The Case for Teaching about Sharks and Mummies, Not Captions and the Main Idea (Natalie Wexler)

Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

This article appeared August 6, 2019 in Chalkbeat.

“How do students best learn to read? Equally
important, how do students learn to
love reading? The Common Core emphasizes reading comprehension
skills, like identifying the main idea of a text. Yet in her new book, “The Knowledge Gap,” Natalie Wexler argues that
teaching those skills in a vacuum, rather than centering instruction around
interesting and rigorous content knowledge, hurts both student achievement and

In the excerpt below, Wexler observes two
elementary school classrooms, each one taking a different approach to teaching

On a sunny November morning, Gaby Arredondo is
trying to initiate twenty first-graders into the mysteries of reading.

Today’s particular mystery is captions. Ms.
Arredondo recently gave a test that asked her students to identify a caption,
and — even though she had spent 15 minutes teaching the concept — many chose
the title of the…

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