Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Yates the Adventurer

Mary Ann Reilly:

More than 4 million people viewed The Common Core Curriculum Maps and now they are offered (at a fee) in their second iteration. At the middle school level, 6 units of study per grade level have been developed and offered as models--exemplars if you will.  I recently composed a blog post that highlighted examples of instruction I proposed in response to "The Song of Wandering Aengus" by William Butler Yeats which is listed as a middle school exemplar text via the CCSS.  After I finished the post, I was curious as to what Lynne Munson and her Core Curriculum mapping team had developed in response to the Yeats.  What I found was disappointing.  I rarely would say something was misread, but in this case I do think that the authors of the grade 7, unit 4 map that highlights "The Song of Wandering Aengus" failed to actually comprehend the poem.

It helps if you take a quick look at my blog post before moving on as I am contrasting what I designed with this Common Core exemplar map.  You will find a copy of the poem there as well.

For me the Yeats's poem is steeped in Irish mythology and one of the challenges young readers might face is understanding the mythology upon which the poem is based, what a quest is, and how magic and the imagination (in)form a quest.   In contrast, the authors of the Grade 7, Unit 4 Common Core Curriculum Map understand this poem as a survival story akin to Call of the Wild and Hatchet. The Grade 7, Unit 4 is titled, "Survival in the Wild."

Obviously that's just a semi-random example, but my semi-random sampling of similar examples from various sources is also... underwhelming and a little disturbing. Or at best good assignments which go substantially beyond what is required by the standards. This is, I believe, a result of the design of the standards, as a small set of textual analysis tasks which supporters hope add up in some unspoken way to real understanding.

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