Culturally-Responsive Texts (Annotated Bibliography)

Abstract

The following resources seek to provide insight into the qualitative research question of how teachers who utilize culturally-responsive texts in the classroom view student engagement.  Some of these resources directly examine increases in student motivation and performance, albeit at the primary and elementary grades.  Others discuss the systemic need to incorporate culturally-responsive texts within the curriculum to meet behavioral and disengagement problems.  Several sources directly explore strategies and approaches that can be implemented in conjunction with the culturally-responsive texts, which could form the basis for further research.

Baker, E. S. (2015). Culturally Responsive Pedagogy: Teaching Like Our Students Lives Matter. Innovation and Leadership in English Language Teaching, 1-58.

           Baker (2015)  examined both strategies and barriers encountered when implementing culturally-relevant texts within Ontario’s history curriculum to increase student engagement.  The study looked at teacher delivery of materials within the classroom, as well as how teachers critically analyzed what they teach to meet the needs of a diverse classroom.  This included strategies utilized to identify culture within the classroom.  Thus, aside from selection of materials so that students could “see themselves” within the classroom, the study explores how teachers encouraged engagement through critical analyzation of content and encouraging students to be agents of social change.

            Although the study looks at student engagement, the measurement was captured from the perspective of the teacher.  There was no student input, either anecdotal or data-based.  It would be beneficial to isolate each of the teacher strategies that were explored and seek to measure direct student engagement to support the impact of cultural-relevance.

Bomer, R. (2017). What would it mean for English language arts to become more culturally responsive and sustaining? Voices from the Middle, 24(3), 11-15.

            Bomer (2017) takes an interesting position that literacy education is by its very nature dually culturally-responsive: that is, all teaching and learning is shaped by culture, and literature tells those stories.  However, he agrees that the way current curriculum is politically conceptualized, it does not account for holistic cultural needs.  In order for this to happen, several culturally sustaining shifts need to be made.  First, whole class texts need to be purposeful about advancing disadvantaged groups.  Second, during independent reading, students need explicit encouragement to seek out texts that represent students’ own groups and language practices, as well as those of different groups.  Third, students must study literary strategies that advocate for and uplift communities.  Fourth, students should focus on community and audience as the source of writing agendas, and use the most effective forms of language for that audience.  Fifth, students should analyze language as an instance of power, and classrooms should value heritage language and flexibility in language practices.

            Thus, although Bomer does not discuss the impact on student motivation in using culturally responsive texts, he does provide a variety of approaches and strategic curriculum strategies to address the need for such materials.  It would be beneficial for further research to examine direct gains resulting from each shift.

Carlson, Kaylan Louise (2016). How does culturally responsive curriculum impact African American student’s literacy development in the primary grades? Hamline University School of Education Student Capstone Theses and Dissertations, 41-87.

            Carlson (2016) explore classroom practice, culturally-responsive teaching, and its impact on literacy curriculum in primary grades.  She cites systemic racism and the academic achievement gap as primary evidence for the need of culturally-responsive texts.  Although culture might be relegated to “isolated lesson plans” it does not pervade the curriculum.  Black students must be represented within texts for students to feel connected to their learning.  Further, Carlson contends that family involvement can make the educational experience culturally relevant.

            This study adheres to the observations of many others in that it is not enough for students to be given access to culturally-relevant texts; they must also be given the opportunity to take a lead in discussion of the text.  If students make connections but are not able to verbally engage, the classroom does not see the rewards of student motivation.  Students must be given the space to become agents for social change, and it is through culturally-responsive texts that those conversations begin to take place within the classroom.  It is interesting to note the importance of these conversations not at the secondary level, but in the primary grades.

Cioè-Peña, M., & Snell, T. (2015). Translanguaging for Social Justice. Retrieved September 30, 2017, from https://traue.commons.gc.cuny.edu/volume-iv-issue-1-fall-2015/translanguaging-for-social-justice/

            Cioè-Peña & Snell (2015) suggest that cultural responsiveness goes beyond selection of texts in an English classroom, and instead is best approached through translanguaging, which is a constructivist approach to linguistics.  This steers teaching away from a deficit model (a focus on skills students do not have), and towards one which empowers students and allow them to reflect on their own life experiences within the context of the classroom.

