Get PDF Actions Speak Louder than Words: Community Activism as Curriculum (Teaching/Learning Social Justice)

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The elements move from students learning self-love and knowledge about who they are and where they come from to learning respect for people different from themselves. Students explore social injustice, learn about social movements, raise awareness, and engage in activism. By addressing all six elements, students develop an analysis of oppression and tools to take action. The elements help teachers visualize social justice education by providing examples of projects, making social justice in K-6 settings accessible, practical, and achievable.


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While these theories lay the foundation for why one would teach for social justice, they often leave teachers feeling overwhelmed when they sit down to plan lessons, keeping social justice teaching, all too often, theoretical. This article serves to complement existing theories of social justice education by providing teachers with a framework for implementing key concepts of SJE into daily elementary school level lessons.

For educators interested in providing elementary school students opportunities to engage critically in the world around them, this paper lays out six key elements of social justice curriculum design See Chart 1. By addressing these six elements of social justice education in the elementary classroom, teachers lead students to value themselves, respect the diversity of the world around them, understand how diverse people have been treated differently and often unjustly, recognize that ordinary people have worked to address such injustice, and take action themselves.

Element One, self-love and knowledge, provides students with the historical background knowledge to recognize the strengths and resiliency of their communities. By gaining this knowledge of self, students can move to other elements because they will be able to locate root causes of inequality in social conditions, rather than believe these conditions are inherent within individuals. In Element Two, students gain respect for the history and characteristics of people different from themselves.

Through Element Five, students engage in activities that increase the awareness of others in their community about the social issues they are studying.

Finally, in Element Six, students have the opportunity to experience what it means to struggle for justice by engaging in social action themselves. Having taught courses on multicultural and social justice education to pre- service elementary school teachers for several years, I was looking for a way to help my students break down what I saw as the various components that should be addressed to teach from a social justice perspective.

Based on my own teaching experiences and my observations of other progressive educators, I developed this framework and saw how each element supported my students in feeling less overwhelmed by the concept of SJE.

Oyler, Celia (co74)

The elements are not mutually exclusive and need not all be included in every individual unit. All of the elements presented here are of import; they build upon each other sequentially, and all should be addressed throughout the year.

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Additionally, by not engaging in Element Two activities that teach about the strength and resilience of African Americans, students of other backgrounds may not have the historical knowledge to fully comprehend the atrocities of slavery. There are two additional pitfalls of omitting one or more of the elements. Both stem from teachers who want students to be active citizens but are uncomfortable addressing the ugly histories in Element Three content.

For example, many teachers move to Element Four and teach about the Civil Rights Movement without teaching about the Jim Crow laws, lynchings, and other atrocities the movement was in response to. The other issue that arises when students have an incomplete understanding of Element Three is that social action projects are likely to be based in charity rather than rooted in justice. Take for example a unit on homelessness. When teachers encourage students to take action on homelessness without understanding the root causes of people living without homes, action projects tend to be penny-drives, winter coat drives, or visits to soup kitchens.

By examining root causes, rather than symptoms of people living without homes, Celeste provided her students with a framework of justice rather than charity. The remainder of this article illustrates the six elements using practical, elementary school classroom examples. Element One: Self Love and Knowledge In Element One, teachers provide students opportunities to learn about who they are and where they come from.

Students learn about different aspects of their identity and the history associated with it. When students are supported to learn more about their own history, they are better able to identify, deconstruct, and not internalize harmful stereotypes about their identities. This allows students to operate from a place of pride about their communities rather than fall victim to messages that claim that their communities are the cause of their problems. Centering their analysis in history, rather than lies, shifts the stage for students to engage in social action against structural barriers.

Students discussed the use of the word and created a skit mimicking a popular radio show discussing the use of the word. Morrison wrote and taught the students a poem for recitation: This is a very interesting conversation especially among the younger generation.

Actions Speak Louder than Words - Community Activism as Curriculum (Electronic book text)

Some people see it as a sign of self-respect, a renewal of self-regard. But the word itself has been associated with such abuse. It associates black people with being inferior, subhuman and subordinate So we ought to have a moratorium on the word itself. We are not going to use the word at all!

I know some brothers and sisters will say that it is a word of endearment I say, ok, but I can think of other words: Brothers! Can we really use that word when we speak of Sojourner Truth? But what do you think? By deconstructing the everyday use of a controversial word, Ms. Morrison provided her students with a foundation for understanding how their culture was represented in both popular culture and within their community. This analysis provided students pride as they learned the strength and resiliency of historical African Americans and acquired information to make their own decisions about what language to choose when describing their people.

There are a plethora of other activities that teachers can engage in to address Element One. Teachers can engage in activities to help foster a sense of pride in skin color. Derman- Sparks and The A. Task Force suggest getting paint sample strips in a variety of skin shades and having students find their match. They can take the strip home and find similar colored items to bring in for show and tell.

