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Common Core Standards Won't Boost Reading Comprehension Alone

Common Core Standards Won't Boost Reading Comprehension Alone

Cognitive scientist, professor, and author Daniel Willingham claims that Common Core Standards won't boost reading comprehension because the standards don't properly sequence the knowledge students need to better comprehend texts early on, according to an article by The Washington Post.

"When people evaluate English Language Arts curricula for their alignment to the CCSS, they naturally enough focus on the standards. But it’s the internal alignment—the logic of the sequence of topics—that may be the more important determinant of how much students get out of the curriculum and ultimately, how well they do on CCSS assessments," he said.

According to Willingham, the sequence of when students learn non-fiction topics is crucial to how well they will be able to comprehend when reading.

"Prior knowledge drives comprehension," Willingham said. He explains this like so:

[W]ouldn’t you understand a text about the Pilgrims better if you had already studied the Native Americans who they met when they arrived? And wouldn’t it be easier to understand the culture of those Native Americans if you had already studied farming? And wouldn’t it be easier to understand farming if you had already studied plants?

"So if one factor in raising a child who reads is to raise a child who readily comprehends most texts, we need to raise a child with broad background knowledge," he said.

Further, Willingham explains the necessity of knowledge before comprehension with the concept of "Mars." Although the idea of Mars- a planet in our solar system, a planet we've never been too, etc.- is the "sort of knowledge a newspaper writer might take for granted in his audience," the word Mars appears "very infrequently in books and magazines."

In other words, "if you were counting on learning about Mars by chance encounter in your leisure reading, you’ll probably wait a long time," Willingham said, according to The Post.

This, according to Willingham, signifies the need for a sequential building of knowledge in the classroom to build better readers, something the Common Core standards do not define.

Willingham's biggest suggestion for developing better readers is to focus on background knowledge over reading comprehension strategies. "Ensure that students have broad background knowledge so that, when they pick up a book, magazine, or newspaper, they are likely to know at least a bit about the topic," he said.

Read the full article here and comment below.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor

4/27/2015

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