9. Short item: Women in African history website
“You are going to have to make some tough decisions in this business, but it’s all about how you treat people. I can bring you in and give you a reprimand, but it’s how I give you the reprimand.”
Kevin Armstrong in “Advice for New Principals,” interviews with Denisa Superville
in Education Week, July 17, 2019 (Vol. 38, #37, p. 7), https://bit.ly/2SNkQDP
“Getting students to explain, argue with one another, critique, and build on ideas is a long game that requires a willingness for teachers to experiment pedagogically and, in the process, set aside familiar classroom tasks that have no real purpose other than to do school.”
Mark Windschitl (see item #4)
“As a group, consumers [of news] are terrible editors. Many are poorly informed, inaccurate, biased, manipulable, sloppy, impulsive, or self-serving. And even though some are not, the bad can quickly drive away the good.”
Jonathan Rauch (see item #1)
“What if the best way to boost reading comprehension is not to drill kids on discrete skills but to teach them, as early as possible, the very things we’ve marginalized – including history, science, and other content that could build the knowledge and vocabulary they need to understand both written texts and the world around them?”
Natalie Wexler (see item #3)
In this article in The Atlantic, Jonathan Rauch says that communication on the Internet thrives on “instanticity” – the ability to get and send information with zero delay. At first, this seemed like a good thing: faster was better, “slowness was a vestige of a bygone age, a technological hurdle to be overcome,” says Rauch. However, he adds, “Slowness is a social technology in its own right, one that protects humans from themselves.” While instanticity has enabled disinformation and other unintended consequences, there’s something to be said for introducing more “friction” into our electronic interactions, designing in features that require deliberation, especially in the heat of the moment.
Take the news. It seemed that we were moving away from traditional newspapers and magazines toward real-time, on-the-scene reporting streaming straight to personal devices, with citizens curating their news feeds and experts weighing in without being filtered by journalists and editors. “But the old media’s premises turned out to be anything but obsolete,” says Rauch. “As a group, consumers are terrible editors. Many are poorly informed, inaccurate, biased, manipulable, sloppy, impulsive, or self-serving. And even though some are not, the bad can quickly drive away the good.”
So how can all this be slowed down? Rauch suggests building in pauses before electronic communications go out. With a tweet or a YouTube video, for example, there could be a ten-minute pause before transmission, during which time the sender might have second thoughts, an artificial intelligence fact-check might arrive, or there might be a prompt like, Are you sure you’re ready to share this with the world? Remember, it will be out there forever. Even if there were no checking or vetting, says Rauch, “the waiting period itself would offer an important advantage. It would allow thought.”
As Daniel Kahneman wrote in his book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, humans have two cognitive systems: System 1 makes snap judgments about dangers and opportunities and works without conscious thought, sometimes saving our lives. But it’s often wrong, biased, and emotional; it underreacts and overreacts. System 2 is slower, gathering facts, consulting evidence, weighing arguments, and making reasoned judgments. “It protects us from the errors and impulsivity of System 1,” says Rauch. The more-deliberate pace of System 2 is the way we often live our offline lives: waiting our turn to speak in a classroom, sitting in rush-hour traffic, going through the steps required to get married or divorced.
“[B]ack in the day, before instanticity, technology itself slowed us down,” Rauch continues. “Printing and distributing words required several distinct stages and often multiple people; even a trip to the mailbox or a wait for the mail carrier afforded time for second thoughts… On social media, no publisher or postal worker forces a pause.”
Rauch concedes that social media companies might resist building in pauses, and customers might abandon platforms with such limits. But he thinks many people would welcome the idea. “Slowing ourselves down gives time for System 2 to kick in… Rethinking instanticity would help us put our better selves forward, perhaps often enough to make social media more sociable.”
