Let’s face it, reading the standards isn’t like reading The Hunger Games. The Common Core is dense and saddles educators with the same requirement the standards demand of students: close, careful reading. As a teacher educator, I feel the full weight of this responsibility. If I don’t fully understand what the standards are saying, I will never be able to help others implement them with fidelity. So this charge has launched my mission to develop my own deep understanding of the standards, setting me on a course of finding ways to interact with the Common Core and expand my ways of knowing. This quest has led to many ahas but none of them compare to what happened this week as Jan and I explored the Common Core through the lens of poetry.
Poets relentlessly pursue words that convey just the right image or tone or emotion. As I considered this, I realized that as educators we are all working to understand the standards with the insight of a poet and when I mentioned this to Jan, she wondered out loud what would happen if we tried to write the standards in haiku.
The standards in haiku? That was a novel thought. I certainly hadn’t experimented with that lens for close reading so I decided to give a try. I turned to the reading standards and randomly chose number four:
Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning and tone. (Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts, p.10)
I read it. I read it again. I asked myself, “What is that really saying?” And then it occurred to me: If I wanted to translate those words into a seventeen syllable verse, I needed to do more than read and reread the anchor standard: I also needed to consider what the standard meant at every grade level in both literary and informative text. I set to work, and after revising several times, I arrived at this poetic interpretation:
Take note: words matter.
Careful choice shapes tone, meaning.
Is a rock a rock?
I continue to revise the poem, looking back and forth between my words and the words of the standards. I still wonder if I have captured the essence of this achievement goal, making me realize yet again the focused lens haiku provides for closely reading the standards. In fact, it worked so well, I would recommend it to any educator wrestling with understanding the standards. We invite you to try your hand at writing the standards in verse and to share your poems with us. Tomorrow we will post the latest versions of our haiku for the other nine reading standards.
Common Core Standards for English Language Arts and Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects. Retrieved from http://www.corestandards.org/assets/CCSSI_ELA%20Standards.pdf