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?
Robert Longley writes that, “The Preamble to the U.S. Constitution summarizes the Founding Fathers’ intention to create a federal government dedicated to ensuring that 'We the People' always live in a safe, peaceful, healthy, well-defended–and most of all–free nation.” It is important for us to know that the Preamble does not hold, grant, or limit any legal power. That being said, it serves a very significant and powerful purpose: to explain why we have and need the Constitution.
Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey, in their book The Purposeful Classroom: How to Structure Lessons with Learning Goals in Mind talk at length about the importance of establishing a purpose for yourself as the teacher and for your students, and that instruction and learning should be focused on learning targets rather than tasks. Memorizing the Preamble, to me, seems like a task; whereas, understanding what the Preamble represents and means to us as Americans seems more like a learning target.
My fear, for my son, is that the task of memorizing the Preamble will lead only to a surface-level understanding and it runs the risk of disengaging kids like my son who thrives on learning through understanding. Yana Weinstein, in her blog entry “Memorizing versus Understanding” points out, “using a deep [learning] approach, a student has the intention to understand. Information may be remembered, but this is viewed as an almost unintentional by-product.” This is the type of learning I wish for both of my children: learning through understanding, rather than by memory.
If you would like specific ideas for how to increase student understanding, replacing memorization-focused activities with those that increase students' learning-by-understanding, please reach out to your instructional coach or one of us here at C&I.
Three components of student achievement in the Rochester Public Schools Graduate Profile are critical thinkers, skilled communicators, and effective collaborators. In teacher driven lessons, these components can be hard to come by. So how can we adapt our lessons to be a lot more of them, and lot less of us? Here are some ways to bring more student voice into the classroom.
Ask More Questions
1. Ask Authentic questions - Are we asking questions that simply “test” whether our students can produce an answer we already have in mind? Or are we asking questions meant to gain access to our students’ thinking or perspective? Ask students “authentic” questions where you as the teacher are truly curious how the student will respond. Typically these types of questions open-ended, and empower students to join their classmates in a line of inquiry in which the answer is not already known or owned by the teacher.
2. Play a little volleyball - Are you responding to every student comment, or are students responding to and interacting with their peers’ contributions to the conversation? Students are used to seeing their teachers as the experts in the room and are in the habit of trying to guess what the teacher wants in a response. Instead of responding yourself to student questions, volley the questions back and encourage them to evaluate, respond to, and extend their classmates’ contributions. Offering a range of sentence starters (“I heard my classmate say…”, “I agree because…”) on a poster or cheat-sheet can help students build this habit.
3. Try not to ask rhetorical questions – The same can be said for “yes/no” and “agree/disagree” questions. Students are often unmotivated to answer such questions for a couple of reasons; a) they know that we know the answers to the questions we ask so there is no reason to tell us what we already know, and b) they realize that we are in search of the one and only one correct response so there is a high probability that they may give the “wrong” answer.
4. Pose either/or questions - “Should we use additional or multiplication to solve this problem?” “Is a square or a rectangle a better base to support a structure?” “Would it be better to be a farmer in Minnesota or Wisconsin?” By posing questions that have no right or wrong answer but instead can be decided based on knowledge of the question, students are engaged in sharing what they know about a particular topic but may also have their thinking challenged by what another student knows and shares.
Turn Over the Learning
1. Don’t Steal the Struggle - It can be uncomfortable to watch kids struggle, but they need time and silence to work through it. Resist the urge to talk students through every step of a problem and instead just observe. Letting kids think instead of rushing in to narrate or question builds anticipation around what’s going to be said next and increases participation as more kids are prepared to move into the conversation.
2. Move from the Front of the Classroom - Try occasionally sitting on the side of the classroom or in an absent student’s desk and say, “I need someone to go up and demonstrate ___ for us.” Because students are used to the person at the front facilitating the lesson, they are likely to talk for much longer than if you stay at the front and they’re in their seats answering you. You can even remain sitting among the class once the student is done demonstrating and ask follow up questions from other students instead of commenting on the students’ demo yourself.
3. Get Student Input – Take notice of moments when you summarize or review for students and instead practice making those moments a chance for kids to share: What’s the rule about this? Who can sum this section up for us? Who remembers the way to determine ___? Some teachers even turn these moments into interactive activities, where the whole class does a hand motion, body movement, sound, or chant to indicate that they’re summarizing an idea or reviewing directions before getting started.
Differ Your Discussion Formats
1. Idea interchange – Designate “idea interchange” locations around the room that kids will be able to break into groups of three to five students each. In each location, post a different question or discussion topic related to the lesson. Assign students to groups, and have the groups move around the room together to discuss each question, jotting down notes individually or as a group as they rotate. Set a time limit for each idea interchange location depending on the age of the students and the topic. Students can move through all the locations on the same day or over multiple days.
2. Revolving discussion - Students form two circles, with one inside the other—the students in the inner circle face a partner in the outer circle. Then, pose a question that is open-ended and requires critical thinking. Students spend one to three minutes (depending on topic and age) discussing the question with their partner. When you call time, students rotate so that they are facing a new partner, and they discuss the same question. At this point, depending on the complexity of the question and the age of the students, students can rotate to another partner and continue discussing the same question or be given a new question to discuss.
