Culturally Relevant Education Workshop with Dr. Love

I recently attended a 3-day workshop and seminar at the U of A, called The Culturally Relevant Education Seminar, sponsored by the Department of Culturally Relevant Pedagogy & Instruction within my district. With the temps hitting upwards of 115 degrees for most of those 3 days, I was happy to be in the air-conditioned kiva, learning with colleagues from across the city. I was also honored to be in the presence of so many awesome educators, community leaders, and speakers of color, as well as artists and performers sharing their cultures and craft.

But I was most affected by this keynote speaker and educator, Dr. Bettina Love. Dr. Love  is an award-winning author and Associate Professor of Educational Theory & Practice at the University of Georgia. I had seen her present before, through a video on TEDx UGA that was required viewing in my Cultural Education Foundations coursework. So I was very surprised and pleased when she was featured on day three of the seminar.

Dr. Love uses hip-hop sensibility and culture to transform urban education, tapping into students’ cultural intelligences, informing the way in which students can learn about their social and cultural identities, while being active in social justice. She uses music, digital technologies, and full-body kinesthetic learning techniques to enhance student engagement, and provide them with a voice. She makes a very eloquent argument for shifting the current paradigm of education to include tools and experiences that relate directly to the lives and academic needs of students of color.

As a teacher of inner-city youth myself, I have tried, with limited success, to bring some of these techniques and methods to bear in the classroom, particularly the inclusion of musical genres that the students share and respond to. I realize, as a white educator in a predominantly WASP culture, my understanding of Hip-Hop culture and what it is like to be African American in our society is limited at best. But what I do know is, my students–African American, Latino, Indigenous, along with many other cultures–want to learn, but most importantly, they want to be accepted and heard. So I will continue to use all the tools and research at my disposal to provide them with a voice, and an alternative way to learn.

I invite my readers to check out Dr. Bettina Love’s website, and view the TEDX video, as this was pretty much a similar presentation to what I experienced at the CRE seminar.

She is launching a website soon that will feature a curriculum, tools and materials to enhance learning in the urban classroom, called Get Free. I believe it is still a work in progress, but if you watch Dr. Love’s website,  I think it will be available soon.

The need for this way of teaching, and a curriculum to deliver it,  is  so important now, more than ever. With the predominance of racial violence, intolerance, and the negation of social and economic resources being made available to multi-racial cultures and the poor in this country, we must begin to inspire the hearts and minds of the next generation, show them that their lives do matter, and be active in the call for social justice.

Education is Power. Knowledge is Freedom.


Refugee of Tucson


I have been honored over the years to have been associated with the volunteers and the refugee communities served by, a locally based organization that supports refugees and their families in the Tucson area. They organize the harvesting of local produce, that would otherwise go unused, by picking fruits and vegetables in neighborhoods and farms in and around the city. They attend and volunteer for local farmer’s markets, as well as surplus markets such as Market On the Move, which dispense huge quantities of produce and other edible items that are mostly from Mexico. These items are sold to those who participate for a very reasonable donation of $10 for about 60 pounds. Everything that the refugees and volunteers harvest or acquire at these markets goes to the families who most need them in their community.

The organization also provides other services (some of which I have had the pleasure of volunteering for), such as English Language tutoring, swimming lessons, parenting and life skills, as well as connecting refugees with other resources throughout the community. Some of the refugees they serve come from countries such as Ethiopia, Sudan, Iraq, and Eritrea. Over 500 refugees have become part of the Tucson community since the beginning of this year alone!

Even if you are not part of the Tucson community, check out this organization…there are a lot of excellent ideas for self-sustainable community farming, products made by refugees that can be purchased at reasonable prices, and other valuable information and resources, especially if you work with immigrant and refugee populations within your own community. They are always looking for volunteers! I’m so happy to see grass-roots organizations such as this make such an impact across our nation. This is really what America is all about, after all. ~Peace

School Year Starters and Management Ideas

I plan to spend the next few weeks of my “staycation” cataloging ideas and techniques I have started using or have used in the past, for the purpose of growing community and managing behavior in my classroom. I am hoping to share this with others who may find these ideas useful, or who would like to comment and share their own in response. Enjoy!

IDEA #1- At the start of the school year, or even the first day of summer school, I tailor some questions for students to journal in their notebooks, that they can answer in short responses. It’s like a top 10 list, with a twist: They then have a few minutes to stand up, do a walk around the room while I say “mingle, mingle, mingle, STOP” and ask the person(s) next to them if they can match one of their top 10 answers to the same questions. They then write in the person’s name next to their response. We repeat the process of mingle and match up to 10 times. Great way for them to share, write, and meet new people. Works for almost any grade level. I’m pretty sure that something like this is done in classrooms everywhere, but I have adapted it and tweaked it over the years to suit the classroom age range and typical interests. Kids seem to like this ice-breaker the most.

