Literacy Matters Vol 24 Winter 2024

VOLUME 24 WINTER 2024 Literacy Matters The Journal of the Palmetto State Literacy Association

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Volume 24, Winter 2024 Literacy


Letter from the Editors by Kirsten Abel and Koti Hubbard . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . V

Letter from the President by Kaye Jamison . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . V

General Articles Two Roads Diverged in theWoods: A More Inclusive Look at American NatureWriting by Kristie Camp. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Examining the Chinese Book Corner in a Chinese-English Dual Language Immersion Elementary School Library by Shuang Du. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 Challenges in Literacy Achievement: Exploring Factors Impacting Black Students in U.S. Schools by RoKami Gillette and Candace Pattman . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 Teaching Technique Project: Incorporating Intensive Vocabulary Using Read Alouds by Meaghan Hoffman and Andrea Crenshaw. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31 How Pre-Service Teachers Incorporate Science and Literacy in the Early Grades with a STEMTwist by Kimberly Tisi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 Creature Chronicles: A Children’s Literature Review Column for Teachers by Jill Shelnut with Landry Baenninger, Maris DePalma, Madelyn Hurley, Lily Kruft, Natasha Kudlak, Morgan LeFils, Kyleigh Murphy, Mary Marshall Steele, Bianca Tierno, Ally Windham . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39

Editors Kirsten D. Abel, Ed.D. The University of North Carolina at Charlotte Koti L. Hubbard, Ph.D. Clemson Universit y

PSLA Board of Directors 2023-2024

President Kaye Jamison President-Elect Krystal Turner

Editorial Assistant Katie McGee, M.Ed. Clemson University

Vice President Michelle Richardson Treasurer Eddie Marshall Secretary Missy Lark Membership Director Melissa Nicholson State Coordinator Pat Smith Conference Coordinator Jean Brewington Past-President Cathy Jones Stork

Editorial Review Board Michelle Cook, Ph.D. Penn State Erie, The Behred College

Emily Howell, Ph.D. Clemson University Jacquelynn A. Malloy, Ph.D. Clemson University Victoria Oglan, Ph.D. University of South Carolina Tory Pennington, M.Ed. Clemson University Leslie D. Roberts, Ph.D. Georgia Southern University Elke Schneider, Ph.D. Winthrop University Kelly N. Tracy, Ph.D. Western Carolina University

CALL FOR MANUSCRIPTS PSLA s Literacy Matters Classroom teachers, teacher educators, administrators, and researchers are invited to submit manuscripts to PSLA’s professional journal, Literacy Matters . Authors are requested to submit unpublished work not under consideration by any other publication. . Types of Submissions: Literacy Matters welcomes practical, theoretical, and research articles, generally at most 15 pages (excluding tables, figures, and references), related to all areas of literacy. Articles should be clearly written and purposeful, and discuss the topic in some depth where treatment of the topic is interesting, insightful, and based on the writers’ experience. Brief commentary pieces on teaching literacy are welcomed, as well as short teaching tips, teacher or student poetry, vignettes of classroom experiences, and student writing and/or artwork (with parental permission). Manuscript Form: Manuscripts should follow APA 7 style guidelines. Please be sure to include an abstract. As manuscripts are subject to blind review, content should not reveal author identities or affiliations. Full references for all citations should be included, following APA guidelines. Submitting a Manuscript: Manuscripts should be typed in Microsoft Word and sent as an email attachment to Manuscripts should not include author names or affiliations. When naming your file, please use simple, clear file names. Include a cover page giving the author(s)’ names, affiliations, complete mailing address, email address, and home and work telephone numbers. The editors will peer-review and edit manuscripts for style, content, and space limitations. . The Review Process: Manuscripts undergo a blind review process, with at least two reviewers from the Editorial Review Board. Acceptance decisions are based on interest and relevance to PSLA membership, usefulness, clarity, timeliness, and cohesiveness. The overall balance of the journal’s content also influences editors’ selections. Manuscript Deadline: June 28, 2024

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Letter from the Editors Koti L. Hubbard, Ph.D. and Kirsten Abel, Ed.D

Dear Readers,

We trust this letter finds you well and thriving in your classrooms this winter. We are excited to share the latest issue of Literacy Matters with you. In this issue of Literacy Matters , you’ll read studies about making American nature writing in ELA secondary classrooms more diverse and representative of the students in the classroom (Camp), examining available

Koti L. Hubbard

Kirsten Abel

book resources in a Chinese-English dual language immersion elementary school (Du), and an examination of the disparities within literacy education (Gillette & Pattman). In addition, Hoffman and Crenshaw discuss incorporating intensive vocabulary using read alouds, and Tisi researches how preservice teachers integrate science and literacy in the early grades with a STEM Twist. Lastly, with preservice teachers at Clemson University, Shelnut reviewed picture books focused on a favorite topic of young children–animals! As always, it is our privilege to serve you, the dedicated teachers and teacher educators who tirelessly strive to support the literacy development of all students. If you are interested in contributing to the next edition of Literacy Matters, please do not hesitate to email us for further details. Be inspired and inspiring, Koti and Kirsten

