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Culturally Relevant Pedagogy

culturally_relevantHow can we reach all of our students—especially those who have been underserved in America’s classrooms? The authors of Writing Instruction in the Culturally Relevant Classroom suggest that culturally relevant pedagogy can make a difference. Although it certainly includes inviting in the voices of those who are generally overlooked in the texts and curricula of US schools, culturally relevant teaching also means recognizing and celebrating those students who show up to our classrooms daily, welcoming their voices, demanding their reflection, and encouraging them toward self-discovery.

Following Gloria Ladson-Billings (1995, 2001), educators who prioritize culturally relevant teaching:

  • hold high academic expectations,
  • demonstrate cultural competence, the understanding that their own worldview and understandings may or may not align with those of their students, and
  • are sociopolitically aware, that is, they have a willingness to acknowledge and critique inequity.

The following resources from NCTE and ReadWriteThink.org offer resources on culturally relevant pedagogy.

Culturally relevant teaching is a term created by Gloria Ladson-Billings. What does it mean to develop a culturally relevant pedagogy? How might we think about community in our teaching? In this interview in Language Arts, Gloria Ladson-Billings explores the implications of these and other questions for language arts teachers.

In the very popular Talking Points article “Connecting Students to Culturally Relevant Texts“, Yvonne Freeman and David Freeman argue the importance of providing students with culturally relevant books and discuss their criteria for deciding if a book is culturally relevant to a particular child. The ReadWriteThink.org lesson plan Assessing Cultural Relevance: Exploring Personal Connections to a Text cites this article.

The Power of Song: Exploring Cultural Relevance in the Eighth-Grade Classroom” from Voices from the Middle details research on culturally relevant practices in an eighth-grade language arts classroom, including the selection and utilization of culturally relevant texts, scaffolding with popular culture, the incorporation of new literacies, and instructional focus on students making personal connections with classroom content. Work with a teen to create a wiki with everything people should know about the teen’s top ten favorite songs with this activity from ReadWriteThink.org.

In this article from English Journal, there is a description of “Choosing Culturally Relevant Primary Materials as ‘Entry Points’ to Characterization”. The examples given are using primary sources during a unit on patriotism. Use this ReadWriteThink.org resource to dig deeper into using primary sources in the classroom.

English Leadership Quarterly published a themed issue on “Culturally Relevant Pedagogy“. This issue offers a sampling of how English educators are applying Culturally Relevant Pedagogy to a broad spectrum of work and research including articles on “Common Core to Cultural Literacy: Incorporating History and Technology in Unit Frameworks” and “Children’s Literature as Medium for Teacher Self-Reflection”.

“Literature often has been considered a quick and easy way to bring multicultural perspectives into the ELA classroom. Yet for effectual change, significant shifts in pedagogy prove more powerful than surface additions.”

This quote comes from an article from English Education in which the authors focus on how a college of education’s multicultural mission statement intersects with one teacher’s life story. The ReadWriteThink.org lesson plan Promoting Diversity in the Classroom and School Library through Social Action invites students to explore the effects of stereotypes by analyzing children’s books. Then they create bookmarks that encourage readers to question the assumptions of stereotyped books and to seek out matching, balanced texts.

This post presents a curated set of resources from NCTE’s archives. If you are a member of NCTE, you have full access to all these articles and need only login to the website to view them. If you’re not a member, consider joining today