IDEA #2- Another thing I do to cut down on student “Ooo-ooo!” hands during learning response, is to throw a brain around…not a real one (obviously), but a rubber one I picked up one Halloween. I started using this in conjunction with opportunity sticks during summer school this year. The students liked the brain a lot. They always had something to say, and loved passing it to the next student. I plan on keeping this around into the school year, as it can be adapted for small group use as well…students can pass the brain around, talking-stick style, and share out individually. Fun stuff!

My CPS Lesson Proposal for University of Melbourne Online Course

I recently completed an online course with The University of Melbourne, called Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills.

 It was a pretty valuable experience, and took up much of my online time, especially since I’ve returned to work for the new school year. The main focus of study was in Collaborative Problem-Solving Skills, also known as CPS. These skills are being taught along with the regular curriculum in many other countries, sometimes utilizing real-time technology, where students interact from long distance on various projects. I do not have experience in this arena as yet, but I do have use of interactive technology within the classroom, between partners and groups, and I wondered: Could CPS apply to language learning activities? I then did some research, and found Collaborative Poetry. One other time in the past, I had attempted collaborative writing projects in the classroom, and it did not go very well. This course helped me to see that collaboration must first be taught, and properly assessed, before it can be used in face-to-face as well as distance projects, at any grade level. Especially difficult if you are dealing with English language learners, or students with various abilities, even learning disabilities. Below I have posted the result of my research and the lesson proposal. I am currently awaiting the grade for my participation, but it is my hope that my few readers will find this interesting, even useful. I am open to ideas and comments as well (just be kind in your critiques)!
CPS Lesson Using Collaborative Poetry and Assessment: ELD Language Arts
Lesson Summary: Collaborative Poetry, shared writing in English, using interactive whiteboard, organizers, and presentation tools (Activboard flip chart, Power Point slide show, or class blog), students’ choice. As assessment, the partners will publish their final creation together, and present to a classroom group, using technology and presentation tool of choice, then self-assess using student-friendly rubric for CPS.
Objectives: Strand: Participation Interaction: TS partners will interact collaboratively; Task Completion/perseverance: TS partners will persevere in the collaboration toward goal using various activities and approaches. Strand: Perspective Taking-Responsiveness: Respond to and Incorporate contributions of partners Audience awareness: Adapt contributions to increase understanding for partners.
Self-Evaluation: Recognize own strengths and weaknesses; Transactive memory: Recognize strengths and weaknesses of others.
Strand: Task Regulation- Resource Management: Manages and uses shared resources; Flexibility and Ambiguity: Respond to ambiguous situations (problems without clear solutions). Strand: Learning and Knowledge Building- Relationships (Represent and Formulate): TS partners identify patterns between and among multiple sources of information.
Partner grouping: Two Fourth Grade ELL students: A-Intermediate English proficiency (Higher Cognitive/Lower Social
Level), B-Basic English proficiency (Lower Cognitive/Higher Social Level). Question: Can two students, at the same grade level, but not possessing the same level of proximal development in CPS or English language skills, collaboratively create poetry, and present their work using technology tools accessible to them?
Background: Background was built-in previous lessons about the elements and forms of poetry, to prepare the students to use their new knowledge collaboratively. This was also their first attempt at working as a team, to select words together, access online tools to find rhyming matches for words, or deciding to go “freeform”, based on the type of poem they will eventually choose to create and present. The student partners have a need to develop CPS in support their abilities and their partner’s, using English oral language, and listening skills, in a collaborative situation. The purpose here is not to learn to write poetry per se, but to teach one another how to write poetry in cooperation, solving issues of language and preferences as they go. The result should be that they are able to create “art” through collaborative processes.
Anticipatory Set/Problem Space: The student partners will use the Collaborative Poetry flip chart as a tool to collaborate on the best approach to create a poem, using any form they decide on, and bringing their individual skills to the process. The students will not be told what the subject of the poem must be, or how they should decide on what to write. They will use prior knowledge of poetry forms, basic grammar, and writing skills (at their level), in conjunction with CPS skills as outlined in objectives. The partners must then decide the best approach to presenting their work, based on their knowledge and skills in using technology tools. The resulting presentation must show how they supported one another to create the poetry, accessing each others’ skills and abilities, while using available resources. It is less about the quality of the poetry, then the process of getting there.
Materials and Resources: The student partners will use tools at their disposal, from paper organizers, to interactive whiteboard, online resources, thesaurus, and presentation tools using technology: Promethean flip-chart, Powerpoint
slide show, or Blog page. Student Rubric sheet provided.
Assessment: A CPS rubric to self-assess their performance as collaborators (modeled by teacher to support/scaffold ELLs). They must look at their own contributions critically and reflectively. Teacher observation of collaboration and resulting presentation, based on the CPS framework, will be considered as part of the assessment.
Closure: Student partners will meet one-on-one with teacher to get feedback based on rubric, and share their own observations of CPS/collaborative writing process.
Observations on CPS Skills: Student A: At Intermediate English proficiency (Higher Cognitive/Lower Social Level), this student shows good working skills in the cognitive areas, specifically in the sub-skills of task regulation and knowledge building, such as resource management and knowledge acquisition. They actively tap into prior and background knowledge of poetry elements,
relationships between words and grammatical structures, and how they can be used effectively in specific formats (say the difference between creating simple couplets versus more challenging poetry forms, like Cinquain). This student is more likely to understand how to use the resources effectively, and spot the inconsistencies and patterns in the poetry collaboration. As to the social areas, this student is used to working independently, and being “right”. Their somewhat competitive nature will make collaboration with another a great challenge for them. This lesson will provide the student an opportunity to mentor another student, while learning to be a good partner, who will hopefully benefit by developing the perspective-taking skills of adaptive responsiveness, audience awareness, and social regulation, specifically with transactive memory (recognizing strength as well as weakness in a partner).  Student B: At Basic English proficiency (Lower Cognitive/Higher Social Level), this student has some difficulty in the cognitive areas, due in part to their current proficiency in the English language. Since the work to be done is in English, and their partner does not speak the student’s first language, the challenge for this student will be great. The student is
able to access technology and resources, but will need a supportive partner. Particularly, their ambiguity tolerance will be tested, because they are not as skilled in word work and grammatical structures, so being creative and spontaneous in English language tasks is not a strength for them. In the social elements of perspective taking, this student has a good sense of adaptive responsiveness; the danger is that they will tend to let their partner make most of the contributions. However, this student is highly adaptable, and very responsible, and will persevere in the task at hand. The collaboration will hopefully lead to feeling more in control of their existing skills and abilities, particularly because they will be working with one partner, who is more proficient in English, but who can use the balance in social areas that this student can provide in a collaborative setting.
Rubric for Assessment:
CPS Student Rubric ELL 4
Sources cited:
Promethean flip chart (edited for my class use) “Collaborative Poetry”:
Resource for building background in poetry elements and forms, practice organizers
Teaching Poetry – PoetrySoup – (CCS 2008).
Adapted material for use in this lesson’s CPS Rubric from: PDF: CPS Conceptual Framework from ATC21S MOOC, originally adapted from: Hesse, F., Care, E., Buder, J., Sassenberg, K., & Griffin, P., (in press). A Framework for Teachable Collaborative Problem Solving Skills. In P. Griffin and E. Care (Eds.) Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills: Methods and Approach. Educational Assessment in an Information Age. Dordrecht, Springer Science and Business Media.