In this Harvard Business Reviewarticle, Craig Chappelow and Cindy McCauley (Center for Creative Leadership) take issue with some of the points made in a recent HBR article on feedback (“The Feedback Fallacy” by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall, summarized in Memo 776). Chappelow and McCauley agree that:
In this article in The Atlantic, Natalie Wexler describes looking over a first grader’s shoulder in a Washington, D.C. classroom and noticing that the girl was drawing a row of human figures on a piece of paper and coloring them yellow. “What are you drawing?” asked Wexler. “Clowns,” the girl replied. “Why are you drawing clowns?” “Because it says right here, ‘Draw clowns,’” said the girl and pointed to the place on her worksheet of reading comprehension skills where it said Draw conclusions. Wexler picked up the worksheet and saw that it asked students to make inferences and draw conclusions about an article on Brazil – but when asked, the girl said she hadn’t read the text and had never heard of Brazil.
This was an admittedly “egregious” example of a failed pedagogical approach to reading comprehension, says Wexler. The theory of action goes like this: “Use simple texts to teach children how to find the main idea, make inferences, draw conclusions, and so on, and eventually they’ll be able to apply those skills to grasp the meaning of anything put in front of them.” Therefore, what children read about doesn’t matter; the reading skills they acquire will enable them to pick up history, science, literary, and other content knowledge down the road.
This approach is dominant in U.S. classrooms, reports Wexler. Most teachers cover a “skill of the week” in their 90-minute daily reading blocks. They use textbooks adopted by their districts or gather their own books and forage for resources on the Internet. (According to a recent Rand study, 95 percent of elementary teachers use Google for materials and lesson plans, 86 percent use Pinterest.) Following the prevailing philosophy, the curriculum doesn’t systematically introduce content knowledge, focusing instead on a lot of fiction geared to students’ current reading levels, which are often below grade level. Again, the assumption is that by reading a lot and honing specific skills, students will eventually be able to handle more-complex texts.
Perversely, says Wexler, Common Core literacy standards have made “a bad situation worse.” The authors had the right idea: expand elementary children’s content knowledge by exposing them to more-complex texts and a higher percent of nonfiction texts. But in the absence of a curriculum that systematically introduces content knowledge in science, social studies, and other areas, the result has been many students struggling to read challenging, decontextualized texts without the background knowledge and vocabulary to make sense of them.
Wexler believes the skills-first approach is ineffective, as evidenced by the fact that U.S. students’ reading achievement has hardly budged since No Child Left Behind. That legislation’s heavy emphasis on reading and math test scores led many schools to double down on the skills-first approach, cutting back the time spent on science and social studies (and in some cases recess) to beef up reading. And there’s more bad news: economic and racial achievement gaps have widened. Why? Because children from economically disadvantaged homes enter school with less background knowledge, and when schools don’t teach it, students fall further and further behind. One more thing: the U.S.’s international academic standing has declined relative to high-performing countries.
“All of which raises a disturbing question,” says Wexler: “What if the medicine we have been prescribing is only making matters worse, particularly for poor children? What if the best way to boost reading comprehension is not to drill kids on discrete skills but to teach them, as early as possible, the very things we’ve marginalized – including history, science, and other content that could build the knowledge and vocabulary they need to understand both written texts and the world around them?” Studies going back to the late 1980s have shown that content knowledge trumps reading skills. For example, lower-skill students who know a lot about baseball do better with a reading passage about baseball than higher-skills students who know very little.
The good news is that some districts (including Baltimore and Detroit) and charter schools have adopted a knowledge-first approach, and the anecdotal evidence is encouraging. Teachers interviewed by Wexler reported much greater enthusiasm among students for knowledge-based books and texts, especially students who had been struggling readers. But since knowledge builds slowly as students move up through the grades, it will be years before there is gold-standard research proof of the concept.
E.D. Hirsch Jr., the leader of one of these curriculum efforts (Core Knowledge), cites an intriguing natural experiment in France. For many years, French schools had a heavy emphasis on knowledge acquisition, but in 1989, the central education ministry adopted the American approach, with an emphasis on critical thinking skills and “learning to learn.” The results have been dramatic, says Wexler. “Over the next 20 years, achievement levels decreased sharply for all students – and the drop was greatest among the neediest.”
