Marshall Memo 821
A Weekly Round-up of Important Ideas and Research in K-12 Education
January 27, 2020
1. Reducing burnout and attrition among special-education teachers
2. High-school debate and “cultural capital”
3. Teaching The Odyssey with a social justice perspective
4. Linking afterschool programs to the regular school day
5. Phonics is only part of good literacy instruction
6. Increasing joy in primary-grade math classes
7. Four-text sets to build students’ reading power
8. Recommended storybooks and audiobooks
9. Short items: (a) A video on probability
“You’re not always gonna win in life, you’re not always gonna be number one, you’re not always gonna be the top, the best, and get everything. So, when you lose, you got to learn how to take that losing and know what to do with it.”
A Chicago high-school student on what she learned on the debate team (see item #2)
“In a 2019 survey by the Pew Research Center, black respondents were more likely than any other racial group to report that they felt people were suspicious of them (65 percent), that people acted as though they were not smart (60 percent), that they were treated unfairly in hiring, pay, or promotion (49 percent), and that they had been unfairly stopped by the police (44 percent).”
Karyn Lacy in “How to Prove You’re Middle Class” in The New York Times, January
22, 2020, https://nyti.ms/2O50PHH
“Without knowledge, learners struggle at every stage of the reading process, from decoding to fluency to making higher level inferences.”
Sara Lupo, Alicia Berry, Emma Thacker, Amanda Sawyer, & Joi Merritt (see item #7)
“Can you imagine going to a job where you learn all about the different types of buttons, threads, fabrics, and zippers but no one tells you that you are manufacturing jeans? Yet that’s often how reading instruction can feel for children.”
Heidi Anne Mesmer (see item #5)
“When we start to break down the barriers between ‘school day’ and ‘afterschool,’ we are taking a giant step toward being a full service to our students and families.”
Eva Jo Meyers (see item #4)
In this American Journal of Education article, Karlyn Gorski (University of Chicago) reports on her six-month study of two urban high-school teams taking part in the interscholastic Chicago Debate League. Observing their practice sessions and competitions and interviewing students and their coaches, Gorski concluded that debate allowed students to acquire three forms of cultural capital: being confident asking for and using critical feedback; deconstructing and analyzing complex ideas; and building on their already existing ability to face failure with resilience, and persevere. These attributes equipped debaters to compete more successfully on what Gorski describes as the profoundly uneven playing field of U.S. secondary schools.
Gorski says that students from all backgrounds enter classrooms with cultural capital, but certain kinds are more valued than others by dominant institutions like schools – which gives an advantage to more-privileged students. For example, sociologists have found that most middle-class children feel empowered to demand customized interactions with authorities like teachers and doctors; poor and working-class children, on the other hand, learn to display a “sense of constraint” marked by compliance with rules and practices. Similarly, middle-class kids learn to navigate problems at school using “strategies of influence,” while working-class students are taught to use “strategies of deference.” In college, more-entitled students are comfortable interacting with instructors, while students from high-poverty schools often exhibit discomfort, which doubly disadvantages them.
Gorski provides further commentary on the three forms of cultural capital she observed students developing on the debate teams:
• Using feedback – “Debaters learned, through repeated interactions with peers and authorities in the debate space, to request high-quality feedback that they could use to their own advantage,” says Gorski. “Feedback was seen as crucially important to improving one’s debate skills, and strategies for responding to it were seen as valuable beyond the debate setting… When feedback was given, it was rarely accepted as adequate. ‘Anything else?’ was a constant refrain from debaters after receiving criticism… Comfort placing demands on figures of authority, such as requests for assistance, accommodations, and attention, is a form of dominant cultural capital that is highly valued in educational settings.”
• Evaluating complex ideas – Debate preparation constantly exposed students to challenging arguments and ideas. Competing, along with being asked to take both sides of an argument, sharpened students’ analytic skills. In the process, says Gorski, debaters acquired “habits of mind” and “sophisticated skills of interpretation and analysis” that they had not learned at home or in classrooms. “Familiarity with complex literatures, as well as the strategies debaters use to understand them, set these students up for success in challenging courses throughout high school and college.”
• Resilience – Being able to bounce back from a specific failure is especially important for disadvantaged youth, says Gorski; she calls this “adaptive cultural capital” and adds that it’s especially important for disadvantaged students. Debate is uniquely suited to fostering this ability since debaters are constantly told that losing is a valuable experience. Gorski quotes one student: “You’re not always gonna win in life, you’re not always gonna be number one, you’re not always gonna be the top, the best, and get everything. So, when you lose, you got to learn how to take that losing and know what to do with it.” Many debaters regarded learning, rather than winning, as the goal, and developed specific strategies for dealing with – and learning from – defeats.