Summer Web: Tools for ESL Instruction, Anytime!

I’m always on the look-out for usable web resources, preferably free, that can be used during the school year to enhance ELL/ESL instruction. So, whether you are planning for the next school year, or are currently in the middle of summer school, here is a short list of nifty links that may be just what you were looking for. Most of these connect to genres such as folktales, fables, and myth. There is research to suggest that tales from various cultures, such as fables and creation stories, help ELLs connect with their own and others’ cultures more readily, making language learning more accessible.

Blogs and Writing:

Kids Across the World: A really great site for multicultural awareness education  and  writing ideas. The photography is beautiful, and a great way to connect students to other cultures (perhaps even their own)! Find it here.

Want to build a class webpage for you and your students, to do some blogging, safely and for free? Try edublogs. Same creators of WordPress (Provided by WPMU DEV). You do of course have the option to upgrade later.

Literacy Links:

I have used BBC Learning before, but have never come across this tool until today: Recordings that can be listened to of Aesop’s Fables, along with downloadable transcripts for students to follow along, along with teacher’s notes and lesson suggestions. There are podcasts, too. Click on  “Aesop’s” to check it out.

Another resource that is fun, but may be better for older children and teens, is The Big Myth . These are streaming stories and myths from various continents around the world, which you can click on and listen to before beginning a unit on myths, or during a lesson.What really makes this tool awesome are the teaching resources and suggestions for cooperative learning on the Teachers’ Section tab. Click here for a printable .pdf  for collaborative learning practices for use on The Big Myth. Be advised, some of the tales can be a bit “graphic”, so please be sure to review them prior to use in the classroom!

Video/Digital Storytelling Links:

Resources and commentary from Digital Is, from the National Writing Project. Gives great perspectives on educating ELL/ESLs in a digital and assessment-focused society, while encouraging authentic learning opportunities.

Another useful tool, especially for refugee populations just settling in the United States, is Videos for Learning About Refugee Youth. A New Day and Be Yourself are short videos that focus on refugee families and youth issues. Both videos are available for online viewing in English, Farsi, Nepali, and Somali. See more here (click).

As I come across more tools to assist you and support ESL instruction, I will add to this article, and update readers during the summer months. If you, the reader, locate anything you’d like to share, feel free to put a link in the “comments” section, and I will credit it back to you, or your blog!

In the meantime, have a super cool summer, wherever you are.

summer learning fun