National Writing Project

What English Classes Should Look Like in Common Core Era

Publication: The Washington Post
Date: January 10, 2013

Summary: Carol Jago explains how students should read more complex texts—more poetry, more fiction, more drama, and more literary nonfiction—in school and independently to improve vocabulary and reading comprehension. Jago is associate director of the California Reading and Literature Project at UCLA, past president of the National Council of Teachers of English, and a fellow of the first UCLA Writing Project.


Excerpt from Article

It may be the case that in some schools high school English teachers are being told to cut back on the poetry and teach more informational text. I'm hoping this mistaken directive can soon be reversed. English teachers need to teach more poetry, more fiction, more drama, and more literary nonfiction. More is more when it comes to reading. And we have evidence to prove it. Just released vocabulary results from the 2011 NAEP Reading Assessment demonstrate a strong correlation between vocabulary knowledge and reading comprehension. And how do students built their vocabularies? Not by memorizing lists of words or playing word games but by reading complex text.

I know what you are thinking. How will it ever be possible to have students read more then when they won't do homework? You have identified an issue we need as a society to address. I'm not talking here about busywork homework or fill-in-the-blanks or create a diorama projects. I'm talking about reading books. Common Core reading standard 10 calls for students to "read and comprehend literature . . . independently and proficiently." If students are not reading independently, i.e. at home, on their own, turning pages or flipping screens, they will never read proficiently.

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