Tag Archives: Common Core Appendix B

Thoughts – CC Appendix B Exemplar Grades 2-3 Read Aloud Informational Txts

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Below are thoughts – including notes of caution & outright rejections – on the “exemplars” listed in Common Core Appendix B for Grades 2-3 Read Aloud Informational Texts. At the bottom is a link to a PDF with more extensive notes about the texts’ topics, central ideas, structure and coherence.

IMPORTANT to remember about exemplar texts –

  • The authors of the Common Core only share very general guidelines they used to choose these texts – educators in the field “have used successfully with students in a given grade band” and “qualitative and quantitative measures” that indicated the texts were of “sufficient complexity” for this grade band, “texts of recognized value” and “as broad a range of high-quality texts as possible.” (CCSS, Appendix B, page 2) As I have complained in a past blog – I don’t think the authors of the CC took into consideration the 5 A’s of good informational texts – authority, accuracy, appeal, artistry, and appropriateness for audience.
  • This list is not complete and the texts only serve as examples in “helping educators selects texts of similar complexity, quality and range.” (CCSS, Appendix B, page 2)

My synopsis –

  • In general, a decent range of texts as far as complexity – but not as far as range of appropriate topics and informational text structures for grades 2-3.
  • The quality of these texts is hit or miss. (See attached notes.)
  • I would reject the following titles as exemplars for grades 2-3 reading aloud –
    REJECTED – POORLY WRITTEN- The Museum Book: A Guide to Strange & Wonderful Collections by Jan Mark – poorly written, lacks coherence, not appropriate for these grades (see linked notes for more details).

REJECTED – TOO EASY – The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles – I know this is a classic, but, in addition to being dated as far as accuracy and authority,  I think it’s way too easy for 2nd/3rd grade listeners. ALTERNATIVE TITLES AS EXEMPLARS –  My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King by C. King Farris (2nd grade) and Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges (3rd grade)

REJECTED – AS READ ALOUD – too hard for students to see imagesAh, Music! by Aliki. There are too many small illustrations for this to be a good read aloud – to a traditionally large group of students. Even putting the text on the document camera – there is just too much going on – on each page. You want to avoid using these kinds of books – “illustrated guides” as texts for reading aloud. Not a good example.

  • I would PROCEED WITH CAUTION when considering these next three texts as exemplars. This means I would absolutely read aloud texts like these to students – but not in a traditional read aloud way. You know how we pick up a good book to read aloud to students before lunch or at the end of the day? I think the authors of the CC had “instruction” with these texts in mind. See my blog on reading aloud Freedman’s Lincoln: A Photobiography for more of what I mean. PROCEED WITH CAUTION – Lincoln: A Photobiography by Freedman; If the World Were a Village: A Book about the World’s People  by David J. Smith; What the World Eats by Faith D’Aluisio.
  • Actually…those I haven’t rejected would be best experienced as part of an integrated unit of study. All of the texts require some kind of student background knowledge (see my attached notes in PDF link below AGAIN :)) that would make it easier for students to get the fullest amount of information/learning during the read aloud experience.

Okay…more to come. I’m working my way through all of the exemplars as part of my next book…hoping to have better set of exemplars to recommend in general somewhere along the way. Remember – see PDF link below :).

Appendix B 2-3 read aloud chart

Read This Book on Titanic Not That One

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A Night to Remember (Lord, 1955) is listed as an exemplar text in Appendix B of the Common Core. It’s okay, but not stellar. Instead I would recommend reading Titanic: Voices from the Disaster (Hopkinson, 2012). It is a better exemplar of what 6-8th grade students should be reading. See my blog on Hopkinson’s book for more of my thoughts on this gripping, well-written book.

Titanic voices from disaster

Notes on A Night to Remember (Lord, 1955) –

  • Lord’s purpose is to retell the events of the night the Titanic sank. His writing is straightforward and sometimes feels hurried as he almost lists who did what and when. As a result, it wasn’t until very late in the book that I wanted to keep reading. He also jumps straight into narrating the night of the disaster by telling how a seaman on watch spotted the iceberg. Unlike Hopkinson who builds an understanding of the Titanic and its passengers/crew up front, Lord’s details about the difference between the classes, luxuries of the ship, and how the building of the Titanic was an engineering and design feat are sometimes marginal and don’t run as a coherent thread throughout the book. (He discusses the issue of more first class passengers surviving than those in steerage – but explicitly and late in the book.) Really, because I’d read Hopkinson’s book which does a magnificent job of developing central ideas through the text, I was waiting for similar ideas to surface in Lord’s book and was disappointed. In other words, I pieced together details that revealed a theme – because I knew what to look for, not because Lord helped me through his writing.
  • Lord did extensive research to gather information for this book and details his research in acknowledgments at the end of the book. He admits to the difficulty of accurately recounting what happened with statements like this one about the times of events  – “The times given in this book are the honest estimates of people intimately involved, but they are far from foolproof” (p. 151). For the most part, the book is written in a way that reveals research versus conjecture – so Lord quotes what survivors said versus making up what they might have said and so forth. But he’s not perfect and our students need to keep this in mind. Two examples

1) On page 76, Lord writes “George Q. Clifford of Boston had the rueful satisfaction of remembering that he took out 50,000 dollars’ extra life insurance before the trip.” Clifford did not survive. So how do we know this?

