If ever there was confirmation that the new Common Core Standards are not, in fact, asking that Language Arts and English teachers no longer teach literature, it is the arrival of the new standards for science and social studies. The Next Generation Science Standards, released in April, and the new C3 Framework for College, Career, and Civic Life, released in September, both provide rich opportunities for thinking through evidence, asking and answering meaningful answers, and using experiments, projects, discussions, and a range of other student-centered classroom practices to explore these two disciplines.
Moreover, each is linked to the Common Core State Standards for literacy and content literacy, reaffirming the ways in which teachers, particularly at the elementary level, can integrate instruction to work smarter, go deeper, and fully engage students in inquiry-oriented learning experiences. These standards make it clear that the 50% informational text/nonfiction reading at the elementary level, and the 70% informational/nonfiction reading at the secondary level, can, and should, take place in all content areas across the school year and through the year. Relevant nonfiction reading in the context of the content, what that nonfiction is about, in science and social studies, in addition to relevant reading about craft and structure in the context of student writing in language arts, is the pathway to meeting the expectations of the Common Core and providing students with meaningful explorations of the genre in all of its manifestations.
Principals, curriculum coordinators, literacy coaches, and teams of teachers reading these new standards will see the ways in which integration is made relevant all over again through these standards. As long as curriculum has the opportunity to flourish in schools, rather than skills-as-test-prep in the name of curriculum, students will greatly benefit from these new expectations. There is a lot to learn and a lot to digest, but so many possibilities for capacity-building in school, to create deep, rich curriculum to explore science and social studies and bring in well-written nonfiction trade books and authentic student writing opportunities. I do hope districts, including parents, will push to see this kind of learning taking place in their classrooms.