Vietnam, Ali, reading and the powerful knowledge gap.


In a recent lesson observation, I witnessed a classic teacher-dilemma unfold. How far do I have to go to fill in the knowledge gaps? I can’t teach them everything they don’t know so where do I begin?

It was in a GCSE English resit class where students were looking at a reading comprehension question. Here’s part of the passage:screenshot 2019-01-29 at 20.44.54

The student next to me was Saira, 16. She’d not managed to gain a GCSE grade 4 in English at school so here she was again, having another go.

Immediately she struggled with the first question – a simple true/false evaluation of various statements:

  • Mohammed Ali gave up his champion’s title rather than serve in Vietnam.

The relevant line in the passage is: {Mohammed Ali} achieved global fame… – even forfeiting his champion’s title rather than serve in Vietnam.

On the face of it, this is one of those context-free questions…

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