Addressing Racial Discourse in the Middle School

This project was about implementing discourse in the middle school. In light of recent events involving people of color (African Americans) and the violence inflicted by police officers, I thought that it was important to consider ways that we can address racial discourse in the classroom. Oddly enough, many teachers are confused about how to address controversial topics such as race in the class. This project investigates teaching strategies and ideas that can assist teachers with addressing discourse, specifically racial discourse, in the classroom.

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Addressing Racial Discourse in the Middle School

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This project was about implementing discourse in the middle school. In light of recent events involving people of color (African Americans) and the violence inflicted by police officers, I thought that it was important to consider ways that we can address racial discourse in the classroom. Oddly enough, many teachers are confused about how to address controversial topics such as race in the class. This project investigates teaching strategies and ideas that can assist teachers with addressing discourse, specifically racial discourse, in the classroom.
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  1. Implementing Discourse in the Middle School

    Slide 1 - Implementing Discourse in the Middle School

    • Teaching strategies for discussing the concept of Race
  2.        Naturally, we gravitate to what’s familiar to us…

    Slide 2 - Naturally, we gravitate to what’s familiar to us…

  3. We look for commonalities among the people we encounter…

    Slide 3 - We look for commonalities among the people we encounter…

  4.           It’s not that it is always an intentional act…

    Slide 4 - It’s not that it is always an intentional act…

  5.              Sometimes, it just happens by chance…

    Slide 5 - Sometimes, it just happens by chance…

  6.     But how do we address race in classrooms that look like this?

    Slide 6 - But how do we address race in classrooms that look like this?

  7. Or this?

    Slide 7 - Or this?

  8. Addressing Racial Discourse

    Slide 8 - Addressing Racial Discourse

    • All across America, teachers have been blessed to teach children from all walks of life. The diversity across the United States has been the driving force that makes this country unified among the states. Nonetheless, it would be unwise of us to not recognize the differences among us as a people. After all, it is our diversity that makes America so accommodating to all who embraces it.
    • Due to this factor, it is important to realize that there may come a time when the idea of race is questioned. It can start as early as kindergarten and on through high school. Understanding this possibility, here is the question(s) of the hour:
  9. Question(s) of the Hour

    Slide 9 - Question(s) of the Hour

    • How do I actively and appropriately engage students in discourse including topics of racial differences and socioeconomic differences? What teaching strategies should be used when teaching race/economic related texts?
  10. Background: What is Discourse?

    Slide 10 - Background: What is Discourse?

    • Hinchman & Sheridan-Thomas(2014) stated that “[a] discourse organizes and constrains thoughts, words and actions. Each discourse has its own set of rules and procedures to determine what counts as meaningful (or not)”(p.64)
    • Hinchman &Sheridan-Thomas(2014) expounded on Gee’s(1990) theory on Discourse by stating that he “likened discourse to a personal identity kit that people have at their disposal and includes language, behavior and social expectations of self and other related beliefs, values, and actions accepted with the Discourse”(p.64)
    • Primary Discourse: usually taught beliefs, values and lifestyles (identity kit) by family members before entering school.
    • Secondary Discourse: acquired when one enters school and is exposed to other ‘identity kits’ and is then able to create one’s own identity kit.
    • The topic of race is not the easiest conversation starter, as it carries multiple meanings and multiple experiences. However, the concept of race can not be ignored as it would mean that we are ignoring one’s identity and culture. As teachers, we will have students from all background and colors and we must be able to welcome all differences and address them appropriately.
  11. Socially Responsible Literacy: Teaching Adolescents for Purpose and Power

    Slide 11 - Socially Responsible Literacy: Teaching Adolescents for Purpose and Power

    • Selvester and Summers(2012) explicated the following:
    • In the socially responsible classroom, students and teachers challenge and change racism, sexism, classism, and other ideological frameworks that make up the texts of their lives in order to become informed rather than persuaded global citizens. Teachers and students must engage in building relationships that free them to use literacy to support critical self determination and act in morally, socially, politically and globally responsible ways (p.51).
    • Selvester and Summer(2012) also stated that “[i]n their efforts to create communities of critical literacy learning in the socially responsible classroom, students and teachers need skills in cooperative learning, conflict resolution, self awareness and impulse control in order to make thoughtful decisions, solve problems and persevere”(p.51).
    • When implementing discourse in the classroom, it is important to consider the setting in which discourse will take place. The learning environment must be positive, welcoming all opinions and primary discourses. It must also be an environment where students are not just giving opinions, but learning from the opinions of others; becoming informed and not necessarily being persuaded which would ultimately be dismissing the thoughts and ideas of others.
  12. When you look at this book, what do you see?

    Slide 12 - When you look at this book, what do you see?

    • This should be the leading question when introducing students to new text. The next question should be, “In what ways can the author possibly be displaying the theme(s) of the story?
    • These are great conversation starters and open doors for students to embrace different opinions and ideas about the author’s intentions of the story.
  13. Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman

    Slide 13 - Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman

    • Summary: In the middle of a tough neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio, there is a vacant lot filled with trash and rodents. Inspired by a little Vietnamese girl , a diverse group of strangers join together to create a beautiful garden. In the process, they discover the amazing gift of community and some interesting things about their own lives.
    • Throughout this book, there are a lot of theme presented. The themes that I am aware of are community, family, time, language differences, death and racial differences and stereotypes.
    • The structure of this book is very interesting as each chapter focuses on one character and gives their back story and a possible theme.
    • The characters in the book are from all walks of life, including race, gender, socioeconomic statuses, language and cultural differences.
  14. Gibb Street was mainly Rumanians back then. It was "Adios"—"Good-bye"—in all the shops when you left. Then the Rumanians started leaving. They weren't the first, or the last. This has always been a working-class neighborhood. It's like a cheap hotel—you stay until you've got enough money to leave. A lot of Slovaks and Italians moved in next. Then Negro families in the Depression. Gibb Street became the line between the blacks and the whites, like a border between countries. I watched it happen, through this very window.

