Implementing Culturally Relevant Writing Instruction in the Context of an After-School Program for Resettled Refugee Youth
With the implementation of new Common Core State Standards that emphasize the significance of writing skills for both in-school and out-of-school settings, writing instruction in the ELA classroom has received more attention than ever. Argumentative writing is widely believed to play a crucial role in achieving “success in college and in life” (Hillocks, 2011, p. xvii), and therefore is of particular importance to researchers and educators. Yet, studies evaluating high school students’ writing skills overwhelmingly report that many high school graduates are not prepared to face college writing demands (Read & Landon-Hays, 2013). This problem seems to be particularly acute for adolescent English Language Learners (ELLs) who often underachieve on high-stakes literacy assessments in English (Ramos, 2014). Scholars suggest that this is in part due to the lack of high-quality instruction (Kiuhara, Graham, & Hawken, 2009). These findings support the need for greater attention to the improvement of writing instruction for adolescent ELLs. In my Capstone Project, I explore the affordances of culturally relevant writing instruction for high-school ELLs and suggest a writing unit plan aimed to develop students’ argumentative writing skills in the context of an after-school program for resettled refugee youth. Toward that end, I first examine the notion of culturally relevant pedagogy (CRP) and how it is viewed in current research. Next, I focus on how theory of CRP can inform writing instruction for adolescent learners from diverse linguistic backgrounds. Finally, I suggest a writing unit plan aligned with the requirements of Common Core State Standards that leverages the principles of CRP. The conclusion of this paper focuses on the implications of my project for both practitioners and researchers.