Global Literacy Communities: Creating Cross-Curricular Connections across Local and Global Cultures

Creating Cross-Curricular Connections across Local and Global Cultures

Global Literacy Communities are small groups of educators who engage in professional inquiry on building international understanding through global children’s and adolescent literature. These communities meet regularly to explore global literature and ways of using these books in K-12 classroom contexts. The communities may be school-based, district-based, community-based, or university/school collaborations, but they share a commitment to thinking together as a professional learning community as well as transforming their practice.

In 2011-2012, twelve Global Literacy Communities received grants from Worlds of Words to support their work and to encourage their explorations of innovative practices. Community members also participated in an online forum where they could share their explorations and support each other across the different groups. In turn, each literacy community has written at least one vignette for WOW Stories: Connections from the Classroom. This effort by Worlds of Words was supported by the Longview Foundation for World Affairs and International Understanding, an organization that has been helping young people in the United States learn about world regions and global issues since 1966.

This issue of WOW Stories: Connections from the Classroom focuses on nine Global Literacy Communities, four that focused on engagements with young children and four that focused on middle school classrooms. The groups range from Maryland to Washington and consisted of educators from a range of school and university contexts. Some are school-based and involve a close collaboration across a group of teachers and others are community-based with teachers in different school contexts who meet to share ideas and books. The authors have included examples of student work, book lists, and videos of their students’ responses.

The first set of vignettes focuses on K-3 classrooms in elementary schools with a number of the groups creating strong home-school partnerships. The Spokane Literacy Community created Family Story Book Bags that were sent home to parents who were encouraged to write their stories in a journal. Their vignette relates their experiences across different classrooms and provides lists of the books placed in the book bags around themes to encourage family storytelling. The Hobgood Professional Learning Community in Tennessee focused on young English Language Learners and included a family-based component in which families had the opportunity to respond to a global picturebook. Students brought the book back to school for discussion and for integration into writing workshops.

The second grade teachers in the Madeira Literacy Community in Ohio worked together to identify global literature to read and discuss with their students. Their vignette particularly highlights the significance of student dialogue about picture books in promoting global awareness. The Orono Literacy Community in Maine also focused on picture books across a range of university and elementary contexts, particularly highlighting the universal concepts that connect global cultures.

The second set of vignettes focus on cross-curricular connections in middle school and intermediate classrooms. The Global Environmental Literacy Community in Maryland explored the integration of global literature that highlighted the environmental concepts and issues into the transdisciplinary units in their classrooms. The other three communities used a team-teaching approach where the same unit was shared across teachers in the content areas of math, science, social studies and language arts. The Martin Luther King Middle School Literacy Community in Michigan engaged in inquiries around Latin America using texts sets, while the Harllee Middle School Literacy Community collaborated on classroom experiences around the novel, Shizuko’s Daughter, set in Japan. The Shaker Heights Literacy Community was a collaboration across reading, social studies, science, and math that focused on a study of the Silk Road that included learning stations and in-depth inquiries by students. The final vignette comes from a community-based literacy group on Vashon Island off the coast of Washington and focuses on two middle-school teachers and their explorations of global literature.

Our next issue of WOW Stories: Connections from the Classroom will focus on a set of vignettes from the final Global Literacy Community. We will have an unthemed issue in the spring of 2013. Think about how you connect students of all ages with literature in ways that promote intercultural understandings. Consider sharing your innovative practices by submitting a vignette to WOW Stories. We are interested in descriptions of interactions with literature in classrooms and libraries at preschool through graduate levels. See our call for manuscripts and author guidelines for more information.

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