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Writing About Culture: Empowering Our Marginalized Students. Creed Hansen Teaching Demonstration - Jan. 2008 [email protected] What is culture?. In a small group of 3-4 people, brainstorm a list of possible answers to the question above. Let’s share! What did your group have to say?

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what is culture
What is culture?
  • In a small group of 3-4 people, brainstorm a list of possible answers to the question above.
  • Let’s share! What did your group have to say?
  • Now: what characteristics of culture did we all have in common?
my students answers
music

traditions

foods

history

religion/beliefs

tools

language

writing

heritage

family

location

skills

colors/flags

style/clothing

holidays

pride

My students’ answers:

We’ll come back to this. But first…

why write about culture
Why write about culture?
  • it helps students explore their personal backgrounds and beliefs
  • it promotes individuality
  • it encourages acceptance and even appreciation of diversity
  • it empowers otherwise marginalized students to write meaningfully about who they are
why do marginalized students need to be empowered
Why do marginalized students need to be empowered?
  • Delpit (1995) argues that:
    • marginalized students—which primarily includes minority, female, and low income students—do not possess the culture of power
    • they must be taught the culture of power and its rules in order to understand societal inequalities and thus gain power
how can teachers help
How can teachers help?
  • Ladson-Billings (1994) encourages teachers to engage in culturally relevant teaching:
    • have high expectations of marginalized students
    • make culturally relevant curricular decisions
how can teachers help7
How can teachers help?
  • Gonzalez et. al. (1993) recommend a shift in how teachers conceptualize culture:
    • culture is more than simply holidays and traditions; it is dynamic and complex
    • household cultures can be utilized if teachers indicate that they are valuable
how can writing help
How can writing help?
  • Once teachers make the shift to culturally relevant teaching, they can use writing as a tool for empowerment
    • teach them how and when to use culturally relevant languages and the language of power (Standard English)
    • use writing prompts that allow students to think meaningfully and critically about their own cultures
what teks would be covered
What TEKS would be covered?
  • (1)  Writing/purposes. The student writes in a variety of forms, including…personal, for various audiences and purposes.
    • (B)  write in a voice and style appropriate to audience and purpose
what teks would be covered10
What TEKS would be covered?
  • (3)  Writing/grammar/usage/conventions/spelling. The student relies increasingly on the conventions and mechanics of written English, including the rules of grammar and usage, to write clearly and effectively.
how can we integrate reading
How can we integrate reading?
  • Cai (2003) recommends:
    • choosing literature written by marginalized authors about their own marginalized groups
    • using texts to expose inequalities present in the relationships between dominant and marginalized groups
how can we integrate reading12
How can we integrate reading?
  • Fox & Short (2003) suggest two main criteria for choosing culturally authentic literature:
    • accuracy of cultural details
    • absence of stereotyping or misrepresentation
what teks would be covered13
What TEKS would be covered?
  • (7) Reading/comprehension. The student comprehends selections using a variety of strategies. The student is expected to:
    • (B)  draw upon his/her own background to provide connection to texts
what teks would be covered14
What TEKS would be covered?
  • (9)  Reading/culture. The student reads widely, including world literature, to increase knowledge of his/her own culture, the culture of others, and the common elements across cultures. The student is expected to:
    • (A)  recognize distinctive and shared characteristics of cultures through reading; and
    • (B)  compare text events with his/her own and other readers\' experiences.
how do we use reading and writing together to empower marginalized students
How do we use reading and writing together to empower marginalized students?
  • use diverse pieces of literature as models for how and when to use culturally relevant language and Standard English
  • use these models, too, as mentor texts for how to integrate students’ cultures into their personal writing
back to the list
Back to the list…
  • Again, these were the characteristics of culture my students came up with:
  • music
  • traditions
  • foods
  • history
  • religion/beliefs
  • tools
  • language
  • writing
  • heritage
  • family
  • location
  • skills
  • colors/flags
  • style/clothing
  • holidays
  • pride
debriefing the list
Debriefing the list…
  • Now try discussing the following questions with your secondary students:
    • Why is culture significant?
    • Do you ever find that different parts of your culture conflict? Why or why not?
    • What are the most important characteristics of your personal culture?
model it for them
Model it for them!
  • Show your students that you, too, possess important cultural traits
cultural groundwork
Cultural groundwork
  • You’ve now laid the cultural groundwork for much of your students’ personal writing
  • You’ve also shown them that you value their cultures and that you have important cultural characteristics of your own
reading then writing
Reading, then writing…
  • Before embarking on a writing exercise, it’s important to provide models for how skilled authors write about culture
  • Seek out culturally relevant and culturally authentic texts; tailor your choices to your student population
the kite runner by khaled hosseini
The Kite Runnerby Khaled Hosseini
  • Choose a passage from a relevant, authentic text to read aloud
  • Ask your students to listen for ways in which the author writes about culture and ways in which the writing style reflects his or her culture
  • “Ali and Baba grew up together…” (25)
the kite runner by khaled hosseini24
The Kite Runnerby Khaled Hosseini
  • Discuss in depth the passage you’ve just read with your students
  • You might hold a whole group discussion, or you might break your students up into small, diverse groups
  • Your guiding question: Where do you hear the author’s or narrator’s culture reflected in his or her writing?
enrichment conventions
Enrichment - Conventions
  • Anderson (2005) recommends using mentor texts—powerful, relevant literature—to teach the conventions of English to secondary students
  • Look for common problems your students are having in their writing conventions and utilize your current mentor text to address them
now write
Now…write!
  • Using their Personal Culture Charts, ask students to address one of the following prompts in a paragraph or essay (depending on the ability level)
    • Where is your culture reflected at home?
    • How is your culture reflected in your relationships with family or friends?
    • How is your culture reflected in your beliefs?
a time for discussion
A time for discussion…
  • Guiding questions:
    • How might this work in middle school classes?
    • How have you built cultural empowerment into your classrooms?
    • How can we build entire units or curricula around cultural empowerment?
references
References

Anderson, J. (2005). Mechanically inclined. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers.

Cai, M. (2003). Multiple definitions of multicultural literature. In D. L. Fox & K. G. Short (Eds.), Stories matter: The complexity of cultural authenticity in children’s literature (pgs. 269-283). Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.

Delpit, L. (1995). Other people’s children: Cultural conflict in the classroom. New York: The New Press.

Fox, D. L., & Short, K. G. (2003). The complexity of cultural authenticity in children’s literature: Why the debates really matter. In D. L. Fox & K. G. Short (Eds.), Stories matter: The complexity of cultural authenticity in children’s literature (pgs. 3-24). Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.

references30
References

Gonzalez, N., Moll, L., Floyd-Tenery, M., Rivera, A., Rendon, P., Gonzalez, R., et. al. (1993). Teacherresearch on funds of knowledge: Learning from households (Educational Practice Report: 6). Santa Cruz, CA: National Center for Research on Cultural Diversity and Second Language Learning. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 360 825)

Hosseini, K. (2003). The Kite Runner. New York: Riverhead Books.

Ladson-Billings, G. (1994). The dreamkeepers: Successful teachers of African American children. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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