Navigating Geographical and Cultural Terrain: A Cultural Studies Approach to Teaching English Language ArtsDr. Karen Magro, Associate ProfessorThe University of WinnipegApril 15, 2011, Adolescent Literacy SummitVictoria Inn, Winnipeg
Cultural Studies • A cultural studies approach can lead teachers and students to compare traditional canonical authors with popular texts including the mass media. Cultural studies invites a wide variety of new and politically invigorating texts into teaching. Interviews, testimonials, surveys, films, and other texts can be integrated into the curriculum.
Context • New age of immigration due to economic reasons, civil conflict, poverty, and political violence • Migration is recognized as one of the defining global issues of the twenty-first century • There are about 194 million people living outside their place of birth • Canada is in the forefront of this trend and is the destination for a growing number of international migrants, both forced and voluntary
Context • The face of North America continues to change • For example, in Winnipeg alone, more than 100 languages are spoken across the province. Over 27% of immigrants speak Tagalog; after that German, Punjabi, Spanish, Russian, Mandarin, Korean, Amharic, Ukrainian, and a number of other languages are spoken
Educational Directions in Teaching • We have to build an “asset” model of education that recognizes the hidden strengths and tacit knowledge of learners • Literacy must be viewed as multi-dimensional and lifelong; family literacy must be emphasized. • Alternatives teaching and learning approaches are critical to examine • More resources are needed to build “better” literacy programs that meet the individual needs of learners. • A holistic model of literacy education is needed that integrates the social, psychological, and cultural dynamics of learning • What approaches would be most effective?
A Cultural Studies Approach to Teaching ELA • Texts are used as opportunities to encourage: • Understanding between cultures -Intercultural competence can be a transformative learning experience where individuals move beyond the boundaries and limit of understanding one cultural paradigm to understanding the complexities and strengths of different cultures.. -Classic works can be combined with contemporary themes. Examples: The Role of Women in Society: Jane Eye ( Bronte), A Doll’s House ( Ibsen), and The Bluest Eye( Morrison), In Search of April Raintree, and Half Breed ( Campbell).
Reading, Writing, and Rising Up • Linda Christensen: “Some might say that the role of language arts teachers is to teach reading, writing, and language and that we should not be worrying about issues of injustice, racism, and discrimination. The reality is that any piece of literacy is political. Any piece of literature from cartoons to children’s books reflects a “social blueprint about what it means to be poor, wealthy, or what it means to be a man, woman, gay, or straight. That vision is political –whether it portrays the status quo or argues for a reorganization of society.” ( Linda Christensen, 1999)
A new audience • We need to find ways for students to express their real concerns about the world. Students have written pamphlets for parents to “teach” them about how to use cartoons and videos carefully with their children, articles about anorexia and gang affiliation for middle school girls. Other students might write articles about prejudices and assumptions people make about people from different ethnic backgrounds. The audience should not be a “pretend someone” out there.
Connecting with Texts • Teachers needs to be able to draw what Paulo Freire (1997) described as “ a critical dialogue about a text or a moment of society…..to reveal it, unveil it, see its reasons for being like it is, the political and historical context of the material” (Shor and Freire, 1987, p. 13). But beyond this, students need to use the tools of critical literacy to deconstruct the myths and realities of our society. They must use the tools of critical literacy to transform the injustice and intolerance they see around them.
Connecting with Texts • Basic Format for Unit Planning • 1. A question that provokes the examination of historical, literary, and social texts. • 2. The study and involvement of students’ lives. • 3. The reading of texts from first person narratives, to fiction, to movies, photographs speakers, role-plays, and field trips. • 4. A final project that opens the possibility for students to act on their knowledge.
Background and Context • To what extent are young adults given an opportunity to develop their talents and capacities? • External Assets: • Family support • Positive family communication • Caring neighborhoods • Caring school climates • Parental involvement • Commitment to learning: achievement motivation, school engagement, reading for pleasure; service learning opportunities.
Using International Texts • Example: The Kite Runner by Khalid Hosseini ( Grades 10-12) • The Kite Runner treats growing up in a multiethnic family and community. It is narrated by a man who grew up in Afghanistan. Themes of secretiveness, oppression, bias, and negative peer influences are highlighted. The work challenges students to consider the complex process of immigration. Readers can probe personal ethics, culturally charged gender stances, social bias, and the influences of religion and political unrest on individuals and families.
