This project, supported by a Chapter VII SPIRAL GRANT, was written by the Lyndale ELL team in response to repeated requests from Somali parents who wanted to help their children be more successful in school, but felt unable to do so because they didn’t speak English or understand our culturally unfamiliar curriculum. It was obvious to our ELL team that there was a great need for culturally relevant material to enhance our Somali students’ English language and literacy skills. We needed an approach that would engage Somali students, their parents, peers, teachers, and support staff. In the absence of a meaningful curriculum, our team decided to develop one that would address the most basic needs, employing topics familiar to all Somalis.
Maryan Ali, a bilingual support staff person on the Lyndale ELL team, collected nineteen familiar stories that had been taken from a rich Somali oral tradition, and had been passed down from generation to generation. These Somali folktales are familiar to the parents, not only the stories themselves, but also the cultural and geographical context, the characters, values, lifestyles, climate, landscape, plants, etc. Maryan shared these stories and their significance with the other ELL team members, and wrote them in Somali. She gave extensive, detailed background information and interpretations of all the stories to Charmaine Owens, ELL teacher, who then wrote them in simple English (from 1.5 to 2.5 reading levels). Here, too, Maryan Ali's advice was extremely helpful. Charmaine Owens then developed a series of suggested literary activities and a play to go with each story. Mohamed Ahmed and Ali Gelle, both on the ELL team, worked together with Maryan Ali and Charmaine Owens to make valuable content and editing suggestions, and helped make this collection of Somali stories more authentic and readable for the Somali community. Finally Seth Leavitt, technology specialist at Lyndale, provided invaluable assistance. He converted files from a variety of formats (some close to being extinct), eliminated glitches, enhanced formats, etc. This project would never have been completed without the cooperation of all these educators.
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