One of the aspects of the Common Core ELA that I find to be most challenging is the ability to plan units that bring together featured and supporting texts. A featured text is the text(s) that all students in the class read regardless of reading level. This text(s) is the heart and soul of the unit and should frame the culminating assessment. Supporting texts, on the other hand, help students practice certain skills, acquire helpful background knowledge, research a topic or, most importantly, forge connections with the ideas and elements found in the featured texts. These texts may be leveled and could vary depending on the student or situation.
Structuring units in this way is no easy task! It represents a departure from typical approaches to instructional planning where little attention is paid to the selection of texts or the relationship among them. But much of what we read in CCSS (see RL/RI.3, 7, 9) and anticipate seeing from the testing consortia require that we think about how to weave together texts. In her book, Supporting Students in a Time of Common Core, 2010 Teacher of the Year, Sarah Brown Wessling, says it well: "Reading, especially complex reading, doesn't occur in isolation. [Teachers should] imagine a reading experience that is scaffolded by design, that resists reading in isolation, and welcomes a situation in which texts 'talk' to each other."
Building curriculum in this way requires not only the expertise of curriculum directors and classroom teachers, but also perhaps schools' most valuable resource--the Library/Media Specialist! Involve him/her in the planning of your units. Involve him/her in your plans to build your CCSS classroom libraries. And involve him/her in collaborative endeavors that seek to bring together reading and content area teachers. Moreover, Library/Media Specialists with their resourcefulness and knowledge of texts can also be helpful in contributing to complex text inventories that, among many possibilities, could be used to assess the Lexile levels and notable qualitative elements of current print and digital reading materials. In short, Library/Media Specialists should be one of the most important people in your building! As Library/Media Specialist/blogger, Kristin Hearne, was quoted as saying in this Edweek piece, "When it comes to the Common Core, librarians can be a school's secret weapon." Indeed! So, if you're not already, seek out your Library/Media Specialist and enlist his/her help in making the transition to CCSS. In fact, what is he/she doing for dinner tonight?!?