When and How Often Should Students Discuss? (Small Groups, Big Discussions 8)

Categories: Instruction

This is the eighth post in a series on student-led, small-group discussions. To read the other posts, see “Small Groups, Big Discussions.” The series explores the challenges to effective small-group discussions and how to address them. The content is connected to the book Deep Discourse.

We know that employers want workers who can communicate well and work effectively in groups. We also know that the area of language arts includes speaking and listening standards. Yet, these speaking and listening standards often ride in the back seat with the reading and writing standards driving the work. Providing the skills needed in the workplace while building our students’ confidence requires making the decision to increase quality student-led discussion in your classroom. Read more

Preparing Students for Student-Led Discussion (Small Groups, Big Discussions Part 7)

Categories: Instruction, Literacy

This is the seventh post in a series on student-led, small-group discussions. To read the other posts, see “Small Groups, Big Discussions.” The series explores the challenges to effective small-group discussions and how to address them.

In Part 6 of this blog series, Setting the Stage for Student-Led Discussions, I shared that student-led discussions are most successful when consistent structures are in place and clear expectations for discussions are articulated and modeled by the teacher. Now that your classroom environment is set up for student talk, you may be wondering about grouping strategies and skills students need to be effective group members.
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Teaching for Racial Justice

Categories: Instruction

After the white supremacist riots in Charlottesville last summer, many of us felt moved to act. We tweeted with the #CharlottesvilleCurriculum hashtag, shared articles and resource lists, and liked each other’s posts on Facebook. We knew that white supremacist thinking and action thrive under white complacency, and that if we continue to teach the same stuff the same way, we can only expect the same result. It seemed we were in a moment of renewed commitment to racial justice in our classrooms.

How about now? Now that the school year has started, are we putting our racial justice values into action, or are we back to covering content and meeting benchmarks? Are we using the Charlottesville curriculum resources, or have we set them aside, promising ourselves we’ll return to them at some point, because our curriculum is too prescribed and tightly packed for us to stick in content we’re not required or allowed to teach? Read more

Student feedback can include: "I noticed that..." and "I'm not sure I see..."

Practicing Peer Feedback: More Observations, Less Evaluation

Categories: Instruction

Over the last several years, I’ve done a ton of experimenting in my sixth-grade classroom with peer feedback—structured opportunities for students to give and receive feedback from one another.

That’s primarily a function of efficiency. Teaching close to 120 students with a wide range of skills and abilities every single year makes it darn near impossible for me alone to provide feedback to the learners in my classroom. If the best feedback is both timely and directive—an argument that Bob Marzano made nearly a decade ago—we need to teach students to look for guidance and support from one another, rather than simply waiting to receive feedback from classroom teachers, who are perpetually buried in stacks of papers that need to be graded. Read more

Diving beneath the cultural surface

Moving Beyond Visible Culture: Diving Beneath the Surface in Global Learning

Categories: Instruction

“People are tied together and yet isolated from each other by invisible threads of rhythm and hidden walls of time.” —Edward T. Hall

Most global educators have a challenging relationship with the “Fs of Global Education.” The Fs, which include cultural facets such as food, festivals, flags, and fashion, are those elements of culture we can see most easily. There’s nothing wrong with exploring the observable aspects of culture, of course, but staying there can create superficial learning experiences, even leading to cultural misrepresentation and stereotypical assumptions about other cultures. Read more