Culture and the Classroom
Honoring Cultures in a Classroom
The Backpacks We Each Carry
Though the color of our skins may differ, we may speak another language, follow another religious belief, or just be uniquely different, we all share in our humanness. And, the genesis of our being comes from the place we call family.
There are so many different kinds of families in this world and from these family units, beautiful children are spawned and sent into institutional settings we call the schoolhouse.
The children come to the classroom with their backpacks, cultural and material based. They come to learn about different disciplines and to be socialized into a civilized society. How we as educators go about this process is as individual as we are ourselves.
How do we create a cohesive environment that embraces acceptance and invites all learners to the table? How do we break down the barriers that divide us as human beings? This at times is a conundrum.
However, in my experience, the best way to impact the lives of children and bring them together as a unified group is to funnel them into strong teams, empowering them to support one another and to use children's literature as a means to parallel their own life experiences.
That said, I'd like to offer up some lessons that will bring about cohesion and acceptance in your classroom while teaching many important disciplines (content areas) as well.
No Matter where We Come From, We All Have Traditions
Sharing Our Traditions
1.What is a tradition? Examples....
2. Who can start a tradition?
3.Where do they take place?
We brainstorm around the room and discover that holding a family game night can be a tradition, having a town hall meeting in class can be viewed as a tradition, family trips are a time honored tradition as well as Christmas dinners, Passover Seders, being in a landscaping family business, and so much more. The idea is to get them to understand the word, "tradition."
Next, I always love storytelling through captivating literature. It is a great way to show children that others share in their heritage and experiences. So, let's continue:
The Village Basket Weaver, By Jonathan London
A great literacy strategy here can be a "picture walk." Page through, displaying the colorful illustrations to the class (preferably seated on a rug or designated literary area). Have them preview and forecast (predict) what might happen in the story or pick out familiar context.
Then, begin reading and along the way implement " Question the Author." Why do you think the author said, yada yada....? Why did the author choose this setting? Why did the author describe the character, ......in that way? You get the picture, right?
Okay, moving on, you've finished the brainstorming on "traditions," having the students share their own family experiences and you've read the book implementing a couple of literacy strategies, ensuring that comprehension was achieved.
Now, team them and have them create anew a team tradition or class idea for a daily or weekly tradition that they will vote on and share in during the tenure of the year. Have them create a "plan."
Let's look at this from a disciplinary angle:
ELA: Children's Literature on topic
S.S.: Cultural Traditions, Geography, World Cultures, Voting Process/Democracy
Career and Development: Traditional Vocations
Languages Other than English: World Languages
You have: Problem-Solving, High Order Thinking, Project-Based Learning
We are not a Melting Pot, Rather, We are Unique Threads
Quilts and Culture
Another way to honor culture is to incorporate the tradition of quilting into the classroom setting.
Quilting is a fertile topic and a great one to implement a literacy strategy that shares its name, "Quilts."
First, pick a few books to review on topic. Then the teams can either read one or two books each or if you have the time, have teams of 8 run "literature circles," a model by Harvey Daniels. If you are not familiar with this wonderful model, I will digress and underscore the model for you here:
Teacher as Facilitator
Student Centered Approach to Learning
Have students select jobs for the group and place chart paper up on the wall next to each group as a discussion board. The jobs are as follows:
The Connector, who finds connections between the book and the readers and the wider world
The Questioner, who writes down questions that the group has about the book or part of the book (places on discussion board)
The Literary Luminary, whose job is to locate a few special sections or quotations for the group to ponder
The Illustrator, who is the picture person, pictures are worth a thousand words and the visual imagery will expand the understanding of the text
The Summarizer, who prepares a brief summary of today's reading--highlights
The Researcher, whose job is to research background info on any topic related to the book
The Word Wizard, who defines the beautiful language found in the book, words with special meaning
The Scene Setter, who lets us know about where things take place
1. Students choose their reading materials (they select the book)
2.Small temporary groups
3.Different groups read different books
4.Groups meet at regular times
5.Written notes or drawn notes to guide reading and discussion
7. Teacher facilitates and observes, can sit in with the groups
After the teams have completed their work with the literature circles, they can create a "Quilt" highlighting the important details of the many stories they read. They can use theme as a means to dress the quilt; they may opt to create important words, use symbolism or character analysis or any other goal you might have as the instructor.
The quilts can first be created in paper using colored construction sheets that attach using yarn. Then, you can call in what I call a "master teaching artist," a person who is an expert in the craft (a quilter) and have that person lead the class in the creation of group quilts (crayon and fabric) or a class mural quilt.
Should anyone need a referral of a quilter, please contact me via the Hubpages and I will pass that information along.
Threading it Across Discipline
Languages Other Than English
Career and Development
Tools for Quilters
iPhone Quilt Block Tool
History of the Underground RR
Books You'll Need for this Rich Lesson
Underground R R Quilts
Infusion of Music: Gee's Bend Music
Other Quilt Literature Across History and Culture
The Tortilla Quilt By Jane Tenorio-Coscarelli
The Talking Cloth By Rhonda Mitchell
Grandfather's Story Cloth: Yawg Daim Paj, Ntaub Dab Neeg By Linda Gerdner and Sarah Langford
Reuben and the Quilt By Merle Good
Cassie's Word Quilt By Faith Ringgold
Shota and the Star Quilt By Margaret Bateson-Hill
Under the Quilt of Night By Deborah Hopkinson
Quilting Now and Then By Karen Bates Willing and Julie DockPapa and the Pioneer Quilt By Jean Van Leeuwen
The Quilting Bee By Gail Gibbons
Sam Johnson and the Blue Ribbon Quilt By Lisa Campbell Ernst
Stitchin' and Pullin: a Gee's Bend Quilt By Patricia McKissack