How much context is “just enough” to give students before reading?
By Tyler on April 12th, 2012
If you’re paying attention, like I am, to the back and forth over the merits of the Common Core language arts standards (adopted by almost every state), you’ve probably encountered the hubbub over the emphasis the standards place on “close reading.”
Joanne Jacobs gives a nice recap of a post written by a teacher on the Answer Sheet blog in which he expresses frustration over what he calls an emphasis on, quote, “cold reading” of texts like the Gettysburg Address.
Basically the teacher is frustrated by standards authors saying that teachers should not give students any context about a text they are about to read. “It is impossible to have any deep understanding of Lincoln’s speech without thinking about the context of the speech: a memorial service,” the teacher writes. The authors of the standards say teachers should not, for instance, ask students if they’ve ever been to a funeral before they read the Gettysburg Address. But some teachers worry about students who lack any background knowledge connected to certain texts, and that “cold reading” would be very frustrating and boring for them.
What’s most interesting to me is the conversation in the comments of the post on Joanne’s blog, where some say teachers should give “just enough” context about a book or article before students read it.
Commenter “EB” writes:
There is also such a thing as “just-enough” context; just enough to keep the students from being frustrated as to what they’re reading/discussing. Knowing that a piece of writing is 400 years old is enough to let most students know that it’s going to be rough sledding in terms of vocabulary and sentence construction, so they will know that all students their age have to struggle. I would add that for the Gettysburg Address, students should know that the context is the Civil War.
What do you think is “just enough” context to give students before reading? Are the Common Core standards off the mark here as some people claim?
(Flickr photo by digitonin)
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