The Jens

The Jens
jen b & Jen P

Monday, November 12, 2012

The 30-70 split

This past week I participated in a CCSS webinar produced by Schools Moving Up that provided a helpful discussion of Reading Anchor Standard 1. The focus of the webinar was the shared responsibility for literacy development, and page 5 of the Introduction again shows the importance of ELA, social studies, and science working together to improve students’ literacy skills, by providing a breakdown of what types of reading and writing need to occur over a student’s day. By 12th grade, 30% of the reading should be literary and 70% should be informational. For writing, 40% should be persuasive, 40% should be explanatory, and 20% should be narrative.

At one point during the webinar, the presenters indicated that within an English class, 50% of the reading should be literary and 50% should be informative. I had not heard that breakdown before, nor had I seen any reference to a specific breakdown of types of reading and writing within English alone – so I am a little confused there. I was able to ask the presenters about this after the webinar, but honestly, their answer left me wanting more. They said that because the reading standards are divided equally between literature and informational texts, equal time must be devoted to each. They went on to say that because social studies and science may not be ready yet for the reading standards and because 70% of a student’s overall reading should be informational, English teachers may have to devote more time initally to informational texts until social studies and science are ready to fully take on the standards.

Honestly, this really concerns me. Right now my English class is probably the opposite of what it should be, according to the comments above. I probably teach closer to 80% literature and 20% informative texts. The informative texts I use are closely tied to the literature we’re reading in class together. While I have moved to providing more informational texts in my College and Career Readiness class, without this additional period, I would have to dramatically change the way I teach English.

I’m not sure what to think about all this…

If in social studies and science students are reading strictly informational texts, then to balance and reach the 30-70 split between literature and informational texts, English teachers should be spending over 80% of the time reading literature. But this is basically what I’m doing and I need another period to work in the informational text reading that I feel students need to be successful in their college classes.

In the College and Career Readiness class, we’ve used the Article of the Week assignment from Kelly Gallagher, as well as assignments based on the CSU Expository Reading and Writing curriculum and assignments based on an AP Literature and Composition training I took through the Bay Area Writing Project. These assignments are closer to what students receive in their college composition and rhetoric class – but are also more like what they are asked to do in their philosophy, anthropology, and sociology classes, for example.

According to the CCSS standards, social studies and science teachers will help in getting students ready for the demands of those kinds of classes in college, but is what I am doing in English enough? If I am preparing students for the first transfer-level composition class, I should be doing far more informational reading, I think. And if I were teaching back at a regular high school, I’d have to do that all in my single English period…
~Jen P



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