Is it possible, asks Gorski, that students who go out for debate already have these three cultural attributes? It’s true that competitive debaters enter high school with higher eighth-grade test scores than nondebaters, and there is some self-selection with students who choose an academically challenging extracurricular. “However,” says Gorski, “it is important to note that even if all of the debaters are driven, motivated, prosocial, and academically excellent students, the key finding presented here still holds: it is possible for certain doubly disadvantaged students to gain dominant and adaptive cultural capital within their under-resourced neighborhood schools… They built these skills over time and spoke often of the differences between their confidence and capabilities before and after joining the debate team. In their own perspectives, debate was a crucial factor in their ongoing development.” One girl spoke of her “debate brain… that’s where my whole mind turns on; it like, sucks everything up.” This student said her “debate brain” turned on only in tournaments, not at school, where regular classes didn’t provide enough intellectual stimulation and actionable feedback.
In this Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy article, Jacob Steiss (University of California/Irvine) notes thatThe Odyssey is widely taught in U.S. high schools. Odysseus’s adventure-filled journey to reclaim his position as ruler and patriarch of Ithaca after a 20-year absence has a well-established place in the literary canon. Among the questions students are asked to consider:
In this Cult of Pedagogy article, Eva Jo Meyers remembers her experience with afterschool programs when she was a teacher: not knowing the names of teachers who took over after she left for the day; the annoyance of having to vacate her classroom right after dismissal; and being upset when her room was messed up by afterschool students. Then she became an afterschool teacher herself and developed a whole new perspective: “My frustration at being unable to connect with teachers in my afterschool role was only paralleled by my embarrassment at how oblivious I had been when I was a teacher.” Here are her suggestions for connecting the regular school day with afterschool programs:
• Exchange observations. Regular teachers should see afterschool activities and afterschool teachers should visit the day program, perhaps spending a morning in a classroom or leading an end-of-day debrief on what happened that day. It’s especially important for school-day teachers to attend special events and performances in the afterschool program. The key is to coordinate behavior systems, classroom expectations, and ways of supporting certain students, with both sides contributing ideas.
• Include afterschool staff in teacher events, grade-level meetings, and celebrations. This might include PD sessions, teacher team meetings discussing curriculum and students, and holiday parties.
• Invite afterschool staff to contribute feedback for, and participate in, parent-teacher conferences. “Afterschool staff see another side of students,” says Meyers, “a side that isn’t always visible during the school day.”
• Provide the teachers’ manual or answer key for homework, and offer tips on how best to help students with your assignments. This makes all the difference for afterschool staff when they help students with homework. Will afterschool staff just give students the answers? Not if they feel they are on the same team as school-day teachers.
• Allow the afterschool program to store materials in a corner of your classroom. For afterschool staff scrambling to set up makeshift learning spaces in someone else’s room, this is a godsend, and this courtesy greatly increases the chance that the classroom will be left in the same condition it was found. This support might be a rolling cart, plastic crates, or a cubby.
• Recognize the value of afterschool staff. “While they may not (yet) hold a degree or have the same background in pedagogy that you do,” says Meyers, “afterschool staff often have deep roots in the communities they work in. And they tend to come from and look more like the population of students being served than the teachers sometimes do.” These qualities need to be respected and integrated into the full experience of the students.
• Advocate for more funding for your school’s afterschool programs so staff can be paid better wages. Enough said.
“When we start to break down the barriers between ‘school day’ and ‘afterschool,’” concludes Meyers, “we are taking a giant step toward being a full service to our students and families.”
“The Rock Star You’re Ignoring: How Afterschool Staff Can Take Your Class to the Next Level” by Eva Jo Meyers in Cult of Pedagogy, January 19, 2020, https://bit.ly/2tLPrtx
In this Education Week article, Heidi Anne Mesmer (Virginia Tech University) says there’s strong research support for teaching four foundational reading skills in the early grades:
“There Are Four Foundational Reading Skills. Why Do We Only Talk About Phonics?” by Heidi Anne Mesmer in Education Week, January 23, 2020, https://bit.ly/3aIfdPL; Mesmer can be reached at [email protected],
In this Mathematics Teacher article, teacher educator Amy Noelle Parks (Michigan State University) says that after 30 years as an educator, her criterion for excellence in primary-grade mathematics classrooms is joy. This is not the same thing as fun, says Parks: she’s talking about “flow” – children being so immersed in meaningful classroom activities that they lose track of time. Parks suggests five strategies for maximizing joy and minimizing anxiety and other negative emotions in math classes:
• Create space for play. “Play is a powerful tool for reducing stress and for increasing opportunities for mathematical learning,” she says – as long as the materials are well chosen. Some possibilities: counting collections, wooden or Lego blocks, puzzles, and linear board games.
