EngageNY: Building Critical Thinkers

I’m all for student-centered learning environments in which students are asked to think deeply about texts. The CC didn’t invent student-questioning, close reading, text-centered discussions, collaboration, using evidence to back up ideas — these standards are in place to ensure that students learn these crucial skills.

Writing about the CC in my classroom:

English educators have a responsibility to provide students with the tools that they need to think critically. The most successful students will be those who are most able to understand, evaluate and critique a variety of arguments and messages, collaborate effectively with peers and teachers, and articulate their own ideas, analysis and opinions using rich, nuanced language.

This is what is now happening in my classroom with the implementation of the Common Core.  I began the fall semester using the EngageNY resources.  I started with “Brain Gain,” a close reading unit by Odell Education designed to build students’ close reading, annotating, and text-based discussion skills. For several weeks we read, discussed, questioned and wrote about the value and qualities of a good education.  They even facilitated a comparative discussion about three different texts and presented it to the class.

This unit had a significant impact on the students.  Not only did their academic and analytical skills become more advanced but a few observed how lucky they are to have access to public education — they didn’t know that historical figures like Thomas Jefferson had to actually fight to institute a public education system. Students also began to see connections between education, economics and government.

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