Literarcy Matters Make it Matter

Letter from the President

Kaye Jamison

keeping with the mission, the conference was invigorating as we connected with long-time friends and established new friendships and professional relationships with the individuals in attendance. Sheer joy, enthusiasm, and thoughtful reflection and knowledge were cultivated and shared among attendees to explore the theme “ The Many Facets of Literacy: Mining the Hidden Gems .” I sincerely appreciate all who participated in various important ways that supported a successful conference. A special thanks to Dr. Denise Furlong, Dr. Stephen Peters, Kylene Beers, Berit Gordon, Rebecca Harper, Carol Jago, and Lauren Tarshis, who shared rigorous literacy and learning research with us. It was also a pleasure to have many well-known authors and South Carolina teachers share their expertise in meaningful ways. “ He who dares to teach must never cease to learn ” (Dana). To this end, I would like to recognize the dedication of the editors and authors of the Literacy Matters journal, which is offered to our membership. All educators benefit from the latest educational research; the Literacy Matters journal provides that access. In closing, I have been honored to serve with educators across the state this year who are tireless literacy advocates and make a difference in the lives of the children in South Carolina schools. As you enter the final months of the 2023 2024 school year, please know that you are appreciated, and we thank you for your professional dedication to take the very best in literacy-based learning to your students each day!

Dear Colleagues,

Serving as the 2023 2024 Palmetto State Literacy Association (PSLA) President has been a pleasure and privilege. Mindful of the adage “ it takes a village,” I am grateful to the members of the PSLA executive committee, the board of directors, committee chairs, and our local council officers. It is immensely inspiring to be part of this group of literacy leaders who volunteer their time and expertise to promote PSLA’s mission and vision to support members. As a statewide organization, many avenues and opportunities allow us to advocate PSLA’s goals for teaching and improving literacy in South Carolina . The primary commitment is to promote literacy through the advancement of reading, writing, and communication instruction and to encourage literacy as a lifetime tool for learning. We have had an amazing year of learning and growing together. Our journey began in May 2023 with an informative PSLA LeadershipWorkshop followed by many professional learning opportunities throughout the year. Most recently, we were together for our PSLA 48th Annual Conference! I send a heartfelt thank you to Krystal Turner, Conference Chair, and the Conference Committee for organizing an amazing conference on February 22-24, 2024, at beautiful Hilton Head Island. Such stellar service, dedication, and collaboration provided a refreshing experience for professional learning that does make a difference. The objective of this year’s conference was to share and learn new tools that students need to thrive in a world surrounded by multiple forms of literacy that promote critical thinking. In Kaye Jamison

Most sincerely, Kaye Jamison PSLA President 2023-2024

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Two Roads Diverged in theWoods: A More Inclusive Look at American NatureWriting

by Kristie Camp

2021. I sought to diversify the voices of American nature writing in this unit to present a more complete picture of the complex relationship Americans have with nature, to offer modern and relatable examples of nature writing, and to honor the plurality of identities within the classroom. Here, I present evidence from two journal assignments from our study of the anchor text for the unit: World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments by

ABSTRACT —The history of America’s romance with the outdoors has primarily been told from the perspective of white males, which is reflected in the canon of American nature writers and in the traditional secondary English language arts (ELA) class. This action research study examines student responses to the nature memoir, World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments , by Aimee Nezhukumatathil, as part of the teacher’s attempts to make their nature writing unit more diverse and representative. The study includes comments from students who responded to two journal writing prompts, and the responses are examined through the lens of culturally sustaining pedagogy theory (Paris 2012). The study finds that students connected to the author and text regardless of identity markers, but in different ways, and they expressed a desire to further their inquiry of environmental protection after reading the book. Two Roads Diverged in theWoods: A More Inclusive Look at American NatureWriting “I think I shall never see / A poem lovely as a tree” (Kilmer, 1913, lines 1-2) writes a white man in 1913 before he dies a heroic death as an American soldier in WWI (Poetry Foundation, 2023). A few years later, an African American woman croons about “Strange Fruit” as a metaphor for black bodies hanging from a tree. This paired example - the poem“Trees” by Joyce Kilmer (Kilmer, 1913) and “Strange Fruit,” a song made famous on the 1939 record by legendary jazz singer Billie Holiday and written by a Jewish American man named Abel Meeropol whose family had fled persecution in Russia (Carillo, 2023) - gives us a glimpse of the complexity of perspectives on nature and nature writing in United States history. Both legacies are present among students in just about any high school English language arts (ELA) classroom today, but only one is often found in the curriculum. Nature writing remains a genre of significant influence and stature in the canon of American literature dating back to when explorers first viewed the North American coast as their wild adversary to be conquered and tamed. As colonization thrived, “the idea of access to land and the ability to work and own it became a bedrock of American identity” (Young, 2021, p. 6). The division in perspectives of what land represents appears as early as the explorers themselves. For centuries, students have learned to think about the American wilderness through the traditional voices of the canon (such as Emerson, Thoreau, or Muir). However, those traditional voices alone do not reflect the complex and layered relationships between students and the American image of the Great Outdoors. In this action research study, I critically examine one section of a unit on American nature writing that I taught in an AP English Language and Composition class in the Fall of

