National Writing Project

The Gettysburg Address: Literary Nonfiction and the Common Core

Publication: Edutopia
Date: February 13, 2013

Summary: Todd Finley opens a discussion about how educators will teach complex literary nonfiction, such as The Gettysburg Address, as they strive to align their curriculum with the Common Core State Standards. Finley is an associate professor of English Education at East Carolina University and a former co-director of the Tar River Writing Project.

 

Excerpt

The CCSS mandates that by the end of high school, 70% of what students read should be informational texts — specifically, complex and non-narrative literary nonfiction. Furthermore, students should be able to identify central ideas and articulate their development, summarize, analyze, draw inferences, identify an author's purpose, evaluate the effectiveness of rhetorical features, and figure out the meaning of words. In short, the CCSS has reclaimed a technique popular in the 1940s, close reading, or sustained interpretation of, in particular, the wording of a text. . . .

Rigorous classroom instruction is a good thing. But making students labor through arcane texts is not any more intellectually nutritious than reader response. To be clear, that the Gettysburg Address is worthy of study is undeniable. But close reading is only one pathway to understanding this masterpiece. . . .

What are your favorite learning activities for the Gettysburg Address? Or, more generally, how are you approaching literary nonfiction with your students?

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