Working for educational equity is not a job for the faint of heart. It demands a sense of urgency, perseverance, empathy, humor, and,most importantly, an endless supply of humility. We can never know ALL there is to know about ALL the delicate cultural nuances that make the people around us who they are. But, we can strive to approach one another with a genuine sense of curiosity that is rooted in love and be willing to admit when we’ve made mistakes.
It is with this in mind that I write today. Recently, I was schooled on the term “codeswitching” and I want to share my new understanding as it relates to what Dr. Sharroky Hollie calls, VABBing.
First of all, for any of you readers who may not be familiar with the term VABBing, it is: “the validation and affirmation of indigenous (home) culture and language for the purpose of building and bridging the student to success in the culture of academia and in mainstream society” (Hollie 13).
When I first learned about VABBing, I could easily get my head around the validation and affirmation part, but I struggled with the notion of building and bridging. The idea that I should try to teach students to fit into the mainstream went against so much that I believed in. However, the more I read and the more I practiced VABBing, the more I realized building and bridging isn’t at all about forcing students to assimilate. It’s about giving our students the tools they need to be culturally dexterous. It’s about honoring and loving our students for who they are, first and foremost, while giving them the tools they need to navigate a complex, and often inequitable, human system. It’s about opening up the playing field so they can draw on their strengths while practicing the skills necessary for success beyond the classroom walls. I thought that this was what it meant to “codeswitch.”
It was with this understanding that I went forth into the world fielding questions about situational appropriateness and codeswitching, mistakenly assuming they meant the same thing. I had read Dr. Hollie’s book, studied the binder, wrestled with my own ideas about building and bridging, but never did I realize that I was misusing the term codeswitching. Today, I wanted to share a document that Dr. Hollie recently shared with me that clarifies the difference between VABBing and codeswitching:
Before reading this, the negative connotations behind the term “codeswitching” had never really registered with me; I had simply been using it as a synonym for cultural dexterity. But, because I strive to examine the moments when my implicit bias or a deficit mindset creeps in, I have been working to change my language.
Once again, I reiterate that this work is not easy. It takes time and openness to make change. It is my hope that all of us can feel supported as reflective practitioners as we walk along this road together.
This post brought to you by Kim Eversman, E-12 Equity Implementation Associate
As the district wide Equity Implementation Associate, my role is to help support teachers as they both implement equitable (particularly Culturally and Linguistically Responsive, or CLR) instructional practices and reflect on the why behind these practices. This work isn’t black and white. It isn’t easy and teachers have questions. Lots of questions! And to be honest, it makes my heart so happy that there are so many questions. Questions mean that we are taking our work seriously; that we recognize we need to do better, even if we don’t know how to do better…yet!
In this post, I wanted to take some time to address one of the most common questions I am asked in regards to Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Teaching: “What’s the deal with these call and response protocols?”
I have good news friends…you aren’t the only ones asking that question! There is so much wonderful literature out there that addresses the call and response conundrum.
Why does everything come back to call and response?
“The conventional system of teaching makes mathematics a dud and boring subject. Students are unable to visualize the concept taught by the teacher. Therefore, their interest level goes down. Hence they start developing a disassociation with the subject. If this disassociation continues for a longer period of time, the child starts hating mathematics."
“This damaging idea has been challenged in recent years by neuroscience showing that mathematics is a subject, like all others, that is learned through hard work and practice.”
Research suggests that parents and teachers with anxiety about algebra and equations transmit those feelings to their children and students, who then perform worse on math. Math anxiety has been recognized as an impediment to math achievement. As teachers, our attitude and confidence with math skills have a direct impact on our student's achievement rates in math.
In a recent study, Boaler and her fellow researchers recruited 40 5th-grade teachers from the Central Valley to take a 12-hour online math course she and her team created. The course, “How to Learn Math for Teachers,” covers perceptions about math, how anyone — with enough practice — can develop the brain skills to understand complex math problems, and how math is used in everyday life. The course also covers basic math concepts, such as number patterns and reasoning, and offers tips for teaching those concepts.
