Why use multicultural literature in the classroom?

Yuko Iwai

Dr. Yuko Iwai

Today’s blogger is Yuko Iwai, Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Studies at the University of Wisconsin–La Crosse. Her article, “Culturally Responsive Teaching in a Global Era: Using the Genres of Multicultural Literature,” appears in the latest issue of The Educational Forum.

As most teachers know, the student population in schools has become increasingly diverse in recent years in terms of culture, language, economic status, race, ethnicity, and religion, and this trend is expected to continue into the future.

Therefore, educators must be equipped to implement culturally responsive teaching pedagogy in order to support all learners.

What is culturally responsive teaching? Culturally responsive teaching incorporates elements of diversity across the curriculum.

That is, teachers use a variety of approaches to introduce students to diverse people (e.g., differences in culture, language, race, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status), as well any other issues related to diversity. They teach students how to recognize and respect differences among all people, as well as how to advocate for equity, diversity, and inclusion.

Unfortunately, despite the need to be supportive of all diverse learners, many teachers and preservice teachers feel unprepared to respond to this demand.

This is because they have had limited education, training, knowledge, and experience in the area of working with and supporting diverse learners. One strategy to help teachers progress toward culturally responsive teaching is to use multicultural children’s literature in their curriculum. Multicultural literature consists of books that describe cultures, traditions, and historical events about various diverse people (e.g., Latinx and Black) rather than just the mainstream White group.

My research study explored preservice teachers’ understanding of multicultural literature. In my literacy course in a teacher education program, my students investigated a number of examples of high-quality multicultural children’s literature in different genres (e.g., picture books, realistic fiction, biography, nonfiction) and critically examined the books through completion of a literature project and development of a literacy lesson plan for elementary school students.

I was interested in how my students viewed multicultural books in different genres and how their learning experience throughout the semester impacted their understanding of culturally responsive teaching.

The study demonstrated an increase in their awareness of diversity and culturally responsive teaching, their professional knowledge about multicultural literature and education, and their practical skills to embed multicultural literature across the curriculum. For example, one preservice teacher who did a multicultural book project on Asian Americans shared her experience:

Take Me Out to the Yakyu (Meshon, 2013) was a perfect book for teaching “compare and contrast.” Students were able to find the similarities and differences between the cultures in the words and pictures throughout the book. . . . It is important to expand our students’ minds to create a global understanding, and not just use popular books from their own culture.

Another preservice teacher shared:

Some students rarely see someone from their culture as the hero in a story. I want to make it a priority in my future classroom to include books that all of my students can relate to in some way.

Using multicultural literature, of course, is just one strategy for promoting multicultural and global education in schools.

But it’s a good place to start.

Teachers can also practice culturally responsive teaching by inviting community members to share diverse perspectives and cultures, and creating a positive and safe learning environment.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share an essay from The Educational Forum with the education community. Access the article at Taylor and Francis Online, free through April 30, 2019.


Children’s Literature Cited

Meshon, A. (2013). Take me out to the yakyu. New York, NY: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Share Your #WhyITeach

Teacher Appreciation Week is quickly approaching—what a great time to share with the world why you’re proud to be a teacher!

KDP is looking to feature stories, photos, videos, and more, from teachers like you; we love a Celebration of Teaching!

We want to see and hear about your classroom experiences, mentors, lives you’ve touched, and what keeps you inspired in your work.

So, we’ve launched a contest that runs through Tuesday, April 30, with winners announced by early May.

1 Grand Prize Winner Will Be Chosen

  • $1,000 check
  • Story featured in the New Teacher Advocate
  • Free Convo registration
  • Story featured on blog and in email during National Teacher Week (5/6-5/10)

4 Runner-Up Prize Winners Will Be Chosen

  • $250 check
  • Story featured on blog during National Teacher Week (5/6-5/10)

In order to be entered into the contest:

  1. Post your story on the Educator Learning Network using the hashtag #WhyITeach; and
  2. Share your story on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram with the hashtag #WhyITeach and tag @KappaDeltaPi.

What is the Educator Learning Network?

We’re glad you asked! The ELN is our new online learning environment and social community. Learn more at https://eln.kdp.org, and post your story by clicking on “Take Me to the KDP Network” (the second blue button). You’ll be asked to log into your member account—or, if you’re not a member yet, you can create a free account!

How will winners be chosen?

While we anticipate wanting to re-tell each and every story, we are limited to just 5 that we select. Ultimately, we are looking for heart-warming, inspirational, and encouraging stories about the teaching profession.

