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NCTE Guideline

Guideline on Expanding Opportunities: Academic Success for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students

Prepared by the members of the 1986 Task Force on Racism and Bias in the Teaching of English

The age of specialization has often encouraged educators to create separate and remedial ways of teaching culturally and linguistically diverse students. This trend has led to the development of special books, programs, courses, and methods for such students. Some of these curricular approaches have impeded, rather than fostered, their intellectual and linguistic growth.

How can educators reverse this miseducation and develop responsible ways to meet the needs of these students? Research shows that culturally and linguistically diverse students can achieve academic success if appropriate strategies for teaching reading and writing are used. Effective teaching strategies are essential to the intellectual growth of all students, but they are especially critical to the success of linguistically and culturally diverse students. With this in mind, the Task Force on Racism and Bias offers the following suggestions for teaching writing and reading, and for selecting materials.

Teaching Writing

Incorporate the rich backgrounds of linguistically and culturally diverse students by:

  • introducing classroom topics and materials that connect the students' experiences with the classroom.

Provide a nurturing environment for writing by:

  • introducing cooperative, collaborative writing activities which promote discussion, encourage contributions from all students, and allow peer interaction to support learning.

Recognize that second-language acquisition is a gradual developmental process and is built on students' knowledge and skill in their native language.

Provide frequent, meaningful opportunities for students to generate their own text.

Replace drill and exercises with frequent writing by assigning topics for a variety of audiences and purposes.

Respond supportively to the writing of students by:

  • acknowledging and validating their experiences, feelings, and ideas;
  • evaluating students' writing in a way that fosters critical thinking.

Teaching Reading

Incorporate the rich backgrounds of linguistically and culturally diverse students by:

  • introducing classroom reading materials that celebrate the students' cultural richness;
  • connecting the readings with the students' background knowledge and experiences;
  • encouraging students to discuss the cultural dimensions of the text.

Replace isolated series of discrete skill exercises and drills with actual readings by:

  • providing frequent opportunities for silent reading;
  • reading aloud frequently to allow students to become familiar with and appreciate the sounds and structures of written language;
  • recognizing that first- and second-language growth increases with abundant reading and writing.

Use classroom writing as valid reading material.

Increase students' understanding of reading materials by:

  • encouraging student-centered activities and discussions;
  • recognizing that experiences in writing can be used to clarify understanding of reading.

Selecting Materials

Choose reading and writing materials that have more than token representation of works by nonwhite minorities and that reflect a diversity of subject matter, style, and social and cultural views.

Use texts which present nonwhite students in a nonstereotypical manner and which accurately reflect their contributions to American culture, history, and letters.

Select texts which present balanced and realistic views of nonwhite minorities.

Select illustrations and photographs of nonwhite minorities which accurately portray historical and socioeconomic diversity.

Choose books in which language use is realistic, consistent, and appropriate to the setting and characters.

Include materials which provide historical commentary and interpretations on the full range of minority perspectives on social and political history.

The Task Force on Racism and Bias realizes that many variables affect the academic success of students. Learning is a progression in which all students develop at different times and through various teaching strategies. But a common factor that influences all student learning is a classroom teacher's attitude. If teachers show interest in the experiences of all students, they pave the way for introducing students to other experiences. If teachers show understanding and acceptance of second-language development, students can acquire and learn to use another language. We urge teachers of all students to use the strategies recommended here.

This position statement may be printed, copied, and disseminated without permission from NCTE.

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