Using International Texts to Foster Intercultural Understanding • As teachers, one of our goals is to encourage students to see how and why individuals hold different beliefs and understand how those beliefs impact people’s lives. We could then explore politics, religion, and social justice as they relate to personal choices.
Steps to Creating a Lesson Using International Texts • Lesson Steps for “Who are the People of________?” • Create a small class library of resources about Afghanistan, Sudan, Iran, etc. • Provide detailed maps ( e.g. See National Geographic’s Afghanistan: Land in Crisis Thematic Map) • KWL Charts; Quiz on Assumptions about ____ • Give students twenty to thirty minutes to collect information to support their true-false answers about a particular country and culture. • Provide opportunities for students to share their findings. • What information did the students find? How “accurate” are their findings. • Make predictions about the circumstances they expect to find in a particular text set in a different culture. ( Sheryl Finkle and Tamara Lilly (2008) Middle Ground, National Council of Teachers of English)
Critical Literacy • “The concept of critical literacy goes beyond simply interrogating texts; it applies to all literate practices and involves taking action. If students apply critical literacy in these ways, they will e involved not only in the communication aspects of literate practice but in transformation. • Students can be transformed in some way as they use knowledge, skills, strategies, and ideas in new ways or in next contexts. • By using critical literacy in all aspects of life, students can feel empowered to transform or influence in positive ways community, economic, or political life.” ( Michele Anstey and Geoff Bull, 2006: Teaching and Multiliteracies).
Positive Values and Social Justice • Caring • Equality and Social Justice • Integrity • Honesty • Responsibility • Restraint • Social Competence • Intercultural competence • Resilience • Peaceful conflict resolution • Personal Empowerment • Sense of purpose • Positive view of the future ( How can ELA foster these values and competencies?)
Psychological, Social, and Global Issues • Powerful themes can be the basis on interdisciplinary and multi-genre unit plans throughout the year: • Love and Belonging • Identity and the search for meaning in life • Family • Environmental Issues • War and conflict • Values • Materialism and consumerism: the need for alternative paths • Peace Building • Poverty • Challenges and the Future • Technology
International Books • The Roar-by Emma Clayton • -abuse of power • -saving the environment • -moral courage • Wanting Mor by Rukhsana Khan • -women in contemporary Afghanistan • -building inner strength and confidence
International Texts: Encourage Voice and Choice in the Classroom • Literature Circles can be based on articles, short stories, memoirs, autobiographies, biographies, novels, and other texts. • Examples of Outstanding Texts for Teens and Adults: • I am Nujood: Age 10 and Divorced (New York Times Best Seller) by Nujood Ali ( with Delphine Minoui)
International Texts • Science Fiction and Fantasy Tales • The Ask and the Answer: Part 2 • -Chaos Walking Series by Patrick Ness • -misuse of power • -moral courage • -making moral decisions
International Texts Red Scarf Girl Key Themes -award winning memoir -Explore China’s Cultural Revolution through the eyes of a young girl -conflicting loyalties -similarities to The Diary of Anne Frank -persecution and fear -inner courage and resilience -peace education
International Texts Libertad Key -based on a true story -80,000 unaccompanied migrant children attempt to enter the U.S. -many children are deported or go missing; some die on the journey from countries like Honduras, El Salvador, Guatamala, and Mexico -poverty and children -social injustice -fragmentation of families -Bridging Refugee Youth and Children’s Services -
International Texts Blue Jasmine Key Themes- -immigration and acculturation -loss of homeland -adjustment to a new culture -When twelve-year-old Seema Trivedi learns that she and her family must move from their small Indian town to Iowa City, she realizes she'll have to say good-bye to the purple-jeweled mango trees and sweet-smelling jasmine, to the monsoon rains and the bustling market. More important, she must leave behind her best friend and cousin, Raju.
International Texts The Ask and The Answer: Key Themes -science fiction -civil war -book can be compared to War of the Worlds and other books/graphic novels with “apocalyptic” themes -encourages critical thinking about the world and the future
International Texts Wanting Mor Key Themes -Wanting Mor is about a girl named Jameela, living in post Taliban Afghanistan, whose mother dies during the war. Her father gets remarried, but her stepmother doesn't want her so her father takes her to the marketplace and leaves her there. -Based on a true story about a girl who ended up in one of the orphanages. -Link to The Bread Winner Trilogy -War and its impact on families -social injustice and child poverty -moral courage and resilience
International Texts Children of War Key Themes -impact of war of daily life of children -children coping with stress and crisis -resilience and courage -interviews -strong social justice component can be linked with local and global projects -non-fiction can be a powerful way to connect students with current issues of war and peace building in today’s social context -local projects ( “From Me to We”)
International Texts Slave by Mende Nazer:Key Themes ( Senior High) -autobiographical account of Mende’s remarkable journey toward freedom -modern day slavery -oppression of girls and women -set in South and North Sudan -inner strength, perseverance, and resilience -struggling in building a new life
International Texts Little Daughter Key Themes -autobiographical -the strength of individuals and family within a violent political context -war and resistance in Burma -strong female narrator -good book to use for Senior High Students and could be compared with Unbowed by Wangari Mathai or Slave by Mende Nazer -There are increasing numbers of students coming from Burma and this book can provide valuable background knowledge for teachers working with students fleeing Burma/Myanmar.
