Great piece by Valerie Strauss from the Washington Post Answer Sheet column on close reading of the Gettysburg address per the Common Core gods. I cannot speak for ELA teachers, but teaching history using this method is poor practice in my opinion.
From Valerie Strauss:
Imagine learning about the Gettysburg Address without a mention of the Civil War, the Battle of Gettysburg, or why President Abraham Lincoln had traveled to Pennsylvania to make the speech. That’s the way a Common Core State Standards “exemplar for instruction” — from a company founded by three main Core authors — says it should be taught to ninth and 10th graders.
I cannot fathom teaching my 7th graders to break apart Lincoln’s speech using the “close reading” strategy. I love trying to interpret historical documents such as the Declaration of Independence and famous speeches such as Gettysburg Address in my classes. How can students appreciate or even understand a primary source without having a background in the events leading to the writing of a important document or delivery of a famous speech?
Is close reading a test prep strategy? I completely agree with teacher Jeremiah Chaffee who was quoted in the WaPo piece:
This gives students a text they have never seen and asks them to read it with no preliminary introduction. This mimics the conditions of a standardized test on which students are asked to read material they have never seen and answer multiple choice questions about the passage.
As Mr.Chaffee also notes:
Such pedagogy makes school wildly boring. 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.
I discussed test prep style “canned” readings in a piece I wrote a year ago : Is your child getting a “worksheet” education? Sadly some classrooms use these “random” passages as an attempt to plug in social studies and science into our children’s education as tested subjects of ELA and math dominate our children’s school day.
As a content area teacher in social studies, I see no gains from using “close reading” strategies with primary source material in my classroom.
ELA teachers, I am curious if “close reading” has any benefits?
Follow Chris Cerrone on Twitter: @stoptesting15