If you have any questions, please contact Chris Beaman, Director of Advancement & Communications, by emailing chris@kdp.org or by calling 800-284-3167.

3 Ways To Collaborate With Your School Librarian

Enhance your professional knowledge and skills by collaborating with your school librarian.

One of a librarian’s goals is to collaborate with classroom teachers in designing and implementing lessons and units of instruction. When you are looking for information, research projects, curricular content, and information resources, go directly to the librarian. Learning to collaborate with your librarian will benefit you and your students.

1. Share your topics of study with the librarian.

At the elementary level, classes are scheduled into the library on a weekly basis. Typically, librarians plan a mini-lesson followed by time for students to select books. By previewing your topics of study with the school librarian, he or she can select complementary reading books to share with your students. With many states adopting the common core, teachers face an expanded curriculum in English language arts that places additional demands on their instructional time. Common core calls for an increased use of content-rich, nonfiction text. Librarians can support your efforts by selecting non-fiction titles, aligned with your curriculum, to read and discuss the books with your students (Alberti, 2013).

2. Enlist the librarian to teach research skills.

The American Association of School Librarians (AASL, 2011) standards for English language arts specify that librarians are to teach students to follow an inquiry-based process in seeking knowledge in curricular subjects (1. 1.1). That parallels Common Core State Standards (2010; CC3.w.7), which mandate that teachers teach students to conduct short research projects that build knowledge about a topic. A classroom teacher can partner with the librarian to assure that students develop effective research skills and can access critical sources for assigned papers and projects.

3. Utilize instructional materials in the library.

Finding just the right video, book, or software to teach a concept can spell success for a lesson. Typically, librarians have annual budgets to purchase materials to support the instructional program. Ask when you should give the librarian your wish list to ensure that you have the right materials to deliver your lessons. Furthermore, the library media center typically has technology such as iPods® and iPads® for check-out so that your class can use them to enhance your lesson.

Teaching can be a lonely career, but it doesn’t have to be. Teachers who establish collaborative, professional, working relationships expand their own expertise and gain support for enhanced learning for their students (Nath & Cohen, 2011). When the librarian and the teacher collaborate, students receive in-depth knowledge on a variety of curricular topics, see the library as an extension of the classroom, and develop the research and inquiry skills to become lifelong learners.

Dr. Jeanne Qvarnstrom

Dr. Qvarnstrom is Assistant Vice President for Institutional Effectiveness and an Associate Professor of Education at Sul Ross State University, where she teaches both graduate and undergraduate courses in the Education Department. During her 20 years as a Director of Curriculum and Instruction for the Red Clay School District, she supervised all the teachers and the 23 K-12 school librarians, whom she found to be rich resources for the classroom teachers. In 2012, the Delaware Association of School Librarians named her the Delaware State Administrator of the Year.

This article was originally featured in the Spring 2015 issue of the New Teacher Advocate.

References

Alberti, S. (2013). Making the shifts. Educational Leadership, 70(4), 24–27.

American Association of School Librarians. (2011). AASL learning standards and Common Core State Standards crosswalk. Chicago, IL: AASL. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/aasl/standards-guidelines/ crosswalk

Common Core State Standards Initiative. (2010). Common Core State Standards for English language arts. Washington, DC: National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers.

Nath, J., & Cohen, M. (2011). Becoming an EC-6 teacher in Texas (2nd ed.). Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.

Standing in Line for Life’s Basic Need: Water

Erik Byker

Dr. Erik Byker

Today’s blogger is Erik Jon Byker, Associate Professor in the Cato College of Education at UNC Charlotte. His article “Global Water Crisis: Preparing Preservice Teachers for ‘Day Zero,’” coauthored by Michael Putman, Chris Reddy, and Lesley LeGrange, appeared in the January 2019 issue of the Kappa Delta Pi Record.

I often ask the undergraduate students I teach what they would be willing to stand in line for at least 1 hour to get.

After some quizzical expressions, the students chime in with responses like, “my favorite restaurant,” “concert tickets,” “roller coaster ride,” and “a sporting event.”

Then, I up the queue wait time to 3 hours, and the students go largely silent except for the one or two loyal music fans or sports fanatics.

I end the thought experiment by asking, “How long would you stand in line for a couple bottles of water?” Most of the students look at me rather puzzled and have a hard time even fathoming this inquiry.