Literacy Matters General Articles

Figure1 photo by Kristie Camp

Aimee Nezhukumatathil (2020, Figure 1). In an analysis of student responses, I hope to answer the following research questions: • To what extent do students express a personal connection with the author and the text? • To what extent do students engage critically with the text in conversation with their own understanding of the natural world? Studying American nature writing is a valuable task for several reasons. First, American mythology, identity, and history are inextricably tied to stories of land and wilderness (Finney, 2021; Kevles, 2008; Marx, 2008; Young, 2021). Second, one’s relationship to nature can have profound implications for one’s health (Becker et al., 2017; Hicks et al., 2021; Jackson et al., 2021; Thomsen et al., 2018). Third, since time in nature holds value to our health, helping students to feel safe in exploring nature is a matter of equity for our students (Hicks et al., 2021; Schelhas, 2002; Shores et al., 2007). Therefore, this action research study aims to examine the extent to which a book study of modern nature writing might equip students to reflect critically on nature writing and their personal relationship to the natural world. Literature Review America’s love affair with the outdoors is a paradoxical one. The image of the Great Outdoors andWallace Stenger’s declaration that the National Parks are “America’s Best Idea” (Dustin et al., 2016, para. 1) remain pervasive elements of American mythology. Despite Stenger’s comment about America’s National Park System being “absolutely democratic” (National Park System, 2023, quotation 8), the origins of the National Park System are mired in the exclusion of people of color (Young, 2021), which

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created an unofficial understanding that the National Parks are recreation grounds for healthy white people only. Some of the most popular and revered conservation organizations, such as the Sierra Club, have similar histories of exclusionary practices, and historical documents from early leading environmentalists such as John Muir and President Theodore Roosevelt reveal blatant beliefs of white supremacy (Fears & Mufson, 2020). Even outside of the park systems, access to green spaces that offer significant health benefits is “determined by race, class, and place. When compared to White Americans, Black Americans and other communities of color are nearly three times more likely to live in nature-deprived areas” (Roberts, 2023, White Wilderness section). The history of city planning based on racial segregation has resulted in disparities in access to natural resources so that people in poverty and people of color disproportionately live in areas with less clean water and shade coverage, which have significant effects on residents’ health (Schelhas, 2002). Hicks et al. (2021) describe “green inequities” that deny marginalized communities basic human rights such as clean water (p. 534). Structural social barriers, a history of discrimination, and fear associated with past mistreatment in natural settings keep people in marginalized communities from reaping the benefits of outdoor recreation (Shores et al., 2007). White (1995/1999), in her essay “Black Women and the Wilderness,” offers a personal account that supports the research. She says, “I believe the fear I experience in the outdoors is shared by many African-American women and that it limits the way we move through the world and colors the decisions we make about our lives” (p. 316). In her essay, “Touching the Earth,” hooks (1993/1999) links the heritages of African Americans and indigenous North Americans through their love and respect for the land. She says their separation from the land has caused “a growth of nihilism and despair in the black psyche” (p. 173), one that has “made it all the more possible for black people to internalize white-supremacist assumptions about black identity” (p. 172). To heal, according to hooks (1993/1999), “black people must reclaim a spiritual legacy where we connect our well-being to the well-being of the earth” (p. 173). The legacy of exclusionary policies has shaped which stories of nature are deemed canonical and taught in schools. The pedagogy surrounding American nature writing, up until the late 20th century at least, has been shaped by white males’ views of nature, which leaves out many other views and reinforces the notion of natural habitats as the province of the privileged. In 2019, Moss noted that “most nature writers still come from a close-knit group who, with a few notable exceptions, are mainly middle-class, middle-aged and white” (para. 8). In her editorial for the New York Times , Finney (2021) counters the idea that nature writers of color do not exist by listing the names of current environmentalists who are “working to rewrite the traditional outdoors mythology and reimagine nature as ‘a great equalizer’” (Finney, 2021, para. 20). If nature writing and nature itself are portrayed as white male spaces only, and I, as an ELA teacher, continue to offer only a white male perspective on nature to students of diverse heritages, then I perpetuate the harmful idea that certain bodies are not welcome in the very spaces that have been shown to offer them health benefits.

