Creating a Congruent Third Space in the Middle School Writing Classroom
All students have linguistic and cultural capital that contributes to their developing identities within the literacy space (Risko & Walker-Dalhouse, 2012). The experiences, skills, and resources students bring into the classroom from their families and communities are known as ‘funds of knowledge,’ which can be leveraged within instruction, strategies, and assessments as assets to support student learning (Allen, 2007). This capstone will explore the application of third space theory, the integration of a student’s home discourse into the school discourse, through the creation of a ten-lesson writing unit to demonstrate how students’ funds of knowledge can be authentically integrated into a writing curriculum (Moje, Tehani, Carrillo, & Marx, 2001). In this unit, students will write a memoir using “Indian Education” by Sherman Alexie as a mentor text, supported by strategies and cultural texts that reflect authentic writing practice. As the writing experts in the classroom, the teacher’s role in the unit is to guide student writing by exploring personal mindsets regarding linguistic diversity, cultivating linguistic awareness through modeling and discussion, and leveraging the linguistic and cultural differences of students as assets rather than deficits within the curriculum (Risko & Walker-Dalhouse, 2007). Teachers are able to legitimize the experiences of students by representing them within the official curriculum of school (Ladson-Billings, 1994). By seeking to understand student communities and valuing the identities afforded to students through their linguistic and cultural histories, teachers are able to responsively select texts, implement instruction, and assess writing.