Whole class discussion is a great way to get everyone involved in one topic at one time. There are numerous different ways to conduct these kinds of interactions. Here are three to get you started.
1. Seminar - This discussion is designed to allow students the freedom to share ideas and questions with each other by discussing without raising their hands. In practice, when students are learning the strategy it is helpful to begin by having them raise their hands and transition over time to free discussion.
2. Summit - This discussion is designed to encourage collaboration and problem solving as students generate ideas and come to a consensus. Students are given an open-ended question or problem to solve. They share out ideas and, through critical discussion in a seminar format, decide together which ideas are best supported by evidence and agreed upon by the majority of their classmates. They then come to a consensus to present to the teacher. This strategy works best after students have some experience participating in the seminar format. If more scaffolding is needed, students can practice in smaller groups before working as an entire class.
3. Debate - This discussion is designed to have students use facts to support their opinions and engage in civil discourse with their peers. Before a debate, students are assigned a side to argue for, and they research both sides and gather facts to support their ideas. A debate can be structured so that students freely share their arguments and counterarguments and then ask questions, or it can be structured as a round robin, in which each member of the class is given two minutes to talk. Alternate between the two sides until everyone in the class has spoken. During their turn, students can choose to bring up their own point or provide a counterargument to the person who went before them.
First, worksheets do not teach. You may decide to give students a short formative assessment to check their understanding but remember that a worksheet is not the teaching, it is the practice. Second, many of our students are hands-on learners and although they also need practice there are many other ways for students to show us what they know without filling out a worksheet. We know that many students show us what they know better through collaboration, discussion, and sharing. Thirdly, worksheets most of the time do not push our students to higher levels of thinking because most of them tend to lack the creativity and openness that requires our students to think outside of the box. And last but not least, over time the use of too many worksheets causes many of our students to lose interest and disengage.
So why do we give our students worksheets? One reason is that we need our students to have that independent practice. It could also be that we simply need our students to be doing something to fill the time while we are meeting in small groups or one on one. It can be a challenge for us to find meaningful work for our students during small group times of the day. So what do we do? Let’s start to think more about the purpose of the work and incorporate some simple ideas in classrooms to make this work time and practice time more meaningful for our students.
- Does this allow my students the opportunity to effectively practice the learning target?
- Is this directly linked to a learning target or is it “busy-work”?
- Have I considered the various learning styles of my students and does this platform allow each student to effectively share their learning?
There are times when a worksheet or practice sheet might be appropriate but students are not engaged. Consider breaking the worksheet apart among a group of students. It might look something like this: Take the worksheet or problems ahead of time and cut each problem into a separate slip of paper. Allow students to either self-select groups of five or place students into groups of five. Students would then take turns on each role below as each problem is solved.
Person 1: read the question or problem
Person 2: Rephrases the question or problem
Person 3: Responds with the answer or solution and explains their thought process
Person 4: Responds to person 3 by agreeing or disagreeing and explaining why
Person 5: Place the problems into an “agree” or “disagree” pile and pull the next problem to solve. This person becomes person 1 for the next problem.
Continue to shift the roles until the questions have been fully answered. The final step is to take all of the “disagree” problems/questions and to decide as a team how to best find the answer and/or come to a consensus on the correct answer.
This is a strategy that many of us have used in our own professional development. Why not use it with our students? Try covering your table with large butcher paper of any color and put markers on the middle of the table. Project the math problem or literacy topic up on the board in your classroom and have students complete the problems on butcher paper graffiti style. Encourage students to share their thinking and discuss the multiple ways that they have arrived at a solution. This allows students to write large if they need to and allows you to be able to check the students work easily by moving around the room. Just think about how changing out a worksheet for an activity like this will increase your students’ engagement.
Lines of Communication
Think speed-dating! Have your students stand/sit in two rows facing each other. Choose a question or problem from a worksheet and read it aloud or display it to the class. Giver your students time to answer and discuss their responses and reasoning with the person across from them. When their time is up, signal them to move one position to the right. Continue playing until students have discussed all the questions.
If you need your students to practice a specific skill or to show you what they have learned, try using technology to allow those students who would rather blog or vlog to explain and share their learning in different ways. Many of our classroom teachers have started using SeeSaw. If you are looking for other ways to incorporate technology into your lessons consider checking out these other platforms!
Remember, not all worksheets are created equal! If you are finding that your students are disengaged during their independent practice or during small group time, consider implementing a strategy above or perhaps you have some other great resources that weren’t listed above.
Originally posted on the Secondary C&I website on 10/11/2018
According to an article in the New York Times (May 2018), “94% of public school teachers in the United States reported paying for supplies without reimbursement in the school year that straddled 2014 and 2015. The teachers who reported spending their own money on supplies shelled out $479 each on average, according to the survey. Seven percent reported spending more than $1,000.” Additionally, this National Public Radio (Dec. 2017) report echoed the findings, noting that this trend occurs in Minnesota as well, although here in our home state teachers reported topping out around $2,000--almost double NYT's findings.
