears to me even now, despite the body of this post. BUT I also remember very well the day I realized that my college English classes were like church to me, and there couldn’t be a more teacherly, if not didactic, setting.