Theoretical Framework Students need to see themselves in texts they read in class; representation matters. More than 30 years ago, Bishop (1990) wrote about books as “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Door.” Her words have proven true over and over again in our classes: “when children cannot find themselves reflected in the books they read, …they learn a powerful lesson about how they are devalued in the society of which they are a part” (para. 4). Modern nature writers affirm the veracity of Bishop’s (1990) commentary. Nezhukumatathil attributes some of her motivation to write World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments to the fact that she “barely ever saw any books with Asian Americans enjoying the outdoors. You’d think there weren’t any Asian American nature writers at all while browsing the nature section of a bookstore. I guess I internalized that - which I hate to even admit here - but it’s the truth, and it’s a kind of violence that has been done” (The Ohio State University College of Arts and Sciences, 2021, question 1). My instructional decision to teach Nezhukumatathil’s nature memoir is grounded in my attempt to follow Bishop’s call for texts that provide mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors. I hoped some students would have a mirror to see themselves as nature writers because they identify with Nezhukumatathil while other students would be able to look into an unfamiliar world and learn something new from the treasure box of information and beauty that is World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments. Finally, I hoped these new perspectives would serve as sliding glass doors into a healthy relationship with nature, especially for those who might have been hesitant to venture out. Finney (2021) calls for us “to reimagine the landscape in a way that radically reconsiders who African Americans are - and what we are capable of in the outdoors - from our own perspective” (para. 22). Teachers answer Finney’s call when they develop a culturally sustaining classroom where students see themselves in the characters of outdoor adventure tales or hear their own voice through writers of nature memoirs. Therefore, I will examine student responses in this study through the lens of culturally sustaining pedagogy (CSP), as described by Paris and Alim (2014), but I will begin with culturally relevant pedagogy (CRP) as defined by Ladson-Billings (1995), as CRP serves as a starting point for CSP. First, CRP focuses on teaching inclusively, which means students should be prepared to meet or exceed recommended academic standards, but academic success should not come “at the expense of their cultural and psychosocial well-being” (Ladson-Billings, 1995, p. 475). Ladson-Billings (1995) establishes three central indicators of a culturally relevant classroom: “students who can achieve academically, …students who demonstrate cultural competence, and… students who can both understand and critique the existing social order” (p. 474). After observing and interviewing eight exemplary teachers, Ladson-Billings (1995) developed the concept of CRP as a grounded theory that values classroom research from teachers who can serve all students in a diverse setting. These teachers value the communities where their students live and believe students can “use their community circumstances as official knowledge” (p. 477). CRP centers student-generated

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decisions to include nature writing, nature journaling, and nature walks in my high school ELA class. With 26 years of teaching ELA in a large public school in a working-class small town, I understand the complexity and necessity of providing a healthy and nourishing classroom (academically, mentally, culturally, and physically), and this necessity propels my quest to offer a positive, representative, and engaging nature writing unit. Methodology The two sets of journal responses analyzed here are pieces of a more extensive action research study I conducted with a nature writing unit I taught in AP English Language and Composition. A teacher chooses to learn through action research by “engaging in cycles of inquiry and practice” and “responding to the continuous need for development and change” (Bradbury et al., 2019, p. 7). Taking on an action research project means adopting “transformative social learning with a change agenda” (Bradbury et al., 2019, p. 7). I began an action research project with my AP English Language and Composition class in the fall of 2021 because I wanted my nature writing unit to develop into a more inclusive and engaging literacy experience that would foster self-reflection, develop critical literacy skills, and represent various perspectives of nature. Ladson-Billings (1995) says CRP is “a way to encourage praxis as an important aspect of research” (p. 483), which leads one to believe that action research has the potential to produce practical insight about the ways theory informs instructional choices, as well as how students respond to instruction in light of theory. The action research process begins with observation that leads to recognizing and investigating a barrier to learning. One of the barriers to learning I noticed was the lack of texts that adequately represent students and connect to their lives here and now. Classic texts have remained because of their universal appeal, but in the case of the nature writing unit, as I had previously presented it, the classics did not fully convey the diversity present in American history nor the class. My overall action research plan included holding class outside at regular intervals and engaging in reflective writing while outside. However, for the study presented here, I focus specifically on one aspect of the larger action research project - the addition of World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments, by Aimee Nezhukumatathil (2020), as the anchor text for our nature writing unit. I chose World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments (Nezhukumatathil, 2020) for several reasons. The book is a nature memoir; the author details one natural item per chapter (a plant, an animal, or a landscape), which then evolves into a metaphor for a personal anecdote she shares in the same chapter. As a poet, Nezhukumatathil selects words and crafts sentences with the layered meanings and lyric quality of poetry. Each chapter fits into a larger message about family, nature, love, and time. Nezhukumatathil’s mother is from the Philippines, and her father is from South India, and she realistically and poignantly tells stories of life as an Asian American girl in the 1980s. She is active on social media and accessible to students outside the class. The book presents a profound

