Published: Jan 29, 2013 07:00 PM
Modified: Jan 29, 2013 02:30 PM
Gross! Evan said. I dont believe that.
We were reading the opening paragraph of A scorpion snack, anyone? from the science and technology section found Mondays in the News & Observer. The author, Meg Lowman, described larvae shish-ka-bob or scorpion skewers as typical after-school snacks for children of Beijing.
Tracing and evaluating claims and assessing whether evidence is relevant and sufficient is an integral part of the new Common Core Standards nearly every state including North Carolina is in the process of adopting. Thank you, Evan, for this teachable moment I thought.
I am in my 14th year of teaching reading at a Chapel Hill middle school. My students read two or more years below grade level, and its my job to increase their reading levels and reading engagement.
Lets take a look at the authors credentials, Evan, I replied. Lets see if we can trust her as a source. Turns out Lowman is an N.C. State professor, forest-canopy expert, and directs the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences Nature Research Center. She also has a website Evan explores. Later we find other articles that support Lowmans claim that 1,400 varieties of insects are consumed worldwide and have been for thousands of years. We also learn entomophagy (ask one of my students the definition) is sustainable and healthy. Cheers.
I love the newspaper as a source of reading material to use with my sixth and seventh graders. The shiny new Common Core guidelines in language arts dictate that fourth graders should be reading 50 percent nonfiction during the course of a school year. Seniors in high school, 70 percent. Debate over the shift to more informational reading is raging among teachers and parents and professors and business leaders but my research-based belief is that students need to be reading one or the other in school each day at least 90 minutes.
A sample of newspaper articles my classes have read recently: Northeast reels from blow (N&O), T.J. Johnson finds himself on the field (student profile, Chapel Hill News), Photo of officer giving away boots warms heart (New York Times). And, I couldnt wait until the following Monday one weekend when my students would get to read Great white Mary Lee finds N.C. coast hangout (N&O). This article, like many, had maps, a timeline, statistics, a tracking website and a topic: Carchardon carcharias, which middle-schoolers would devour.
According to several sources, the average newspaper article has a readability level of eighth grade. Creators of the new Common Core state, All students, including those who are behind, (must) have extensive opportunities to encounter and comprehend grade-level complex text as required by the standards. They add, Instructional material should offer advanced texts to provide students at every grade level with opportunity to read texts beyond their current grade level to prepare them for the challenges on more complex text. (Pathways to the Common Core, p. 48) Using newspapers in the middle-school classroom is a perfect way to meet these goals.
How can a student who is reading on a fourth-grade level comprehend the average newspaper article? I prefer close reading, a strategy consisting of reading sections together, rereading independently, discussing, rereading again and writing about what weve read. This approach allows my students to read what grown-ups read and understand it too. Choosing engaging topics like a New York City police officer spontaneously buying all-weather boots for a barefoot homeless man motivates even my most reluctant readers, some of whom have brushed up to homelessness themselves.
My after-reading question to A scorpion snack, anyone? was Would you try sautéed suri or crickets fried in herbs? Evan was no convert. I would not eat sautéed suri or crickets fried in herbs because I think its nasty. His classmate Zack, however, answered, Yes, because it might be good and if its not you can (spit) it out.
(Student names have been changed.)
All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be published, broadcast or redistributed in any manner.