“Disciplinary Literacy Versus Doing School” by Mark Windschitl in Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, July/August 2019 (Vol. 63, #1, pp. 7-13),https://bit.ly/2YwkZ3R; Windschitl can be reached at [email protected].
(Originally titled No More Assembly-Line Projects”)
In this article in Education Update, Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, Diane Lapp, and Javier Vaca say that when students do group projects, one person often ends up doing most of the work, and some students are left out as the group rushes to finish. The best way to prevent this, say the authors, is to design collaboration into the assignment up front and set up checkpoints so assessing quality isn’t all on the teacher’s shoulders at the end. Their suggestions:
In this Education Gadflyarticle, Michael Goldstein reflects on educational equivalents of the audacious goal set by President John F. Kennedy in 1961 (putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade and bringing him back safely). Some possibilities: Cutting in half the number of fourth graders reading Below Basic; doubling the number of eighth graders who can write an effective persuasive essay; shrinking by 30 percent the average time a student spends in English-language learner status; doubling the number of students from low-income families and students of color who graduate from high school and don’t need to take remedial courses in college.
Goldstein ends up considering some “developmental” moonshots – aspirational yet low-tech processes that teachers might be able to implement in their classrooms, with major benefits for educators and students. Some examples:
“Musings on the Moonshots” by Michael Goldstein in The Education Gadfly, July 17, 2019 (Vol. 19, #28), https://bit.ly/332gGfV
In this article in Language Arts, Betsy Baker (University of Missouri/Columbia) says that as a second-grade teacher, she was a big fan of the language experience approach; she took dictation of students’ stories and this motivated them to express themselves and share their personal experiences and linguistic and cultural heritage. As speech-recognition apps became more accurate, Baker wondered if they might take the place of the teacher transcribing students’ writing, saving time and motivating students.
In this article, she describes serving as a teacher’s aide in charge of the writing center in a first-grade classroom of 22 students in a diverse Title I school. From January to May, Baker experimented with using speech-recognition apps (Siri and Dragon on students’ iPads) to develop students’ writing skills, spending the most time with students who were having difficulty. She launched the initiative using the following steps:
In this article in Language Arts, Grace Enriquez, Erika Thulin Dawes, and Mary Ann Cappiello (Lesley University), Katie Egan Cunningham (Manhattanville College/Purchase), and Gilberto Lara (University of Texas/San Antonio) list their favorite books of poetry for children published in 2018. All the books, they say, have “a palpable sense of wonder, comfort, hope, and awe regarding the world in which we live.”
• I Am Lovedby Nikki Giovanni, illustrated by Ashley Bryan (Atheneum)
• A Bunch of Punctuationselected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Serge Bloch (WordSong)
• Can I Touch Your Hair?: Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendshipby Irene Latham and Charles Waters, illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko (Carolrhoda)
• Vivid: Poems & Notes About Colorwritten and illustrated by Julie Paschkis (Henry Holt)
• Hidden City: Poems of Urban Wildlifeby Sarah Grace Tuttle, illustrated by Amy Schimler-Safford (Eerdmans)
• Seeing Into Tomorrow, Haiku by Richard Wright, biography and illustrations by Nina Crews (Millbrook)
• Imagineby Juan Felipe Herrera, illustrated by Lauren Castillo (Candlewick)
• Jabbberwalkingwritten and illustrated by Juan Felipe Herrera (Candlewick)
• World Make Way: New Poems Inspired by Art from the Metropolitan Museum of Artedited by Lee Bennett Hopkins (Abrams)
• The Stuff of Starsby Marion Dane Bauer, illustrated by Ekua Holmes (Candlewick)
• The Poetry of US: More Than 200 Poems That Celebrate the People, Places, and Passions of the United Statesedited by Patrick Lewis (National Geographic)
• Voices in the Air: Poems for Listenersby Naomi Shihab Nye (Greenwillow)
https://en.unesco.org/womeninafricahas interactive lessons and materials on prominent womenacross the African continent. Tabs include Spotlight on Women, General History of Africa, Open Educational Resources, Artists, and Experts.
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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 48 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.
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If you go to http://www.marshallmemo.comyou will find detailed information on:
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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