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Element One naturally opens the door to include family members in the curriculum. The goal of this element is to create a climate of respect for diversity by having students learn to listen with kindness and empathy to the experiences of their peers.

MOTIVATION FOR 2019 - Actions Speak LOUDER Than Words

Teachers provide opportunities for students to share their knowledge about their own cultural background with their classmates. By developing cross-cultural empathy based on historical knowledge and strengths of diverse communities, students can set a foundation of recognizing shared struggles against oppression, rather than being derailed by cross-cultural conflict. I did this unit with my very diverse ESL second and third grade students.

The cultural groups worked together: choosing their favorite word for each letter, making a letter page with the letter and word, illustrating each page. Once the groups finished, I laminated and bound the books. Students were put into culturally mixed groups where they shared their cultural ABC books, teaching each other with pride about their heritage and history. These became the most popular books in our library! While students are able to learn about what makes their peers different and unique, Element Two also allows them to see the ways in which their values and experiences overlap and are similar-key elements in future movement building.

Like Element One, this is an ideal time to invite in family and community members to share their life stories and to go out into the community to get to know diverse neighborhoods and cultural traditions. By helping students to understand how oppression operates both individually and institutionally, they are better positioned not only to understand their own lived experiences but also to develop strategic solutions based on historical roots rather than romanticized or missionary notions of social change. Student Fernando expressed his understanding of the situation: There was nothing they could do about the hurricane.

And I think that they really, way back when, should have put more money for fixing the levees and stuff so that none of it would have hit so hard. Unlike many teachers, who either ignored the event or provided only charitable responses like penny-drives, Edwin provided his students with the analytic tools to understand the issues of social injustice at play. To stop at Element Three, however, is to do students a disservice, leaving children feeling hopeless about injustice.

Teachers must transition from Element Three units by providing models of how everyday people have struggled against such conditions and how students can also participate in social change. The truth is that all teaching is political Freire, , not just teaching that comes from a social justice perspective. This often requires teachers to take on a different kind of professional development to learn about community issues and connect with local community organizations.

This approach often requires deep re-learning about history. Element Four: Social Movements and Social Change In Element Four, teachers share examples of movements of people standing together to address the issues of social injustice students learned about in Element Three. Rather than leaving students feeling overwhelmed and defeated, Element Four helps students understand that working together, ordinary people have united to create change.

While it is natural to highlight leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. By exposing students to people they can relate to within social movements, teachers provide not only a sense of hope but also tangible models of what it looks like to stand up on the side of justice.

To help his third grade bilingual students understand the power of people organizing for social change, teacher Sam Coleman used the historical example of the Mexican Revolution and the more current example of the United Farm Workers movement. Sitting in table groups, the desks of the indigenous and small land-owning farmers were taken over by the large landowners, and they were forced to share a small space in the corner of the classroom.

They went to talk to the police and the judges who did nothing.

What They Don’t Teach You at the University of Washington’s Ed School - Quillette

After the role-play, students discussed what the displaced farmers could do, given there were so many of them and so few of the powerful. There are a number of books and organizations dedicated to helping children address Element Four by seeing the importance of people united for social change. This is the mindset behind Element Five.

Essays become newsletters; editorials, websites, and blogs dedicated to the issue are created; public service announcements and documentaries are produced. Students can perform plays, write raps, lyrics, and poems, create museums and gallery walks, and more. This creates energy and movement for students to take social action.

Former teacher Salina Gray supported her fifth grade students in better understanding the issues that were facing their predominately African American community. During their weekly community circles, students shared concerns and thoughts about issues that concerned them as Black youth, discussing topics such as the importance of African American history, language, and culture as well as challenges they faced, including drugs, poverty, and gangs. They gained a sense of empowerment and developed a critical consciousness about the world around them.

Plenty of people are aware of global warming, but are they actively engaged in activities to stop it? In Element Six, teachers provide opportunities to move beyond raising awareness to supporting students to take action on issues that affect them and their communities. Students can learn how to improve the material conditions of their lives by learning how to do research, analyze who has the power to change particular situations, write letters and speeches, use new media such as blogs, Twitter and Facebook to organize, direct public service announcements, do street interviews, create documentaries about their cause, and learn other skills with which to struggle for justice.

The following example incorporates Elements Three through Six. Two former student teachers, Christina Vizuete and April Van Lighten, engaged their first and third grade students in a unit about gentrification in their community. The student teachers then engaged in an age-appropriate role-play to help break down the sophisticated concept of gentrification. First, they took a field trip to the waterfront and asked the students to get into poses of things they generally do with their families while at the park, like having picnics or playing baseball.

