I’ve been ruminating on how to improve my culturally responsive lens as I tackle tough topics in my third grade classroom for a while and in spite of really challenging circumstances–teaching during a global pandemic and national unrest around issues related to racial justice. Truly we are in unprecedented times, but even in this, I have found a way to create and implement in my classroom in a way that is intentional and resonant.
I love reading to improve my practice. I read books related to history, but I also read many books on teaching theory and pedagogy. Some of the most impactful books I’ve read on pedagogical view point are the ones that offer guidance on unit planning and culturally responsive teaching.
Some of my favorite books I put into a blog post on books related to racial and social justice. You can click HERE or on the photo to access it. One book that’s been particularly resonant has been Dr. Gholdy Muhammad’s Cultivating Genius. There’s a wonderful historically responsive framework in the text that I’ve been using as a guide this year to reflect on how to deepen and improve my instruction. I won’t attempt to re-explain for you the depth of the teaching that Dr. Gholdy does in her book, but I will share with you one unit of study that I’ve improved on based on my own reflections and internalizations.
Ideally, I’d like for all of my units to be this closely aligned to my greater purposes in the classroom as it relates to cultural responsiveness. Our district offers us a blueprint and expects us to be within that framework each quarter. So, although there are times I will be able to match all my subjects to what I am teaching, there are times where one area won’t perfectly align. Dr. Muhammad’s framework includes four major components: identity, skills, intellect and criticality which she expounds on more deeply in her book.
Once I looked at my overall objectives for the unit, gathering resources and conceptualizing how to bring this unit together was pretty quick. Our district has a push towards reading, writing, thinking and talking in each lesson, and I also try to keep that in mind as I’m planning. When I started teaching, there was a huge push towards standards alignment and that is still a stronghold in my teaching, although current texts I’m reading are giving me pause with how much that factors into my day to day approaches. I’ve certainly *put a pin in it* to consider with later iterations of my planning.
This unit featured emphasis on exploring voting, voting rights, and the activism of students. We read A LOT for this unit both in printable texts and online. Students also did research around different groups of people related to voting rights and completed a paragraph on their thinking around what they learned.
I work at a STEAM school and so I had the students create a blueprint of a voting station. We considered the implications of social distancing in this Covid Era.
This year, I was trained on how to teach utilizing features of the Google Classroom and I’ve been excited to provide students with additional avenues for learning using technology. For this unit, I created a powerpoint on Voting Rights that featured a timeline and additional resource links for students to access to learn more about a group that the timeline featured. I also created a day-to-day powerpoint to walk students through the STEAM project.
To wrap up, here are a few encouragements:
- Use an anchor text when you can and pair it with what you are learning on your own level.
- Spend time showing students how you annotate for new learning.
- Integrate your learning as much as you can to actually save time. Compartmentalization is one of the least organic ways to approach literacy. Bring relevance to all subjects by striving to show how the connect to each other.
I am loving this *glow up* for this unit!
What is a unit that you’re looking at upgrading? What are you reading that’s informing your practice right now?