When commenting about the impact of the Stanford study, published in the journal Education Sciences, Jo Boaler said,
"Changing the way teachers felt about their own mathematical abilities led them to like the subject, which boosted their enthusiasm for teaching it, [she said]. Their enthusiasm spread to their students, who in turn changed their own attitudes about math and performed better on tests.”
Changing perceptions and skill sets is difficult. Where do we begin? The first step is to adopt a growth mindset. A growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. If you have not read it already, I highly recommend you read Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.d. This philosophy has been a game changer for many. (This one, in my opinion, is also worth a second look even if you have already read it).
About a decade later, Dweck’s Stanford University colleague Jo Boaler piggy-backed off these ideas and applied it to mathematics. Mathematical Mindsets was published in 2016 applying advanced neurological research to how students best learn mathematical concepts. This book sparked an international resurgence in mathematical best practices. This is a must read for any teacher of mathematics. In it, Jo Boaler explores the power of mistakes and struggle, the concept that there are creativity and beauty in mathematics, (A concept I did not get at any time during my math education), the importance of developing flexibility with numbers and how mathematics is a path to equity.
"This wide gulf between real mathematics and school mathematics is at the heart of the math problems we face in education. I strongly believe that if school math classrooms presented the true nature of the discipline, we would not have this nationwide dislike of math and widespread math underachievement.”
Best Way to Change Scores is to Change Teachers Attitudes
Challenging Myths About Learning
Jo Boaler Ted Talk: How you can be good at math and other surprising facts about learning.
(2008) Foundations for Success: The Final Report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel, National Mathematics Advisory Panel (U.S. Department of Education, Washington, DC).
St.Myers, Andrew; Carey, Bjorn (15 July 2017). "Maryam Mirzakhani, Stanford mathematician and Fields Medal winner, dies". Stanford News. Retrieved 17 July 2017
Jacobson, Howard (29 July 2017). "The world has lost a great artist in mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 October 2017.
- Self-awareness: identifying emotions, accurate self-perception, recognizing strengths, self-confidence, self-efficacy
- Self-management: impulse control, stress management, self-discipline, self-motivation, goal-setting, organizational skills
- Social awareness: perspective taking, empathy, appreciating diversity, respect for others
- Relationship skill: communication, social engagement, relationship-building, teamwork
- Responsible decision making: identifying problems, analyzing situations, solving problems, evaluating, reflecting, ethical responsibility
Notice the first two are centered on the individual and the final three address interaction among individuals. This progression makes complete sense; how can a student manage their relationships with others until they are able to identify and manage their own feelings and self-perceptions?
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opportunity for students to think deeply, to create their own solutions, to build/write/draw/talk about their thinking! Students learn important mathematical concepts THROUGH problem solving. This is a mind shift away from the idea that we teach math concepts procedurally first and only then can they do problem solving.
- Jack has 8 marbles. Jill has 4 marbles. How many marbles do they have altogether?
- Jack and Jill have marbles. Jack has 6 marbles. If they have 14 marbles altogether, how many marbles does Jill have?
- Jack has 6 sets of marbles. There are 7 marbles in a set. How many marbles does Jack have altogether?
- Jill wants to put her marbles into containers. Six marbles can fit into a container. If Jill has 52 marbles altogether, how many sets can she make?
At every grade level we want to be sure that we are presenting students with practices that create a problem solving environment because that is where true learning and enduring understandings are taking place.
It is essential, that as teachers, we give students fair and consistent boundaries, while at the same time, maintaining and preserving relationships. A majority of our students are motivated to learn and behave when we operate from a base of INFLUENCE instead of POWER.
Some may think using ENVoY means misbehavior is ignored but that is not the case. ENVoY is not void of discipline. It is more importantly, a set of solid culturally responsive routines used to influence students to increase their on-task independence. When discipline is needed, staff should utilize their building-wide processes and procedures.