knowledge, encouraging students to intellectually question texts and policies (Ladson-Billings, 1995). In this study, I examine student responses to center student-generated knowledge and their ability to respond critically to Nezhukumatathil’s text as they reflect on their feelings about nature. In 2014, however, Ladson-Billings offered what she called a “remix” (p. 75) of her original description and endorsed a second iteration of CRP detailed by Paris (2012), who called the remix culturally sustaining pedagogy. Many teachers and researchers embraced CRP’s call to be inclusive with texts, languages, and approaches to literacy when Ladson-Billings published her extended definition in 1995, but there was still a need to work toward valuing pluralism and adjusting to the fluidity of cultural change. Paris (2012) offers CSP as a term to represent learning that “sustain[s] the cultural and linguistic competence of [students’] communities while simultaneously offering access to dominant cultural competence” (p. 95). As the federal government purports to preserve natural landscapes for the benefit of all, and “the outdoor recreational ethos became an implicit right of citizenship” (Young, 2021, p. 10), populations who recreate outdoors and the writing that comes from outdoor recreation should also represent the plurality of American society and be present in ELA curricula. In this study, I investigate the ways students respond to Nezhukumatathil’s texts through these researchers’ suggestions for teachers to be conscious of pluralism and sociocultural fluidity. Do students’ responses offer a critical look at the author’s perspective and subjects? Do their responses indicate a self awareness of their own cultural history with the natural world? Positionality I come to nature writing with the affinity of one who grew up playing outside, a Girl Scout who learned how to make her own Bunsen Burner with a coffee can. My neighborhood friends and I packed lunches, rode our bikes into the woods, and spent entire afternoons pretending we lived among the pines. I created an imaginary world in the sandbox under a mimosa tree in my backyard, strengthening my association of nature with imaginative play. My mom taught me that the outdoors was the origin of magical adventures, and when we played outside, she showed me how to look for the fairies, trolls, and leprechauns we had read about together. Stories and the natural world were always linked for me, from fairy tales and Bible stories to The Boxcar Children and Little House on the Prairie . My near obsession with hiking may likely be my adult way of recapturing the outdoor magic of my childhood. I have learned, however, that my love of hiking, the National Park System, and all things outdoors, including many of the texts about the outdoors I read as a child, derives from a middle-class, white understanding of the natural world. Some of my students have had similar upbringings, but more have not, for various reasons, including the busyness of children’s schedules, advanced technology, and changes in parenting styles. Some students may have traumatic or fearful associations with the natural world. My longing to share the benefits of time in nature, combined with my longing to preserve our landscapes, drives my instructional

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the responses to each question, I made a list of what I noticed about the topics they discussed. I listed 22 observations for their end-of-the-book reflection and 27 observations for the question about what they would say to the author. Next, I looked through both lists for what they had in common thematically and listed ten categories of comments to encompass all their responses. With these ten categories, I created a chart with each category as a header, and then I listed comments from students’ responses under one of the category headers. While some comments would fit into more than one category, I tried to select the category that aligned strongly with the overall content of the posting. Sometimes, I split a sentence into phrases, with each phrase in a separate category. Once all the comments had been divided among the ten categories, I noticed that some of the categories resembled each other thematically, so I combined some into four major categories (Table 2). In the separate list of their favorite parts of the book, I discovered multiple comments about family members, students commenting on their own family and students asking about the author’s family. After highlighting all comments about family members in pink on all charts, I created another chart with two columns where I listed every comment about their family on one side and every comment about the author’s family in the other column. My next step was examining these comments, looking for themes, and drawing conclusions. Data Analysis / Findings Students’ comments indicate that they connected with Nezhukumatathil as a fellow writer. For example, one student wrote, “I also like to write about nature, but mine would be mixed with fantasy and action. My stories would include elemental powers.”They also wrote questions they had for Nezhukumatathil as a mentor, as if they sought her advice to improve their writing, even asking outright, “What is your advice for other writers?” Some asked about specific writing techniques, such as how she crafted the text so that the “chapters all tied together in the end.”One student complimented the visual imagery of the book and then said she would be interested to know“how that came about (?) idk, I’ve just always thought it was interesting how humans can create things like that… how is a person capable of stringing words together in a way that strikes that much emotion?” Students also showed interest in Nezhukumatathil’s feelings as a writer, asking her if she was “nervous when [she] published [her] book.” Another student explained, “I feel as if writing books take not just time, but also courage. Did you ever feel afraid to put any feelings in….?” Many students used language that portrayed them as aligned with Nezhukumatathil as naturalists. Some expressed anticipation for future discoveries, such as when one student commented, “The turtle, the bugs, the snake, so much life outside just from walking into the woods, and yet so much life to be explored, so much life I haven’t seen.” Another student said he is now a student of ecology: “I go home now, ready, to watch videos about just - plants - and bugs - and animals - how they behave - interact with one another - where they came from - and then what their numbers are.”This student brought the two ideas

message about relationships while offering countless passages worthy of rhetorical analysis, style lessons, and rich discussion. Data Sources I chose two data sets for this study, both timed journal responses. I occasionally require AP students to write timed responses in class to prepare them for their timed exam, but also to teach them that writing often spawns new thinking. When students write journal responses, their work is not graded on mechanics in any way. In fact, I encourage them to ignore mechanics in favor of getting every thought onto paper so their ideas will not be hindered by form. Students did not see the journal topic until it was time to write, again to mimic a testing situation and generate authentic and unique responses. Suppose students do not have time to talk or think about the questions before they write. In that case, they will be less concerned with what others will write and will have less time to question if I have any prescribed desires for what they write, thereby generating more authentic responses. The spontaneous nature of these two journal responses led me to choose them as the most appropriate data to answer my research questions. In addition, students had read the entire book by the time they wrote these journal responses, so they would have had a complete picture of the text by the time they wrote these entries. As I want to examine personal responses and possible internalization of personal and literary concepts, I focus here on individual responses instead of group discussions. The assignments were posted on Canvas, our learning management system, and students typed in their responses on Canvas, as well (Table 1). Participants The participants in this study are 18 students who were enrolled in AP English Language and Composition during the Fall semester of 2021. One of the students was classified as a senior, but the others were juniors. Of the 18 students, 15 are students of color (83%), indicating overrepresentation in this advanced class compared to 40% of the student body who self-identified as students of color. The class consisted of seven students who self-identified as African American (39%), three students who self-identified as Asian (17%), three students who self-identified as Latinx (17%), three students who self-identified as white (17%), and two students who self-identified as being of mixed ethnicities (11%). The school where I teach is a large public school in a small town with students spread throughout more than half the county, some living in town and some in rural areas as far as 20 miles away from school. Every elementary school that feeds into the high school receives Title I funds, and about 65% - 70% of the high school students regularly qualify for free or reduced lunch fees. Students consented to include their work in our action research project with consent forms signed by their parents at the beginning of the semester. Process I copied and pasted each student’s journal response on one document for each question to examine the data from these two sets of journal entries thematically. Then, as I read

