culturally relevant/responsive

Honoring the Word: Classroom Instructors Find That Students Respond Best to Oral Tradition

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Author: Michael Thompson

Summary: In this award winning essay, Native American teacher and NWP site director Michael Thompson, reflects on his own practice and shares findings from research interviews he conducted with instructors in tribal college and university classrooms to learn how they approach literature and writing. In particular, he wondered if assigned texts represented “the value that Native people have historically given to traditional stories, teachings, speeches, tribal journeys, and accomplishments.” Instructors reported that Native communities typically value the spoken word over the art of writing and described language practices such as collecting personal narratives of elders in documentary films and digitized recordings. Classroom teachers, study groups and professional development leaders interested in exploring resources and practices that support efforts to “reclaim and honor oral traditions” of native peoples may find this article of interest.
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Why We Are Sticking To Our Stories

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Author: Tina Deschenie

Summary: In recounting the power of the oral tradition of storytelling, Tina Deschenie describes the mesmerizing experience of listening to her father tell elaborated stories in the Diné language about Coyote as well as numerous other practices of native traditions grounded in “the power and beauty of oral tradition and face-to-face storytelling.” This piece could be used within professional development or study groups advocating for culturally relevant practices, bi-literacy, family and community traditions, and exploring innovative ways to bring native stories into classrooms that might range from capturing oral histories to digital animation.
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Theory, Politics, Hope, and Action: Building Immersive Writing Experiences for Bilingual Writers

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Author: Carole Edelsky

Summary: How do you make schoolwork resemble out-of-school work? How do you [create] an immersion experience, setting up a context where kids want to acquire a Discourse that includes and values highly literate practices?” These are two of the questions Edelsky explores in her article which launches with two incredible pieces of writing produced by bilingual students. The student writing and Edelsky’s explanation for how it came to be will motivate educators ready to consider their roles as writing teachers and classroom culture builders who can advocate for just language policies both in and outside the classroom.
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Paradise Lost: Introducing Students to Climate Change Through Story

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Author: Brady Bennon

Summary: How does a teacher help students understand and care about global warming in a personal, meaningful way? Moving beyond policy and “big-picture” issues, high school teacher Brady Bennon focused on story. He asked his students to write about their own connections between place and identity, then showed them the documentary film “Paradise Lost.” Students’ poems expressed their thinking about the people in the film, and showed a strong sense of identification and caring. The ultimate goal was to help students “see themselves as truth-tellers and change makers” in response to global warming through the power of story, rather than through the abstract study of science and policy.
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Grammar—Comma—a New Beginning

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Author: Mary Ehrenworth

Summary: Teaching grammar through inquiry and seduction? In this piece, Mary Ehrenworth shares strategies for moving away from direct instruction (which seldom works) to making it possible for students to “have an apprenticeship relation with great authors, even at the sentence structure level.” By honoring diverse dialects and helping students make intentional choices through inquiry (How DO authors choose verb tense?), teaching grammar becomes an integral part of the composing process. Examples of student work illuminate the effectiveness of this approach and make this article useful for workshop leaders and teachers seeking fresh approaches for teaching grammar within the context of student writing.
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Preserving the Cultural Identity of the English Language Learner

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Author: Wilma Ortiz and Karen Sumaryono

Summary: With an advocacy goal of helping immigrant students retain their cultural identities and succeed within the mainstream classroom while also learning a new language, the authors share several effective writing practices that validate students’ primary language in meaningful ways and promote a strong sense of self. These include: helping all students use key words from a variety of languages; inviting students to use their primary language in response to journal entries, writing prompts and free writes; using multilingual mentor texts; employing “writing to learn” in native languages to explore content; and using cooperative grouping to support speaking in English. The details and examples in this article make it an excellent resource for study groups, professional development or individual teachers seeking ways to support language learners.
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Honoring Dialect and Culture: Pathways to Student Success on High-Stakes Writing Assessments

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Author: Michelle Crotteau

Summary: As teachers we often struggle to find ways to honor our students’ home dialects while still preparing them to take high-stakes writing tests requiring the use of Standard English. In this piece, the author describes her three-pronged approach within a Writing Strategies class for students who had failed the state test. Students developed linguistic and mechanical fluency by speaking and writing about their interests (e.g., hunting), drawing upon their Appalachian English dialect, and by learning how to recognize audience-appropriate situations for employing both Standard English and their own dialect. Lots of student writing samples, coupled with the author’s own rationales and experience, make this a useful piece for workshops, study groups, or professional development focused on culturally relevant practices within a high-stakes testing environment.
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Writing from the Feather Circle

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Author: G. Lynn Nelson

Summary: In this resource, a writing teacher from Arizona applies the Native American feather circle to the teaching of writing and describes her work teaching sections of first-year composition exclusively for Native American students. The feather circle focuses on speaking from the heart; in the classroom this approach involves writing honestly and openly first and worrying about form later. The author shares the writing experiences of her students using a culturally responsive stance, and describes how an emerging group, “Native Images,” has shared their writings and art in community-based settings and at conferences across the country. This resource would be useful in teacher discussions of culturally relevant pedagogies for writing.
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African American Learners Project Annotated Bibliography

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Summary: This collection of readings is intended to inform the thinking and practice of teacher-leaders and/or writing project sites interested in addressing the racial gap in achievement by expanding their own knowledge base as they seek to enhance the academic performance of African American learners. These texts have helped the contributors examine the history and status of African American education in our nation in the context of the landmark decision rendered in Brown v. Board of Education (1954; 1955). If you desire inspiring readings to further knowledge of social justice or culturally relevant pedagogy, this bibliography offers a place to begin and to build from, adding resources that go beyond its publication date of 2008.
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Culturally Mediated Writing Instruction for Adolescent English Language Learners

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Author: Leslie Patterson, Carol Wickstrom, Juan Araujo

Summary: Sites looking for examples of how to design a study and/or plan professional development focused on the impact of culturally mediated writing instruction (CMWI) for adolescent English learners may find this report by the North Star of Texas Writing Project a helpful resource. Findings suggest that positive effects are more likely to occur when inquiry-based professional development includes follow-up support as teachers learn ways to effectively mediate and differentiate instruction to meet particular needs of diverse learners in language and literacy learning.
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