            As such, the implementation of translanguaging pairs the use of cultural texts with other practices such as small-group collaborations and performance-based assessments.  Further, culturally-responsive texts may take the form of resources that look different than those found in traditional textbook-modeled classrooms.  Students might engage with songs, websites, films, YouTube videos, or newspaper articles.  Assessment then becomes authentic because students are invested in their work and link their understanding to their personal experiences.  This study is interesting because it focuses on motivation and engagement through culturally-responsive texts, but the teacher’s expertise is reflected by the design of the classroom environment more so than the teacher’s capability to select the perfect work of literature.  Students naturally engage with the content using self-selected language features.

Cole, M. W., David, S. S., & Jiménez, R.,T. (2016). Collaborative translation: Negotiating student investment in culturally responsive pedagogy. Language Arts, 93(6), 430-443.

            Cole et al (2016) discuss the demographic imperative, or need for educators to address the diversity of minority-majority school systems.  Students are linguistically and culturally-diverse, but many classrooms are not prepared to meet those specialized needs.  The researchers followed two students and markedly noticed that the students chose when and if to engage based upon cultural identity relevancy of conversations and classroom learning.

            Further, student language identities shifted throughout the school day.  In some classrooms, students preferred an assimilationist perspective, but in others sought to justify their ethnic identity.  Educators must be prepared to meet these fluid demands, which suggests a challenge in implementing culturally-responsive texts.  A student who one day engages with a social issue presented in a piece of literature might reject or take a passive role the next.  Thus, student agency requires teacher risk-taking and acknowledgement of fluid identities.  The more a teacher seeks to understand each student, and not merely their culture, the more prepared the educator will be to seek gains in the classroom.  Culture is heterogeneous in the same way a diverse classroom is not one-size-fits-all.  Teachers should utilize small-group, collaborative instruction for literacy practices, which will develop student language identities and communal engagement with learning.

Garland, K., & Bryan, K. (2017). Partnering with families and communities: Culturally responsive pedagogy at its best. Voices from the Middle, 24(3), 52-55.

            Garland & Bryan (2017) reference educational research that asserts the need for classroom practices to acknowledge student norms of behavior and communication in order to promote student engagement.  This includes embracing cultural diversity in what is taught and in the teaching approach.  However, the researchers note that this is a daunting task unless families work with teachers in establishing a classroom community that reflects cultural norms and select materials that highlight student home-life, and then reinforce the important messages from school at home to provide cohesion between academic and personal experience.

            The researchers explain that in order for educators to take ownership of a culturally-responsive classroom, they must seek texts outside of traditionally available textbooks, which reveal bias.  A two-step approach would be to seek diversity in authorship (that is, use multicultural texts, or those written by non-white storytellers) and include young adult literature with overarching social themes.  This allows student to find their own voice and become motivated to connect with their communities in meaningful ways, thus enhancing personal engagement and channeling positive behaviors.

Goodman, K. L. (2015, November 30). Encouraging Family Involvement through Culturally Relevant Pedagogy. Retrieved September 30, 2017, from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1113841

            Goodman & Hooks (2015) describe the experiences of pre-service teachers utilizing culturally-responsive texts, as well as five instructional strategies that support instructional approaches for bilingual students.  In addition to culture-based classroom materials, the researchers found that relationships forged directly with families provided the most meaningful contexts for learning.  Further, pairing culturally-responsive texts with research-based practices allowed pre-service teachers to gain new perspectives on responsible approaches to teaching in the classroom.

            This study cited a variety of successful text-based approaches, including the use of dual language documents, heritage texts, translation tools, student-authored texts, talk, contrastive analysis, code-switching, read alouds and family book clubs, teachers’ language learning, and teacher study groups.  Several of these focus explicitly on behavior support and ways to elicit intrinsic motivation in students.  The research supports that students learn more effectively when their cultures are honored and when  knowledge is socially constructed.  Further, students are more empowered to participate if their parents are given a voice in the curriculum process.

