Presented as an introduction to the study beginning in the fall - a personal reflection and literature review of the need to incorporate multicultural literature in the classroom on a frequent and regular basis to assist not only with reading skills, but in self development, esteem, and identification. Shared at UCF's International Conference on Poverty, Globalization, and Education: A Holistic Approach in February, 2015.
Multicultural Literature for Social Justice in ELA Classrooms
SOCIAL JUSTICE IN
UCF Alumni, 2011
Doctoral Candidate, Northeastern University, 2016
Compiled in preparation for UCF International Conference: February 26-28, 2015
THIS PRESENTATION HAS BEEN GENERATED OUT OF A
REVIEW OF LITERATURE ON SOCIAL JUSTICE AND THE
IMPLEMENTATION OF MULTICULTURAL LITERATURE. IN
ADDITION, I INCLUDE A BRIEF GLIMPSE OF MY
EXPERIENCE WITH BOTH.
THE RESEARCH WAS COMPLETED IN PART AS AN
ASSIGNMENT FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE AND FOR RESEARCH 1
IN MY DOCTORAL PROGRAM.
BEGINNING THIS FALL, I WILL BE CONDUCTING A
QUALITATIVE STUDY INVOLVING AUTO-ETHNOGRAPHIC
NARRATIVES FROM STUDENTS WHO ARE WILLING TO
SHARE THEIR EXPERIENCES INVOLVING MULTILATERAL
LITERATURE AND IDENTITY WITH ME.
Discussion of Social Justice
No clear cut definition could encompass the scope of social justice and very little
direct discussion is held on its meaning in the field of education – it is assumed
there is a universal understanding of its meaning.
Agreement on some common attributes:
A general respect for basic human rights
Description of such a broad term cannot exist in isolation. Rather, a fluid
understanding and pliable implementation needs to happen in order for a very
interpretative concept to work effectively and timelessly in an evolving world.
Students can be awakened to individual experiences of their own culture and others,
that is otherwise ignored or invisible, through text.
Using multicultural literature can interrupt prejudice and misunderstanding, not so that
everyone feels the same but so that individuals can begin to acknowledge similarities
between one another.
Through questioning and discussion, marginalized students who are otherwise absent
from text books and literature choices can openly share how reading about their own
heritage and experiences can effect their self image.
Teacher’s role – make certain to choose books that go beyond a superficial, surface
exploration of an under-represented culture. A deeper look allows more meaningful
English Language Arts as an Avenue
Currently, limited texts used in most English Language Arts classes reflect all
cultures that live within our society.
Using the perspectives available in multicultural literature can offer a new and
enriched understanding of marginalized populations, both for the majority culture
and the oppressed.
Multiple truths exist for all cultures and using text can help inform students of the
various experiences they don’t know or understand.
Students can be granted an opportunity through multicultural text to become aware
of and begin to understand intercultural connections.
Current Numbers in Young Adult Literature
In 2013, only 251 of more than
3,000 Young Adult Literature
novels represented marginalized
populations in American culture
(African American, American-
Indian, Asian Pacific, and Latino).
Approximately 232 of these were
written by authors of the same or
similar cultural background.
These numbers emphasize the
need for more diverse literature
accessible to students in the
classroom, and in general.
RESEARCHERS WHO ARE MAKING A
Schools are one of the few places where individuals “cross the boundaries of race” to learn from
one another, reaffirming the need to challenge natural biases in education. (bell hooks, 2003).
Giving Voice and Choice to the Oppressed
B. J. Daniel
Each addresses inequality through race, ethnicity, gender, and or class.
Colorblindness as a concept: accepting people without “labels”
Counterargument: we have to give voice to who people are without pretending the world
does not see individuals as different or acting as if experiences are the same for
everyone. History informs us of these differences; it is important to celebrate them.
Agents of change – Training Teachers with a Purpose
B. J. Daniels (2009)
In order for teachers to move towards
this progressive education in which all
students are educated equally and
taught to unlearn their racism, teacher
candidates must first learn to unpack
and interrogate their taken-for-granted
assumptions about race. Teaching for
social justice begins with the teacher
T. C. Howard (2013)
Race is not the only sensitive matter that
isolates learning, so is gender, class,
and elements of identifying out own
heritage. The universe is largely
predicated by men which often places
women in general in oppressive
situations. Add another element of
marginalization and it becomes easy to
see how women in particular can
struggle to find her place in the world.
We need to begin to empower teachers
who can empower students to
understand what makes us who we are,
and how to celebrate that, not be
ashamed of it.
My experiences as a young teacher…
Learning to Know what I did not Know…
My life experiences have taught me that the world is not always an easy place, but that if
you work hard, you will be rewarded. I never saw who I was and the world I live in as a
part of that equation until I began teaching, and learning about teaching.
White, middle class, female. By most standards, gender being the exception, I am part of
the majority culture in the United States. Because parts of my life were hard, I was unable
to see that I was “privileged” on account of what I was. White privilege is a truth.
As a teacher, I tried to believe that all students were the same – tried to pretend that I did
not see labels. I lived in a colorblind world. I negated the experiences of my students in
doing so. I tried to fix how they talked and change how they walked. I tried to assimilate
them into my world instead of learning about and embracing theirs.
