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Writing About Culture: Empowering Our Marginalized Students. Creed Hansen Teaching Demonstration - Jan. 2008 Creed.Hansen@pisd.edu. 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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Writing about culture empowering our marginalized students l.jpg

Writing About Culture:Empowering Our Marginalized Students

Creed Hansen

Teaching Demonstration - Jan. 2008

Creed.Hansen@pisd.edu


What is culture l.jpg
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?


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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…


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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


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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


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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


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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


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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


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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


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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.


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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


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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


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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


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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.


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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


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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


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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?



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Model it for them!

  • Show your students that you, too, possess important cultural traits



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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


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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


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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)


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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?


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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


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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?



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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?


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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.


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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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