Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Teaching Multicultural Literature : A Workshop for the Middle Grades
Workshop 1 Workshop 2 Workshop 3 Workshop 4 Workshop 5 Workshop 6 Workshop 7 Workshop 8
Workshop 2: Engagement and Dialogue - Judith Ortiz Cofer and Nikki Grimes
Authors and Literary Works
Video Summary
Teaching Strategies
Student Work
Interactive Workbook -- Explore two poems using strategies from these workshops. Go.
Channel-Talk -- Share your views on the discussion board. Go.

Video Summary

The following is a summary of the activities featured in Workshop video 2. The activities were part of a larger study of the writer's craft. In adapting them to your own classroom, students, and overall curriculum, you may choose to vary the sequence or timing presented here.

  • An Island Like You, by Judith Ortiz Cofer
  • Bronx Masquerade, A Dime a Dozen, and Jazmin's Notebook, by Nikki Grimes
    (Selected short stories and poems available in Workshop 2: Readings) PDF
  • Handout on observing the writer's craft (PDF)
  • Large sheets of paper and colored markers or pencils
Standards for the English Language Arts


  1. The students meet in small groups to rehearse reading aloud those sections of "An Hour With Abuelo" and "Matoa's Mirror," from Judith Ortiz Cofer's An Island Like You that they have chosen as significant. They use different choral reading styles, either reading a section apiece or assigning different characters' lines to different students.

  2. Akiko Morimoto reads aloud from the third story, "Arturo's Flight." As they listen, the students jot down their thoughts on this story and how it connects to their own lives and stories they have read previously. (See Teaching Strategies: Making Connections with Texts.)

  3. The small groups meet to discuss how the three Ortiz Cofer stories are alike.

  4. The whole class comes together to share their observations about the writer's craft in these three stories.

  5. Morimoto asks the students to return to their small groups and discuss text-to-text connections to stories by other authors, including Sandra Cisernos's "Eleven" and Anne Tyler's "Teenage Wasteland." After their small-group discussions, the students share their ideas with the whole class.

  6. Morimoto asks the students to meet in small groups and choose a character from one of Ortiz Cofer's stories. She explains that they will be creating symbols, metaphors, or similes to describe this character. They can draw their symbol if they like, but they must write about how their symbol represents the character. (See Teaching Strategies: Creating Visual Representations and Symbols.)

  7. The small groups meet and brainstorm ideas, then begin illustrating and writing.

  8. The small groups present their ideas to the class. When all the groups have had an opportunity to present, the whole class reflects on how they came up with their symbols and how the activity encouraged them to think more deeply about the characters they chose.

  9. Students read aloud poetry from Nikki Grimes's Bronx Masquerade and A Dime a Dozen (selected beforehand by Morimoto and a student). Morimoto reminds them to focus on the words and images as they read.

  10. In their small groups, the students use handouts on the writer's craft to answer questions about how Grimes reveals character, setting, and situation through her poetry in Bronx Masquerade, A Dime a Dozen, and Jazmin's Notebook. The students make observations and connections they can share with their small groups, the whole class, and the author, who will visit the class the following day.

  11. The class comes together as a whole, and each small group reports on what they have discussed. The students point out aspects of the poetry that they admire, mention ways the poems connect to each other, and share how the poems relate to their own lives. Morimoto probes the students' ideas about stereotyping based on language use.

  12. The small groups come together to prepare questions to ask Grimes when she visits the following day.

  13. Grimes visits the class and reads her poetry aloud.

  14. The students ask her questions about the three works they have read, including questions about the topic of being "bilingual" in formal "school language" and in informal "street language."

  15. After school, for those who choose to stay, Morimoto and Grimes host an open microphone poetry reading. The students read their own poetry aloud to the group in an opportunity to share their language and voices with one another. (See Teaching Strategies: Open Microphone.)

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