Animals can’t talk: reaching for CCSS rigor in the daily read aloud

Animals can’t talk: reaching for rigor in the daily read aloud

I’ve been rationalizing the necessity of poverty, which has driven me to take almost every substitute teaching job available this past school year, into my usual meta-layer for anything I do: field work. Since my long-ago degrees are in anthropology, and because I never really did the “observer” part of participant observation during my extended residency in the counter-culture, I’ve treated every part of my working life since then as part of a grand personal study of American business. Selling encyclopedias in San Jose in 1983 had a bizarre flashback to LA in the 1950’s about it, and selling high-class junk food throughout the Bay Area brought me into high tech companies and trendy gyms through the service entrance.

So as a sub, I’ve been in classrooms at almost every grade level, K-12, over the past year, and I’ve unsystematically gathered lessons from the practices of a wide variety of teachers in their classrooms, and schools as they actually function, in the hopes of distilling the digital literacy and Common Core Standards work I’ve been doing for the Central California Writing Project at UCSC into some practical recommendations for teachers.

I just rewrote the tag for a on “Digital Literacy is the Key to the Common Core State Standards” which I’ve pasted in below:

As we prepare for the 2012-13 school year, many are gearing up for implementing (or at least planning to implement) the Common Core State Standards. Let’s use these resource links to amplify a core message: the “digital” label is redundant: literacy by its nature must include basic fluency in technologically mediated communication. For our students, I firmly believe putting them in play as creators within our networked computational world is our primary task. They each need “Net Smarts” as Howard Rheingold puts it, and the tools to tell the computers what to do.

So here’s an anecdote from the trove of experiential research I’ve gleaned as a sub this year: after reading aloud a book about a goose riding a bike around a barnyard, teaching each of the animals to ride, I asked the class whether it was fiction or true (2nd graders). I got the right answer pretty easily, and got to clarify a bit perhaps the word non-fiction in the process, but what kept the conversation going was the follow-up question, what in the text shows you it’s a fiction? I got that animals don’t ride bikes right away, but I had to keep repeating the CCSS inspired query, what in the text shows you that what you’re saying is true? that kept the conversation going until someone offered that “Animals can’t talk.” I found the exchange interesting and exciting, and though it was spontaneous, I’m sure it sprung from the background of the reading I’ve been doing on the CCSS. It also belies the ridiculous attempts to script teaching. I just don’t see how one could script an exchange like that, simple as it was, and have it be interesting and memorable to the participants.

Perhaps not. What if Ridley Scott were producing the scripts…But that’s a different thread…