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Invite Deep Conversations by Layering Read Alouds on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

The first way to scaffold read alouds is by providing visual supports.  Another fantastic scaffold is to reread.  I’d like to add a third way to scaffold: reading multiple texts to support comprehension and encourage meaningful conversations.  I call this layering read alouds.  Talking about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is one such topic of conversation that can’t be covered in one read aloud session.  I’d like to show you how layering read alouds is a great way to scaffold discussions on big topics like DEI. 

Layering read alouds through a sequence of read alouds can advance the concepts of diversity, equity and inclusion from a basic understanding to a more nuanced level.  Several read alouds with many different problems and solutions can also equip students with more inclusive gestures and words.  Even better, a sequence of read alouds - as opposed to a one-and-done read aloud - offers several opportunities for turn and talks, using the same language.  The multiple texts open up the floor to deeper conversations.  Each read aloud is a different entry point to show students how to accept and celebrate diversity, equity and inclusion through multiple texts.  

When I plan for deeper conversations, I layer read alouds by starting with easier texts to build background knowledge, and then call on more complex texts to dive into deeper levels of comprehension.  I start the process by reading a number of books.  For this particular topic, I started off with a dozen books, but chose to focus on three.  I will give each book the attention it deserves by devoting at least one read aloud session to each book.  With three books, I’ll plan a minimum of three read aloud sessions, possibly many more just on these three books. 

Concrete Texts and Illustrations for Background Knowledge

The initial text needs to be the most supportive scaffold, which means that I need to choose the title that is most accessible to my students.  The text I found simplest to begin with was La falda morada de Leo because it’s very concrete.  Leo loves to dress up as a pirate, superhero, knight... He also likes to wear a purple skirt, but when he goes out with it, someone mistakes him for a girl. This makes him very angry. Why can’t a boy wear a skirt? 

How do I know that this is a very concrete text?  Leo’s parents inform him that across the world many men wear skirts and dresses, and that not so long ago, women were not allowed to wear pants.  There are several illustrations with little writing that show this.  These illustrations can help language learners anchor themselves in the message of the text. You know a text is explicit when the author uses evidence that is direct and the illustrations support the point made by the author. 

We could use La falda morada de Leo to work on lexical comprehension, introducing words and phrases such as falda, vestidos, ropa, lleva/llevan, pantalones, vestir como quisiera. 

Build Content Area Knowledge and Present Language in Spanish

When selecting a second level of scaffolding, I look for texts that will build content area knowledge, meaning showing that a concept applies across contexts.  With the topic of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, I must show that gender profiling doesn’t just happen in La falda morada de Leo.  It’s something that happens frequently, and several authors talk about it.  I’ve chosen Vivan las uñas de colores as the second read aloud to build this content area knowledge.  We’ll be able to talk about how sometimes people’s reactions to our wants and interests are really harmful.  In Vivan las uñas de colores, Juan likes to paint his nails.  His family is understanding of it, but outside he is bullied.  Thanks to Juan’s dad, teacher and classmates, readers learn that it’s a choice to be kind and accepting, and that we can be inclusive by embracing differences.  

With Vivan las uñas de colores, we can build literal comprehension, and hone in on the actions that are exclusive and inclusive.  Teachers can ask questions such as “¿Cómo reaccionan los personajes?”  Students can be introduced to synonyms such as reirse de, burlarse de, hacer juntos, imitar a, mostrar solidaridad, mostrar aceptación.  

Deepen Comprehension and Increase Oral Language Production

My third text is often what I call my “target read aloud.”  The first and second texts have prepared my students to attack this level of comprehension.  I continue to provide visuals as scaffolds, but the first two layers of scaffolding done through the first two read alouds are going to pay off right here.  

I thought that Me llamo Pecas would be a great third layer of discussion because it tells the story of Pecas, a young boy who doesn’t understand why people say that something is “de niño” or “de niña.”  While the illustrations are less concrete, the wording is repetitive, and the book revisits the initial issue brought up in La falda morada de Leo that clothing is only for one gender.  

Me llamo Pecas is also a step up because Pecas keeps asking ¿por qué? when people say that things or activities are just for boys or girls.  At the end of each page, the author writes: “Y no espera respuesta, porque no la hay” meaning that there’s really no explanation for these assumptions.  Unlike La falda morada de Leo, Me llamo Pecas doesn’t give concrete evidence as to why these ideas are unfounded.  

We could use Me llamo Pecas to talk about interests and to invite readers to try something even though it is traditionally associated with a preconceived notion of someone’s gender.  It means that kids will have to give their opinion on likes and dislikes.  Teachers could ask questions like: What is something that you like to do that others think is “de niño” “de niña”?  They can also ask: What is something that you would like to try that people think is “de niño” “de niña”?  Me gusta, me gustaría would be great sentence starters. We can advance vocabulary by thinking of activities that are often gender stereotyped such as playing soccer or basketball, playing hopscotch or dancing.  

Layering books is another tool to add to your toolkit when aiming for deeper conversations.  Of course, reading these books only once feels like a missed opportunity.  Thanks to the power of rereading, teachers may also want to focus on the author’s message in all three books or the character’s thoughts.  

If you’re looking to extend your class conversations, you can also combine these texts with Mi amigo extraterrestre, Hoy no juegas, No se permiten elefantes

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