International Texts Anne Frank: Key Themes -graphic biography of Anne Frank -powerful excerpts/photos -hope and courage amid tragedy and social injustice -family solidarity and loyalty -universal appeal -compare Anne Frank’s Diary with Hannah’s Suitcase and My Childhood Under Fire -can be used with Anne Frank’s story “Fear” and Wiesel’s trilogy and S. Wiesenthal’s The Sunflower.
International Texts A Bed of Red Flowers:Key Themes (Senior High Level) -war and displacement -persecution and social injustice -survival and change -navigating a new life in Canada -loss of culture, language, and homeland -resilience and courage -compare with Escape from Slavery and other texts charting the immigration experience
International Texts In the Convent of Little Flowers :Key Themes ( Senior High) -set in India and the U.S. -lives of girls and women -arranged marriages -gender and oppression -adoption -child abandonment -cultural and social shunning -identity and role confusion -the influence of culture and tradition on behavior www.indusundaresan.com
International Texts • Broken Memory by Elisabeth Combres • -a fictional story of Tutsi girl • -horrors of contemporary wartime • -moral courage • Slave by Mende Nazar • -modern day child slavery • -inner strength and resilience • -war and conflict • Little Daughter by Zoya Phan • -memoir of survival in Burma and the West • -fragmentation of family life due to war • -moral courage and resilience
International Texts Children of War by Deborah Ellis • -nonfiction stories of Iraq Refugees • -Interviews • -Impact of war and conflict on families and individuals Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan -encourages creative thinking and writing -poetry writing -reflective quick writes Anne Frank: Her Life in Words and Pictures -from the archives of Anne Frank House -Photographic Biography
Texts to Encourage Intercultural Awareness The Heaven Shop-by Deborah Ellis -young adult fiction ( Grade 8-9) -Moral courage and resilience -Young teen dealing with family members who have AIDS -Shunning and discrimination *Teachers’ Guides available on line Aleutian Sparrow by Karen Hesse -Setting ( 1942-seven months after attacking Pearl Harbor, the Japanese navy invaded Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. The entire population was gathered up and evacuated to dense forests in Alaska’s Southeast). -war and dislocation -loss of traditional ways of life -story told from the eyes of a young girl -struggle to survive and keep community and heritage intact -resilience
Important Questions when Exploring Social Justice Issues • How can ELA help students understand themselves and their world? How can learning be more “authentic”? • Intertextuality: How does our understanding of one text impact or deepen our understanding of texts with related themes? • “Intertextuality is the current and comprehensive literary term for the concept that each text exists in relation to others and is framed by other texts in many ways. Intertextuality is a broader concept than “allusion” or “quotation” which refer to specific references in one text that point to another text.” ( Fischer, 2006, p.27). • Cultural Studies: How can ELA texts be used to explore psychology, cultural values, world issues, and other contemporary issues? • Think of ways to use non-fiction texts creatively: National Geographic, New York Times Magazine, etc.