Yet, waiting in line for water is increasingly becoming a daily reality for many people around the world.

About this same time last year, for example, citizens in Cape Town, South Africa, would line up to collect their daily water ration of just 50 liters of water per day. And Cape Town is not the only large urban area to be affected by the global water crisis. The British Broadcasting Company explained that there are nearly a dozen other large cities that are water stressed. This Friday, March 22, is World Water Day, which is a day to highlight the importance of water for sanitation and health (WASH).

World Water Day also helps to raise awareness about the global water crisis, which impacts more than 2 billion people around the globe. In her 2015 book Raising Awareness, Raising Hope, Lori Stoltzman shares other eye-opening statistics from the United Nations and the World Health Organization about the global water crisis:

  • Women and children (usually girls) spend up to 60% of each day walking to collect water.
  • 160 million children suffer from stunting and chronic malnutrition due to unsafe water and a lack of basic sanitation.
  • Without access to a latrine, many girls in lesser developed nations stop going to school once they reach puberty.

Raising awareness is a pathway for taking action. In the article “Global Water Crisis: Preparing Preservice Teachers for ‘Day Zero,’” my colleagues and I discuss how an immersive study abroad experience in South Africa led many of our teacher candidate participants to adopt water conservation habits. Yet, educators do not have to travel halfway around the world to investigate the water crisis. There are examples like Flint, Michigan, and the Catawba River Basin in North Carolina, which impact localities across the United States.

To integrate World Water Day (which should be every day), educators can start by supporting their learners in examining the importance of water to everyday health and well-being.

One effective strategy for this examination is to distribute one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) icons and then simply ask the question, “How is water connected or related to the icon you have? Explain the connection.” Another strategy, which integrates with mathematics, is to have learners estimate how many liters of water are used for everyday activities like brushing teeth, flushing the toilet, cooking food, and washing dishes.

Such an activity helps learners analyze how quickly 50 liters of water can get consumed. As learners gain greater awareness about the importance of water, it could lead to participation in service learning opportunities organized by groups like H2O for Life, which engages learners of all ages in a Walk for Water.

To close, I ask again, “How long would you wait for a couple of bottles of water?” The question answers itself depending on the water scarcity. During World Water Day (and beyond), let’s commit to raising awareness and taking action about the global water crisis. Such acts are part of becoming a Critical Cosmopolitan Citizen or what Paulo Freire explained as developing a critical consciousness in order to rewrite the world.

I am more and more convinced that educators need to promote greater water literacy so that even a couple of bottles of water will be viewed as a precious resource to meet our daily need.

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share an essay from the Kappa Delta Pi Record with the education community. Access the article at Taylor and Francis Online, free through April 30, 2019.

World Water Day 2019

Click the image above to visit the official World Water Day website.

A Lost Experience: Kids in Nature

Have you ever asked your grandparents or parents about what they did for fun as a child?

If you did, you likely heard stories about climbing trees, building forts, chasing fireflies, fishing, riding bikes, playing outdoors with neighborhood friends, or going to a nearby park for a pickup game or sport.

Ask today’s elementary school students what they do for fun, and the answer is quite different.

The current generation of young people are playing video games, sending texts, and making posts on social media. Some are passionate about a sport, to which they may dedicate numerous hours each week. Most of these activities are done indoors.

Today, many kids stay inside because of the weather or from fear of a mosquito, spider, snake, or . . . (insert the name of your most dreaded creature).

The outdoor and nature-based activities of prior generations provided adventure, fun, and entertainment for youth.

Like the dinosaurs, are the outdoor activities of our parents and grandparents becoming extinct?

The Nature Conservancy wants to keep those connections to nature and the outdoor world very much alive. We want every child in Indiana—and the world—to enjoy the many benefits that nature gives us.

Scientists are studying nature’s effects on people and measuring some of the amazing things that we may have experienced or know intuitively. Being in nature helps adults reduce hypertension and depression. Kids who live on a farm and are exposed to soil and domestic animals are less likely to have asthma than urban children. The risk of nearsightedness is reduced when children play outside more. Playing in gardens or natural areas contributes positively to learning and development, aiding cooperation skills and reducing conflict among children.

Connecting to nature helps improve the health and well-being of children, their families, and their communities. The Nature Conservancy knows that if we care for nature, nature will care for us.

We want to encourage childhood time exploring nature and avoid the possibility that time in nature could become an “extinct” childhood experience.

Will you join us in this endeavor?

