Polka dots and suspenders : culturally relevant children's literature for primary Hutterite students

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Cooper, Patricia
University of Lethbridge. Faculty of Education
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Lethbridge, Alta. : University of Lethbridge, Faculty of Education, 2000
Imagine the plight of the multi-grade classroom teacher with minimal language arts material that is meaningful to the young English-as-a-Second-Language first grade students. This is the challenge of teaching Hutterite children: How to fmd and use literature that is meaningful to these children who live in rural isolation and have little knowledge of the outside "English" world, and who come to school speaking and understanding only German. This project was designed to produce culturally relevant stories for Hutterite children in primary grades. Through an action research project, the materials collected through observations, discussions, the instructional program and a review of the educational literature provided excellent background material for the writing ofthree stories. The stories reflect the normal activities ofHutterite children as experienced in the Hutterite colony environment. iv Boys' and girls' activities each have clearly defmed gender parameters on the colony, in both work and play; therefore, one story is of specific interest to the boys, while another is more suited to the literary taste of girls. The third story involves the entire class and the teacher. The intent was to portray the natural Hutterite way of life throughout the fictional accounts of the children in the stories, thereby providing meaningful literature for young Hutterite children to read. Through the regular instructional program, by brainstorming and participating in art classes, Hutterite students assumed ownership in certain aspects ofthe project. Children's artwork was thoughtfully selected, sometimes used in original form, collaged, or framed with the fabric used in colony clothing. The blend of story line and children's artwork brought the books ''to life" with color and texture. This art has provided a connection to Hutterite children and has supplied the medium needed to bring authenticity to this literature. v This creative project leads the participants to believe that Hutterite colony school programs can benefit from the development and use of authentic culturally relevant literature with, not only young students, but all students in Grades One through Eight. Upon completion, the students became highly motivated to begin an anthology; thus, this action research has become ongoing.
1 v. (various pagings) ; 29 cm. --
Hutterite Brethren -- Education , Hutterite Brethren -- Juvenile fiction , Children's literature -- Study and teaching