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have killed so much living things that had a home.”One comment demonstrated both developing rhetorical skill and a desire to advocate socially: “Reading the book was the first step - going on walks was the first step - journaling was the first step - in every instance - realizing - is the first step in change” (italics in original student response). Some might sense an element of despair in other comments about the environment, such as, “I don’t like thinking about the stuff that’s going on in the world. I wish I didn’t understand any of it (because you know ‘ignorance is bliss’).” At least two students offered critical evaluations of the author herself, questioning her position as an advocate for nature. The comment, “I guess I’m more disappointed at the fact that she did not think about what taking an animal out of its home would do,” may reveal a questioning of the author’s sincerity since it refers to a chapter in which the author laments watching a baby octopus die out of water while her son was there, too. A similar doubt can be seen in this student’s comment: “...I would ask her if her sons are really that into nature. I guess the feeling of disbelief when I read about what her sons act like, it is hard to imagine since I’ve been raised to believe that boys will always act a certain way.”This comment shows a possible awareness of cultural differences and a willingness to question the evidence presented in the text. Discussion I interpret the findings from the study first through Bishop’s (1990) description of texts serving as mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors. Then, I look at the findings through the lens of CSP, as defined by Paris and Alim (2014), which includes and extends the tenets of CRP, as defined by Ladson-Billings (1995). I focus on evidence that students engaged in self reflection as a conduit for close reading and critical thinking, beginning with research question 1: to what extent do students express personal connection with the author and the text? Students who share similar cultural backgrounds with Nezhukumatathil because they are of the same ethnicity or because they share experiences as a child of first-generation immigrants often named those commonalities specifically, which supports Bishop’s theory that seeing one’s culture represented positively in class literature indicates that their unique identities are acknowledged and valued. This representation did not keep students of different heritages from connecting in other ways, such as keeping pets, playing with siblings, or finding true love. Other students of color who could not relate to the specifics of Nezhukumatathil’s story as an Asian American child of immigrants seemed curious about common attributes of discrimination across cultures, which may indicate growing empathy. These examples suggest that students were able to either see themselves in the story or look through a window into another world with greater understanding. Their promises to attend to the natural world through research and conservation efforts suggest that some students had stepped through the sliding glass door into greater awareness of the climate crisis. Students did not seem reserved in talking about their unique cultural heritages while making these connections, which seems to indicate they express themselves academically while

together: “I would tell her the ways she inspired me to take care of nature and to write my own poetry about the Earth.”

Overall, student comments in these two journal entries reveal that students were able to connect and empathize with the author regardless of what their personal backgrounds may be. However, those who shared cultural ties with Nezhukumatathil wrote about those cultural ties often. For example, one student wrote, “I am also Filipino. What is your favorite Filipino dish/food to eat? Mine would have to be adobo or tocino with white rice. Rice cake would be a great dessert.” Another student who shares the author’s Filipino heritage said he would “ask her silly questions such as ‘do you know any Tagalog?’” Another student sought cross-cultural connection: “Maybe I’d ask her more about what it was like growing up as a brown girl and see if there are/were any similarities between me or her even if we are of different races.” Finally, this student’s comment shows both empathy and a cross-cultural connection: “I would ask her how did she overcome racism. How did she gain the confidence to keep going even after feeling left out?”. Those who did not share cultural backgrounds with the author often commented on personal connections they made while reading, but almost all those comments centered on shared activities. For example, one student wrote, “It also made me think about my childhood, how I used to love going outside and riding my bike full speed down hills, run around in the woods with friends, and going fishing for my first time.” Another student acknowledged their different upbringings but said, “Everything the author wrote about took me back to things that I had experienced too… back to when me and my little brothers would lay on my driveway, trying to count the stars.” These childhood memory stories seem to originate in nostalgia, but students responded with a different tone when they asked Nezhukumatathil about her relationship with her sons or her parents. A student wrote, “I related when she talked about how she wish she could keep memories of road trips with her mom in a jar forever. Memories that are sacred and precious to me. Memories that I will cherish forever.” Another student expressed curiosity about their mother/son relationship: “...I couldn’t help but wonder how old they were and if your bond was still close? My mom and I don’t have much of a close bond anymore, so hearing that you care for your sons, even as they grow older, means a lot to me personally.” Students demonstrated several examples of thinking critically about social inequities and the author’s position. The most salient cultural commentaries concerned global climate change, and several students indicated a willingness to take a role in alleviating environmental damage. Some were forceful, confident assertions: “I genuinely believe that until these major corporations start ‘going green,’ then the problem will never be resolved. I don’t see that happening anytime soon.”Others showed evidence of learning about the issue on their own: “A species of plant or animal or bug go extinct every seven to nine minutes. Last year it was fifteen minutes. I have no idea what we can do to fix it - but Aimee has the right idea - start small.”The following comment suggests a willingness to take personal responsibility: “I’ve polluted so much, I

