Whether or not we like the common core standards, they do try to help students with comprehension. A previous post, “What is Reading Comprehension?” discussed what reading comprehension is and to a lesser extent, what it is not. Today, I want to talk about the second two anchor standards and how they help improve reading comprehension.
The first category of standards for reading is Ideas and Details and includes anchor standards one, two and three. I discussed anchor standard one in a former post CCSS Reading Anchor Standards 1 and 10.
Anchor standard 2: Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
Anchor Standard 3: Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.
Determining the main idea or central theme of a text requires students to think about how what happens in one part of the story is related to what happens in another part of the same story. Under NCLB children were taught to look for facts and details as they read, not necessarily “why” these facts or details were important or how a particular fact from chapter one influenced another fact in chapter 2. Under the CCSS, we want students to understand why something happened or why it was important enough to be included by the author.
There is a technique that continues to ask “why” until you get down to the root cause of something. It seems to me this may work fairly well here. You simply take whatever answer is given and turn the statement into another “why” question. The purpose is only to get students to think about “why” something may or may not be important. Note: At some point, you may need to switch to a “how” question.
Let me clarify with an example. A character in the story is frightened…..
Teacher: “I wonder how John feels right now?”
Student: “He is scared.”
Teacher: “Why is he scared?”
Student: “He is afraid of the spiders.”
Teacher: “Why is John afraid of the spiders?”
Student: “Because he doesn’t like them.”
Teacher: “Why doesn’t he like them?”
Student: “Because they are scary?”
Teacher: “Why are they scary?”
Student: “Because they can bite.”
Anything can happen here….
- Maybe he was bitten once.
- Maybe he saw a lot of them at one time.
- Maybe he dreamed about spiders.
- Maybe he has heard they are scary.
The point is to get students to think about why something is happening and not just that it is happening.
These are all examples of Standard 2. Check back for examples of standard 3.