There are a few ways teachers are creatively getting their hands on the supplies they need for their classrooms. One solution: teachers are using is Donors Choose. Another solution: teachers are applying for grants. While these are both great avenues to pursue, they can take a lot of time to get up and running and/or written, and once funds are maintained it can take a lot of time before the materials make it into the classroom. So, don’t let cost become a stumbling block in your teaching, especially since you have a resource right here in town that can help: STEM Village.
STEM Village is a free resource that allows any RPS teacher to check out thousands of dollars worth of materials that help promote critical thinking, instructional dialogue, and hands-on problem solving--just to name a few.
If you're not a teacher of science or math, know that there are resources for you as well. Below, check out how even ELA and social studies teachers are utilizing such materials:
- "STEM & Writing: A Super Combination" by Heather Wolpert-Gawron (Edutopia: October 2014)
- "Why STEM & Reading Go Hand in Hand" by Stacy Kaczmarek (Reading Partners: April 2016)
- "5 Hands-On Activities for Connecting STEM & Social Studies" by Dorothy Crouch (STEM Jobs: June 2017)
See what is available for checkout via one of these three options:
- Kits and books will soon be able to be sent to district buildings via our inner school mail system (a benefit of being located directly next to the CTECH building)!
- Checkout forms will soon be accessible online (look for these at the start of next semester)!
- Soon, come see the STEM VIllage space and try out the kits during our Open House (this will be scheduled soon: keep checking the STEM Village Facebook page)!
If you have any questions or would like to brainstorm ways to utilize these materials available at STEM Village, please contact me.
We can not wait to see you at STEM Village! And, more importantly, we can’t wait to see your students problem-solving, collaborating, and growing their Twenty-First Century Skills!
- 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?
25 Best Kids Books to Teach Social-Emotional Skills
50 Must Have Picture Books to Teach Social-Emotional Skills
Hearts and Minds: Picture Books That Strengthen Social-Emotional Learning
Social-Emotional Learning Diverse Book List for Grade PreK-8
- I will listen fully to my peer's ideas.
- I will respect their ideas even if I have a different perspective.
- I will not make personal attacks on ideas on do not agree with.
- I will include evidence or facts when sharing an idea.
1. Ensure that your groups are small. When groups are smaller it is hard for a student to hide or get away with not participating.
2. Clearly define for students how you will hold them accountable for the work. Decide before the work begins how you plan on individually assessing the student's work (i.e. one on one conference, short exit slip, a reflection sheet, journal entry)
3. Ask students to assign team roles as it relates to the activity. Just like we assign roles within a PLC consider having students assign roles to keep everyone on task: timekeeper, facilitator, monitor, recorder.
4. At the end of a group activity, consider having your students self-evaluation their own participation and effort level. This can be filling out a slip of paper or sharing their scale of participation with a classroom on a scale of 1-5.
When do we start? There’s no time like the present! In order for ENVoY to become the norm in our classrooms, we should use it to develop healthy relationships with students.
Transition to Seat Work
When getting a student’s attention, remember to use The Above strategy. Find your freeze body spot, low breathe while listening to the wave. Smile. Do your Above, Pause and Whisper. All three must be done together in order for it to be most effective.
Remember your Modes of Interaction: Raise your hand, Speak out, and Turn and Talk. Be mindful of your voice in terms of tone, volume, speed. Don’t forget to Ride the Wave by listening to the ups and downs of the volume in your classroom. Never underestimate The Power of the Whisper. If you need kids to follow directions…Whisper. They naturally have to lean in to figure out what you are saying and the calm quiet voice helps to calm them down. Make sure that your Actions Match your Words and pair your verbals and nonverbals. In this strategy, less is more so make sure to eliminate verbal clutter.
Make sure to give students Exit Directions. Visuals allow a child to be more independent and self-sufficient. In these visuals, include the categories need, do, put and then in order to give the students structure within the task. Be sure to ask, “Are there any questions?” and make revisions. This allows students to process the information a second time. Be mindful of the Most Important Twenty Seconds (M.I.T.S.). During this time the teacher stands still while the students are engaging in the work. Use nonverbal actions to address students who approach or have clarifying question.
During seat work make sure that you are a guide on the side (Influence Approach). Sitting or standing to the side or at a 90 degree angle helps avoid a non-verbal power struggle. Keep your eye on the prize to allow your child to think. Use a private voice to increase safety. During seat work it’s important that you take the canoe rather than the jet ski. Your movement will pull working students off task. Stand and scan. Develop skills to allow them to get your attention during work time. Keep your breathing LOW and slow. If necessary look down and take a long deep breathe giving yourself a small break before addressing students needs.
Feel free to connect with Paula via her email
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Members of the Elementary C&I team post useful tools, tips, and tricks on a weekly basis to help you help students.
Analysis & Inquiry
Instructional Learning Formats
Quality Of Feedback
Regard For S's Perspective