Trending in 2020: Have Educators Privileged Argument Writing at the Expense of Personal Narrative?

Although the Common Core State Standards have lost something of their influence over the teaching and curriculum of the English Language Arts, I think it’s undeniable that a lasting legacy of the CCSS is that they increased the centrality of the teaching of argument in the writing curriculum.  You can see the CCSS architects’ justification for this emphasis in a subsection of Appendix A aptly titled “The Special Place of Argument in the Standards” (http://www.corestandards.org/assets/Appendix_A.pdf).  You can see it also in this famous (or infamous) statement by David Coleman, the chief of those architects, that was reported in The Atlantic: “A boss would never tell an employee, ‘Johnson, I need a market analysis by Friday, but before that, I need a compelling account of your childhood’” (Goldstein, 2012).  Argument, Coleman argues, should be taught because it’s practical.

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Trending in 2020: School Discipline is Trauma-Insensitive and Trauma-Uninformed

I was asked to write a blog post about a recent trend in education that I find either exciting or concerning. I decided to write about a topic that is both exciting and concerning: the impact of trauma on learning and behavior.

First the exciting part: these days many educators are being trained to understand the impact of chronic stress and trauma on students’ development, behavior, and learning. Schools everywhere are devoting significant professional development time to this topic and prioritizing being “trauma-informed” or “trauma-sensitive.” Thankfully, as a result educators have far more empathy for how chronic stress and trauma can derail learning and be a primary cause of disruptive behavior in the classroom.

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Gift-Giving: Discounts for Educators

In the spirit of gift-giving for the holiday season, Norton is offering a discount on some popular titles for educators.  Please enjoy!

We will be taking a vacation for the holidays, but K-12Talk will be back with new posts from your fellow educators in January.  With best wishes for a restorative and joyful break,

Carol Collins

Education Editor, Norton Professional Books

Gift-Giving: Features of K-16 Service Learning

Five stages or steps for engaging students in a service-learning project have been identified by the RMC Research Corporation (2009)*. Here we look at each stage and include an example from Whittier College in Whittier, CA, which engaged in a service-learning project that involved multilingual students and addressed a community need.  

Investigation: The first phase of a service-learning project involves engaging students in exploring a community need they might address as they engage in an academic learning experience. This initial phase should include a range of activities to spark students’ interest in addressing the problem and develop consensus in the ways that it will be addressed. These might include a classroom brainstorming discussion (e.g., where students engage in pairs, small groups, and/or as a whole class); engaging in research about the problem and solutions that have occurred (such as reading newspaper accounts); and collaboratively developing an observation protocol for students to see the need firsthand. These might also occur as part of a specific course of study that is designed to provide a structured, systematized program of service-learning study as well as a less formal program. Both can be highly successful. Let’s look at the nationally recognized service-learning efforts at Whittier College.

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Gift-Giving: Students Tackling Real-World Problems

When I think of the holidays, my mind wanders to gift giving. Red ribbon. Bows. Metallic wrapping paper. However, the greatest gifts are not those you hold, but those that are felt in the heart. You and I have the opportunity to give a powerful gift to the students we teach. Purpose. To give them a sense of feeling needed and a chance to give back to the world. All people long for purpose. Purpose motivates us and pushes us to go further and do more. People spend their lives searching for it. Just as my students were searching for it, in the lessons I taught. 

“Why should I learn this?” “When am I ever going to use it?” “How is this information important for my life?” Students would ask these questions year after year in my classroom. They longed to see how our content connected to the world. 

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Social Studies: Reading to Foster Perspective-Taking

Perspective-taking is especially important as teachers and students think more deeply about the meaning of equity—how we might achieve it, and what might be standing in the way of social justice and fairness to all. Students must learn to pose essential questions: Who makes decisions and who is left out? Who benefits and who is left out? Who suffers? Why is a given practice fair or unfair?

There are many books available for teaching the importance of perspective-taking so students can begin to think about equity and respond to questions such as these. Some are light and humorous, like The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs by A. Wolf. Others are more thought-provoking, and explore personal issues such as bullying or sensing what it feels like to walk in someone else’s shoes. There are other books that examine historical events from perspectives that are different from the commonly held view. For social emotional learning, I have selected stories of a more serious nature, listed below, though each is intriguing in its own way.

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Social Studies: Integrating Social and Emotional Learning

Teachers have always known that they have a duty to teach students, not just content. Most of the skills taught beyond the core curriculum fit under the umbrella of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). CASEL identifies five competencies of SEL: Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills, and Responsible Decision Making. While all of these competencies should be practiced in the social studies classroom, I want to focus on two: 

Social Awareness

  • Perspective-taking
  • Empathy
  • Appreciating diversity
  • Respect for others 

Responsible Decision-Making

  • Identifying problems
  • Analyzing situations
  • Solving problems
  • Evaluating
  • Reflecting
  • Ethical Responsibility 
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Social Studies: Four Big Questions to Connect Then and Now

For many students, studying history can feel like a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle has been dumped on their desk. How do they even begin to sort it out, much less make sense of a jumble of discreet events in the hopes of ever glimpsing the big picture?

Likewise, current events can seem like a carousel of unconnected facts, experiences, and impressions leaving them with a vague sense of déjà vu. This is particularly true as news cycles accelerate, volume goes up and it’s difficult to decipher what’s happening amidst the noise.

Faced with the challenge of wrapping their brains around what’s occurred in the past and connecting it to the history that’s being written right under their noses, can you blame kids if they’re tempted to throw up their hands and say, “Humans! Who knows what they’ll do next?”

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Social Studies: Teaching about Elections

How to teach politics without getting too political

The tricky thing about teaching politics to any grade level of students is leaving your own politics out of it. I always knew I had taught a successful unit if by the end, students still did not know which way I leaned politically. I have had colleagues who make it very clear which way they lean, even going so far as to have bumper stickers or signage touting specific candidates hanging in their classroom. This always bothered me because although I think teachers are responsible for influencing our students to be learners, there are certain topics we have no business influencing. I subscribe to the Linus theory:

“I’ve learned there are three things you don’t discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin.”

Linus Van Pelt (Charles Schultz)
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ADHD: Recognizing the Symptoms

Children who have ADHD present predominantly with symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, or a combination of these symptoms. The disorder has had numerous names over the last several decades: minimal brain damage, minimal brain dysfunction, hyperkinetic reaction of childhood, attention- deficit disorder with or without hyperactivity, and, since 1987, attention- deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Diagnosing ADHD

Symptom lists that are used for the diagnosis of ADHD are split into inattentive and hyperactive- impulsive criteria. If an individual has six or more symptoms from both lists, he or she would be diagnosed with ADHD, combined presentation. If an individual has six or more symptoms in one list but not the other, he or she would be considered to have ADHD, predominantly inattentive or ADHD, predominantly hyperactive- impulsive form.

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