By Constance Yankus, First Grade Teacher at Blackstone Valley Prep Elementary School 2.
Recently, scholars in my first-grade class were able to use Little Red Riding Hood to have a conversation about culture.
I realize that might seem like an unusual statement, but at BVP it’s really not… let me explain.
During Shared Text and Writing (a core practice used for English Language Arts (ELA) instruction that we use every day), our scholars completed an entire unit devoted to reading four different versions of the classic Little Red Riding Hood. The task was to compare and contrasting story plot lines, character traits, settings, and character motivation.
There is a duality to why I love this: The first reason is a selfish one – I personally love to compare children’s literature from all over the world. Second, as a teacher I love it even more because it inspires great thinking and conversation among scholars.
At the end of the unit, I posed a simple question,
“Who is your favorite Little Red Riding Hood?”
We asked scholars to write a quick opinion piece, stating their opinion, giving us a reason to support their decision, and an example from the text to further support their reasoning. After a few days of discussion around character traits to get them going, I left the scholars to make their decisions.
One scholar in my class responded with this:
Kids need books that represent their lives.
They do. They so do and here’s the proof.
With one simple ELA exercise, our class suddenly had an opportunity to have a conversation about cultural competency.
At BVP, we talk a lot about how we are a network that believes in intentional diversity, and while creating a diverse classroom is a great first step, it is not enough. Fortunately, we recognize that and do a lot of work throughout the school year to support cultural competency for both staff and scholars. It’s because of that support and professional development that teachers at BVP feel comfortable examining their own biases and proactively celebrate the cultures represented in our community – including organically through lessons in the classroom.
We know the importance of encouraging scholars to share about their lives and know that by doing so we show that we value their identity. It’s one small, but very important way that we continually work toward creating a more culturally competent classroom, community, and world.