Food For Thought

1 Apr

The Atlantic had an interesting article from E.D. Hirsch, reflecting on the Core Knowledge program, the Common Core, and close reading, titled, “How Two Poems Helped Launch a School Reform Movement.”  The crux of the article is the idea that the single most important factor in comprehension is prior knowledge–deep seated background knowledge.  According to Hirsch, when researching effective writers, what he ended up discovering was what made an effective reader.  The answer, was 10% technique (strategies) and 90% background knowledge.

It’s an important reminder that even though the common core recommends students learn the skill of close reading, a strong background in “core knowledge” is necessary for students to succeed.  Struggling students typically have a much narrower band of prior knowledge in traditional educational areas.  In our rush to teach students how to analyze text, we need to be careful not to forget that everything we do is tied to our prior understandings, beliefs, and feelings.  Prioritizing the strategies and “process” of reading, over the content, could do students a grave disservice.

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