Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

Monthly Update sign up
Mailing List signup
Teaching Multicultural Literature : A Workshop for the Middle Grades
Workshop 1 Workshop 2 Workshop 3 Workshop 4 Workshop 5 Workshop 6 Workshop 7 Workshop 8
Workshop 3: Research and Discovery - Shirley Sterling and Laura Tohe
Authors and Literary Works
Video Summary
Teaching Strategies
Sally Brownfield
Joseph Bruchac
Jerome Harste
Student Work
Interactive Workbook -- Explore two poems using strategies from these workshops. Go.
Channel-Talk -- Share your views on the discussion board. Go.

Jerome Harste
Indiana University

What impresses you about Sally Brownfield's use of resources with her students?

There are multiple kinds of resources that she's using and building curriculum from. She is using the personal experiences of the kids; she is using the social issues in the community; she is also using a book that raises those kinds of social issues; she's using authors as experts who have a lot of knowledge and who have done a lot of thinking about this topic. She's using the oral text of elders; she's using the popular culture and the media that's being used. And, I think, the desires and hopes of the community.

I think what is really crucial is that there's an inquiry component to all of those. By using multiple texts, by using the people from the community, the author, they're juxtaposing different kinds of texts so that kids have to start questioning the authority of text. They begin to have their own inquiry questions, which is crucial.

What are the benefits of using journals?

Journals are a wonderful way to make sure that all of the voices are being heard. I really like Sally's use of journals in this unit -- she is using journals to invite kids into conversation as well as to keep them in the conversation.

There are many ways to use journals. One of the ways that you see Sally using them is, after the kids have had a discussion, to have them reflect on that discussion and record comments they might want to add. But you could also ask the kids to take on the role of the character and write from that particular perspective. You could have them draw a sketch of what they think a section of the story meant. Or have them take notes while they're reading in their journal and bring in those notes to start the conversation in literature discussion. I oftentimes will say to kids, "I want you to make four comments in your journal -- one an observation, one a question, one a surprise, one a connection that you make -- and bring those and let's start the conversation going, using that particular kind of format."

Journals are a great opportunity for language study because we want students to be producers of language as well as consumers. It's very important to demonstrate the writing process in front of kids, and demonstrate the challenges: How is it that you spin a good phrase? How is it that you get your ideas? How many false starts do you need to make? Teachers need to be inquirers themselves. "Let's go here. Let's look at this document. Let's look at this language." And that sort of "demonstration by doing" I think is extremely crucial.

What does technology add to the language arts classroom?

At that computer lab, the students are looking at real artifacts. One of the great things about the Internet is that students can access the kind of treaties and the kinds of laws that were put in place, the original kinds of documents. In this computer activity, Sally is giving the kids access to original documents, but she's also doing language studies. She's inviting the kids to look at how things are worded and how to use language and what difference that makes. And then she's asking them to be reflective.

What is the value of creating artwork for presentations?

What's really important about inviting kids to take what they learned and then put it into some other form than just language is that they have to transmediate -- that is, take something in language and put it into another sign system. While they're doing that, they have to go through all of the different knowledge domains, and there's not a one-to-one match between a concept in language and a concept in art.

Discuss how multicultural education makes learning meaningful for students.

So often, we think about education in sort of abstracted ideas. But education has to be up close and personal. In Sally's unit, students are examining real documents and looking at what life in reservation school was like and why it was like that. Those kinds of social practices need to be examined; they need to be reflected upon if we're to change the kind of society we live in. See, this is why we have to be using multicultural literature in all of our classrooms. These stories are too important not to be heard.

I think all of us have to be about the business of developing diversity and difference in our model of education: one that serves the kind of multicultural, multilingual society that we have. Not only do we need to hear those voices, but we want a group of students -- of citizens -- who not only can question authority, but know how to create information and inquire into topics and use language in colorful ways themselves.

back to top Next: Student Work
Workshop Home Support Materials About this Workshop Sitemap
Teaching Multicultural Literature : A Workshop for the Middle Grades Workshop Home

© Annenberg Foundation 2017. All rights reserved. Legal Policy