The shift in the AK Language Arts standards and the question I would like to research

Before I can answer the first of this week’s questions it is essential to figure what the big shift is in the first place.  With the emergence of the National Common Core Standards came critical attention on the Alaska Content Standards and Grade Level Expectations (GLE).  The GLEs spelled out the academic level to which each Alaskan student should be functioning at.  This system has been in place for some time and provided general expectations of academic ability.  The problem is that the GLEs are vague and a little out of focus for capturing skills our students need to function in a real-world setting such as a workforce or higher learning environment.  Supposedly, the new Alaska standards are nearly identical to the Common Core Initiative (Haney, 2013) so I will treat them as such.

In this posting I would like to cast a critical eye on the English Language Arts (ELA) portion of the new Alaskan standards, especially reading and vocabulary.  This shift in expectations will have what kind of impact on teaching and learning in the classroom?  Historically, reading programs have been heavily focused on fiction for the majority of the material.  This has been fine for earlier grades with a shift into more complex reading and exploration of non-fiction in the higher grades with an increase in writing to match.  However, when students go on to college problems become apparent indicative of a lack in training in the comprehension non-fiction sources.  A limited vocabulary is also attributed to seen as a problem later on.

The draw for so much fiction is that it is more interesting than non-fiction.  Also, the vocabulary words required to comprehend this material is believed to be woefully behind.  Sadly free reading does not drive students to acquire the Tier 3 and even many Tier 2 words.  Reading must be more directed, according to the new standards, to promote acquisition of this more advanced vocabulary.  This expanded vocabulary is crucial to the success of our students in the workforce as well as higher education.

The question I would like to research is how can digital tools be incorporated effectively in the classroom to dig deeper into Tier 2 and 3 vocabulary words.  A more broad and complex vocabulary is essential to comprehending the content-rich non-fiction material the new standards demand our students tackle.


Haney, B. (2013, July 08). Disputing ‘the facts’ about alaska’s new public school standards. Retrieved from

Oxnevad, S. (2013, February 11). 3 simple tools to support the ccss academic vocabulary   shift. Retrieved from


4 thoughts on “The shift in the AK Language Arts standards and the question I would like to research

  1. Your question is great. Students will thrive in technology based vocabulary learning. I left you a link on Twitter with a good article supporting your question. I too prefer informational text which does include many tier 2 and tier 3 words. Check out “Bringing Words to Life” a book about teaching vocabulary in an unusual way(s). It would need to be adapted to technology. Striving toward increasing higher level vocab and informational text will also help facilitate higher order thinking, also a push in the new standards.

  2. As I’ve been reading blogs the past couple days, a common sentiment keeps surfacing as a theme. “The draw for so much fiction is that it is more interesting than non-fiction.” I have many students who are drawn to non-fiction reading. I would venture to guess that it is teachers who are drawn to teaching fiction and encouraging reading fiction materials. As soon as teachers become comfortable in teaching and engaging students in non-fiction materials, I bet we will see a fluid move toward those materials with little resistance from our students.

  3. I don’t necessarily think that fiction is any more exciting than non-fiction reading. It is for students who have been reading fiction almost exclusively, but if we take the time to look for interesting non-fiction, we’ll find that students can enjoy it very much. A good (easy) place to start is biography–still in narrative form, still telling exciting stories, but focusing on real facts and often containing more real-world vocabulary–they often link to Social Studies concepts (i.e. Anne Frank or MLK Jr.). Social Studies texts themselves are also non-fiction reading (useful for those of us who teach both LA and SS). There are also tons of entertaining anecdotes and essays out there. I used to do a lot of web-based reading in one of my classes, including essays, news articles (it’s easy to find articles that have connections to a student’s personal life), or even just weird and interesting stuff. We would also do something I called “wiki-surfing,” where we’d look up a wikipedia page on a topic that interested them, then follow links from that page and see where they took us. After following links for a certain period of time, we’d go back and review our journey and explain the connections between readings (I made a simple sheet to go along with it so we could track where we went and leave room for a written response at the end). There is a whole world of interesting stuff out there! Unfortunately, nobody has taken the time to combine a good selection of it in a handy non-fiction anthology.

  4. #SEACCR I agree that the informational reading needs to be focused, but if we know the Lexile reading levels of the students, they can read in their range, which is 100L above to 50L below and it is a successful reading level that does also challenge them and increase their vocabulary in the process. I think if we find articles in magazines and newspapers, books and e-reads on those non-fiction subjects that the student’s interests are in, they will get those Tier 3 words they need to be using, as well as acquiring them in the content area subjects.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s