Their pictures were taken and put on a mural in the classroom. The children quickly understood that gentrification would make their neighborhood more expensive, and they wanted to do something about it immediately. Students wrote letters and postcards to the EDC and invited their families to their publishing party in which they educated their parents on the issue. Another powerful example of a social action project can be found at Projectcitizen The same is true with social justice education. Elementary students may not end child labor across the globe, but they are building the mindset and the skill set needed to eventually engage in social activism with winnable goals.

Integrating the Elements with Standards, Testing and Mandated Curriculum Teachers today face numerous mandates on how they spend their time. Previous research Picower, has shown that because of testing, standards, and mandated curriculum, individual teachers often have little say over how they organize their time in the classroom. In order to provide culturally relevant, social justice education within this context, it is critical to develop strategies for integrating the elements into the curriculum that teachers are required to teach.

Through this strategy, teachers can integrate the elements into the mandated curriculum or substitute alternative materials while still teaching required skills. This also allows them to teach SJE without raising the attention of administrators who may be unsupportive of such aims. Through camouflaging, teachers first identify the social justice content that they want to teach.

Then, after considering their school priorities, required standards, curricula, and formats, they identify the desired academic skills to be reinforced. At this point, teachers plan a lesson that reinforces those skills using the social justice content. Using this process allows teachers to teach to the elements while never sacrificing the need for their students to be proficient with the skills that they will need to be academically successful, particularly on the standardized tests to which they will be held accountable. I recently used this process with a group of teachers working to prepare students for the New Jersey State Exam.

Working on Element Four, the teachers watched the Howard Zinn film, The People Speak , in which actors read aloud speeches of ordinary people throughout history that stood up for freedom and justice. The teachers were moved by a speech by Sylvia Woods, a pioneer in the struggle of African American and women trade unionists, who reflected on her childhood refusal to say the Star-Spangled Banner because segregation impeded her freedom. We then went through the test questions associated with the original passage and identified the skill being assessed main idea, supporting detail, inference , and made our own multiple-choice questions for the speech that assessed the same skills.

Conclusion The six elements support teachers to teach for social justice in three main ways: they make SJE practical, they make it easier to find resources, and they help teachers to avoid common pitfalls. First, the elements create a practical framework that breaks down the often-theoretical ideas of social justice into smaller components that can be integrated into elementary classrooms. Because teachers feel overwhelmed by the multitude of other pressures exerted on them by high stakes testing, scripted curricula and state standards, such a framework helps them to keep the eye on the social justice prize in the midst of the blizzard of external mandates.

Second, the framework helps relieve an additional pressure of finding and creating materials to teach from this perspective. It is less challenging to find books, however, that focus on specific elements, such as Element One i. There are a plethora of resources, listservs, books, and materials that address one or more components of these elements. Finally, this framework helps teachers avoid some of the pitfalls associated with poorly implemented SJE and multicultural education. Often what counts for social justice or multicultural curricula are shallow celebrations of diversity such as food fairs or cultural dance assemblies.

The six elements deepen the examination of diversity to recognize the role that power and oppression have played within our diverse histories. Systematically, integrating these elements of social justice within the classroom is a critical part of being a social justice educator; however, it is only one part. The other necessary component is to engage in working for social justice outside of the classroom, in coalition with students, parents, communities, other teachers and activists Picower, There are teachers who have incredible and inspiring classrooms where students are engaging daily with critical issues, but they are located in under-resourced schools in communities that are under attack by political and economic forces, which are limiting the opportunities of students as they walk out the classroom door.

Knowingly and unknowingly we all grapple with race every day. Understanding White Privilege delves into the complex interplay between race, power, and privilege in both organizations and private life. It offers an unflinching look at how ignorance can perpetuate privilege, and offers practical and Many teachers enter the profession with a desire to "make a difference. Practice What You Teach follows three different groups of educators How do educators engage students in community action projects without telling them what to think, how to think, or what to do?

1st Edition

In Actions Speak Louder than Words, longtime Promoting Diversity and Social Justice provides theories, perspectives, and strategies that are useful for working with adults from privileged groups—those who are in a more powerful position in any given type of oppression. The thoroughly revised edition of this accessible and practical guide History as Art, Art as History pioneers methods for using contemporary works of art in the social studies and art classroom to enhance an understanding of visual culture and history.

The fully-illustrated interdisciplinary teaching toolkit provides an invaluable pedagogical resource—complete with The concept of "standards" seems antithetical to the ways critical educators are dedicated to teaching, but what would "standards" look like if they were generated from social justice perspectives and through collaborative and inclusive processes?

Such is the central question posed by the Based on a long-term ethnographic study, Interpreting National History examines the startling differences in black and white students' interpretations of Catherine Marshall, Amy L. Anderson August 11, Taking an active stand in today's conservative educational climate can be a risky business. Given both the expectations of the profession and the challenge of participation in social justice activism, how do educator activists manage the often competing demands of professional and activist Telling Stories to Change the World is a powerful collection of essays about community-based and interest-based projects where storytelling is used as a strategy for speaking out for justice.

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