The Address

At a private school in Vermont for boys with learning disabilities, students are challenged to memorize and recite Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, reports a Ken Burns documentary.

Teachers, language specialists, speech pathologists and therapists work with the boys, often one on one. Greenwood’s tuition for day students is $53,475, notes Linda Holmes on an NPR blog. For boarding students, it’s $68,890. “The chilling part of the film is to think about how many kids would benefit from, but don’t get, this kind of attention.”

Unfinished work

Thousands gathered at Gettysburg today for the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. President Obama did not attend. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell was the highest-ranking administration official at the ceremony.

Here’s a great PowerPoint on the speech, suggested by Jay Greene. In a more serious vein, he recommends Ken Burns’ Learn the Address, which includes a presidential mash-up.

Teacher: ‘Cold reading’ is boring, shallow

Common Core Standards’ recommended English lessons are shallow and boring, writes teacher Jeremiah Chaffee on Answer Sheet.  Along with colleagues at his upstate New York high school, he spent a day on an “exemplar” lesson that calls for “cold reading” the Gettysburg Address. Teachers are told not to introduce the speech or discuss the Civil War, he writes.

Students are not asked to connect what they read yesterday to what they are reading today, or what they read in English to what they read in science.

The exemplar, in fact, forbids teachers from asking students if they have ever been to a funeral because such questions rely “on individual experience and opinion,” and answering them “will not move students closer to understanding the Gettysburg Address.”

. . .  it is impossible to have any deep understanding of Lincoln’s speech without thinking about the context of the speech: a memorial service.

Teachers are told to read the speech aloud, pronouncing the words clearly, but not dramatizing it.

That’s not good teaching, writes Chaffee, a 13-year veteran. He thinks Common Core’s stress on just-the-words reading is designed to prepare students for tests.

David Coleman, who co-wrote the English Language Arts standards, demonstrates a close-reading lesson on Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail here via EngageNY on Vimeo.  Is this good teaching?