Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Hack 2 of Hacking the Common Core- #D100BloggerPD

Welcome back to the #D100BloggerPD! #D100BloggerPD is a group of bloggers from Berwyn South School District 100 that read and blog about various education books! I'm here to give you a run down of Hack #2 in "Hacking the Common Core" by Michael Fisher. If you missed the first post, check out Kristen Richey's post on Reading and Owl of the Above. Hack #1 really takes the edge off of Common Core anxiety.

Hack #2 Close in on Close Reading

I think we are all guilty of overgeneralizing the Common Core at one point or another, I'll admit that I have. The first Common Core literacy anchor standard states:

Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

In Hack 2, author Michael Fisher explains that close reading has been misinterpreted. He points out the first two words in the standard, "read closely," have been taken too literally and lead to teachers having students close read everything, rather than focusing on the key points in the rest of the standard. Much of this interpretation is driven by commercial products that push close reading. It is not meant to be a skill and kill strategy. "Close reading is an analysis of text rather than a specific skill with a prescribed formula," explain Fisher. 
Fisher isn't saying to stop analysis of text, although he does say "...just stop whatever it is your doing that you call close reading."  The problem lies in the prescribed formula that gets used repeatedly because we have been told that's how the students will meet the standard.  

So, what should we be doing? First, Fisher suggests taking a close look at the entire standard. 

Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text. 

The standard is really asking students to determine what the text says, make inferences, and cite evidence to support conclusions. Once you have interpreted all parts of the standard, next he suggests taking a look at your curriculum to make any adaptations. As he lays out the blueprint to implement this hack, one important component is "ensuring students frequently show their thinking." Give them the space and time to make connections with text and media to make their thinking visible. Allow them a voice to express their learning. Push them to show how language can deepen the interaction between characters to develop the plot. Bottom line, students need a variety of experiences to interact with text in meaningful ways, not an overprescribed scripted structure.

Some of you may be left in shock after this post. Hopefully, after reading this you will find yourself spending some time with your colleagues and exploring the standards as well what you are doing with your curriculum to ensure the understanding and the instruction align.

Catch the rest of the hacks coming up soon. Kayla Kaczmarek is up next with Hack #3 and it can be found on her website on October 6th. Follow #D100BloggerPD on twitter and the image below has the rest of the crew that is "Hacking the Common Core" with Michael Fisher! I hope you enjoy it.


  1. Jennifer,

    This is great! I kind of hope people are in shock as well--I think we need some curriculum defibrillation and to breathe some new life into our professional practices. In the standards themselves, the term is "read closely," --verb, adverb; an action and then how to engage it--the adverb relates to the explicit skills in the standard. In the interpretation, "close reading," it's adjective, verb; a more discrete action without the benefit of the how which then becomes further distilled and interpreted as necessitating "close reading" time and referencing "close reading" as a distinct skill. If I can be so bold, those that celebrate "close reading" and their adherence to this misinterpretation are really celebrating mediocrity. We want our students to be awesome, not adequate! Great job on this post! I love being able to see this unfold with your colleagues. So, so cool!


    1. Thank you Mike! Hack 2 and Hack 7 (vigor) are my favorite! You're right, we definitely need to breathe new life into curriculum!