Questions? Contact us at ChildrenofIndianaNaturePark@tnc.org

Mary McConnell

Author: Mary McConnell, Director, The Nature Conservancy Indiana Chapter

Mother Nature—Kids’ Second Favorite Teacher

Remember your favorite teacher growing up?

Chances are, she inspired a love of learning in you. She probably told stories, showed examples, and helped connect the dots between lessons learned in the classroom and those in the outside world.

That’s just what nature can do for you and your students: inspire a love of learning, provide examples you can feel, and, most importantly, connect what we learn to how it can help our planet. Nature is a common denominator that we all share—and a wonderful natural teacher, too!

Although nature is all around us, getting students to connect to the natural world is often difficult, given the daily distractions of full schedules, screens, and information coming from all directions.

Yet the benefits we get from nature are endless.

Click here to learn more!

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is also good at connecting the dots.

Our long history of working to protect land and water in Indiana, across the United States, and around the world has helped bring together people and communities to find practical solutions to nature’s biggest challenges. Here at TNC, we know that if we protect nature, it will protect us.

Connecting to nature helps improve the health and well-being of children, their families, and their communities.

What’s more, nature can help kids become better learners. And, by learning more, we can help kids care more about the natural world and why they should help protect it. After first hearing the song of a bird through a website, kids can then listen for that sound outdoors and even hear it before they spot it in a tree. When you can identify an animal, you know what it is, and you probably care about it a little more than before you knew its name.

According to Solutions Journal, kids today can identify about 1,000 corporate logos, but few can identify more than a handful of native plant and animal species.

We all learn differently, whether it’s by sight, sound, touch, or interaction. Nature connects all the dots and is something that kids can experience using all their senses. Bringing nature into the classroom or, better yet, taking your kids out into nature, will stimulate their senses and help them connect what they learn in the classroom to the outside world.

With your help, your students could have a second favorite teacher: Mother Nature!

Mary McConnell

Author: Mary McConnell, Director, The Nature Conservancy Indiana Chapter

Selective Rigor: What to Do About It?

Dr. Bruce Torff

Dr. Audrey F. Murphy

Today’s bloggers are Bruce Torff and Audrey Figueroa Murphy. Their article, “Teachers’ Beliefs About Rigor of Curriculum for English Language Learners,” appears in the latest issue of The Educational Forum.


Educators have looked high and low for the causes of achievement gaps between the “haves” and “have nots” in our society, and for good reason:

These gaps are distressingly large and resistant to change.

Possible causes include in-school factors (e.g., rigor of curriculum, teacher experience and attendance, teacher preparation, class size, technology-assisted instruction, school safety) and various conditions outside of school (e.g., birth weight, lead poisoning, hunger and nutrition, reading to young children, television watching, parent availability, student mobility, parent participation).

No one seems to know the exact causes, but some combination of factors does the deed.

Could it be that one set of factors has been hiding in plain sight? Do educators’ well-intended beliefs about “what works” for different populations of learners play a role, if a largely unseen one? According to research, the answer may be yes.

It’s true, but unsurprising, that success in school has a lot to do with the level of rigor in the curriculum; students given challenging work achieve more. Educators know that lessons need to pitched to challenge but not overwhelm learners, as if to follow Dewey’s advice that teaching should begin a little over the head of the learner. Accordingly, educators’ judgments do much to establish how academically demanding the curriculum will be.

But research shows that teachers favor somewhat less rigorous curriculum for learners they perceive to be low in socio-economic status, SES. And our research published in this issue of The Educational Forum indicates that English language learners are among the student populations educators believe to be less able to handle the rigorous curriculum prescribed for their more English-proficient peers. The rich get richer, getting rigorous curriculum leading to high achievement, prompting more high-octane lessons. And the poor get poorer, with impoverished curriculum leading to lower achievement, yielding another round of undemanding lessons.

In several publications, we tie these beliefs to cultural norms about how learners tick and how teaching should proceed. Beliefs about learning and teaching in our culture, part of the culture’s commonsense “folk psychology,” prompt educators to reduce the rigor of curriculum for some populations, exacerbating achievement gaps. Because of our culture’s way of doing things, well-intended educators fan the flames of the blaze they seek to extinguish, by their efforts to give students the level of academic rigor they deem appropriate.

A question is raised: How can we counter this cause of achievement gaps?

KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share an essay from The Educational Forum with the education community. Access the article at Taylor and Francis Online, free through February 28, 2019.