Social Justice and ELA • “Empowering students to project their voices into the world, for real purposes and to real effect, is the ultimate goal of both language arts and social studies. It seems that teachers rarely reach for that goal directly, by guiding students to do what we hope they will do as adults: use writing to work for positive changes in real-life situations.” ( R. Bomer, ASCD: Educational Leadership, October 2004)
Writer’s Notebook • Recording thoughts about what they observe---in school, in the news, at home, on the street—and look for issues that they believe people in the community should address. • Inquiry based projects help students observe, reflect, and think critically of ways that their community and the larger world can be improved ( “From me to we”) • Collaboration • Action plans • Advocacy • Media Matters www.mediathatmattersfest.org
Reading Powerful Narratives • Encourage students to think about local and global issues from first hand accounts. • “I have lived three lives. In my first life, I lived happily with my parents and brother---a conventional middle-class family. We owned a comfortable fourteenth-floor apartment in Sarajevo and a cottage in the countryside. I was a cheerful sixth grader….My country, Bosnia and Herzegovina, was a part of Yugoslavia, located between Italy and Greece. The capital Sarajevo, was a beautiful, modern European city, ringed by breathtaking mountains. Everything changed on April 6, 1992. I was twelve… My mother said: It was the beginning of war and of my second life…. Day after day we breathed the damp, stale air, watching in terror as the explosions made the ceiling above us shake…..I am an adult now, living my third life in North America but my diary is still my most valuable possession. It tells a small part of the story of my city, which struggled to breathe despite the noose of tanks and weapons determined to strangle it.” • -My Childhood Under Fire by Nadja Halilbegovich (2006)
Keeping the Focus on writing • Social action projects may include: • Posters • Pamphlets • Web sites • Letters to the Editor • Letters to local MPs • Editorials • Letters requesting information from government sources • Opinion papers • Petitions
Keeping the focus on writing • A student’s goal may be to convince peers that a particular topic ( e.g. cyberbullying) is serious and harmful. Students can make class and school presentations through forums, debates, and focus groups. • In writing for different audiences, students begin to realize that writing styles and tones are appropriate for different audiences. • By setting a climate for learning, the teacher provides an important foundation for social justice exploration, • By studying literature and history, and using terms such as freedom, equality, race, and labor, students come to understand terms that at first may seem too abstract.
Current Themes • Understanding the cultural and global context • Acknowledging Diversity • Differentiating Instruction • Creative Approaches • Building Emotional and Social Intelligence • Critical Media Literacy • Transformative Approaches to Teaching Language Arts
Key Themes in Planning ELA Units • Linking Literature to Life • Interdisciplinary Approaches • Quick Writes • The Values of Autobiographies and Biographies • Creative Ways to Teach Non-Fiction • The Rise of Graphic Novels • Pictures and Poetry: Integrating Arts and ELA • Literature Circles: Fostering Choice and Voice • Culturally Diverse Texts • Theme Based Unit Planning: Incorporating Multiple Genres
Maximizing Multiple Intelligences and Multiple Literacies • Be sure to provide instructional strategies that tap into different learning styles and multiple intelligences: • Linguistic • Visual/Artistic • Mathematical/Logical • Kinesthetic • Interpersonal • Intrapersonal • Environmental • Existential • Musical ( Howard Gardner (2006: MultipleIntelligences: New Horizons. New York: Basic Books)
Literature Circles: Creative Ways to Offer Choice in Culturally Diverse Classrooms Roles: The Connector: embodies what skillful readers most often do-they connect what they read to their own lives, their feelings, their experiences, to the day’s headlines, to other books and authors.
Literature Circles • The Questioner Role • Wondering and analyzing: Where is this text going? Why do these characters act as they do? How did the author evoke this feeling? Is this a plausible outcome? Sometimes questioners seek to clarify or understand; at other times, they may challenge or critique.
Literature Circles • Literary Luminary/Passage Master Role -find memorable, special, important sections of the text to re-read, reflect on, analyze, or share aloud. “Parvana moved through her days as though she were moving through an awful nightmare---a nightmare from which there was no release in the morning. Then, late one afternoon, Parvana came home from work to find two men gently helping her father up the steps to the apartment. He was alive. At least part of the nightmare was over.”
Literature Circles • Illustrator Role: reminds the group that skillful reading requires visualizing, and it invites a graphic nonlinguistic response to a text. Other RolesDiscussion Director Summarizer Vocabulary Enricher Travel Tracer Investigator Sources: Harvey Daniels Literature Circles; Faye Brownlie: Grand Conversations
Strategies that can enhance literature circles • Applications to short stories and non-fiction • Posters advertising the book • TV movie critic-style reviews • Reader’s Theatre Performances • Performances of a “lost scene” in a book • A sequel or prequel to the story • A new ending for the book • A new cover for the book • Interview with the author or one of the characters • Background research on the setting or time frame • Diary of a character
Culture and Identity “Culture affects the process of learning. Most life histories reflect intercultural dimensions…Today the intercultural dynamic is related more to migration and refugees, and the globalization of the work market. Many adults have to adapt to another culture, to a culture that they were not prepared to face, and this process of change becomes partly a process of education. Adults have to learn a new language, understand new rules, and adapt to a new set of cultural values.” ( Dominice, 2002, pp. 88-89)