In Reading, Writing and Talk, the authors emphasize that many perceived differences that stem from diversity are sometimes seen as deficits. They go on to give the example of children that rightfully should be considered nascent bilingual students, but are more often framed as limited learners with a lack of English understanding. This “deficit perception” of a diverse range of students is extremely pervasive in the the standardization of curriculum, teaching and assessment. Instead of approaching diversity through the lens of “deficit perception,” we, as teachers, should recognize the value of a non-homogeneous classroom -- filled with new energy, rich perspectives and depth. Using culturally relevant and authentic writing and reading resources can help tap into diverse backgrounds, utilizing a wide range of learners that are typically marginalized.
Some helpful strategies are suggested for disrupting the “deficit perception” mindset in Reading, Writing and Talk. These strategies include choosing relevant resources based on cultural backgrounds of students, utilizing oral narratives for multilingual students, capitalizing on student interest in “unofficial texts” and non-traditional texts (internet, TV), and showing value with acknowledgement of multiple languages used by students in the classroom. Chapter two encourages teachers to carefully document and observe how a student communicates in multiple scenarios, and for multiple purposes -- all while being careful not to categorize differences found in these observations as deficits. One way to facilitate this process of observation is to arrange a home visit or participate in a community sponsored event attended by the student and their family -- dipping into that student’s “family funds of knowledge.”
As a teacher, it’s also important to recognize that differences in dialect within a classroom should never equate to a deficit of knowledge. In the article, “Dialects in Schools and Communities,” the authors emphasize that while some dialects (or even accents) may evoke a certain social status, all linguistic systems have structural integrity -- and should not be used as a tool to evaluate a student’s ability. This can get especially tricky when standardized assessments can contain various levels of bias, and lead to inaccurate evaluations or suggestions.
Adger, Carolyn Temple., et al. Dialects in Schools and Communities. Taylor and Francis, 2014
Souto-Manning, M., & Martell, J. (2016). Reading, Writing, and Talk: Inclusive Teaching Strategies for Diverse Learners, K–2. New York: Teachers College Press. ISBN-10: 0807757578 (This one can be access at no charge, online through NCSU’s library)