ENVoY GEMS are not essentially new practices to many teachers. You may already be doing some of the GEMS and not even know it! Accessing a Resident ENVoY Coach for Green Chair Coaching can help you identify what is already in place and work with you to help your classroom be even MORE effective. These coaches have extensive training and can assist you in your performance or refine your current skills. This partnership of knowledge or experience sharing, enhances the experience for all the students in the classroom(s), improving the effectiveness of the teacher.
Think of it like this: If you purposely tried to use words mostly for content and relationships, and used non-verbal signs, gestures, or signals to manage behavior/transitions, how would that impact your classroom? Coaches can help you identify the balance and art of managing behaviors by influence rather than power.
These practices are not only for classrooms, but media centers, hallways, gyms, computer labs, special education rooms, and main offices can also feel the positive impact of ENVoY.
Getting Attention: Freeze Body, Above Pause Whisper
Teaching: Raise Your Hand/Speak Out
Transition to Seat Work: Exit Directions, M.I.T.S. (Most Important Twenty Seconds)
Seatwork: Off/Neutral /On, Influence Approach
- Bell tone signals attention
- Call and response “I say eyes, you say up”
- “6th Graders” (with raised hand).
The value of the routine affords any guest teacher the opportunity to gather students efficiently with their own Above Pause Whisper as well.
ENVoY recommends routines for students to manage their own learning. After group instruction, teachers go through Exit Directions then allow students a moment to process, ask questions for clarification, then move into work time. The teacher can use the visuals to NONVERBALLY direct students who may need additional help getting started. Exit Directions also ease transitions for students and adults entering the room at various times. They quickly read what the class is working on and are able to begin with minimal direction/distraction.
Silent Select (written names for student selection)
ENVoY recommends silent select for least disturbance when requesting students from classrooms. Support teachers could write students names on whiteboards or have printed lists and smile and stand silently at the door.
and Angie Ellsworth, Behavior/ENVoY Coach, Pinewood Elementary
Feel free to connect with Paula via her email or Angie via her email
- Pacing targets
- Differentiated experiences based on students’ prior knowledge, skill level or interest
- More than one strategy for engagement
- Planned time for all students to speak or lead
- Plan B for students who need more time
- Plan C for students who need more challenge
Planning instruction that engages students, increases student voice, includes instructional dialogue, and is differentiated takes time; however, you do not need to reinvent the wheel. Many instructional strategies work well within many different content areas and for various ages and can be used in rotation. See what works for you and your students. Knowing what it looks like when they have met your objective, though, is an important piece of the plan.
Making changes to how we’ve always done something is uncomfortable and can be difficult and overwhelming. Try not to take on too much or overthink—start small. Don’t keep the learning objectives and what success looks like a secret to your students—clarity precedes competence! Successful experiences builds confident learners and teachers.
Feel free to follow Kari on Twitter @KollingAnderson, to call her at 507-328-4122, or to connect with her via email
Hattie, John. Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement; Routledge, 2009.
Here is an example of a lesson that I learned a lot from:
For the first ten minutes of our math block, my co-teacher and I introduced polygons to our students. Ten minutes into the lesson, it occurred to me that we, the teachers, had been doing all the talking. We decided to have students do a quick Turn and Talk.
I told the students, “Tell your elbow partner the characteristics of polygons.”
Things started to go awry immediately. Immediately, we had students asking to go to the bathroom, some were looking at their iPads, other partner sets said one or two words to each other and then nothing more, while other students didn’t say anything at all but instead just looked at each other. My first thought was, I guess we need to keep teaching about polygons because they don’t seem to understand polygons yet. Instead, I should have thought, Did I teach our students how to Turn and Talk? That's where I went wrong: I had assumed our students knew how to speak in an academic manner to each other. I was very wrong!
So, here are some eight steps to help you not make the same mistake by instead creating an environment that teaches students how to build the skills needed to interact with one another and to use academic language (Echevarría and Short).
Teach students how to listen to each other.
