SCET Journal 2020/2021

Race Matters »

ing to these researchers, schools were failing to respect the culture of Mexican children. Years later, Ladson-Billings’ body of work centered around the same issues plaguing Castanada and Ramirez. Hollie (2019) expounded on the history of cultural relevancy by discussing scholars whose research focused on culture and students. For instance, scholars such as Gay, Villegas, and Lucas add to the body of research surrounding culturally relevant instruction. Gay’s research provides student data that demonstrates the validity of culturally relevant teaching. Villigas’ and Lucas’ research provides an essential framework for understanding culturally relevant teaching. Villigas’ and Lucas’ six traits are: understanding how students learn, learning about a student’s family and com- munity; learning about the student’s culture; holding positive views about diversity; knowing what instruc- tional strategies to use; and being an advocate for all students regardless of their culture. Cultural relevance means respecting diversity enough to create school spaces that value the culture of students. Culturally relevant spaces construct activi- ties that focus on the strengths and the background, in this case, of African American students. For example, Hollie (2019) proposes that educators should have a culturally relevant toolbox. A culturally relevant tool- box has ideas and instructional practices that engage students from different cultures. Practices of Effective Teachers Effective literacy teachers understand that African American students bring funds of knowledge from their communities, their families, and their culture. To increase the reading achievement of African American students, these funds of knowledge should be recog- nized in the classroom (Ortiz, 2018; Risko & Dalhouse, 2007; Mahari de Silva, 2018). Culturally relevant teach- ers utilize a curriculum that casts African Americans in a positive light (Jones, 2012; Ladson-Billings, 2009; Mahari de Silva, 2018; Hollie, 2019). Therefore, African American students are more engaged in the lessons (Sampson & Wade, 2010; Ladson-Billings, 2009). Ac- cording to Duke et al., (2017), the guiding principles of effective literacy teachers are using a culturally relevant curriculum, explicitly teaching the reading strategies and skills of proficient readers, and making cultural connections in reading instruction. Hall (2008) explains that classroom engagements

such as read aloud should reflect the culture of African American students. One effective literacy teacher (Duke et al., 2017) allowed students to take home the class stuffed animal. Then, the students wrote about what the stuffed animal did at their house. Another effective literacy teacher invited parents into the classroom to share their professions. Then students wrote about what they learned. These practices are effective for African American students because the teacher is intersecting literacy instruction with students’ home life. Johnson and Eubanks (2017) shared their class- room experiences using a culturally relevant writing assignment. Students interrogated current anthems such as the “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” and “The Star-Spangled Banner,” then chose culturally rele- vant songs as anthems and finally, created their own anthems. Although this lesson was not geared toward African American students only, this lesson honored the culture of African American students by giving them a chance to choose songs they believed were anthems. Also, creating an anthem allowed students to express their views. When teachers infuse the culture of students into the curriculums, students are motivated to participate. Narrative Story Telling Researchers have suggested using alternative methods to test the reading skills of African American children (Bennett et al., 2017; Gardner-Neblett & Side- ris, 2017). For instance, narrative story telling is often a strength of African American students. Narrative story telling allows students to create their own stories with setting, characters, problems, conflicts, and resolution (Gardner-Neblett & Sideris, 2017). Gardner-Neblett & Sideris (2017) used the oral narrative method to assess story structure for African American students, and the results show that oral narratives allow African American students to use their background knowl- edge, native language, and funds of knowledge to create stories. A consequence is that African American students get to create and share stories based on their experiences. Reading Passages and Technology As students enter higher grades, reading fluency and comprehension become increasingly important as students must read and comprehend complex texts. The common core state standards are another compo-




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