Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Learners

We had a couple of readings for this Module, from which I learned a lot about teaching reading to culturally diverse learners.  It is an important aspect of my learning as in my school district we have numerous international and ESL students.

As a TTOC I haven’t had a lot of experience teaching students whose first language is not English.  Therefore, I learned quite a bit from Module 3 and wanted to include it for this assignment.

The first reading from Anderson and Gunderson opened my eyes to the complexity of trying to provide reading instruction to culturally and linguistically diverse learners.  I had never really thought of the disparity between cultures of how to teach reading, though it makes sense, as reading is not biological but cultural, so different cultures would view it in different ways.  The authors feel that immigrant students often do not do well in school because of these differing views of learning between themselves, their parents and their teachers (Anderson & Gunderson, 2008).   This makes a teacher’s job extremely difficult because within a class of culturally diverse learners, there is no “one size fits all” strategy for reading instruction.

As a secondary teacher, I was interested to learn that the Chinese language has different characters “used to convey the sense of reading for pleasure and reading to learn” (Anderson & Gunderson, 2008).  They, along with other cultures, feel that “learning is the accumulation of knowledge” and that reading to learn (i.e. studying) is different from reading for pleasure (Anderson & Gunderson, 2008).  So from this perspective can students read non-fiction books for pleasure or are they able to learn anything from reading fiction?  Though this is at odds with how learning is viewed by many educators in Canada where the “how and when (students) are going to apply learning to practice” (Anderson & Gunderson, 2008) is becoming increasingly important, I don’t think we necessarily need to change the way we teach to accommodate a more “traditional” way of learning.  In our diverse classrooms, we have to be mindful of how other cultures may be comfortable learning, but it is precisely because of this diversity that we can’t continue to teach in a traditional way.  The Internet has made discussion, collaboration, and sharing of knowledge the new normal and classrooms need to reflect that.  Requiring students to memorize facts that are now literally at everyone’s fingertips does not prepare them for navigating all the information readily available.  They need to apply what they learn and learn to think critically about the information they find.

The Discovering Voice website illustrated how the sharing and collaboration of knowledge in a diverse classroom can help students think more critically about information.  While listening to the teacher in the video Creating the Conditions for Learning, talk about her students’ study of Louis Riel, I was reminded of Module 1; the study of history requires students to understand point of view and bias (Shanahan & Shanahan, 2008).  When reading about historical events, students are not reading truth but are reading someone’s interpretation of truth and the source or “voice” of the author is important to the understanding of the text.  By studying Louis Riel from a variety of historical and/or hidden “voices” students were able to gain a richer understanding of the history surrounding Louis Riel than by reading the facts alone.  This, along with the study of the Holocaust through the picture book The Terrible Things: An Allegory of the Holocaust, emphasized the importance of giving everyone a voice and allowed students to share, collaborate and participate in their own learning.

Today’s diverse classrooms make it difficult for teachers to teach in a traditional manner.  However, teachers now have the opportunity to use this diversity to enrich their students’ learning by having them acknowledge the variety of voices that may have remained hidden in the past.

Works Cited

Anderson, J. & Gunderson, L. (2008). You don’t read a science book, you study it: an exploration of cultural concepts of reading. Readingonline. Retrieved from: http://www.readingonline.org/electronic/anderson/

Discovering voice. (2011). Curriculum Services Canada. Retrieved from http://resources.curriculum.org/secretariat/discovering/

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