GRADES 6-12 GENERAL ENRICHMENT USEFUL FOR NEW TEACHERS
Paula M. L. Moya is Professor of English and director of the Research Institute of Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity at Stanford University. She is the author of The Social Imperative: Race, Close Reading, & Contemporary Literary Criticism (Stanford University Press). Mar Yom G. Hamedani is Senior Research Scientist at the Center for Social Psychological Answers to Real-world Questions (SPARQ) at Stanford University. (See Paula and MarYam’s ’s April article in California English, “Learning to Read Race: Multicultural Literature Can Foster Racial Literacy and Empower Students.”)
Explore how close readings that pay attention to the theme, language, and form facilitate learning. We advocate the teaching of literature that treats race as a complex and evolving category of social difference, rather than as an essential characteristic of people. This contextualized close reading of multicultural literature promotes racial literacy while empowering students.
In this study session, we explore how contextualized close readings, paying heightened attention to the theme, language, and form of novels, stories, or poems that treat race as a complex, multivalent, and persistent social formation, can facilitate the development of racial literacy and empower students. We talk about what race is and how to use literature effectively to develop students’ racial literacy. In particular, we explore how effective close readings rely on understanding the social, historical, political, and cultural contexts from which a text emerges.
We start with the premise that race is not a thing that people have or are, but rather actions that people do. Race is a dynamic system of historically-derived and institutionalized ideas and practices. It is a way of conceptualizing, creating, reacting to, and reinforcing human difference. It is not the work of individuals alone, but the product of our globalized world. Building on this understanding of race, racial literacy involves examining the relationship between race and power, attending always to the structural, interpersonal, and individual dimensions of race. People who develop racial literacy learn how to perceive when, where, why, and how race is done; they further develop a vocabulary with which to discuss and transmit knowledge about race and antiracism.
In analyzing the doing of race, we consider its relationship to other significant social categories of difference, such as class, geography, gender, disability, sexuality, and religion. Using a variety of participatory activities, we investigate how these contextualized close reading methods can work to foster more inclusive, equitable, and empowering classrooms for low-income students and students of color.
Drawing on research and practice in education and psychology, we explore why these close-reading methods are a particularly effective pedagogical strategy for teaching literature to students from diverse racial backgrounds and developing their racial literacy skills. While we will focus on teaching strategies for middle and high school students, the learnings from this workshop will also be applicable to working with students across different age groups as well as at the college level.
Study Session Learning Goals: -Become comfortable with the project of developing racial literacy. -Become acquainted with books that promote empathy and understanding across racial difference. -Learn how to help students build schemas for novels, stories, and poems that engage diverse racial contexts. -Learn effective pedagogical strategies to engage and empower low-income students and students of color.