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journal writing, teachers can begin learning about students and their pre-existing relationships with the natural world early in the course. Students’ voices and perspectives emerge as they write about themselves, which also provides teachers the opportunity to gather information about students’ writing abilities. Teachers may start with writing prompts such as, “Where did you play when you were a child? What games did you enjoy playing?”. Students may or may not mention playing outside, and those answers will provide some insight into whether students have an established affinity for the outdoors or may not have much experience playing outside. As students and I read Nezhukumatathil’s (2020) nature memoir together, I assigned them journal topics that asked them to respond to her text. For example, early in the memoir, she mentions her desire to capture memories in a jar as she and her sister would do as children (p. 14). The journal topic for that day was “What memory would you want to capture in a jar like fireflies?” Through these journal entries, I could assess their feelings about the natural world, and they gave me insight into their worlds. Pahl and Rowsell (2010) explain that “students’ texts are liminal spaces where their worlds can be deciphered and validated” (p. 27). These liminal spaces of journal entries might further a teacher’s understanding of students’ dispositions toward the outdoors with topics such as their favorite foods and meals they enjoy, their favorite way to spend recess time in elementary school, and their relationships with older relatives such as grandparents. Gauging whether some have fears about the outdoors or have had negative experiences with being outside (or limited exposure to the outdoors) will help teachers be sensitive to varying perspectives and select texts that will resonate with students and present a variety of experiences with the natural world. If a teacher has little choice in text selection due to curriculum requirements, they may still incorporate the natural world in literature lessons by introducing a naturalist’s perspective when teaching students to interpret texts, regardless of whether the text might be considered a piece of nature writing. Often, simply raising awareness of the role the natural world plays in a piece of literature (or its absence in the literature) can bridge a discussion or exploration of the role of nature in our own lives. For instance, when reading classics such as Of Mice and Men (1937), students can examine the characters’ relationships with the land and question why those relationships exist as they do. Then, if the teacher introduces the poem from which the novel takes its name, “To a Mouse…” by Robert Burns (1786), they might also add the poems “Give Me This” by US Poet Laureate Ada Limón (2020) and “My Father’s Song” by Simon J. Ortiz (1983). These three poems present similar messages about encounters with animals in their gardens, but across centuries, genders, and ethnicities. Two additional classic texts often taught in secondary ELA classes offer an opportunity to examine the protagonist’s relationship to the natural world through the perspective of a woman of color: Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937) by Zora Neale Hurston and The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros (1984). Of course, any source I list here as an example should be carefully and thoroughly previewed before being taught to ensure its contents are appropriate for the students, school,

“maintain[ing] their cultural integrity” (Ladson-Billings, 1995, p. 476). The variety of discussion regarding cultural differences while still seeking personal connections appears to be an appreciation for “pluralism as part of the democratic project of schooling” (Paris, 2012, p. 95). On paper, when reflecting on themselves and their reactions to the nature memoir, students seemed to think carefully about the issues presented in the text and how they fit into or do not fit into Nezhukumatathil’s perspective on nature. Research question 2: To what extent do students engage critically with the text in conversation with their own understanding of the natural world? The varied levels of critical response to the central topic of global climate change open numerous possibilities for evaluating the cultural responsivity of the learning environment. Several students spoke of taking on some responsibility for fighting global climate change - awareness, advocacy, or action. This seems to indicate that they have internalized the need for change and want to be a part of the solution for environmental damage. Other students’ comments about global climate change appeared more reserved, which is understandable considering how they had endured multiple traumatic incidents in almost rapid-fire succession over the previous two years. Environmental justice may not take precedence in communities where poverty and violence are common or in communities where religious beliefs frame environmental issues differently. The immensity of the issue of global climate change can feel overwhelming, and comments with tones of despair may indicate a deeper level of internalizing the injustices implicit with environmental damage, which raises the question of when criticality becomes disheartening and when it becomes empowering, a line of inquiry worth pursuing in another cycle of action research. The variety of responses takes us back to the initial problem that incited this action research project: in what ways are students’ cultural ways of knowing represented and developed in ELA class? Students who challenged the author’s authenticity showed a willingness to think independently and assert a less-than-popular idea, which is also an indicator of cultural competence (Ladson Billings, 1995). The student who expressed disappointment with the author may have held the writer in higher esteem before the chapter with the dying octopus. However, her criticism may also indicate that she does not see or appreciate the symbolism of the anecdote with one or two people representing all of humanity watching as nature dies. Yet, even if she recognizes the scene’s symbolic nature, her disappointment may stem from doubting the story’s veracity. The declaration of her disappointment, however, shows she feels comfortable arguing against the text, a key feature of critical response. Considerations for Classroom Application Selecting texts that are complex and literary, with personal and cultural relevance along with instructional potential for writing, is a challenge for a secondary ELA teacher, but modern nature writing offers a viable option to meet that challenge. Through

