Hot Topics in Literacy Education for 2015
For the past 20 years, Jack Cassidy, former president of the International Reading Association, has conducted a survey polling 25 leading literacy scholars and researchers to find out “what’s hot and what’s not” in the field of reading. “Hot” trends, as defined by survey respondents, indicate those receiving the most attention in a given year (not those that are most important). In this year’s “What’s Hot, What’s Not” survey, which was published in the September/October 2014 issue of Reading Today, the following five topics were named “very hot” for the second consecutive year:
- College and career readiness
- High-stakes assessment
- Informational/nonfiction texts
- Text complexity
- Close reading
There were two new additions to this year’s “very hot” list as well:
- Digital literacies/new literacies
- Argumentative writing based on sources
This year’s list comes as no surprise to me, as all of the topics are embedded in the Common Core Reading Standards and are getting a lot of attention from educators. Some districts and schools are using this list as the basis for staff development – a sound practice, in my opinion. Of all the topics identified, I believe educators should place a particular emphasis on close reading of complex text.
Close Reading + Complex Text = College and Career Readiness
Marilyn Jager Adam’s article “On the Importance of Standards,” notes that the 2011 ACT test results revealed that nearly 50 percent of students did not have the ability to comprehend workplace and college level complex text. She attributes this to the simplification of high school reading materials over the years. I agree with the findings. I have seen firsthand that it is a common practice in schools to replace content area textbooks with content material geared to their student’s instructional level rather than using textbooks which are often at their frustration level.
This troublesome statistic illustrates the importance of close reading of complex text for college and career readiness – three “hot” trends identified in Jack Cassidy’s 2015 survey. The Common Core Reading Standard 10 requires that students engage with complex literary and informational text. Close reading strategies require students to read complex text multiple times to facilitate a deeper understanding of the content. I believe that by exposing students to complex text and explicitly teaching close reading strategies beginning in Grade 2, we will better prepare our students to be college and career ready by the time they finish high school. Are our students ready to take on this challenge? If not, we must provide scaffolds for them to be successful.
As a teacher trainer for Keys to Literacy, I work with educators from across the state on a daily basis. I can attest to the fact that there are many teachers attending our workshops on close reading of complex text and on strategies for reading and writing from informational sources. I applaud these educators for their commitment to improving high-quality instruction and their willingness to increase rigor in the classroom to better prepare students for higher-education and the workplace. But, there’s plenty more work to be done and many more teachers to be persuaded to embark on yet another new initiative. The 2011 ACT results is a startling indication of the long road ahead of us.
The end goal of enabling students to be college and career ready by the time they graduate high school can be accomplished by training teachers in new strategies and supporting them with implementation in the classroom. But, educators first need to be aware of “hot” and important trends, and they need to want to learn about them. Does your professional development plan include any of this year’s “very hot” trends? If not, now is the time to make a change. Start with close reading of complex text – two areas that have a significant impact on students’ future. There are plenty of resources to guide you on your journey, including:
- Keys to Literacy (Spring 2014 newsletter and professional development offerings)
- Achieve the Core (21 sample close reading lessons)
- Shanahan on Literacy (blog entries focused on close reading of complex text)
- Common Core America Achieves – (video examples of close reading lessons, e.g., Grade 5 and Grade 10 lessons)
I hope to see you at an upcoming Keys to Literacy workshop. The future of education depends on you.