Effective Methods for Teaching Asian Pacific American Students
As a teacher, it is also important to remember that Asian students are not always the best students, even though many teachers describe them as model students (Ruan, 2003, Tatum 1997). It is important for teachers to not assume they do not need help just because they do not ask for it (Ruan, 2003). This could be due to a cultural difference, not because they feel competent or are successful at the task. Recognizing the disadvantage that is done to students when their needs are not attended to is an important lesson for a good teacher to remember. Teachers should always make sure all students get the help they need even if they can’t ask for it because of cultural differences.
Since different languages have different methods of decoding and different structures, or orthographies (McBride-Chang and Ho, 2005, Pollard-Durodola et al., 2004), it is important to consider a student’s prior abilities in decoding in their native language, if they come into our classrooms with prior abilities in reading in their native language. In Chinese and other Asian languages(McBride-Chang and Ho, 2005), just as in Spanish (Pollard-Durodola et al., 2004), it is important for effective teachers to find ways to expand upon the student’s existing abilities. Having a focus on nurturing and transferring skills from a native language will help students learn the new language more quickly and successfully. Early reading skills in the native language are more predictive of later accomplishment in English than early performance in English is (McBride-Chang and Ho, 2005).
Students coming from homes that speak Chinese (Cantonese) and possibly other languages that use characters may not be able to decode using individual phonemes (McBride-Chang and Ho, 2005). Understanding that if students have learned to read in Chinese, they will be using a syllabic base rather than a phonemic one will allow teachers to understand thought processes of these children. It is important to be aware of these needs and proficiencies that might be discounted without this knowledge of the orthography of a student’s native language.
Effective Methods for Teaching Native American Students
One area where there was not an abundance of literature was studies on the early reading acquisition of Native American students. Most articles were dated or involved older students. It is important to have more research on the needs of these students available, and it is also important to have more tribe specific information. Studies that were reviewed usually dealt with one specific tribe, and so were possibly not generalizable to the more than 280 other tribes in the United States, which according to Willis (2002) “….differ in terms of their language, traditions, economics, and social interactions” (p. 152).
Some information that was useful in the research reviewed was the finding that Reyhner (1986) reported, showing that it is important to supplement the basal readers with trade books that represent Native American student’s culture, especially tribe specific books if possible.
Effective Methods for Teaching African American Students
It has been shown that family involvement can make a major impact on reading achievement for African American students and others (Gilliam, et al., 2004, Wilson- Jones, 2003). Making classrooms welcoming to parents, finding ways to involve them in their child’s education, providing trainings that help them help their children, if they feel they are not capable, are all ways that parents can become more involved in schooling.
Being available during non school hours for working parents and being willing to call or visit parents at home can also be ways to help parents become more engaged in their children’s school lives.
Another thing that is important to keep in mind when working with African American youth is the idea that it is important for teachers to remember that differences in pronunciation are not always miscues, they are simply the differences in pronunciation between dialects (Charity et al., 2004). According to LeMoine (2002), a teacher’s disapproving attitude about an African American student’s use of African American English can negatively affect how they perform in school. Charity et al. (2004) agree, showing that an overemphasis on pronunciation may take away from a student’s attention to meaning. The important thing is that the student making meaning of the text. Since the underlying grammatical structures of African American English are different than Standard English, teachers need to understand how the dialect works and not count the children’s use of the dialect as a mistake in English, but rather a use of their native dialect. Overcorrecting the use of native dialects or languages when the student is making meaning is counterproductive. Students will be more likely to participate in instruction when their linguistic abilities are respected and taken advantage of. It has been shown that the use of realistic minority dialect in literature helps students enjoy stories, stay engaged, and feel represented in the texts (Rickford, 2001).
The Effect of Teachers Attitudes and Expectations on Students Learning
It is important for teachers to remember that being color blind is almost as bad for students as overt racism (Love and Kruger, 2005). By not seeing the unique needs and abilities culture contributes to a child, you are not seeing the whole child. Ignoring these abilities and needs discounts them and leaves students without consideration in teaching methods. Of course assuming that all students of a certain ethnicity fit a certain stereotype is wrong, but it is important to recognize when it does influence student’s needs and respect that. Teachers must find ways to use a student’s culture to their advantage in schooling.
Culturally Responsive Literature and its’ Effect on Students
In De la Colina et al’s (2001) study, it was found that low engagement students did not have any statistically relevant improvement over a 12 week improvement, and some performed worse as time went on. Finding ways to get all students highly engaged should be an important goal for teachers. It has also been shown that highly engaged students make greater gains in reading, and read more often. Finding ways to engage all students in reading is an important way for teacher’s to make education equitable for minority students. By using methods that keep students excited about reading, teachers can motivate them to want to do it, and their skills will have greater chance of developing with extensive practice.
It has been shown that students comprehend more and are more engaged when they are reading about something they have background knowledge, and when their culture is represented in the story (Steffensen et al., 1999, Rickford, 2001). It is important for students not only to be represented in the texts, but it helps with comprehension when the background knowledge required is something they are familiar with. Trousdale and Everett (1994) showed that even when third grade students had characters that looked like them in stories, they didn’t necessarily have the background information to comprehend and so didn’t enjoy the texts.
Steffensen et al. (1999) also showed that students who took longer amounts of time to read in English comprehended the same amount as students who took half the time to read in their native language. It is possible that giving ESL students more time to read stories will help with comprehension, and this may make reading more fun and motivate the students to read more, and may be just as successful at comprehending when reading if given enough time. The reader can see that ESL students in a classroom culture that perhaps puts too much emphasis on fluency may struggle to understand what they read. If what we want is for comprehension and personal connection to the literature to occur, then perhaps it is more important for students to take their time and think about what they are reading, and how it connects to their lives, than for students to read quickly and accurately.
In the Steffensen (1999) study, it was interesting that one of the women who read in English said that this was the easiest thing she had ever had to read in English. This statement points to the fact that English books that cover all students prior experiences are important to have in classrooms where knowledge of English is the goal. When students are able to read about familiar subjects, schema takes hold and it is easier to predict and comprehend a story.
Mohr (2003) showed that Hispanic students in first grade chose mostly nonfiction when given a choice of books. Almost all 1st grade students chose animal books, not human books, even when books with characters of their own race and culture were available. This can be translated into practice by providing interesting and reading level appropriate nonfiction texts to children for reading choices just as much as fictional books. Students can be very motivated to read non fiction that is well presented, as much as or more so than the traditional storybooks. This study tells us another important lesson, just because you have a minority student, they many not be drawn to multicultural literature.
It is also important to remember that this study was done with first graders. According to Tatum (1997), a students need to develop their racial identity by racial grouping does not happen until 6th grade or older. Although students are obviously aware of race before then, and may enjoy seeing characters that are like them, they may not be as concerned with the subject of race in first grade as teachers may assume they are.
Taylor (1997) showed that not all students have the background to appreciate culturally conscious stories. There is a difference between having the multicultural literature available for students to read and in pushing it on students when they are not interested, because an important part of reading is the motivation to do so, prompted by high interest in the subject matter. Grice and Vaughn’s (1992) study is important because it showed engaging children in literature that is enjoyable and relates to their personal experience is important in motivating them to want to read.