Saturday, March 20, 2004

Multicultural Education in Elementary and Secondary Schools.

Multicultural Education in Elementary and Secondary Schools. This is an essay on the role of multicultural education in the curriculum. Our curriculums have always been diverse. This essay wants to broaden them even more.

From the site:

Schools have introduced numerous programs and activities to recognize achievements of a wide range of various ethnic groups in the beliefs that a multicultural education helps to prepare students for life in an ethnically diverse society and can bring about cognitive and affective benefits to students.


Generally, the introduction of multicultural activities has been motivated by at least four intentions: (1) to remedy ethnocentrism in the traditional curriculum; (2) to build understanding among racial and cultural groups and appreciation of different cultures; (3) to defuse intergroup tensions and conflicts; and (4) to make the curricula relevant to the experiences, cultural traditions, and historical contributions of the nation's diverse population.


Many educators now assert that a growing body of evidence links multicultural education and improved academic learning. For example, Hale (1986) described cognitive gains achieved by children in a pre-school program integrating material on African American culture throughout the curriculum. Zaslavsky (1988) demonstrated how elements of African and other cultural traditions can be used to teach complex mathematics concepts to inner-city students. A study (Fulton-Scott, 1983) using three elementary programs for Hispanic children not English-proficient revealed that the math, reading, and language scores of students in bilingual and multiculturally-integrated English as a Second Language programs were significantly superior to scores of students enrolled in bilingual ESL without the multicultural integration.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

School Reform in Massachusetts: Comparing Educational Initiatives in 1893 and 1997

School Reform in Massachusetts: Comparing Educational Initiatives in 1893 and 1997. There always seems to be new reform ideas coming to our schools every year. Clearly, teachers are inept and we need politicians and college professors to keep retraining us. At last in Massachusetts, they only mess with the schools every century or so.

From the site:

The concept of reforming and changing schooling is not a new idea. This desire to make schools better has a long tradition. There are many examples of this throughout American history. However, one good example is the case of schools in Massachusetts. Two documents demonstrate the different ways educational reform has been approached. This essay will examine the written record of a speech made by Charles Eliot in 1893 where he laid out six key changes he felt were necessary for grammar schools in Massachusetts. This essay will also look at report published in 1997 by the Massachusetts Department of Education examining five years of state mandated educational reform initiatives in schooling. Surprisingly, many of the themes addressed by Eliot in 1893 are still being thought about in 1997 although there are also many differences in the documents.

Description of the 1893 Speech

Charles Eliot, the President of Harvard University, gave a speech at the Massachusetts State Teachers' Association Conference in December of 1893. The speech was titled, "The Grammar School of the Future." A written version of this speech was included in a collection of Eliot's work, Educational Reform: Essays and Addresses, which was published in 1898. As such, the written version of the speech has been edited and probably reads slightly different that what was presented at the conference. However, as the written version was published only a few years later and was prepared by the same author it is reasonable to assume the intellectual content remained unchanged.

As President of Harvard University, Eliot was in a position that was respected and his words would have been given serious consideration by the conference attendees. Further, Eliot had developed a reputation as an educational reformer. Although the speech was delivered to Massachusetts educators, it is reasonable to assume that Eliot intended for his ideas to be disseminated nationally and be given consideration beyond Massachusetts. This is evidenced by the inclusion of the speech in Educational Reform: Essay and Addresses. This speech then was delivered with the purpose of influencing the reform of schools nationwide.

There are six main reforms considered in Eliot's speech. To begin with, Eliot wanted every grammar school to have a playground. He thought this was important for both the health of the students and to create a better learning environment. Secondly, he believed that schools should purchase curriculum materials such as books and maps. He did not believe that a bare classroom where only the teacher had the textbook was conductive towards a learning environment. Not surprisingly, Eliot also thought that additional funding was necessary as a reform in and of itself. Further, he was appalled at the large class sizes of the day, which had one teacher with fifty or sixty students. Eliot wanted to move towards a teacher/student ratio near 25 to 1.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Collaborating on a Newspaper in the Elementary Classroom.

Collaborating on a Newspaper in the Elementary Classroom. Here is a write up of a fun activity elementary school teachers can try.

From the site:

"One of the oldest of living language activities, almost as old as printing itself, is the newspaper...Every school should have one..." (Backes, 1995). Indeed, in my experience, collaborating with students on a school or a classroom newspaper, watching them putting it together bit by bit, appreciating it when it is printed, and then sitting back and waiting for the audience's reaction has to be one of the most rewarding experiences an educator can have. This Digest will discuss the experience of publishing a classroom newspaper.

More than a decade ago, I spent several years teaching in a multicultural elementary school in downstate Illinois where about one-third of the students were not born in the United States and were in various stages of learning English. Ironically, my job was not to teach the children English but rather to keep the dozen or so Brazilian and Portuguese youngsters registered in the school from totally forgetting their Portuguese while they were in the United States. They were the children of Brazilian and Portuguese graduate students, and they would all eventually return to their countries of origin.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Cynthia Leitich Smith Children's Literature Resources

Cynthia Leitich Smith Children's Literature Resources Includes children's and young adult literature bibliographies, author-illustrator interviews, publishing and library news, curriculum information, and state awards.

From the site:

Award-winning children's and young adult book author Cynthia Leitich Smith welcomes you to her official Web site. Cynthia is the author of three books for young readers: JINGLE DANCER (Morrow Junior Books)(ages 4-up); INDIAN SHOES (HarperCollins)(ages 7-up); and RAIN IS NOT MY INDIAN NAME (HarperCollins and Listening Library)(ages 10-up) She has also published middle grade short stories in recent Harper anthologies.

Cynthia lives in Austin, Texas with her husband, children's author, Greg Leitich Smith. Greg's debut novel, a middle grade comedy, was titled NINJAS, PIRANHAS, AND GALILEO (Little Brown, 2003). It won a Parents' Choice Gold Medal and was named a Junior Library Guild selection. 05/013/04 update: NINJAS is now available on audio from Recorded Books!

This Web site includes substantial teacher support information about Cynthia's books as well as tremendous resources related to the entire body of children's and young adult literature.