But two paragraphs later he writes – “Little things could return to haunt a person at a time like this. Edith Evans remembered a foretune-teller who once told her to ‘beware of the water (p. 76).'” The word “could” is key here – he is probably using someone’s recollection of a conversation with Edith (who did not survive) and conjecturing, but he qualifies that it is just conjecture with “could.”

2) Throughout the book, Lord sheds negative light on women’s role in the event. At one point, when he is writing about one of the men trying to get the women to step into the life boats, he states, “Andrews had good reason to be exasperated. Women were never more unpredictable.” Throughout the book, women are portrayed as helpless and passive and the men mostly as courageous, solid and firm. Lord wrote this book in 1955 – before the second wave of feminism (which began in the early 60’s). While Lord portrays himself as a writer who is narrating the facts of an event which he has thoroughly researched, his prejudices are still present to some extent. It reminds me of author Jim Murphy’s comment in The Great Fire (1995) about the perceptions of the males who wrote about the great Chicago fire – “Men who wrote about the Great Fire generally portrayed women as passive and helpless, waiting for their husbands, brothers and some other man to save them. This seemed to go doubly for women who were wealthier. But if we look beyond the condescending references, a remarkable picture of strong and very active women emerges…” (p. 91). Lord might be guilty in a similar way. Let’s remember he’s narrating as fact what was really just the perceptions of survivors about what happened (as revealed in transcripts from hearings, in interviews with him, in letters, etc.) and he chose what details to share based on his perceptions of reality as well. (This would make for a very good conversation amongst students!) Late in the book, he comments about how some women rowed the oars of the life boats and one even steered, but his statements are too little, too late (for me).  Just skimming Hopkinson’s book – her language is very different – I need to reread again with this lens in mind – but I’m fairly certain her language choices regarding women’s responses and actions are more neutral. This would make for an interesting close read – contrasting excerpts from the two texts and discussing how women are portrayed through choice of language and details to share.

  • Another reason Hopkinson’s book is better is because current nonfiction authors make use of features in a way that a writer in 1955 would not have. Hopkinson’s book has extensive photos of the Titanic as well as the Titanic’s sister ship which would have had similar features and luxurious accomodations; she also includes pictures of the people, images of documents, maps, etc. Lord has a diagram of the ship with a numbered list of events at the beginning of the book.

Okay…just my thoughts. Not a bad book. I just think there are better, more current choices. Hopkinson’s book wasn’t out when the exemplar texts were chosen and there probably would have been copyright fees the CCSS writers didn’t want to deal with when they chose excerpts so we got A Night to Remember instead.

Ann Petry’s Harriet Tubman does not meet current standards for “nonfiction”

harriet tubman by petry

While there might be value in reading this book to get a “feel” for Tubman’s life, it should be considered historical fiction not nonfiction (despite being listed as an exemplar informational text in the CCSS Appendix B). It was written in 1955 and Petry’s purpose was to provide readers with a viewpoint of slavery that was not being represented in textbooks of the time. Her purpose was noble and should be noted. What writers in the field have agreed on since then, though, is that to be accurate when writing “nonfiction,” you cannot make up what was said during an event in a person’s life – without asserting that you are doing just that. You can use quotes from primary sources or from people you’ve interviewed during your research, but you cannot just make up what might have been said (even if it’s based on research) and present these conversations as fact. If you read Russell Freedman’s book Lincoln: A Photobiography – he tells a lot without ever making up what someone said. Petry, on the other hand, from the beginning of Harriet Tubman, writes specifically what was said during a discussion that took place in Harriet’s parents’ cabin the night Harriet was born and continues to do so from there. There is no documentation of what was said -specifically at events like the night Harriet was born. Petry is conjecturing. This is not acceptable in 2013  – despite this book’s continued publication as “nonfiction.”

Petry does end each chapter with factual statements about other events that were occurring during a particular period. At some points late in the book, she includes quotes by Harriet and a few others, BUT the majority of the book is a narrative that includes what was happening, being said, and so forth without reference to specific documentation or quotes from primary sources. It’s clear Petry did some research – although there is no author’s note included in the book. She passed away in the 1990’s and I haven’t found any kind of description of her research on-line so it’s hard to know her research and writing process for this book.

scenes in the life of harriet tubman

I want to contrast her book with others on Tubman. For example, I want to read Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman by Susan Bradford – who knew Harriet and interviewed her extensively for the book (to raise money to support Harriet). I’d also like to read two more authoritative books – Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom by Clinton and Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of a Hero by Kate Clifford Larson. While the first book by Bradford was criticized for accuracy – it is based on the perceptions of Tubman (who did not know how to read and write). This text might serve as a primary source that represents one person’s viewpoint – similar to Frederick Douglass’ autobiography Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass.

If students do read Petry’s book – there’s room for teaching about an author’s interpretation of historical documents and how that influences what is written, what can be written from our study of primary and secondary sources and what cannot be written without some assertion from the author that the text is an “interpretation” or “conjecture” of what might have happened. In addition, Petry’s book could be contrasted with others – a good learning experience for students and a way to help them achieve Common Core standards related to contrasting multiple texts on the same topic.