Broad Knowledge Drives Literacy

In a piece (here) included in the The Herff Jones Achievement Series, the case is made for how a “broad academic knowledge base” leads to strong literacy development. To make the point, the following example is shared:

If a hunter with a shotgun says, “There’s a grouse across that field, maybe 100 yards away,” and his friend says, “Well, shoot,” what does the friend mean?

Unless you’ve hunted grouse before or talked extensively to someone who has, the meaning of the friend’s statement is ambiguous. Unless you know that shotguns aren’t very accurate at 100 yards — and that a grouse that has flown from its cover disappears very rapidly — you might think the friend is encouraging the hunter to fire his gun. In fact, he is expressing frustration.

Building a coherent body of knowledge is a big part of improving vocabulary and comprehension with students.  Likewise, it is an important part of accessing the Common Core. You can watch Robert Pondiscio make a similar point here or Dr. Dan Willingham describe the importance of background knowledge here.

About Aaron Grossman

I am a 5th grade teacher at Roy Gomm Elementary in Reno, Nevada. I started working with elementary students as part of the Montana Reads program and AmeriCorps. In 2001, after graduating from the University of Montana and moving to Reno, Nevada, I student taught at Rita Cannan Elementary before receiving a 6th grade position at Veterans Elementary. I moved out of the classroom to be a Literacy Coordinator, then an Instructional Coach, and finally a School Improvement Program Coordinator. In 2011, I began working on the Nevada Academic Content Standards in the district’s Curriculum & Instruction Department. I returned to the classroom for the 2015-2016 school year to teach 4th grade at Huffaker Elementary. Before returning to the classroom, I helped develop the Core Task Project that has been featured by National Public Radio, the Gates Foundation, American Radio Works, Eduwonk, the Fordham Institute, Vox, and the Center for American Progress. In 2014, I received the Leader to Learn From Award for my teacher-centered initiative and work to bring college, career, and civics ready outcomes into Northern Nevada classrooms (here). In 2015, I was appointed by Governor Sandoval serve on the Statewide RPDP Council. The same year, Nevada’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction Steve Canavero placed me on the state’s State Improvement Team. This year I will be part of the National Council on Teacher Quality’s Teacher Advisory Group. I am Google Certified Educator and a Nevada Teacher Ambassador. I believe strongly that teaching content is teaching reading and I make sure my students have ample opportunities to work with social studies, history, science and art outcomes. I do what I can to blend the learning for my students and this blog is part of that effort. You can contact me at
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