Sharing Multicultural Poetry with Elementary Education Students: A Teacher Inquiry into Developing Critical Consciousness

Open Access
Hopkins, Elisa
Graduate Program:
Curriculum and Instruction
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
February 28, 2007
Committee Members:
  • Daniel Dean Hade, Committee Chair
  • Miryam Espinosa Dulanto, Committee Member
  • Steven Herb, Committee Member
  • Madhu Suri Prakash, Committee Member
  • teacher inquiry
  • elementary education students
  • multicultural poetry
  • critical consciousness
This is the story of my teaching and learning about multicultural poetry with elementary education students taking Teaching Children’s Literature, a required course for elementary education majors, at The Pennsylvania State University’s University Park Campus during the fall of 2005 and the spring of 2006. My purpose as a researcher was to investigate the students’ cognitive and affective interpretations and reinterpretations of multicultural poetry in a learning environment supportive of each person’s awareness of himself/herself as a maker of meaning (Berthoff, 1990). Conscious awareness of oneself as a maker of meaning in a social context is integral to the development of critical consciousness, which encourages human agency. In my teaching as inquiry into developing critical consciousness, I share my philosophy of education informing my agency as a teacher and researcher. I discuss interpretation of language, curricula and culture, connections through poetry in curricula, pedagogical approaches for developing critical consciousness and agency, and evaluative approaches for growth in terms of multicultural poetry for children as essential to education for shaping the mind and nourishing the spirit. I also discuss my philosophy of poetry focusing on multicultural poetry as political and potentially transformational. I believe reading and hearing multicultural poetry can help nurture students’ aesthetic readings, raise social and environmental awareness, develop critical consciousness, and encourage human agency. As I share the students’ and my dialectical writings making meanings of multicultural poems, I explore our revisiting of uses of rhyme and rhythm—often associated with humor and playful narrative poetry—in contexts of poetry and verse as voices for social justice. I also relate our responses to selected multicultural poems as we surface and extend perceptions through moments of connection, questioning, struggle, and imagination. Multicultural poetry is essential for young people’s education for a pluralistic, democratic society as it shapes the mind, nourishes the spirit, and encourages agency for a more humane, peaceful, and just world.