During the past few weeks, we have been focusing our attention to one of the anchor standards of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) College and Career Readiness (CCR) Number 1:
Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
Why focus on this anchor standard? Students read the whole day. It can be during Reading Language Arts time. It can also be during Science or during Math or during Social Studies. Regardless of the time that the students read, we all focus on reading comprehension. This anchor standard focuses on four areas:
1. Reading Closely
Close reading is the core of this anchor standard. When we closely read a text, we are able to detect what it says, what it doesn’t say, and why it matters. This is accomplished through creating courses in which students read a variety of complex texts, have rich and rigorous discussions based on complex texts, and write from complex texts.
2. Comprehending literal / explicit meaning
The literal meaning of a text answers the question, “What does it say?” When reading complex texts that align with the “staircase of complexity” laid out by the CCSS, even this basic level of comprehension requires modeling for many students. Teachers can read a segment of a complex text aloud, modeling how they comprehend what a text is literally talking about, and then students can be set loose to do it themselves on the next segment.
3. Inferring implicit / implied meaning
The implied meaning of a text is much trickier and perhaps more important; it answers the question, “What does it not say?” or, perhaps less cryptically, “What does it say without directly saying it?” In Deeper Reading, Kelly Gallagher shares a passage that he uses to ease students into the concept of inference. While reading the following passage, Gallagher asks his students to hypothesize where the narrator is sitting:
I can’t believe I have been sitting here among all these sick people for over an hour waiting for them to call my name. Why do they overschedule so many patients? I hope I am called next, for I don’t know how much longer I can tolerate this sore throat (81).
From reading this, students easily infer that the narrator is sitting in a doctor’s waiting room. Even though the passage doesn’t literally say, “I was sitting in the doctor’s office,” it gives plenty of clues telling us as much.
The content of the text is not the only area to focus on. Look at the images or graphics used in the story. Some illustrations may be in color; some may be in black and white. Look at the font. Sometimes the author deliberately used a specific font style and size. Ask yourself or your child why were these used?
4. Drawing text-based conclusions using specific textual evidence
When we ask students about what they read, we need to ask questions that require specific textual evidence. For example, when I ask, “What does this passage mean?”, I need to insist that students give evidence to support their answers.
To help students focus on what they have to say instead of how to express their thinking, students have the option of using sentence starters. They are not limited to the following but students are encouraged to use these models and create their own. No matter how the students construct their sentences, the following elements are expected:
1. Complete Sentences: Students should speak in complete sentences using or referring to the words used in the question.
Example: What is the problem in the story?
The problem in the story is…..
Should the students use these exact same words? No, but if they are stuck, students may use these words.
2. Cite Evidence: Students should be able to cite a specific part of text to support their answers.
On page ___, paragraph ___ , it states_______.
3. Explicit Evidence: Students should be able to identify if the text explicitly states the answer to the question.
On page ___, paragraph__, the text explicitly states _____.
4. Implicit Evidence: Students should be able to identify if the text implicitly states the answer to the question.
On page ___, paragraph ___, the text states ____. Based on this text, I infer that _____.
How can parents help?
Please make sure your child reads everyday. Your child should read the story or text aloud. You may read with your son but make sure your son reads with you. From time to time, stop and ask questions. When the child answers the question, the answer should have the above-mentioned elements.