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 http://www.alaskadispatch.com/article/20130708/disputing-facts-about-alaska-s-new-public-school-standards
Oxnevad, S. (2013, February 11). 3 simple tools to support the ccss academic vocabulary shift. Retrieved from http://gettingsmart.com/2013/02/3-simple-tools-to-support-the-ccss-academic-vocabulary-shift/