Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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the expanding canon teaching multicultural literature
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Reader Response: Pat Mora and James Welch Reader Response: Keith Gilyard and Mourning Dove Inquiry: Rudolfo Anaya and James Baldwin Inquiry: Tomás Rivera and Esmeralda Santiago Cultural Studies: Ishmael Reed and Graciela Limón Cultural Studies: N. Scott Momaday and Russell Leong Critical Pedagogy: Octavia E. Butler and Ruthanne Lum McCunn Critical Pedagogy: Abiodun Oyewole and Lawson Fusao Inada
Theory Overview Lesson Plans Teaching Strategies Authors and Literary Works Resources
Session 7 Cultural Studies: Octavia E. Butler and Ruthanne Lum McCunn - Teaching Strategies

News Groups / Public Letters
Cultural Exchange
Group Persona / Tea Party
Personal Essay


REFLECTION - Interactive Forum

Explore two poems using four approaches.


Share your views on the discussion

Download the Session 7 Guide

Personal Essay


A personal essay is an argument or narrative that uses private experiences to comment on a larger cultural issue.

Teachers may want to use this strategy as a follow-up to a detailed investigation of a politically-oriented text. After students have reflected on the political issue raised by the text, teachers should ask them to list all the ways in which this political issue impacts their own communities. For example, teacher Sandra Childs asks her students to list the various ways people in their communities struggle with cultural ideals of beauty. Then, teachers can ask students to share some of their listed items with the class so that each student is introduced to new ideas and is pushed to think more imaginatively about how the political issue affects them.

When the class discussion has ended, teachers should ask students to write a free-form essay about one of the items on their own lists. Students should be encouraged to describe their personal experiences in as much detail as possible and to think about how their experiences have been affected by the larger political question they are studying. If applicable, students should use their personal experience as the basis of an argument or a proposal for political action.

Finally, teachers should ask students to read their essays aloud. The class can then spend time comparing the arguments put forth in various student essays, noting how the ideas of others have affected their own perspectives on the issues.


When students use their own experiences to make arguments about larger cultural issues, they recognize how the political questions they study affect their lives. This encourages students to find connections between their private struggles and larger political struggles, and they may find ways in which they can join with others to create change.

By sharing these personal essays, students also learn to speak in public about the ways political issues have affected their private lives. By encouraging this kind of openness, teachers create a space for students to connect with one another, to recognize their common goals, and to work together for positive change.

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