Marlene Carpenter, English Teacher, East Union
High School writes:
In February I attended the California Association of
Teachers of English Conference and learned about the multicultural
literature project. I picked up a copy of the book Reading,
Thinking and Writing about Culturally Diverse Literature
and came back to East Union High School really enthused
and ready to incorporate the readings in my classes. I
had each of my 35 students interview someone in their
family who is older than their parents. the interview
concerned their family and formed the beginning of their
personal identity book.
We then read "Fifth Chinese Daughter" by Jade Snow Wong
and the students compared how this girl described her
life and her family with how they see their own family
and their role in family life. This kind of exercise helps
the kids see the differences and similarities between
One Filipino boy, a senior, wrote about the similarities
between Jade Snow's family and his own. "When I speak
to older cousins, I have to use a title that shows respect,
just as Jade Snow had to use a respectful title when she
addressed an older brother or sister, " he wrote. "Both
our parents immigrated from foreign countries. Jade Snow's
grandmother had little rituals for her, just as my grandmother
has little rituals for me when I visit her.
"It would be a pleasure for me to meet Jade Snow Wong.
she wouldn't be a stranger. I'd call her a friend because
we have many things in common."
Since I began using multicultural literature in my English
classes, I've noticed that the students find the literature
more personal and they love it. I don't have any students
anymore who don't do their homework. teaching is more
fun for me because the students are so involved, and the
quality of their papers is so much better.
In fact, it is such a pleasure to teach using this method,
that I held a workshop of my own for the 17 teachers in
my department, and 30 more from two other high schools,
giving them the book and telling them about my experiences
incorporating culturally diverse literature into my classwork.
Located in Orange County, about 50 miles south of Los
Angeles, this partnership began by focusing on English
teachers. The four school districts within this partnership
have a student body that is more than 50 percent non-Anglo,
and a teacher workforce that is 87 percent Anglo. Teachers
wanted to find ways to reach all students with learning
experiences that spoke to them. Helping English teachers
design multicultural literature into standard English
classes was the first step.
Middle School, high school, community college and university
teachers worked together to create a variety of demonstration
lessons that involved students in critical thinking and
writing about culturally diverse literature. By introducing
essays, poems, stories, and selections from books by Asian,
Native American, Latino, African, and African American
authors, teachers found students significantly increasing
their English skills. Student's interest in the class,
and their ability to analyze critically the literature
selection and to write well-organized, cogent papers about
their reading, improved dramatically.
The interplay of curriculum design, staff development,
and teacher research enabled partners to create and field-test
a book-length manuscript entitled Reading, Thinking and
Writing About Culturally Diverse Literature.
Partners in this project include:
Garden Grove Unified School District
Irvine Unified School District
Santa Ana Unified School District
Saddleback Valley Unified School District
Orange Coast College
University of California, Irvine
Dissemination goal; To widen the influence of
this partnership project beyond Orange County and to have
a statewide impact through distributing Reading, Thinking
and Writing About Culturally Diverse Literature.
During the 1993-94 dissemination year, this partnership
held a week-long institute for teacher/consultants from
the California Subject Matter in Writing, Literature,
and History/Social Science, and a statewide conference
in cooperation with the California Association of Teachers
The institute took place August 2-7 (1994) and drew 23
subject matter project teachers/consultants (10 White,
7 African American, 2 Latino, 1 Asian, 1 Native American)
from throughout the state. These teachers in turn hosted
16 workshops at their respective schools and further disseminated
Reading/Writing/Thinking materials to 465 of their colleagues.
The statewide conference, held in February 1994, drew
225 English teachers.
The book was also introduced and distributed to 500 Fellows
at California Writing Project Summer Institutes. As a
result of these efforts, almost 1,225 California teachers
received information and materials about the partnership
program, and each received a copy of the book.
Partnership members presented workshops on project, one
in Multicultural Education and the other in the
1994 Yearbook of California Research, the project
and book will receive further national visibility.
"Ultimately, this project is about teacher change and
about student growth," said Carol Booth Olsen, project