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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 3: Research and Discovery - Shirley Sterling and Laura Tohe
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 3. The activities were part of a larger unit on Native American history and residential schools. In adapting them to your own classroom, students, and overall curriculum, you may choose to vary the sequence or timing presented here.

Standards for the English Language Arts


  1. Sally Brownfield introduces My Name Is Seepeetza and asks her students to speculate about the book's content based on the material on its front and back covers. The class begins a K/W/L chart listing what they know and want to know about Indian residential schools. (See Teaching Strategies: K/W/L Chart.)

  2. Brownfield and the whole class begin reading the book aloud. Brownfield explains that they'll be writing individual journals as they read, and that these will include personal K/W/L charts, reading and research guides, and blank journal pages. (See Teaching Strategies: Journaling.)

  3. The students continue reading in their small groups. They may choose to read aloud to each other or read silently. Brownfield asks them to note and discuss any new or unusual words in the text -- for example, the term "slipwire fence."

  4. For homework, the students write their first journal entry about the book and interview a relative or neighbor about Indian residential schools.

  5. Brownfield organizes a "fishbowl" discussion about the text. (See Teaching Strategies: Fishbowl.) As the rest of the class listens, Brownfield facilitates a small-group discussion about specific scenes in the book. After these students speculate about the effects of racism in Seepeetza's school, Brownfield asks the class as a whole, "Do you see anything like this happening here in our school?" The students talk about this and then write about it in their journals. They share their personal K/W/L charts with the whole class.

  6. Brownfield reads Laura Tohe's poem, "The Names," and the class makes connections between the two texts. The students discuss the importance of a person's name, and then write about it in their journals.

  7. The students prepare for a visit to local tribal elders by learning about proper etiquette for the visit, writing questions and practicing interviewing, and making gifts for the elders.

  8. The students interview the elders about their experiences in Indian residential schools.

  9. Based on what they've read in the literature and learned from the elders, the students identify research questions to pursue in their small groups. Questions include, "What were conditions like in residential schools?" and "How were residential schools first established?" To provide some background for their research, Brownfield leads a discussion about the meaning of the term "culture," and the extent to which Native peoples in the United States and Canada have been free to engage in their cultural practices.

  10. The groups of students conduct research on their topics by using the Internet. They find primary- and secondary-source materials such as photographs and written documents.

  11. Brownfield tells the students that each group will create a poster to present their research, and gives them the rubric with which she will assess their work. The groups begin to design their posters.

  12. Shirley Sterling visits the class. She opens her presentation by singing songs of sorrow and of healing, then tells the students how she came to write My Name Is Seepeetza. After she fields their questions, she asks them to write in response to her visit. Some students read their pieces aloud to Sterling and the class, and Sterling gives them positive feedback.

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