Spotlight On: Sticky Knowledge

28 July 2023


This article first appeared in Queenwood Weekly News on Friday 28 July 2023.

"The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”  

Oh, the Places You'll Go! – Dr. Seuss

After years of debate about what constitutes best practice in teaching early literacy (sometimes referred to as the "reading wars"), the new K – 2 English syllabus implemented from 2023 promotes an explicit, systematic, phonemic approach towards early reading instruction. The research base and overwhelming evidence behind the advocated reading instruction in the new syllabus is outlined in academic journals and investigations. This approach is known as the ‘science of reading’. Integral to cracking the reading code, alongside phonological awareness and the ability to accurately decode and spell, is the necessity to intentionally provide opportunities to build children’s background knowledge.

Children start school with vastly different levels of background or general knowledge (the knowledge a person has in their head about the world). Wexler explains that background knowledge is like Velcro. Children who start out with more knowledge and vocabulary are in a better position to absorb and retain even more knowledge and vocabulary because they have a context; they’re able to retrieve more information about the topic from long-term memory, leaving more space in working memory for comprehension. They have that other half of the Velcro which enables them in turn to read more complex texts. Knowledge, like Velcro sticks best to related knowledge. The more children know – the more they’ll want to know. Knowledge is sticky!

At Queenwood we have long recognised the benefits of building background knowledge as a foundation for life and key to further inquiry often through reading. We are committed to providing our girls with a liberal education. This distinctive approach instils a love of learning for learning’s sake and develops the practice of meeting new ideas with fascination and wonder across all disciplines. Even for the youngest girls in our School, the beginning readers, our programs are unusually rich in their breadth and depth and taught by specialists in their field with passion and enthusiasm. We discuss big ideas and know that our girls will be interested in them! Our resources and facilities are conducive to participation in a wide range of experiences. The girls develop rigorous thinking and the practice of inquiry from an early age.

There are opportunities to:

  • Engage in lively discussion with primary resources, experts in their field
  • Debate big ideas and contemporary issues
  • Read a wide range of high-quality texts
  • Explore different cultures and perspectives through field trips and practical investigations
  • Partake in commemorative events
  • Participate in a broad range of cocurricular activities

Parents often ask how they can provide additional support for their daughter’s learning at home. It is likely that you’re already engaged in a myriad of knowledge-building activities which foster a love of learning and simultaneously enhance reading skills:

  • Topic-focused wide reading – buy and borrow books to develop deeper knowledge and expertise on a topic. Books make great presents!
  • Read aloud – share a wide range of fiction and non-fiction books
  • Actively watch documentaries/quiz shows/movies together
  • Travel/visit museums/exhibitions/theatres/historic sites - research before visiting a place
  • Share personal hobbies and interests with your children.

A Queenwood education provides a foundation for life. We continually review our educational principles and reshape teaching practices based on contemporary educational research. We know that by actively building and activating background, sticky knowledge - exposing our girls daily to rich discussion, extensive vocabulary, a wide range of texts and engaging in a broad curriculum which includes science, social studies, and the arts – they will read to learn more and learn more because they read.

For more information about the implementation of the new K – 2 English and Mathematics syllabuses, you are invited to the K – 2 Centre of Excellence Parent Seminar on Tuesday 22 August, 6pm at the Galaxy Theatre, Junior School. Find out more details and book here.