Hammer, C. S., & Sawyer, B. (2016). Development of a Culturally Responsive Book Reading Intervention for Latina Mothers and their Head Start Children. Retrieved September 30, 2017, from https://journals.uncc.edu/dialog/article/view/555

             Hammer & Sawyer (2016) examine the effects of at-home reading programs, using both a control group and a group of Latina mothers who were given culturally-responsive texts to use.  The results suggest an increase in children’s language abilities if their mothers were utilizing the culturally relevant texts.  This includes the ability to form more complex verbal responses, as well as the use of more vocabulary words.  The participating mothers provided anecdotal evidence that the direct ability to share their culture with their children during reading strengthened their own ability to utilize interactive book reading strategies.

            The implication for educators goes beyond the mere use of culturally responsive texts.  It suggests merit in involving parents actively in the material gathering efforts of the classroom.  This could ensure a more personalized approach to learning for teachers who are attempting to meet the needs of individual students, and supplemental materials from home can help make connections to prior knowledge and understanding.  Parents could even become involved in the classroom as part of enrichment activities to cement and extend the learning experience.

Hammer, C. S., & Sawyer, B. (2016). Effects of a Culturally Responsive Interactive Book-Reading Intervention on the Language Abilities of Preschool Dual Language Learners: A Pilot Study. Retrieved September 30, 2017, from https://journals.uncc.edu/dialog/article/view/421

            Hammer & Sawyer (2016) observe that, although interactive book-reading is an evidence-based best practice at the PreK-level, very few related interventions exist for Latino Dual-Language Learners.  This study used a 72-dyad participant pool (split between an intervention and control group) to explore whether culturally-responsive texts had an observable effect on children’s language abilities.  Through measurements such as standardized testing and language samples, the findings suggest that students in the intervention group had more robust vocabulary acquisition and more extensive verbal responses.  The mothers in the study cited an enhanced feeling of cultural validity.  However, there did not appear to be a difference in standardized test results.

            The study suggests a potential correlation to effective student achievement and motivation from the use of culturally-responsive texts, but there were many limitations to this particular study.  Participants were given the option to participate in their chosen language, so not all language gains correlate to English language gains.  This could explain the lack of progress associated with the standardized test measures.  Further, the mothers provided evidence to home visitors with which they were well-acquainted, but the researchers suggest that this may have impacted their candor when discussing personal cultural connections.  Some mothers also admitted to not reading particular books or following certain outlined strategies, further skewing the data.  There needs to be a more consistent application to enhance the validity of the observations.

Lee, S. Y. (2015). Appropriating Foreignization for Culturally Responsive Readers. Trans-Humanities Journal, 8(1), 73-87.

            Lee (2015) explores whether translations of stories should be utilized in the classroom because of the domestication that often occurs when changing foreign texts, i.e. story elements are changed to fit the target culture’s language.  In response to this, Lawrence Venuti suggests that by keeping foreign textual elements intact during translation, it actually enhances conversation surrounding cultural differences, especially when teaching children of marginalized cultures.  In this examination, Lee focuses on a children’s book called Mongsil, which discusses the Korean War from a teenaged girl’s perspective.  Although overburdened by political and cultural terminology unique to Korea, the findings suggest that allowing these elements to remain in the subsequent translations are vital to understand overarching emotions, such as sorrow and confusion, and thus fully connect to the protagonist.

            These findings are interesting in relation to using culturally-responsive texts in the classroom.  They suggest that it is not enough, or perhaps even damaging to student culture, to reference protagonists of different ethnic backgrounds without incorporating other supporting cultural elements.  A robust use of culturally-responsive texts would include deeper elements of culture.  However, in doing so, educators must also consider the need to scaffold and build prior knowledge in order to address the foreign nature of some stories, especially when told in translation.

