Core Knowledge

The Program

Language Arts Program Brochure  |   30-Minute CKLA Overview  |   Supporting Research

The Core Knowledge Language Arts (CKLA) program is based on decades of cognitive science research revealing that reading is a two-lock box, a box that requires two keys to open. The first key is decoding skills, which are addressed in the Skills strand of the CKLA program. The second key is oral language, vocabulary, and background knowledge sufficient to understand what is decoded. These are covered in the Listening & Learning strand. Together, these two strands unlock a lifetime of reading for all children. Using this approach, the CKLA program not only meets the  Common Core State Standards, it exceeds them.

The Skills Strand

Overview of the Skills Strand  |   K–2 Skills Scope & Sequence  |    Samples

The Skills strand of CKLA teaches reading and writing in tandem. Children practice blending (reading) and segmenting (spelling) using the sound spellings they have learned. Decodable stories are introduced in the sixth of the ten units for kindergarten. Stories are 100% decodable—made up entirely of words and sound spellings the students have been taught, or "tricky words" that also have been explicitly taught. Handwriting, spelling, and the writing process are addressed in the Skills strand. The Skills strand was designed to be fully in accord with the findings of the  National Reading Panel  and it is aligned with the goals put forth in the Reading Foundational Skills section of the Common Core State Standards

The Listening & Learning Strand

Overview of the Listening & Learning Strand  |   CKLA Sequence of Domains  |   K–2 L&L Scope and Sequence  |   Samples

Decoding is essential, but so is the ability to comprehend what has been decoded—and that depends on language and content knowledge. The Listening & Learning strand lessons, comprised of teacher read-alouds, class discussion, vocabulary work, and extension activities, build on the research finding that students’ listening comprehension outpaces their reading comprehension throughout elementary school. These read-alouds and exercises are organized in 11 - 12 domains per grade. Each domain is dedicated to a particular topic—such as the five senses, Native Americans, early Asian civilizations, or insects—and the class stays focused on that topic or theme for 10–15 days of instruction. In addition, the domains are carefully organized to build on each other within and across grades. This focused, coherent, systematic approach is the most efficient and effective way to build students’ knowledge and vocabulary. It is interesting and engaging too, as the content goes well beyond standard early grades language arts fare to include important historical and scientific events, ideas, and people.

(This information from the Core Knowledge Foundation website 


Why Knowledge Matters

Is it really important that kids know things?  Shouldn’t they just learn to think?

It's natural to assume that teaching lots of "stuff" isn't important anymore when students can simply Google anything they need to know. But you probably take for granted how much "walking-around knowledge" you carry inside your head—and how much it helps you. If you have a rich base of background knowledge, it's easier to learn more. And it's much harder to read with comprehension, solve problems and think critically if you don't.

The idea that we have to choose between knowledge and thinking skills is a false choice. Kids need both. “The richer the knowledge base, the more smoothly and effectively cognitive processes — the very ones that teachers target — operate,” notes University of Virginia cognitive scientist Daniel T. Willingham. "So, the more knowledge students accumulate the smarter they become."

An education grounded in shared knowledge of history, science, art and music is also the great equalizer. The Core Knowledge Foundation believes that for the sake of academic excellence, greater equity, and higher literacy, elementary and middle schools need to teach a coherent, cumulative, and content-specific core curriculum.

Our society cannot afford a two-tiered system in which the affluent have access to a superior education, while everyone else is subjected to a dull and incoherent classroom experience. Academic excellence, educational equity and fairness demand a strong foundation of knowledge for all learners.

— E. D. Hirsch, Jr.


The Core Knowledge Sequence  is predicated on the realization that what children are able to learn at any given moment depends on what they already know—and, equally important, that what they know is a function of previous experience and teaching. Although current events and technology are constantly changing, there is a body of lasting knowledge and skills that form the core of a strong preschool–grade 8 curriculum. Explicit identification of what children should learn at each grade level ensures a coherent approach to building knowledge across all grade levels. Every child should learn the fundamentals of science, basic principles of government, important events in world history, essential elements of mathematics, widely acknowledged masterpieces of art and music from around the world, and stories and poems passed down from generation to generation.


The Core Knowledge Sequence provides a clear outline of content to be learned grade by grade so that knowledge, language, and skills build cumulatively from year to year. This sequential building of knowledge not only helps ensure that children enter each new grade ready to learn, it also helps prevent the repetitions and gaps that so often characterize current education. No more repeated units in multiple years on the rain forest, with little or no attention to the Bill of Rights, world geography, or exposure to other cultures. Core Knowledge sets high expectations for all children that are achievable thanks to the cumulative, sequential way that knowledge and skills build. Teachers in Core Knowledge schools have assurance that children will emerge well prepared with a shared body of knowledge and skills.


A typical state or district curriculum says, “Students will demonstrate knowledge of people, events, ideas, and movements that contributed to the development of the United States.” But which people and events? Which ideas and movements? The Sequence is distinguished by its specificity. By clearly specifying important knowledge in language arts, history, geography, math, science, and the fine arts, the Sequence presents a practical answer to the question, “What do our children need to know?”  Teachers are free to devote their energies and efforts to creatively planning how to teach the content to the children in their classrooms. 


The content and skill guidelines for mathematics outlined in the Core Knowledge Sequence are aligned with the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics.  It is important, however, to recognize the differences between the standards and the Sequence.

The standards document what students should know and be able to do at the end of each grade.  They do not detail everything a student will need to learn in order achieve the standards. By contrast, theSequence provides grade-by-grade, coherently sequenced content and skill guidelines for the teaching and learning that must take place to meet the standards. The Sequence:

  • explicitly outlines important mathematical vocabulary, symbols, and tools assumed by the standards, but not defined as standards (see an example);
  • explicitly addresses content and skills that are merely implied in the standards; and
  • includes some topics not explicitly addressed in the standards, including:
    • ordinal position;
    • orientation in time (calendar);
    • roman numerals; and
    • temperature.

The above information was taken from the Core Knowledge website.  For more information, click here.

Higher Learning Academy uses enVisionMATH Program to meet Core Knowledge and Common Core State Standards. enVisionMATH, published by Pearson Education, Inc., is a core curriculum for students in kindergarten through grade 6. The program seeks to help students develop an understanding of math concepts through problem-based instruction, small-group interaction, and visual learning with a focus on reasoning and modeling. Differentiated instruction and ongoing assessment are used to meet the needs of students at all ability levels.