Cultural Literacy for the Common Core: Six Steps to Powerful Practical Instruction for All Learners

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Build your cultural literacy while inspiring deep, thoughtful, unbiased thinking in students. Discover a six-step framework for becoming culturally literate that complements the Common Core and encourages students to be at the center of learning. Explore how to develop teacher-student relationships, engage in collaborative conversations, and encourage feedback to give voice to the increasingly diverse student body found in today's classrooms

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1 Build Teacher-Student Relationships by Honoring Visibility and Voice

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CHAPTER 1

Build Teacher-Student Relationships by Honoring Visibility and Voice

Making student voice part of the culture of the school encourages students to invest in their learning and in the broader school community.

—Yvette Jackson

Hattie (2009), in his book Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement, finds that the teacher-student relationship is one of the top twelve influences on achievement out of 150 influences. Is this surprising to you? We hear so much about teacher-student relationships that the topic seems almost cliché. In fact, when some educators voice the opinion that “it’s all about the relationships,” other educators sigh and beg for concrete instructional strategies to improve achievement and meet standards. But building relationships is a strategy. In fact, it is one of the most powerful strategies we can use to influence student achievement.

 

2 Work and Plan Together Through Collaborative Conversations

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CHAPTER 2

Work and Plan Together Through Collaborative Conversations

Change the world—one conversation at a time.

—Susan Scott

Step 2 in the framework outlines ways to work together in collaborative conversations to plan and implement lessons and instruction using the CCSS. In this chapter, we expand the concept of cultural literacy to include teachers learning more about what they don’t know they don’t know as they plan and reflect together. This step supports educators as we change paradigms: we are no longer the individual teacher teaching behind closed doors; instead, in the 21st century, we are members of a collaborative team of lifelong learners who grow through collaboration and collegial conversations. As we work together to implement the CCSS, we need to incorporate more complex texts, nonfiction, and text sets. We need to find ways for more student talk and less teacher talk. We need to collaborate with our colleagues on ways to include more project-based learning. We need to immerse learners in argumentative writing using critical-thinking skills, and we need to move learners from memorization to understanding. Collaborative conversations within professional learning groups are the vehicle for accommodating this paradigm shift and implementing the CCSS.

 

3 Use High-Yield, Research-Based Strategies

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CHAPTER 3

Use High-Yield, Research-Based Strategies

You can change your mindset.

—Carol Dweck

We all want strategies, techniques, and tools that will magically transform students into engaged learners who can’t wait to enter our classrooms and master the work. As teachers, we want this so much that, when we have opportunities for professional development, we most often ask for strategies and teaching techniques. Fullan (2008) calls this search for strategies “‘techniquey’—seeking tools as solutions instead of getting at the underlying issues” (p. 130). Techniquey strategies don’t solve problems and bring about change, because there are underlying issues present in schools that prevent students from achieving at their full potential—and we can’t solve the problem of low achievement with a single strategy. However, there are strategies and effective teaching tools that do influence student learning and support the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, and research (Hattie, 2012) provides a list of the most effective ones, some of which we examine in this chapter. Too often we are trying our best, but we are not using the most effective high-yield, research-based learning strategies. To influence student learning, we need to choose and refine strategies, techniques, and tools that are proven by the research to make a difference.

 

4 Engage Students in Standards-Based Lessons

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CHAPTER 4

Engage Students in Standards-Based Lessons

The more the student becomes the teacher and the more the teacher becomes the learner, then the more successful are the outcomes.

—John Hattie

In planning the content of our instruction, Hattie (2012) asks us to consider the following question: “What knowledge and understanding should be taught?” (Kindle location 1390). Think about the discipline you teach. With this in mind, ask yourself these two additional questions from Hattie (2012): “What knowledge and understanding is important; and What knowledge and understanding is going to lead to the greatest cognitive understandings and gains?” (Kindle location 1390).

Too often our curricula are dictated by tests. We hope the Common Core paves the way for teachers to work collaboratively to create rigorous, engaging standards-based lessons that offer learners what is worth knowing. The lessons and units in this chapter provide opportunities for students to become the teacher and for the teacher to become the learner, leading to more successful outcomes. In these lessons, you find students engaged with the content and willing to teach it to others, and you find teachers engaged with the content and willing to learn from others, including their students. All are learners in the classroom. Hattie (2012) writes that we must teach students to self-regulate their learning. If we use differentiated instruction, as you find in the lessons in this chapter, students are working at levels at which they can attain the success criteria of the lessons. For differentiation to be successful, Hattie writes, “Teachers need to know, for each student, where that student begins and where he or she is in his or her journey towards meeting the success criteria of the lesson. Is that student a novice, somewhat capable, or proficient?” (Kindle location 2421). Once again, the better the teacher knows the students, the more the teacher can build in opportunities for learners to meet the standards.

 

5 Use Feedback to Self-Assess Learning

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CHAPTER 5

Use Feedback to Self-Assess Learning

Most teachers have not considered the “flip” in the definition of feedback. When teachers do, they begin to use techniques that result in gains for every learner.

—Jane Pollock

Jane Pollock (2012), author of Feedback: The Hinge That Joins Teaching & Learning, is an expert on feedback. In this chapter, she shares her current research and thinking about feedback and asks teachers to consider the “flip” in the definition of feedback and what that looks like in the classroom. Feedback no longer consists of generic written comments from teacher to student. Instead, learners need feedback that deepens their thinking and writing and moves them from persuasion to argumentation. To do this, they need self-assessment, feedback from peers, and feedback from the teacher. The CCSS require that learners be part of a 21st century classroom environment in which they use critical thinking in increasingly rigorous assignments, use technology as they engage in project-based lessons, rely on complex text and nonfiction text sets, collaborate in meaningful student talk rather than relying solely on teacher talk, and move from memory to understanding. One important component of being able to perform at these levels of rigor is the ability to use feedback to self-assess one’s learning and understanding.

 

6 Engage in a Cultural Literacy Journey

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CHAPTER 6

Engage in a Cultural Literacy Journey

Education is not for the weak-willed.

—Lisa Delpit

What are the pathways for a personal cultural literacy journey? In Creating Culturally Considerate Schools: Educating Without Bias, Kim Anderson and I (Anderson & Davis, 2012) examined this question and described a journey of several steps: self-examination, reflection, integration, actualization, and equity and social justice. These steps function as a guide for those willing to engage in a personal journey to better understand the influence of race and culture upon one’s classroom instruction and interactions with learners and colleagues. In that book, we simplified the journey into four steps that educators from several districts used to learn about their own culture and its impact on the learners in their classrooms. The cultural literacy journey is not a program, and you do not have to adhere to it with fidelity; rather, it is a human endeavor filled with potholes, backward and forward steps, failures, and successes. The process is described by the educators in this chapter who walked similar journeys, using these steps.

 

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