Then I learned, but could not accept, that they wanted me to read aloud to them… Why?
Many of my students of lower socio-economic backgrounds, and often of minority
ethnicities, were rarely read to. There was little degree of separation between gender
needs and this request was more of a class issue. I was learning the live of my students.
Using my work to make a difference…
I was not willing to play mom to these students, but I was wiling to let them be heard
and give them a safe place to express their needs.
I promoted an atmosphere of acceptance, tolerance, and understanding within the
walls of my classroom. I created a space driven by respect – for self and others.
I began searching out authors who my students could identify with and I would share
these suggestions with my students.
Many of them began reading. Many of them wanted to share about their reading. It
wasn’t for a class assignment (not yet), but they wanted more. They were excited to
see themselves in literature, living the lives of the characters.
I invite my students to cross the societal divides and close the separations the world
dictates. We learn about each other through reading together, sharing in lit circles,
creating discussions based on concerns and ideas of the students themselves.
I did not know I could make such a difference, but students responded when I
acknowledged them for who they were, without trying to change them.
Bringing culture to the classroom!
Creating a Diverse Classroom Curriculum
Currently, as part of the beginning stages of my study, I am inviting students to
read collective young adult literature and some children’s books that shed a
positive light on the history and experiences of various cultures.
Through discussion and collaboration, students have the freedom to ask open
questions about student understanding and experiences, and then rely on text to
create a meaningful connection to that understanding.
Yes! This works even in today’s new world of common core, which is about text
complexity. This concept is not reflective of how difficult a reading is but on what
work is done with the reading. How deep can you go with it???
The goal and the challenge - is for teachers to take the plethora of knowledge
already available and transform it into a learning opportunity and a classroom
experience that students can identify with.
Using Multicultural Young Adult Writers
Generally speaking, teachers value diversity in their classroom, their school, their
district, and even their community. Yet reaching those students of diversity can
sometimes be difficult.
Introducing writers like Sharon Draper, Sherman Alexie, Junot Diaz, Matt de la
Pena, Jeanette Walls, and Walter Dean Myers can help introduce and sustain
conversations about race, gender, and ethnicity that are essential to transform
teaching practices and classroom dynamics.
Engaging students in familiar formats and with familiar texts can allow them to fill
the gap they experience between academic content and cultural capital they bring
with them to school
A Workshop Approach
Making Text Connections: Reader response
theory holds that a reader's understanding of a text
is based on the unique connections he or she is
making while reading -- connections to personal
emotions, life experiences, knowledge of other texts,
and knowledge of the world.
Purposefully ask students to make three kinds of
connections as they read: between the text and
themselves; between the text and other texts they
know; and between the text and issues, ideas, facts,
and events in the world. Teachers refer to these as
"text-to-self"; "text-to-text"; and "text-to-world"
connections. Take time to ensure that all responses
are grounded in the text and its cultural and
Peer Facilitation Circle: Use this design
to encourage students to create
discussion topics they want to talk about,
using a multicultural piece of text.
The structure is fairly simple, but the task
is not necessarily. Many students are not
used to devising discussion questions, so
teachers should ask the students to
prepare by bringing the text and a written
response to share -- such as questions,
quotations, reactions, and/or
A Workshop Approach
Double-Entry Journal: An effective technique for
fostering students' active engagement with a literary
text is the reader response activity of double-entry
journaling. In this strategy, students divide a
notebook page into two columns. They write a
quotation from the text they are reading on one side
and their response to that quotation on the other.
Teachers may ask students to record quotations in
the first column and questions about the quotation
in the second. If you are working with English-
language learners, you might give the students the
option to write the quotation in English and their
connection or response in their native language.
Text Set: Text sets are resources of
different reading levels, genres, and media
that offer perspectives on a theme. By
collecting materials ranging from fiction,
nonfiction, and poetry to maps, charts,
historical documents, photographs, songs,
and paintings, teachers can add voices
and perspectives to the study of any
Use various levels of books, even
children’s books, as a way “in” for any
reader. These books can often start
wonderful conversations that allow you to
hear people you otherwise would not.
A Workshop Approach
Frozen Tableau: A strategy in which students
create a scene and freeze the action, then discuss
what is happening and their reactions to it. Using
physical poses, gestures, and facial expressions,
students convey the characters, action, and
significance of a historic moment.
Students can create frozen tableaux that represent
important conflicts among characters or powerful
scenes in the text. To help student groups move
from copying poses to inferring what a fictional
scene might look like, teachers can ask all the
groups to use the same scene in a novel or
story. In addition, the frozen tableau strategy can
be used to deepen the classroom discussion of
themes or issues brought out in a text.
Literature Circles: Literature circles
engage students in rich conversations
about shared readings. Students can
express their opinions, predictions, and
questions about a text in a productive,
The teacher may ask students to take on
specific group roles, such as summarizer
or director, which are designed to develop
reading, speaking, and thinking abilities.
As the students become more skilled in
literature circle conversations, they can
move beyond specific role assignments.
I close with this…
F. M. Briscoe:
“If the scholars advocating for those who have been oppressed do so in a manner
that transforms oppressive power relations into more equitable power relations, then
their appropriation of the others narrations benefits not only the scholar… but those
whose experiences have been appropriated”.
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