In his popular book Outliers (Amazon affiliate link), Malcom Gladwell writes about the 10,000 hour rule pointing out that contrary to the popular belief that talent defines greatness, the key to success in any field is usually practice. Threads of this notion can be found in yesterday’s post Yoga, Piano Lessons, and Culinary Skills, where we reiterated the need for practice and implored educators to always evaluate how much time students spend actually reading and writing during the times set aside for these activities. Getting better at anything, whether yoga, piano, cooking, reading, or writing requires not only that we think about, listen to, and read about the thing we aim to improve, it requires we dedicate significant amounts of time to “getting our hands dirty” so that we can work to refine our practice through experience.
Because we recognize and value the importance of practice in improving proficiency in all aspects of literacy, we began to wonder if the Common Core shares our sense of urgency about practice. Is there evidence that the authors value practice in the same ways we do?
How do the Common Core writing standards value practice?
Of the four arms of Language Arts presented by the Common Core, only the writing anchor standards include a standard that explicitly addresses the need for practice. Anchor standard number ten reads, “Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.” This standard, accompanied by the language included in the sidebar that says, “students must devote significant time and effort to writing,” indicate that when it comes to writing, the authors of the Common Core value the importance of practice and see it as an essential ingredient for improving the skills needed for becoming proficient.
That said, however, when you look at writing anchor standard ten across the grade levels, expectations for writing volume and practice do not begin until third grade. It is our opinion that we should have higher expectations for primary writers and that the time that children in K-2 spend holding pencils, writing words, and composing in general will pay huge dividends in writing fluency, organization, and general writing skills by the time students reach third grade. But we give credit where credit is due and the Common Core recognized the need for practice in writing. Anchor standard ten is a means to an end. The ONLY way the expectations of the remaining nine standards can be met is if educators design instruction that honors the call for practice.
On Monday, we will continue our exploration of how the Common Core standards either do or do not honor the importance of practice as a means for becoming an increasingly literate citizen.