• Allow children to make choices. Children are empowered and more likely to enjoy classroom activities when they can make decisions on how to spend time, who to spend it with, and which materials to use.
• Offer problems that include exploration, social interaction, and engaging materials. A problem might be a question – If the giant in Jack in the Beanstalk is ten times as tall as a person, how tall is he? – or a counting challenge, or a brain teaser. Enjoyment is increased if students can share their answers with classmates without fear of making a mistake.
• Relax a little about time on task. “The occasional off-task moment will not significantly interfere with children’s ability to learn mathematics,” says Parks. Teachers snapping their fingers and ordering students engaging in chit-chat to get back to work will definitely not contribute to joyful learning.
• Foster caring relationships. “Creating a welcoming environment draws on some classic early childhood teaching practices,” says Parks, “– greeting children with a smile and by name, taking time to get to know each child, and helping children to name and handle their emotions.” Risk-taking and joy are also promoted by including children’s interests, experiences, and home languages and cultures.
In addition to these joy-promoting practices, Parks suggests that teachers make the following choices:
In this article in The Reading Teacher, Sara Lupo, Alicia Berry, Emma Thacker, Amanda Sawyer, and Joi Merritt (James Madison University) suggest the “Quad Text Set Framework” to meet the four challenges of elementary literacy instruction:
“Rethinking Text Sets to Support Knowledge Building and Interdisciplinary Learning” by Sara Lupo, Alicia Berry, Emma Thacker, Amanda Sawyer, and Joi Merritt in The Reading Teacher, January/February 2020 (Vol. 73, #4, pp. 513-524), available for purchase at https://bit.ly/2O4Nm2D; Lupo can be reached at [email protected].
a. Impeachment teaching resources – This Education Week article by Stephen Sawchuk https://bit.ly/2RQPg8g has extensive resources for upper-grade classes covering the current impeachment debate, along with pointers for handling a controversial topic.
b. A video on probability – This video by Leonardo Barichello can serve as an introduction to teaching probability: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kgudt4PXs28&
© Copyright 2020 Marshall Memo LLC
If you have feedback or suggestions, please e-mail [email protected]
About the Marshall Memo
Mission and focus:
This weekly memo is designed to keep principals, teachers, superintendents, and other educators very well-informed on current research and effective practices in K-12 education. Kim Marshall, drawing on 50 years’ experience as a teacher, principal, central office administrator, writer, and consultant lightens the load of busy educators by serving as their “designated reader.”
To produce the Marshall Memo, Kim subscribes to 60 carefully-chosen publications (see list to the right), sifts through more than a hundred articles each week, and selects 5-10 that have the greatest potential to improve teaching, leadership, and learning. He then writes a brief summary of each article, pulls out several striking quotes, provides e-links to full articles when available, and e-mails the Memo to subscribers every Monday evening (with occasional breaks; there are 50 issues a year). Every week there’s a podcast and HTML version as well.
Individual subscriptions are $50 for a year. Rates decline steeply for multiple readers within the same organization. See the website for these rates and how to pay by check, credit card, or purchase order.
If you go to http://www.marshallmemo.com you will find detailed information on:
• How to subscribe or renew
• A detailed rationale for the Marshall Memo
• Publications (with a count of articles from each)
• Article selection criteria
• Topics (with a running count of articles)
• Headlines for all issues
• Reader opinions
• About Kim Marshall (bio, writings, consulting)
• A free sample issue
Subscribers have access to the Members’ Area of the website, which has:
• The current issue (in Word and PDF)
• All back issues (Word and PDF) and podcasts
• An easily searchable archive of all articles so far
• The “classic” articles from all 14+ years
Core list of publications covered
Those read this week are underlined.
All Things PLC
American Educational Research Journal
American Journal of Education
ASCA School Counselor
District Management Journal
Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis
Elementary School Journal
Harvard Business Review
Harvard Educational Review
Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy
Journal of Education for Students Placed At Risk (JESPAR)
Kappa Delta Pi Record
Literacy Today (formerly Reading Today)
Middle School Journal
Peabody Journal of Education
Phi Delta Kappan
Reading Research Quarterly
Responsive Classroom Newsletter
Review of Educational Research
School Library Journal
Social Studies and the Young Learner
Teaching Children Mathematics
Teaching Exceptional Children
The Chronicle of Higher Education
The Journal of the Learning Sciences
The Language Educator
The Learning Professional (formerly Journal of Staff Development)
The Reading Teacher
Theory Into Practice