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Schools need more books! Wouldn’t it be great if they had them? According to Daniel Rios, a tenured teacher of over 10 years and now Operations Administrator of the new charter school CALSTEAM in Encino, that idea is the very “core” of common core. With a focus on language and facts, literature becomes the best stage for teachers to develop focused and engaging lesson plans. Daniel_Rios_Common_Core_1

Daniel started his presentation at the San Fernando Valley Schmooze with a copy of “Revised Publishers’ Criteria for the Common Core Standards in English Language Arts and Sciences, Grade K-2” (www.corestandards.org/assets/Publishers_Criteria_for_K-2.pdf).He highlighted a few statements in these guidelines that reflected the opportunity for literature. The first was, “At the heart of these criteria is the belief that reading—in this case, learning to read, vocabulary development, and the knowledge gained in these early years—is central to all other academic learning.” Another was, “[T]hese criteria … are necessary and important components of an effective, comprehensive reading program designed to develop proficient readers with the capacity to comprehend texts across a range of topics and disciplines.” Daniel_Rios_Common_Core_2 The goal of the new standards is to put a larger focus on creating critical thinkers that have the ability to articulate accurately their analysis of subject matter. What better way to create those thinkers and articulators than with stories? Daniel stated that with the focus on “facts” in this new curriculum, nonfiction is not dead. He believes a balance of 50/50 between fiction and nonfiction will help create an effective learning atmosphere. Even a fiction book can have factual information. That factual information will allow a teacher to compile a fact-based-analysis lesson plan as well as a storyline analysis. One attendee of the schmooze mentioned they had a soon-to-be-published nonfiction book with a government system based on Nazi politics, and a lesson plan was being created around it. To further illustrate the new standards, Daniel handed out the Guide Sheet for K-5 from“Common Core State Standards for Language Arts and Sciences…” (start on pg. 10).: www.corestandards.org/wp-content/uploads/ELA_Standards.pdf . This handout was a great “cheat sheet” for understanding the Common Core goals for each grade level. The first page lists 10 anchor standards, subdivided into four sections. Then it breaks down each anchor standard and section as it applies to each grade. He also handed out text exemplars from “Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects: Appendix B” (start on pg. 14: www.corestandards.org/assets/Appendix_B.pdf ), which showed examples of the kinds of literary text targeted in Common Core. He also gave us a few tips:

  • Help teachers see the learning possibilities of your book by creating a list of possible lessons plans and having PDF files available for download on your book’s Web site.
  • Just come right out and say, “This book meets Common Core Standards.”
  • To get your books into the classroom, find out who has the purchasing power at your schools. Ask about author visits.
  • If you are in the development process of your book and/or are trying to develop a possible lesson plan outline for your existing book, you can find out how much time is spent on various topics in elementary English Language Arts through the following link: LAUSD 2013—2014 Treasures . Pacing plans are available for other subjects and grade levels through LAUSD’s website.
  • Don’t worry about the iPad. Children are naturally accident-prone. Printed books are still one of the best classroom tools.

Daniel’s explanation of Common Core’s focus on language and complex thinking made us understand how this new standard could be one of the best opportunities for the literary market. Unfortunately, our academic organizations can be slow to understand and accept change. Now, SCBWI members can help spread the good news! Karen Sampson is a San Fernando Valley Schmooze Co-Coordinator. San Fernando Valley Schmooze Co-coordinators: Karen Sampson and Jennifer Pitts Meet the 3rd Monday of every other month Sherman Oaks Branch Library