Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

Monthly Update sign up
Mailing List signup
Teaching Multicultural Literature : A Workshop for the Middle Grades
Workshop 1 Workshop 2 Workshop 3 Workshop 4 Workshop 5 Workshop 6 Workshop 7 Workshop 8
Teaching Mulitcultural Literature
About the Contributors
Production Credits
Registration and Materials
Interactive Workbook -- Explore two poems using strategies from these workshops. Go.
Channel-Talk -- Share your views on the discussion board. Go.


TEACHING MULTICULTURAL LITERATURE: A Workshop for the Middle Grades explores a wide range of works, instructional strategies, and resources.

In eight one-hour videos, teachers from across the country model approaches that make multicultural literature meaningful for students in grades five to eight. As units unfold over time, students engage in critical discussions of race, class, and social justice that inspire action for change. The featured teachers, along with leading educators, provide reflection and commentary throughout the programs. Authors share information about their writings through interviews and classroom visits.

The Web site supplements the video content with author biographies; synopses of the works; summaries of the video lessons; information on implementing the teaching strategies; student work samples; interviews with authors, teachers, and commentators; annotated bibliographies; and selected short works of literature featured in the workshop. The workshop guide includes discussion questions, activities, assignments, and guidance for facilitating professional development.

Video Program Descriptions

Workshop 1. Engagement and Dialogue: Julia Alvarez, James McBride, Lensey Namioka, and more
In New York City, Carol O'Donnell and her seventh-grade students explore themes of multiple worlds and dual identities. They read poetry by Diana Chang and Naomi Shihab Nye; James McBride's memoir, The Color of Water; and essays and short stories by Gish Jen, Khoi Luu, Lensey Namioka, and Julia Alvarez; and watch Tina Lee perform a monologue. O'Donnell uses historical documents and a documentary video about the U.S. Census to provide context for the works. Through a series of innovative drama, role play, and writing activities, the students examine the social and cultural experiences of the characters and reflect on their own definitions and experiences of identity.

Workshop 2. Engagement and Dialogue: Judith Ortiz Cofer and Nikki Grimes
The program begins with a profile of the writer Judith Ortiz Cofer and then moves to Vista, California, where Akiko Morimoto and her eighth-grade students read short stories by Ortiz Cofer. They respond personally to the works, examine the author's use of figurative language, and then make intertextual connections with books they've read throughout the school year. In a culminating project, the students create their own visual symbols to represent the characters and events in the text. They then explore works by Nikki Grimes and examine her craft as a writer. Grimes visits the classroom, answers questions about her work, and attends an after-school reading of student poetry.

Workshop 3. Research and Discovery: Shirley Sterling and Laura Tohe
At the Skokomish reservation in Washington State, Sally Brownfield and her eighth-grade students study the literature and issues related to the Indian boarding school program through community involvement and self-examination. Brownfield begins with her students' questions and supports the students through a cycle of investigation, discussion, presentation, and reflection as they seek answers. The students use Shirley Sterling's novel My Name Is Seepeetza and the poetry of Laura Tohe as lenses through which to explore topics of their choosing. The class visits the Skokomish Tribal Center to interview tribal elders about the impact of the residential boarding program on the community. Author Shirley Sterling visits the class and answers students' questions related to her novel, her life, and their research topics.

Workshop 4. Research and Discovery: Edwidge Danticat, An Na, Laurence Yep, and more
In Clayton, Missouri, Kathryn Mitchell Pierce's sixth-grade students read works that explore issues of historical and contemporary immigration. Pierce uses "text sets" of multicultural picture books, poetry, and nonfiction to introduce the students to a wide range of perspectives and to set the stage for their novel study. The students choose, and then discuss in literature groups, novels by An Na, Edwidge Danticat, Walter Dean Myers, Pam Muñoz Ryan, and Laurence Yep. In culminating presentations, they synthesize themes and pose thought-provoking questions that invite others to examine these novels in new ways. This program features author profiles of Laurence Yep and Edwidge Danticat.

Workshop 5. Historical and Cultural Context: Christopher Paul Curtis
Laina Jones and her sixth-grade students in Dorchester, Massachusetts explore The Watsons Go to Birmingham -- 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis. Jones uses nonfiction, documentary film, and historical photographs to contextualize the events in the novel and the civil rights movement. The students make deep connections to the literature through drama, poetry, and creative writing activities. Curtis visits the classroom, addresses questions, and leads the students in a writing workshop. The unit culminates with a service learning project in which the students create children's books about the civil rights movement and share them with elementary school children.

Workshop 6. Historical and Cultural Context: Langston Hughes and Christopher Moore
Stanlee Brimberg and his seventh-grade students in New York City study the recently discovered African Burial Ground in Manhattan through factual texts, video, art, photography, and poetry. The students interview writer, historian, and documentary filmmaker Christopher Moore to learn more about the experiences of African slaves in early New York. They examine the works of Langston Hughes, and then, drawing on all of the texts, they write their own poetry and engage in peer review. As a culminating activity, the students take a field trip to the African Burial Ground Memorial, then design their own postage stamps to commemorate the site.

Workshop 7. Social Justice and Action: Alma Flor Ada, Pam Muñoz Ryan, and Paul Yee
Laura Alvarez and her bilingual fourth- and fifth-grade students in Oakland, California examine different perspectives and experiences of immigrants, and then formulate and defend positions on issues with which they connect personally. They examine My Name Is María Isabel by Alma Flor Ada, Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan, and Tales from Gold Mountain by Paul Yee, and compare characters' hopes, expectations, and actual experiences upon arriving in the United States. The students conduct research, which includes interviews with family members and nonfiction readings. Alma Flor Ada visits the classroom, answers questions about her novel, and facilitates a discussion about social justice and taking action for change. As a culminating project, the students write and revise persuasive letters to raise public awareness about the issues they've examined.

Workshop 8. Social Justice and Action: Joseph Bruchac and Francisco Jiménez
This program begins with profiles of the featured authors, then moves on to Chicago, Illinois, where Lisa Espinosa's seventh-grade students explore themes of representation through literature, documentary film, and photography. The students look critically at past and current media depictions of African Americans, Latino/as, and Native Americans, and examine ways in which artists and writers from within those cultural groups, including Joseph Bruchac and Francisco Jiménez, represent themselves. The students analyze the individual works, make comparisons across texts, and make connections to their own lives. In a culminating project, they represent their own experience through black-and-white photography and personal essays. Teachers, family, and community members gather at a local coffeehouse for an exhibit of the students' work.

back to top Next: Teaching Multicultural Literature
Workshop Home Support Materials About this Workshop Sitemap
Teaching Multicultural Literature : A Workshop for the Middle Grades Workshop Home

© Annenberg Foundation 2017. All rights reserved. Legal Policy