If we want students to talk, we need to teach them also how to listen. What does listening to each other look like? Model for students what active listening looks like. Have students practice listening skills using social conversations first (i.e. tell each other about their favorite TV show) and then move into more content-rich conversations.
What types of respectful words or phrases do you hear (I agree with you because…, I don't know that I can agree with you, and here's why...)? Provide sentence frames and model how to use them. Hang them up or write them on the board for students as a reference or to keep in a journal.
Make sure students know the goal of the lesson. That way they know if their academic conversations are on-topic or on-target. If they are not on-topic, remind them of the target or objective to help get them back on track.
If you want students to increase their academic language, then make sure questions lend themselves to higher-order thinking skills. Questions should make students think, clarify, predict, or explain. A question such as “Tell your partner one fact about the Gettysburg Address” could be changed to “What do you think the reaction of the crowd was after President Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address and why would he have reacted that way?”
Students often need to be taught how to keep a conversation going. Put question and sentence frames around the room that expand discussions, such as Tell me more about …, Why do you think… I heard you say…, That made me think of …, Do you think that …, or That idea connects to the story by …. These frames allow students to build on each other’s thoughts and create engaging conversations.
Academic speaking and listening are deeply tied to reading and writing. Student discussions that are linked to text bring forth deeper academic discussions.
Think about how long it will take students to talk to each other. Don’t let a turn and talk that lasts 1-2 minutes turn into 10 minutes. This creates wasted academic time and often leads to off-task behavior.
Let students know that you are listening to them. Walk around and listen to what they are saying. Have a clipboard and write down what students say. Them, when the class is brought back together, talk about the great conversations you heard. Provide examples and discuss why these conversations were so powerful. This will motivate students moving forward because they know you are listening and sharing out their examples and ideas.
If you would like to study these ideas future, consider reading the article "Student Interaction Gone Awry" by Jana Echevarría, and/or watching the Teaching Channel video "Talk Moves in Academic Discussions". Both provide great ideas on how to help students interact.
And, of course, feel free to connect with me directly. I would love to help you increase the academic talk in your classroom.
- Echevarría , Jana and Deborah Short. Making Content Comprehensible for English Language Learners: the SIOP Model, fourth ed., 2017.
It can be daunting to make sweeping changes to your instruction all at one time. Don’t let that deter you – just start somewhere. Here are some first steps you might try!
Pose some questions and ask students to discuss, write, or even draw a picture about their answers…
- What would describe you as a math learner?
- What parts of math are you most comfortable with?
- What parts of math are most challenging?
- How do you respond when you don’t understand?
- What should I know about you?
Communicate ideas such as those suggested by Jo Boaler in Mathematics Mindsets:
- Everyone can learn math to the highest levels
- Mistakes are valuable (In fact, we learn more when we make mistakes!)
- Questions are really important
- Math is about creativity and making sense
- Depth is more important than speed
- Math class is about learning not performing
Even small changes can have a great impact. As one math teacher shared in the August training, “I started by just having kids talk more and explain their thinking…and it made all the difference!”
Here are a some things to consider (again, from Jo Boaler, Mathematics Mindsets):
- Are the instructional practices already in the lesson? If so, be sure to implement and enhance those parts!
- Can I open up the lesson/task for students to have different strategies or to show their thinking in different ways? “You may know a rule for solving this question, but the rule doesn’t matter today. I want you to make sense of your answer and to explain why your solution makes sense!” (Cathy Humphreys)
- Ask a problem BEFORE teaching methods: Do they have time to “noodle around” with an idea and make sense of it before they get to a formula or a procedure?
- Add a visual component. Ask students to show their thinking in more than one way (with objects, pictures, diagrams, etc.)
- Ask student to convince and reason. You may start by telling students that there are 3 levels of convincing: convince yourself, convince a friend, convince a skeptic. While it’s easy to convince yourself or a friend, you need high levels of reasoning to convince a skeptic. Once you have introduced this idea, start saying, “Convince us…” or “Are we convinced?” (Boaler & Humpreys)
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