Multicultural Literature

A Guided Study Group for Teachers


Welcome to Content Area Literacy using Multicultural Literature. This course was designed to inspire and help you incorporate multicultural literature in your instruction. As in any good classroom, this will be an interactive course. You are encouraged to do the activities, ask questions, and explore this topic to gain the most from the content.


Before we begin please complete the following pretest: Multiculturalism Pretest


Goal: Your course goal is to gain a better understanding of using multicultural literature in your content area.

Objectives: Your objectives are to consider the following overarching components through a survey of..

  • Exploration: What is multiculturalism?
  • Engagement: How does multicultural literature benefit students?
  • Environment: How can I ensure my classroom and school is an environment that celebrates and supports diverse backgrounds, experiences, and cultures?
  • Education: How can I incorporate multicultural literature in my instruction?
  • Evaluation: How can I continue my personal + professional growth in the area of multiculturalism?

Activity 1:

In the following audio clip you will listen to a conversation taking place in a student discussion group about cultural perspectives.

Think about your own upbringing and how it has shaped your perceptions today.

Consider any sterotypes or biases you might possess? Would they have any affect on the choices you make in your instruction?


Discussion Group by ncade


What is Multiculturalism?

Simply put. Multiculturalism is a body of thought about the proper way to respond to diversity. It moves beyond good intentions into the realm of being culturally aware and responsive to the needs of others who are different from you. In order to truly embrace, celebrate, value, and be responsive to diversity one must first see the differences.

Let's watch a short video entitled: Why you shouldn't say "I don't see color".

Why you shouldn't say "I don't see color" - Jane Elliot

Activity 2:


"Failure to see and acknowledge racial differences makes it difficult to recognize the unconscious biases everyone has. Those biases can taint a teacher’s expectations of a student’s ability and negatively influence a student’s performance. Study after study has shown that low teacher expectations are harmful to students from socially stigmatized groups." This quote was taken from an article from an online magazine entitled Teaching Tolerance. It explores "racial colorblindness" or the idea that ignoring or overlooking racial + ethnic differences promotes racial harmony.

Take a few minutes to discuss this with a colleague this idea of "racial colorblindness". Does it exists? What effect might seeing color or not seeing color have on your instructional decisions?


You have explored multiculturalism and hopefully have began to think about your classroom and just how diverse it truly is. You may be wondering how you might start your students down the road to becoming more eager to learn and grow. You can prepare them to be active members in our ever expanding global society but first they must be engaged. We must make a concerted effort to start a fire inside of every student for the desire to learn and grow but it all starts with a spark.

Let's watch a short video about engaging students in the classroom.

Mason - Expanding Literacy Through Multicultural Literature
In the video you just watched you may have noticed that it hightlighted many books you should consider using in your instruction. I wanted to take some time to discuss some of the books your students may find interesting. Many are written by popular award winning authors and some are not; however, what they all have in common is the ability to help student's build background knowledge, make connections, and think critically.

Instructional Strategy:

An instructional strategy you might consider using with your students is pairing fiction and non-fiction text. You could use this as a basis, for example, to demonstrate how to compare and contrast.

In the following video we will review the book, Encounter by Jane Yolen, another historical fiction picture book and use what we already know about Christopher Columbus to compare and contrast what we learned about the Taino people.

Tip: Picture books are a great way to engage students and introduce a topic. The full-color spreads and shorter length make them a less intimidating alternative.

"Encounter" by Jane Yolen book trailer

Activity 3:

Encounter is a wonderful story, rich with symbolism and interesting point of view. We will use it as a basis to compare and contrast what you learned about the Taino people with what you already know about Christopher Columbus to demonstrate one activity you could do with your students pairing fiction + non-fiction.

Additonal Titles:

Asian Experiences:

The Stone Goddess by Minfong Ho

So Far from the Sea by Eve Bunting

Native American Experiences:

Heart of a Chief by Joseph Bruchac

Hispanic/Latin American Experiences:

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Experiences:

From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun by Jacqueline Woodson

Middle Eastern Experiences/Immigrants:

Habibi by Naomi Shihab Nye

Briar Rose by Jane Yolen

Coming to America: A Muslim's Family Story by Bernard Wolf

What other titles can you think of?


Activity: 4

How can you ensure your classroom and school is an environment that celebrates and supports diverse backgrounds, experiences, and cultures?

Before we answer that question, let's take an observation walk around your entire school. List the examples of different cultures represented in the wall art, in books displayed, on bulletin boards etc. Share your list with a partner.

Celebrate + support diverse backgrounds, experiences, and cultures in your classroom.

  • Initiate Book Clubs
  • Pair multicultural fiction + non-fiction text
  • Team up with colleagues and host a multicultural fair
  • Invite a guest speaker to talk to your class about a diverse topic
  • Incorporate mulitculture literature into your instruction
  • Have students create flags from many countries to display
  • Display a variety of books about diverse topics
  • What other ideas can your group think of?
  • Chose two ideas you will consider using in your classroom.

7 Steps to Book Club Success

Let's take a more indepth look at one of the suggestions from your list above. If you decide to initiate book clubs with your students here are 7 steps to help you be successful:

  • Locate + select appropriate books (several copies)
  • Introduce the books to students
  • Ask students to prioritize their choices
  • Form groups of 4 to 6 students
  • Provide time for reading and written responses
  • Conduct weekly book club meetings
  • Reflect on participation + extend learning

You may want to help students create good discussion questions and keep all the books and discussion cards in a bag students can get to easily.


"Who has set the table?"


My mother says I am

Brown honey in broomwheat tea

My father calls me the sweetwater

of his days

Yet they warn

There are those who

Have brewed a

Bitter potion for

Children kissed long by the sun

Therefore I approach

The cup slowly

But first I ask

Who has set the table

~Joyce Carol Thomas (1993)

Selecting + Evaluating Literature

This next session is less about censoring bad books and more about learning to "read the signs of race, class, and gender". It's about asking the question Joyce Carol Thomas asks above, "Who has set the table?" This poem reflects the question we should ask when selecting literature for our students. We should want to know who has set the table or in other words, who the writer is and what is being offered? What are they trying to help you see or realize? Understand? This will help answer the tough questions that are sure to arise.

Let's read a portion of our selected text Using Multiethnic Literature in the K-8 Classroom by Violet J. Harris. As you read, highlight problems + limitations + considerations in selecting literature for people of color. Discuss this with colleagues.

Reference: Harris, V. (1997) Using multiethnic literature in the K-8 classroom. Christopher-Gordon Publishers, Inc. Pgs. 6-14


Activity 4

For the final activity, you will be creating a lesson plan for your content area using multicultural literature. Please review the rubric provided for you. When you are ready, submit your lesson using the template provided below.