FAQ: K-8 Sequence

The essential document for any Core Knowledge teacher or school, the Core Knowledge Sequence is intended to help children establish strong foundations of knowledge, grade by grade. The Sequence provides a coherent, cumulative, and content-specific outline of specific knowledge and skills to be taught in grades K–8 in Language Arts, American and World History and Geography, Visual Arts, Music, Math, and Science. The Core Knowledge Foundation makes the Sequence freely available for non-commercial use.

How do I teach Core Knowledge content or implement a Core Knowledge program?

Check the Implementation section for guidance and resources for bringing Core Knowledge into your classroom or school. You can also browse our Curriculum for many comprehensive, content-rich materials available as free downloads. Our curriculum directly supports the teaching of topics specified in the Core Knowledge Sequence.

Visit the Core Knowledge Store for other resources to support putting Core Knowledge into practice. Back to top

Who decided what’s in the Sequence?

In its current form, the Core Knowledge Sequence represents the contributions of thousands of scholars, experts, teachers, and other contributors of widely varying backgrounds. The preliminary work began in the 1980s, leading to the list of topics published as an appendix to E. D. Hirsch, Jr.’s book Cultural Literacy.

That preliminary list, developed in consultation with more than 100 people in various professions, was consciously offered as a first attempt to identify, in the words of the book’s subtitle, “What Every American Needs to Know.” It led to a long and rigorous process of research and consensus-building undertaken by the Core Knowledge Foundation to identify the elements of a stable and coherent core of knowledge for students in the United States. We examined the structure and content of curricula from high-performing countries and analyzed various state and national reports on standards and content. An advisory board on multicultural traditions proposed specific content of diverse cultures and traditions that all American children should share in order to develop mutual respect, knowledge, and understanding.

This draft list of core content was submitted to independent groups of teachers and specialists for review and preliminary agreement on a grade-by-grade sequence. The draft sequence was sent to 100 educators and specialists who participated in a national conference in March 1990. This conference included elementary school teachers, curriculum specialists, scientists, science writers, officers of national organizations, representatives of ethnic groups, district superintendents, and school principals from across the country. They convened in 24 working groups and follow-up plenary sessions to forge a working agreement on a core of knowledge for the first six grades. The resulting provisional Core Knowledge Sequence was further fine-tuned during a year of implementation at a pioneering school, Three Oaks Elementary in Fort Myers, Florida.

Since this initial effort, there have been several revisions of the Sequence, which now offers guidelines for preschool through grade 8. These revisions have incorporated new information in various fields as well as feedback from thousands of teachers and schools that have put the Core Knowledge Sequence into practice.

The Core Knowledge Foundation makes the Sequence freely available for non-commercial use. We offer the Sequence as an exemplary model of a coherent, cumulative, and content-specific curriculum, and we openly welcome other models. As Dr. Hirsch explains in Why Knowledge Matters (2016), the Core Knowledge Sequence “has always been offered as just one exemplification” of the “general communal principle . . . that every child in a democracy should have access to that shared, enabling knowledge and language.” Back to top

Does the Core Knowledge Sequence teach respect for diverse peoples and cultures?

Yes, the Core Knowledge Sequence presents specific content embracing a great diversity of people, events, and ideas. The Sequence is intended to start students on the path toward acquiring the knowledge needed to grasp the importance of diversity to human history and current affairs.

Across the included grade levels, the Core Knowledge Sequence covers a broad range of world and American history—including early and modern Asian, African, Middle Eastern, Western, and Native American civilizations. This historical knowledge is explicitly connected to diverse works of literature, art, and music, as well as contributions by scientists from many cultures and backgrounds.

Children thrive from acquiring a general appreciation for different cultures and a sense that one’s own people have made important contributions. Being fully prepared to communicate, compete, and cooperate with peers around the world requires detailed knowledge of how various peoples have lived in harmony and in conflict over thousands of years. Such knowledge teaches the real value of diversity—the many ways in which different civilizations at different times have scientifically, politically, and artistically enriched each other. Back to top

Why doesn’t the Core Knowledge Sequence include guidelines for special areas such as Physical Education, Technology, or Drama?

Not including specific content guidelines for subjects such as Physical Education, Technology, or Drama doesn’t mean we do not value these areas. Quite the opposite! By design, the Core Knowledge Sequence concentrates on identifying a limited core of academic content and skills.

In the most successful Core Knowledge schools, special-area teachers work closely with grade-level teachers to coordinate activities with Sequence topics. For example, Physical Education teachers can reinforce how human body systems relate to exercise or play games from historical periods being studied in the classroom. Drama teachers can help students extend their classroom learning by dramatizing historical events or enacting plays specified in the Language Arts guidelines. Technology teachers can have children demonstrate their skills by creating projects or presentations on Core Knowledge Science topics.

The key is for all teachers, guided by the Sequence, to communicate, collaborate, and work together to help students build strong foundations of knowledge. Back to top

Can teachers pick and choose which topics to teach and which to leave out?

The Core Knowledge Sequence outlines an integrated and sequenced curriculum that builds over time. Effective Core Knowledge teachers recognize that leaving out or moving around some of the building blocks will weaken the foundation for future learning. Explore our Curriculum Planning Tools for guidance in the ordering and pacing of Sequence topics. Back to top


Questions about implementation?

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