ldquo;Oh Yeah, I'm Mexican. What Type are You?rdquo; Changing the Way Preservice Teachers Interpret and Respond to the Literate Identities of Children

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This writing describes a literacy project between preservice teachers enrolled in a small university in Montana and an inner city school classroom in Kansas. It shows how the preservice teachers and children negotiate meaning at the beginning of the project as well as what the preservice teachers were learning from the children and from their teacher, Scott. Twenty-three third grade children exchanged letters, cards, drawings, autobiographies, and writing about shared literature with 24 preservice teachers for 10 weeks. Scott, the third grade teacher who assisted with the project, was a former student in Rita's university language arts classroom and was strongly committed to demonstrating to preservice teachers the rewards of teaching in an inner city classroom… particularly those coming from communities where people of color or linguistic diversity were few. Through shared written responses and the negotiation of meaning between two age groups, this project opened pathways for greater insight into the cultures and lives of children that the university students might otherwise not have known. It also provided myriad glimpses into the lives of real children, each with his or her own interests, life experiences, and expressive modalities thus shaping the perceptions of the preservice teachers about their role as teacher in supporting and responding to the individual strengths of each child.

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