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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Learn, talk, think

Three girls are using prior knowledge, texts and images to rank five Civil War heroes in order of heroism. Then they’ll write essays justifying their choices.

Two classmates are analyzing the Lincoln-Douglas debates. “Explain what Lincoln meant when he said, ‘A house divided against itself cannot stand,’” Madison reads. “So, that means, if everyone’s arguing, the country will break apart.”

Knowledge matters in Chris Hayes’ second-grade class at Westergard Elementary School in Reno, reports TNTP.

Hayes uses the Core Knowledge curriculum. “Students build reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills through units that center on social studies topics like westward expansion, the War of 1812, and ancient Asian civilizations, and science topics like the human body and insects,” reports TNTP.

Mrs. Hayes believes this content-rich approach to literacy instruction means all her kids are getting access to not just content knowledge, but also the critical thinking skills that come along with it, which will serve them well in the years to come. “I ran into a teacher from a very affluent school with excellent test scores,” she explains. “She asked me about Core Knowledge, and I was telling her how my students had gotten into this amazing debate about slaves shooting their owners to get away. And she said, ‘Oh, my kids do the same thing. We read The Three Little Pigs and we talked about who was right, the wolf or the pigs.’”

“It’s totally not the same thing,” says Hayes. “We are giving them knowledge, and it’s very powerful.”

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