R.CCR.9 — that’s the ninth College/Career Readiness anchor standard within the Reading strand of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for ELA/Literacy — reads as follows:
Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.
There are two key teacherly tasks in preparing to teach this standard.
Choosing multiple related texts
For R.CCR.9, texts can be related topically or thematically. Let’s look at a few examples of how this might look.
TOPICALLY LINKED, MULTI-GENRE
For example, when reading Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, my ninth grade students and I also examine Rudyard Kipling’s poem “The White Man’s Burden,” and this coming school year I’m going to add open letters to and from King Leopold II during Belgium’s imperial heyday (taken from The Human Record: Sources of Global History since 1500, by Alfred J. Andrea and James H. Overfield).
Altogether, these texts will consist of various genres, and some of them will contain starkly contrasting themes, but they will all topically deal with colonization and imperialism around the turn of the 20th century.
TOPICALLY LINKED ARTICLES
For finding multiple related articles about the news and issues of today, I haven’t found a better resource than The Week. This news magazine is totally free and totally awesome. I’ve heard it described as the Reader’s Digest version of the Wall Street Journal, and I can see why: every day, The Week posts articles that summarize the various takes on a given hot topic.
Some examples from today’s articles:
- 4 perspectives on the disappointing June jobs report for the USA (great for an economics class)
- Various speculations on whether “iGlasses” will beat out Google’s computer specs (great for use in a technology class)
- Various takes on 50 Cent’s offensive tweets (great for current events classes, American culture discussions, or simply for a quickie debate in an ELA class)
Basically, you could call R.CCR.9 the anchor standard proudly sponsored by TheWeek.com. (And no, they don’t pay me to say that; they should, but they don’t).
THEMATICALLY LINKED, MULTI-GENRE
But let’s say you’re interested in having students explore thematic relationships between texts. I did something like this last year when I taught John Knowles’ A Separate Peace. Our guiding question for our reading of the book was, “Is Gene evil, or did he simply do an evil thing?” This got us thinking and talking about the theme I wanted students to explore: are humans basically evil, or are they basically good people who do evil things?
Unfortunately, this unit fell right before winter break, so I did not have time to develop it as fully as I would have liked. However, if I had, here are some ideas of texts that could have linked thematically with our study of A Separate Peace:
- Looking at the writings of various Enlightenment thinkers on human nature
- Looking at an article or excerpts from Freud dealing with the id, ego, and superego
- Studying a current events case that relates to our thematic driving question, such as the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin tragedy
Choosing the purpose of your text comparisons
The other half of this standard deals with two purposes for analyzing multiple texts: either to build knowledge or to compare the approaches authors take.
TO BUILD KNOWLEDGE
In the colonialism/imperialism example above, my purpose for analyzing all of these related texts has nothing to do with the authors’ approaches, but it has everything to do with helping my students build knowledge (remember, building knowledge is one of the six big “shifts”that the CCSS calls for).
I love that the CCSS makes the vital connection between reading multiple sources and building knowledge. This is the only way my students can truly understand the complexities and the dark underbelly of colonialism; they need to get elbow-deep in the grime of multiple, conflicting texts.
TO COMPARE AUTHORS’ APPROACHES
On the other hand, it’s also valuable to compare how different authors approach a given topic. This looks like a job for — insert superhero music — TheWeek.com! Because journalists provide such a wide array of tacks toward the same topic, articles are a great method for achieving this purpose.
I also fantasize about having my students read not only Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, but also Orwell’s 1984. It would be amazing to have students compare each author’s approach satirizing the direction that they saw their worlds moving.
Just get started
As I contemplate each anchor standard, I keep coming away with the strong impressions that, first, these are doable and valuable, and, second, they aren’t difficult to start trying.
That’s the key — just start.