Choice and Voice: Student-­‐led Literature Circles for Deeper Understanding of Text

Lighthouse Community Charter School (Lighthouse) is a K-12 charter school in Oakland, California that serves over 700 students. Our mission is to prepare all students for the college or career of their choice, with an emphasis on supporting students through college. We began our shift to Common Core standards two years ago, and participated in the pilot run of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium at the end of the 2013-2014 school year. During our preparation for the changing standards it became apparent to me that my students have not yet developed the stamina for the rigor set by the Common Core standards, specifically around reading.

In preparation for Common Core, Lighthouse hosted multiple professional development workshops on the shifting standards; administrators and teachers were sent to off-site professional development; and teachers investigated the implications of the shift on their practice in inquiry groups. The number one takeaway from this work was that students need to spend more time interacting with increasingly complex texts. Additionally, students should grapple with text to extract both surface level details regarding basic comprehension, and deeper meaning including theme and author’s purpose. The high demands of Common Core Reading Standards necessitate higher expectations in the classroom regarding how students interact with text.

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