Piazza, S. V., Rao, S., & Protacio, S. (2015). Converging Recommendations for Culturally Responsive Literacy Practices: Students with Learning Disabilities, English Language Learners, and Socioculturally Diverse Learners. International Journal of Multicultural Education, 17(3), 1-20.

            Piazza et al (2015) examine culturally-responsive texts across three fields, and systematically review recommendations across five key areas: dialogue, collaboration, visual representation, explicit instruction, and inquiry.  Their recommendation is that educators adopt a critically responsive stance because literacy is a social practice that leads to equitable learning.  Further, they observe that to address the literacy needs of diverse learners, educators must first increase their own knowledge of cultural responsiveness to guide classroom implementation.  This is because, although approaches and learning strategies utilized with culturally-responsive texts mirror standard literacy practices, teachers must be able to modify approaches across student populations.

            It seems that the biggest gains resulting from incorporation of culturally-responsive texts are those relating to learner difference.  Dialogue and collaboration in connection to culturally responsive texts highlights literacy as a social practice, and allows mentorships that naturally enhance foundational skills such as reading comprehension, vocabulary, and critical thinking.  Explicit instruction should be paired with inquiry-based learning.  These findings are relevant because they connect to other studies that suggest culturally-responsive texts in isolation to not cause learning gains, but instead are vehicles through which change in instructional practice leads to engagement and subsequent achievement.

Price, C. L., & Steed, E. A. (2016). Culturally responsive strategies to support young children with challenging behavior. YC Young Children, 71(5), 36-43.

            Price & Steed (2016) explore culturally responsive core strategies, including the use of culturally-responsive texts and materials, to address challenging behavior in young children.  They note that social and emotional adjustment-foundational competencies are linked to later academic success and school readiness.  Creating empathy in the classroom and encouraging active participation and student motivation starts as early as picture books, which traditionally picture white characters but need to encompass the full ethnic spectrum of the classroom.  Further, approaches to reading should be culturally relevant, such as Afrocentric-teaching (combining rhythm and music with the reading of a book).

            This study is interesting in that it explores culturally-relevant texts as a means to shape student behavior, but does not extend beyond that to other forms of academic motivation, nor does it assess improvement in student learning from the use of these materials.  There seems to be a strong historical correlation, however, with a student’s ability to connect and regulate their behavior and their future academic success.

Robinson-Ervin, P., Cartledge, G., Musti-Rao, S., Gibson, L., & Keyes, S. E. (2016). Social Skills Instruction for Urban Learners with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders: A Culturally Responsive and Computer-Based Intervention. Behavioral Disorders, 41(4), 209-225.

            Robinson-Ervin et al (2016) examine the effect of culturally-relevant instruction on six urban, African American sixth graders with emotional and behavioral disorders.  Although generalization results were modest for the majority of participants, the study suggests that social skills can be taught through culturally relevant materials.  It is stressed that the culturally-relevant materials a teacher uses should not only address the academic, but also the social and emotional needs of the students, especially those who are least likely to thrive within a traditional academic environment.  This includes taking a student-centered approach to learning and breaking down barriers to learning by connecting with a student’s authentic experience.

            This study is directly relevant to examining the impact of culturally-responsive texts on student motivation and engagement, but there were some limitations in the methodology.  The research lacked a functional behavioral study, which would have allowed educators to tailor the social instruction throughout the study.  Further, student absences impacted the study and likely impacted classroom learning gains.  Coupled with the researcher’s failure to isolate components of the study (culturally-relevant texts, video instruction, a token economy), more research would need to be conducted to ensure that the chosen materials made a direct impact on behavior modification.

Wanless, S. B., & Crawford, P. A. (2016). Reading your way to a culturally responsive classroom. YC Young Children, 71(2), 8-15. 

            Wanless et al (2016) explain that early childhood educators often avoid conversations on race or race-related experiences, which can be harmful and send negative messages to students about their identity.  Children’s literature can spark engagement and conversations around these issues.  A social justice approach to reading not only motivates students to discuss their own experiences, but also allows them to become critical readers who can “read between the lines.”  The key is to base selection on quality, choose books that help children see themselves, choose books that help children expand their understanding of others in the multicultural world, look widely for texts, and use text sets.  Thus, even though this study does not directly examine increases in student motivation in the classroom, it suggests strategies that could be utilized in the process of measuring such engagement.

