Connecting to Common Core Standards

Common Core is a comprehensive look at pedagogy and content, helping students cultivate the necessary skills to be proud, active and dynamic readers and successful students. These skills include time management, public speaking, problem solving and critical thinking, creativity and decision making, collaboration and communication, patience and dedication, resourcefulness, and risk-taking (Gutierrez, 2012).

"The Marvelous Paracosm of Fitz Faraday and the Shapers of the Id" was informed by literacy standards, reading skills, and foundational skills and written to target these criteria

"The Common Core asks students to read stories and literature, as well as more complex texts that provide facts and background knowledge in areas such as science and social studies. Students will be challenged and asked questions that push them to refer back to what they’ve read. This stresses critical-thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills that are required for success in college, career, and life." National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School, Common Core Standards

"At a curricular or instructional level, within and across grade levels, texts need to be selected around topics or themes that generate knowledge and allow students to study those topics or themes in depth." Standard 10: Range, Quality, & Complexity » Texts Illustrating the Complexity, Quality, & Range of Student Reading 6-12

"The Marvelous Paracosm of Fitz Faraday and the Shapers of the Id" and the culture of readership

"The Marvelous Paracosm of Fitz Faraday and the Shapers of the Id" was specifically written to target Common Core Standards: "the literacy standards allow teachers to use their content area expertise to help students meet the particular challenges of reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language in their respective fields."

As a science fiction/fantasy text, the story and themes are accessible to students from 6th - 12th grade, connecting to material that helps cultivate a culture of literacy and a love of reading. It is widely known that students prefer fiction to nonfiction reading, particularly concerning reading for pleasure. It is important to tap into that desire by sharing reading experiences and encouraging students to socialize while reading. It is also known that when students can connect to stories on a personal level, they are more likely to enjoy the task as well as remain motivated to complete the task.

There is no better example of this, than JK Rowling's Harry Potter series. "Not since the serial novels of Charles Dickens in the middle of the 19th century had the works of a single author excited such universal and immediate interest" (Lebrecht, 2011). Rowling's contributions to readership cannot be overstated; young readers to adults can equally recognize a number of coming-of-age themes which resonate with their own lives. The wonder of the series comes from a reality rooted in emotions, situations, and experiences that each of us can imagine ourselves navigating, while blending these with fantastic elements which play on our wishes and dreams (Lebrecht, 2011).

Capturing the imagination of the reader fosters the positive climate surrounding literacy. This is is fundamental to achieving the Common Core Standards. Reading is both a pleasurable experience - a choice hobby and activity, and a critical skill for the 21st century - being literate in the modern world. The Marvelous Paracosm of Fitz Faraday and the Shapers of the Id references five domains which specifically asks students to use critical thinking skills, closely and attentively read, comprehend complex works, and support ideas using evidence. 

The five domains

Each of the following domains helps students achieve Common Core Standards while simultaneously creating a rich and immersive literary experience. 

[1] Coming-of-age (Bildungsroman): In the tradition of a number of significant works, The Marvelous Paracosm of Fitz Faraday and the Shapers of the Id is first and foremost a coming-of-age tale. We follow Fitz Faraday as he matures emotionally, socially, and intellectually. He is presented with a number of challenges which culminate in his ability to solve problems, learn from mistakes, and transition from youth to adulthood.

[2] Morality: Fundamental to any coming-of-age story concerns the main character's maturing socially and morally. This is role-modeled by Fitz in the course of he is taken through harrowing events and thrilling misadventures, and as he learns about life, love, death, the inner workings of the psyche, and the flimsiness of reality. Fitz continues to grapple with right and wrong, and is presented with the greatest challenge of all: defending his enemy because it is the right thing to do.

[3] Uncertainty and Certainty: The world is an uncertain place, full of chaos and emergent phenomena that are difficult to understand, even for the most intelligent of minds. Fitz tries to move ideas and experiences from uncertainty to the understandable, leaving a superstitious worldview and embracing the rational and reasonable. His mentor leaves breadcrumbs for him to piece together a clearer picture about how the physical, psychological, social, and spiritual worlds interact.

[4] Psychology and Anthropology: Two characters specifically represent theories in psychology and anthropology. Professor Crowley represents the shift of ideas from Freudian psychoanalysis to cognitive and behavioral paradigms. Josey and truly her parents, represent anthropological understandings of ethnocentrism, multiculturalism, and belief. Together, several very sophisticated theories from complex subjects are made far more accessible to young readers. 

[5] Intellectual courage: To dare to learn, to face new ideas and to remain open-minded, are daunting for even the strongest adult. Fitz and his friends are faced with tests of intellectual courage, challenging their previous misconceptions and coping with a new worldview. They are asked to look at their preconceived notions, either adapt, adopt or reject new ideas, and then either strengthen their convictions or change the way the view the world.

The universal ideas explored

The Marvelous Paracosm of Fitz Faraday and the Shapers of the Id is not only a novel but serves as a teaching tool connected to Common Core Standards. Reading The Marvelous Paracosm of Fitz Faraday and the Shapers of the Id  is a multilayered experience. On the surface, it is an adventure story with science fiction and fantasy elements. Teenaged characters solve adult problems, challenge the morality, and learn to cope in an uncertain world. On deeper levels, we can analyze the characters' motives, the themes and motifs presented, the narrative structure, and the symbols showcased. By doing so, we internalize incredibly sophisticated ideas and connect to complex subject matters in personal, meaningful ways.

References

  • Gutierrez, P. (2012, August 15). Guest post by John Chase…Character education: The secret benefit of edtech and media literacy [Blog].
  • National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School, Common Core Standards
  • Lebrecht, N. (2011, July 9). How Harry Saved Reading. The Wall Street Journal.
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