How does the shift in the Alaska Language Arts standards impact teaching and learning in my classroom?
The first shift – the type of texts chosen for students to read, shifting toward content-rich nonfiction and informational text. The overarching outcome of the new standards is to produce graduates who are career and college ready. Fluency in rich nonfiction and informational text will mean students who are more ready for career and college.
The next shift – reading and writing grounded in evidence from text. College and career readiness means students are able to take a position or inform others using opinions that are backed by credible text or directly citing text. Being able to directly cite text means that students need to have the skills to analyze text they read and procure information they need to support their position by coherently writing an argument or a position piece. There has been such a push to have students make personal connections with readings, that the need for supporting a position from texts has been side-stepped for years. I’m personally glad for this shift, as it holds the academic aspect of this exercise (supporting your opinion with text) more meaningful in the sense that students will be able to use this skill in their futures (as opposed to just stating an opinion or telling a personal experience).
The third shift – regular practice with complex text and accompanying academic vocabulary. As with the other two shifts, this shift requires that all students have regular access to complex text in order to be ready for a career or college after the completion of a K-12 education. Studies show that students are leaving school with significantly lower language arts skills which is causing a huge need for remediation at four-year colleges. Research also tells us that students need regular practice with complex text in order to be fluent with it. Regular exposure to complex sentence, longer paragraphs, density of information, uncommon vocabulary and the like will close the gap, increasing the readiness of our students for careers and college.
In thinking about these three critical shifts in the Alaska state English language arts standards, I wonder about the North Slope’s push to develop our own curriculum to produce a rounded 18-year old culturally connected young adult. How does the district’s initiative for teacher-created units support the new standards? The district has a required element of addressing the standards in their units, but will they meet the rigor and practice needed to ensure students are ready for careers and college as envisioned by the authors of the new Alaska standards?
The new standards have impacted my classroom, of course. I have always thought that strong research instruction is critical to my students development. Teaching research is an excellent way to practice skills needed to master the new standards. It involves elements of critical thinking, rigorous text, new vocabulary, supporting hypothesis by citing text, etc.
What is the question I would like to research over the next eight weeks?
Will a new “Alaska standards tech tools” web site help others with technology and the new AK standards?
I think it would be helpful for Alaska educators to have an online resource to help them pinpoint the technology needs of the new standards. I envision that the tool will be a website which allows interactive feedback. I want the site to provide not only the technological expectations of the standards by grade, but also tools and ideas to help train students in these areas of technology. In order to determine what Alaska educators need and want, I need to develop a survey or a focus group inquiry. I also need to see what has been done by others regarding this topic.
I would appreciate feedback. What tool(s) do you think would help educators? What format would be helpful? What type of resources should be linked to on this site?
The next steps? Analyze the new standards to pull out the technological expectations for each grade level. Research what has been published regarding technology and the new standards. Survey educators to discern what type of tool would be most beneficial to Alaska educators.