Williams, I. J. (2015). Will it change their reflection? A culturally responsive reaction to literacy failures.  ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global.

            Williams (2015) studied a second grade classroom to determine what would happen if students who had experienced repeated literacy failures received culturally-responsive instruction in place of basic skills interventions.  Because of the failures, students were exhibiting a negative view of themselves and lack of self-efficacy.  The culturally-responsive intervention was a combination of literature circles, read alouds, and multicultural literature.  Data analysis included student work samples and dialogue from student-centered discussions.  Results indicate that this instruction increased both student motivation and student engagement, as well as higher-level reading comprehension skills.  However, the study only lasted three weeks, so additional information would need to be collected to consider long-term impact of these strategies.  There are also logistical challenges with conducting literature circles at the elementary level without additional teacher support to guide cultural discussion.

References

Baker, E. S. (2015). Culturally Responsive Pedagogy: Teaching Like Our Students Lives Matter. Innovation and Leadership in English Language Teaching, 1-58.

Bomer, R. (2017). What would it mean for English language arts to become more culturally responsive and sustaining? Voices from the Middle, 24(3), 11-15.

Carlson, Kaylan Louise (2016). How does culturally responsive curriculum impact African American student’s literacy development in the primary grades? Hamline University School of Education Student Capstone Theses and Dissertations, 41-87.

Cioè-Peña, M., & Snell, T. (2015). Translanguaging for Social Justice. Retrieved September 30, 2017, from https://traue.commons.gc.cuny.edu/volume-iv-issue-1-fall-2015/translanguaging-for-social-justice/

Cole, M. W., David, S. S., & Jiménez, R.,T. (2016). Collaborative translation: Negotiating student investment in culturally responsive pedagogy. Language Arts, 93(6), 430-443.

Garland, K., & Bryan, K. (2017). Partnering with families and communities: Culturally responsive pedagogy at its best. Voices from the Middle, 24(3), 52-55.

Goodman, K. L. (2015, November 30). Encouraging Family Involvement through Culturally Relevant Pedagogy. Retrieved September 30, 2017, from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1113841

Hammer, C. S., & Sawyer, B. (2016). Development of a Culturally Responsive Book Reading Intervention for Latina Mothers and their Head Start Children. Retrieved September 30, 2017, from https://journals.uncc.edu/dialog/article/view/555

Hammer, C. S., & Sawyer, B. (2016). Effects of a Culturally Responsive Interactive Book-Reading Intervention on the Language Abilities of Preschool Dual Language Learners: A Pilot Study. Retrieved September 30, 2017, from https://journals.uncc.edu/dialog/article/view/421

Lee, S. Y. (2015). Appropriating Foreignization for Culturally Responsive Readers. Trans-Humanities Journal, 8(1), 73-87.

Piazza, S. V., Rao, S., & Protacio, S. (2015). Converging Recommendations for Culturally Responsive Literacy Practices: Students with Learning Disabilities, English Language Learners, and Socioculturally Diverse Learners. International Journal of Multicultural Education, 17(3), 1-20.

Price, C. L., & Steed, E. A. (2016). Culturally responsive strategies to support young children with challenging behavior. YC Young Children, 71(5), 36-43.

Robinson-Ervin, P., Cartledge, G., Musti-Rao, S., Gibson, L., & Keyes, S. E. (2016). Social Skills Instruction for Urban Learners with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders: A Culturally Responsive and Computer-Based Intervention. Behavioral Disorders, 41(4), 209-225.

Wanless, S. B., & Crawford, P. A. (2016). Reading your way to a culturally responsive classroom. YC Young Children, 71(2), 8-15.

Williams, I. J. (2015). Will it change their reflection? A culturally responsive reaction to literacy failures.  ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global.

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