Sunday, October 17, 2010

Rewriting "Goldilocks" in the urban, multicultural elementary school

Work Cited:
Lotherington, H., & Chow, S. (2006). Rewritng "Goldilocks" in the urban, multicultural elementary school. The Reading Teacher, 60 (3), 242-252.

This article details the research on rewriting “Goldilocks” in an urban and multicultural elementary school in Canada while using various forms of technology. Two authors write the article, each explaining their own firsthand account in the research process. The article begins with a brief description as to why the authors decided to embark in updating traditional children’s stories using digital media to reflect children’s current environments. They explain the history of traditional fairytales and how they reflect the cultures of Western Europeans more so than today’s urban, multicultural children. To follow, author Heather Lotherington explains how she stumbled upon the school of study, Joyce Public School (JPS), part of the Toronto District School Board, and how she was introduced to co-author Sandra Chow, a then kindergarten teacher at JPS. The article follows with an educational context of the school and surrounding area demographics. Lotherington details how she was drawn to JPS, its constituents, and its philosophy of incorporating technology into all parts of the instructional day.

Lotherington then describes her process of researching the history of the “Goldilocks” tale, which was more so prompted by the beliefs of one teacher at JPS. Most teachers were in agreement to rewrite Goldilocks with their students, aside from one teacher who was “resistant to the idea of character revision”. She felt that, “the story had stood the test of time and didn’t need to be altered just because society had changed.” She also felt that “Goldilocks was a piece of Canadian socialization that shouldn’t be tampered with.” (244) In her history research, Lotherington discovered that Goldilocks had actually begun in Scotland as a “she-fox” that was ultimately eaten at the end of the story. She then morphed into a “vindictive old woman” in England and didn’t become the common blond little girl we are familiar with until the early 20th century.

Author Chow follows with describing how she implemented the research into her own classroom (now 2nd grade). She began the process with teaching her students the narrative writing structure and read several different versions of the Goldilocks story. She explained that although the character and setting may vary from version to version, the underlying tale is the same. She taught her students how to rewrite their own version of Goldilocks using various forms of technology. She breaks down what technological resources she used and for which part of the writing process they were used for. After reading through final products, both Lotherington and Chow were surprised by their findings. They expected that students would create characters similar to their own cultural backgrounds, meaning that their physical features would more resemble their own. However, they had not taken into account the huge role television has on today’s children. Children were writing stories that included more pop-cultural references than physical traits of their own cultures. “Children’s revisions of Goldilocks were far more complex than anything I had imagined, evoking intertextual references to digital and pop culture, and taking Goldilocks into outer space…Goldilocks took on a number of diverse identities in the children’s rewritten tales: mermaid, vampire, dog, bird, shark, and space explorer.” (248) Both authors felt that although their project findings were not what they expected them to be, they felt that the project was indeed successful because students successfully connected to literature using technology, ultimately making it a more memorable learning experience.

I felt that this article was well written and thoroughly detailed. The authors included substantial educational context to allow the reader to understand how the research project had emerged. The reader is able to understand the connection between the research and the observed population in the study. The authors also provide background history on relevant concepts as well as define important terms within the study. Both authors provide their firsthand account by writing in the first person. This creates a more personal bond with the descriptions and project findings. Although the authors demonstrate a personal connection with the study, the article is free of bias. Opposing views and resistant thoughts are both taken into account and researched. At the end, the article simply presents findings and thoughts on findings, but does not make any dramatic claims or allude to startling implications. The article serves more as an anecdotal account of a journey through a research project.

This article also includes clarifying charts and diagrams as well as student work examples. The writing is free of overused academic jargon and the research process is explicitly explained with the help of correlating visuals. The selected student work examples represent various student thought processes and are not one-sided. Some of the student work examples demonstrate the outcome anticipated by the authors. Other student work examples help explain how the authors encountered unexpected project findings; that students were more in tune with pop culture then their own physical traits.

I enjoyed reading this article and found it to be incredibly interesting. I was able to make a personal connection with the article because the student population at JPS mirrors the population within my own school. I was also excited to find a research project that included elementary students, especially second grade. I too feel that many of the stories children read do not represent the diverse backgrounds they are coming from. I had never considered the possibility of rewriting famous fairytales to reflect the current environment of students in multicultural communities, but am now intrigued to incorporate the project idea with my own class. I am especially drawn to the focus on utilizing various technological resources to amplify student learning. Since my students are living in a modern technological society where laptops, smart phones, and reality television are prominent, it only makes sense to use these forms of media to promote learning that is relevant to my students’ lives.

I found it refreshing to see a research article that wasn’t so focused on the implications of a research project, but rather on providing an account of the research process. I enjoyed reading how the project findings were not at all close to what the authors had expected. It reassures the reader that not all research projects are taken on as a way to prove something but instead to learn from. I would like to take the reflective learning approach to my own action research project. In the beginning of the program, I felt that I was supposed to prove something and endure this laborious and tedious research process. After reading this article, am I able to better understand that research wears many hats.

Relevant Quotes/Citations:
-“We wanted the children to learn what a story is and to retell a traditional story from their perspectives grounded in contemporary reality, so that the story would become more inclusive of their worlds.” (242)

-“My volunteer reading was in response to the principal’s casual observation that many incoming schoolchildren lacked the exposure to stories that was expected from preschool socialization in Canada.” (242)

-“There were no blond children in the class—indeed there were very few in the whole school. The story would make little sense to urban children who probably have never encountered bears, a cottage in the woods, or, indeed, porridge.” (243)

-“Canada is an officially multicultural country, but the benefits of multiculturalism and multilingualism are not considered in the provincial school system where high-stakes mandatory testing equates literacy with knowledge of the English language.” (243)

-“I have found that using technology in the classroom enhances learning, improves efficiency and flexibility, and increases student motivation.” (246)

-“Listening to a teacher remark on the courage of a young child to color the face outlined on his screen brown—something she would never have had the bravado to try when she was in school as a minority student…From grade 1 come a lovely depiction of Bradylocks, a little dark-skinned girl with large black braids.” (248)

-“These children envision their cultural worlds as plugged into pop culture; their ideas about culture more heavily influenced by television than by the physical world around them.” (251)

1 comment:

Heather Lotherington said...

A most generous review Ashley, thank you. I stumbled on your blog report totally by accident, looking up another piece of work that has come to my attention. We have done a lot in our learning community at Joyce Public School since then - see I also just submitted a book that details the first 5 years of this work - we are closing in on 8 now and it has been such fun - highly rewarding though full of lumps and bumps. Pedagogy of multiliteracies: Rewriting Goldilocks will be published by Routledge in another few months - just submitted.

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