R.CCR.3 — unabbreviated, that’s the third College/Career Readiness anchor standard within the Reading strand of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for ELA/Literacy — reads as follows:
Analyze how and why individuals, events, and ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.
Within this standard, I see a lot of questions we could ask students to get them engaged with this skill, but focusing on three should provide the background knowledge necessary to get started.
1. How does an individual, event, or idea develop over the course of a text?
Okay, so there are actually three questions within this question alone. However, since the development of ideas is covered pretty thoroughly in R.CCR.2, let’s look at examples of how an individual and an event develops over the course of a text.
For the development of an individual, let’s consider Okonkwo in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. This one is tricky because, at first glance, it appears that Okonkwo begins and ends the novel as a man driven by his fear of appearing weak. On closer inspection, however, it’s clear that Oknonkwo does change throughout his life: at one point, his initial romance with Ekwefi gives us a glimpse of a younger, freer Okonkwo; after killing Ikemefuna, Okonkwo grapples with his weakness in getting over what he has done.
For the development of an event, let’s consider the Battle of the Cowshed in George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Throughout the novel, Squealer repeatedly revises this event: when the narrator tells of it, Snowball is heroic; over the course of Squealer’s revisions, Snowball transforms into a coward and, finally, into a traitor. In this example, an event develops over time through several revisionist speeches from Squealer. By the way, this is a great tie-in to other instances in history where governments (or authors!) have created revisionist narratives.
2. How do individuals, events, or ideas interact over the course of a text?
There are lots of great discussions and questions we can get to when we consider how individuals, events, and ideas interact throughout a complex text.
For an example of an analysis using this kind of questioning, consider how the idea of his own happiness interacts with Montag over the course of Fahrenheit 451. This idea is planted in Montag’s consciousness by the innocent Clarisse: “Are you happy?” she asks. Simple though it may seem, this idea of his own happiness is alarming to Montag. One could argue that this idea is the most influential idea in the book and has the most to do with the shaping of the events of the story.
3. Why does an individual, event, or idea develop and/or interact over the course of a text?
One of my colleagues (a math teacher) is famous amongst the students of our school for always responding to their statements with simple questions like “Why?” or simple statements like “Explain.” If you want to get students thinking deeply, ask why.
For example, let’s say my freshmen students are discussing why individuals develop, and we’re reading Things Fall Apart. I could ask them what kind of an individual Okonkwo is, and they tell me, “Well, he’s obsessed with being strong and successful.”
“Um, because his dad was weak. He was a humiliation to Okonkwo.”
“Because Umuofian society values strength.”
“Explain that with evidence.”
“Well, for example, a man is judged based on his number of titles, his number of wives, and his number of barns. All of these are essentially based on his success as a farmer, and this is largely based on his work ethic. For an additional example, consider that men have an exalted position in the society, whereas women are often treated like objects.”
Using these kinds of discussions (along with the use of simple note cards to ensure you’re calling on more than just your most vocal students), you can get kids doing the skills within R.CCR.3 — and enjoying it.