    Slide 14 - Gibb Street was mainly Rumanians back then. It was "Adios"—"Good-bye"—in all the shops when you left. Then the Rumanians started leaving. They weren't the first, or the last. This has always been a working-class neighborhood. It's like a cheap hotel—you stay until you've got enough money to leave. A lot of Slovaks and Italians moved in next. Then Negro families in the Depression. Gibb Street became the line between the blacks and the whites, like a border between countries. I watched it happen, through this very window.

    • Chapter 2 of the book, Seedfolks
    • Considering what we just read and learned from this quote, how can teachers engage students in meaningful discourse about race in the classroom?
    • Here’s a quote from the book, Seedfolks:
  15. With extreme issues such as these, how should we engage students in healthy, meaningful discourse?

    Slide 15 - With extreme issues such as these, how should we engage students in healthy, meaningful discourse?

    • Baltimore Riots
    • Due to the media footage presented in this slide, I am unable to provide an audio recording of the slide.
    • Please watch the video and reflect on the question above.
  16. Teaching and Learning about Racial Issues in the Modern Classroom

    Slide 16 - Teaching and Learning about Racial Issues in the Modern Classroom

    • Otis Grant, author of the noted journal above, explains his thoughts about racial discourse and how teachers should address the concept within the classroom. He also provides essential teaching strategies that would help teachers and students as they engage in discourse.
    • On the next slide is a brief list of teaching strategies to guide teachers when approaching race related dialogue…
  17. Teaching and Learning about Racial Issues in the Modern Classroom : Teaching Strategies

    Slide 17 - Teaching and Learning about Racial Issues in the Modern Classroom : Teaching Strategies

    • Teacher/Student Interaction
    • Acceptance of students as a whole: Grant(2003) explained that “[t]he instructor must be aware of group conformance, and plan for those students who cannot adhere to peer pressure”(p.1).
    • Personal Interaction w/student &teacher: Students learn the best when they feel that they are understood and respected by the teacher. Therefore, the teacher must respect the student as a valuable person in the classroom and respect their opinions—even if he or she disagrees.
    • Attentive Skills
    • When discussing race, teachers must be very aware of their verbal and non-verbal cues, consisting of body language, tone, pace of conversation and eye contact.
    • Nonetheless, we must not forget that body language varies among cultures and teachers must not assume that students are being disrespectful if one is unresponsive or lacks confidence in one’s speech.
    • Teaching Modality
    • Due to the fact that students vary in their learning styles, teachers should be sure to integrate activities and projects that accommodates multiple learning styles, which will take the immediate pressure that comes with verbal interaction that turn it into a more comfortable learning activity.
    • By engaging students in activities like journal writings and personal essays, students will feel more comfortable with expressing their views and ideas about race.
  18. Teaching and Learning about Racial Issues in the Modern Classroom

    Slide 18 - Teaching and Learning about Racial Issues in the Modern Classroom

    • Cautions of Racial Dialogue
    • Students who are unable to handle discomfort often will displace or project their discomfort onto instructors (Gabbidon, 2002).
    • These students find it is easier to espouse instructor incompetence rather than accept personal responsibility for their own biases.
    • Instructors should, therefore, strive to steer discussion away from differences to decrease emotional tensions within the classroom.
    • Benefits of Racial Dialogue
    • Student will become aware of their values and assumptions about racial issues;
    • Students will develop an ability to manage intense, difficult and painful feelings in oneself and in others;
    • Students will develop appropriate knowledge about how social justice issues (historical, socio-economic and political implications) relate to diversity and the development of individual identity (Garcia, et. al., 1997).
  19. Implementing Discourse into the Middle School

    Slide 19 - Implementing Discourse into the Middle School

    • It is essential that teachers receive professional development on how to address controversial discourse in the classroom. Although it is not the intent of the teacher to promote controversial and yet sometime offensive discourse, teachers must be prepared to address uncomfortable situations.
    • Additionally, there has been a push for more class discussions to promote critical thinking and collaborative thinking among students and their peers. Therefore, it is important for teachers to create learning environments that promote self reflection and various interpretations of content.
    • When relating to race, teachers must be aware of the possible outcomes that can occur during racial discourse. Teachers must be aware of their own verbal and non-verbal gestures and language and to be respectful of the opinions, thoughts and ‘identity kits’ that may be in the classroom.
  20. Selvester & Summer (2012) said it best…

    Slide 20 - Selvester & Summer (2012) said it best…

    • In a socially responsible classroom, every individual has the right to:
    • Be fully informed
    • Express opinions
    • Think for oneself
    • Hold, modify and change beliefs
    • Explore personal growth
    • Receive just and equitable treatment
    • Experience meaningful events
    • Seek shared understanding
    • Understand the historical, social and political
    • Participate in all deliberations
    • Promote justice and equity
    • Own our actions
    • Resolve community problems
    • To act in ways that generally correspond to the social, political, and economic life of the larger society
    • Teachers need to support the differences present in their classrooms by creating opportunities for students to be more vocal and for students to receive feedback from their peers that may be help them to be more reflective about their beliefs and values.
    • Promote
    • CHANGE
    • Promote INDEPENDENCE
    • Promote
    • DISCOURSE
  21. Effective teachers create an environment of UNITY…

    Slide 21 - Effective teachers create an environment of UNITY…

    • Let’s work together to promote discourse through unity.
    • We are the World
    • Due to the media footage presented in this slide, I am unable to provide an audio recording of the slide.
    • Please watch and enjoy the video. Thanks for watching!