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Harjo, Robin Wall Kimmerer, and Minerva Valerio. Given a list of nature writers, students might choose one they prefer and conduct an individual author study. Several podcasts also offer discussions on diversifying the outdoors and the writing that accompanies outdoor activities, but they, like any text, must be previewed for their appropriateness for a classroom. Limitations This study is limited first because I consider only a few aspects of diversity here, primarily ethnicity and gender. However, these are only a few identities present in the plurality of American nature writing. I continue to add more pieces to the nature writing unit with the purpose of widening the range of perspectives with each selection. Issues of physical abilities and body size are two areas that I would like to highlight next about outdoor recreation. Second, by focusing on two journal responses, I do not include class discussions or revised writing samples, which may offer helpful nuance to the data presented here if I were to expand the study, but also, students may not have been quite as open with their thoughts in a class discussion. Also, the examples I present have come from ELA classes for high school juniors and seniors only. Finally, the impact of teacher enthusiasm and presentation should be considered; my love for the text and the outdoors surely is visible to the students, and how a teacher presents a text can certainly influence how a student responds. Therefore, students’ responses to the text may not have been the same had they read the book entirely on their own or without their shared experiences outside. Conclusion Overall, students’ responses to Nezhukumathil’s nature memoir revealed an affinity for the author as a person and a respect for her as a writer and naturalist, which suggests they appreciated and learned from a text with which they connected on a personal level. No particular trait seemed to determine which students connected strongly to the author or the text. However, those who shared a cultural heritage with Nezhukumatathil remarked about the connection often enough to show its relevance to these students. On the contrary, the students in this class seemed to embrace Nezhukumatathil’s message about nature in a way that propelled them outward into other disciplines. Students researched animals on the internet to share with us in class: one student brought in a picture book that connected with the text, and another found sounds of the birds described in the book and shared the links with me so all could hear. All of them tried dragon fruit in class after we read the chapter that featured dragon fruit, which was a first for many, including me. Not only did journal responses indicate an appreciation for a culturally sustaining approach to nature writing, but their class participation suggests that they felt empowered by it.

and community a teacher serves. I encourage teachers to build text sets that suit their students’ needs and not necessarily to choose the pieces I have listed here, as my experience is with older students, usually high school juniors and seniors. Teachers can pair classic texts with more modern texts, especially when they consider natural elements in different ways. For example, a class might consider the theme of longing for the natural world as an escape from city stresses. Starting with a classic poem such as “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” by William Butler Yeats (1890) would provide a time-honored perspective. Then a teacher might pair it with “Keeping Quiet” by Pablo Neruda (Holmes, 2023), “Characteristics of Life” by Camille Dungy (2012), and “Screens,” a song by country music songwriter Hardy (2023). Offering a variety of texts, including those of personal and cultural relevance to students in the class, opens conversations about perspectives. In terms of variety, a teacher might consider time periods, genders, ethnicities, abilities, styles, and genres so that students might see themselves reflected in the material. However, they may also extend their understanding by interrogating an unfamiliar take on the common theme. For those with options in their text selection, building a multigenre text set centered on one element of nature writing provides choice options as well as opportunities for comparison/ contrast lessons (on how the topic is presented and constructed, as well as devices used and the purposes for each). For example, consider this multigenre text set based on trees, including the two texts mentioned in the article’s opening (Table 3). Every student may read every text in the set in whole-group lessons, or students could choose texts to which they relate and then work with other students in the class for comparison purposes. The essential question for the unit might be, “What is the value of a tree?” Students could produce their own answer to the essential question at the end of the unit in nearly countless ways: photo essay, poetry, personal essay, video production, blog post/vlog, podcast, eBook, or song. I have included only a few classic poems about trees; there are certainly many more by legendary writers, but I wanted to prioritize cultural relevance and diversity of genres, modes, and symbolic meanings for this list. For a text set with a local connection appropriate for older teens, I recommend centering J. Drew Lanham, Distinguished Professor of Wildlife Ecology at Clemson University and author of The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature (2017). Table 4 lists a variety of genres of writing from him and about him, which could form the basis of an author study of someone who is actively publishing and can easily be found online and someone with whom students in South Carolina might relate. Finally, teachers can begin to gather texts and authors’ names appropriate for their own databases and classroom libraries so that they have a variety of authors representing different genres, historical periods, perspectives, ethnicities, cultural influences, and physical abilities. Here are just a few writers not previously mentioned who I have found to present a variety of perspectives on a person’s relationship with the natural world: Wendell Berry, Jericho Brown, Annie Dillard, Joy

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