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Curriculum Project

agjonca's picture

Finding Our Identities through our Capital

                  While thinking about this curriculum I hit many mental roadblocks and every step of the way I challenged my own ideas and plans. Before even thinking about what I would like to incorporate into my curriculum, I knew that I wanted to base it off of Campano’s idea of a second classroom. During our class discussion with him, Campano said “if we don’t respect one another as knowledge generators, then we won’t be able to create meaningful relationships”. This acted as a building block for my curriculum. Every lesson plan was created in order to incorporate every student and the instructor simultaneously, meaning that the instructor had to complete assignments and share them as well. Along with this, I made sure that the students would be able to make the space their own by defining and creating their safe space and having input in how the lessons are run both before and during.

I designed this curriculum to help first-generation American and immigrant students gain a deeper understanding of the capital they have within their cultural communities and form an identity in a country that is so focused on Americanization. Growing up as a first-generation American, I was always put in a gray area when it came to my identity. As a result of being brought up bilingual, I wasn’t considered as literate as other students and my cultural practices, language, food, and traditions were perceived as weird. This cause me to feel marginalized by my peers and instructors and put me at a disadvantage. As a result I became timid and afraid to ask for help so I fell behind and was labeled as a below-grade-level student for most of my early education up until high school. By the time I was in 8th grade, I felt as though I didn’t have a spot in society because I had rejected my culture in order to be accepted by my peers, yet I still didn’t feel like the typical American student.  I believe that if I was educated about the different types of capital I had available and the important roles they playing in my life, I wouldn’t have rejected my culture in order to “fit-in”.

                  My belief of capital as an important factor of identity for immigrants and first-generation Americans derived after reading Pathways To College for Young Black Scholars by Jayakumar, Vue, and Allen. In this piece, the authors introduce Bourdieu’s definition of cultural capital as the idea that parents pass on beliefs and “modes of thinking” shared by member of their social class to their children. Bourdieu states “the linguistic and cultural competencies of privileged-class families become a symbolic form of currency, or cultural capital, in formal schooling contexts, because they are implicitly valued and rewarded by school[s]”(556). They continue on to critique cultural capital in relation to critical race theory stating that “cultural capital fail[s] to acknowledge the cultural wealth of marginalized groups”(556). Although here the authors are primarily talking about race, I want to take this idea a step further and incorporate it another marginalized group- immigrants and first-generation Americans. I want students to challenge Bourdieu’s definition of cultural capital and redefine it by being exposed to aspirational, linguistic, familial, social, and resistant capital. Each lesson will revolve around a form of capital and how it plays out in students’ lives. I will be describing the importance of each lesson after each section below and provide an overview at the end.


Curriculum Overview

*No dates have bee added in relation to the lessons expect for the first two and last two lessons. This is because lesson order will be determined according to the students’ desires.

Target group: Students entering high school the preceding year (typically 8th graders) that are immigrants or first generation Americans with no regard to ethnic background, everyone is welcome.

Grading: This course will not be graded but will instead be based on attendance, at the end students will receive a credit for completion of the course.

Meets: 3 weeks, 3 days a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) for a total of 9 meeting period. Class can run anywhere from 1.5 hours to 2.5 depending on content being explored and student preference.

Materials: A writing instrument and notebook (journal). Computers should be provided by the site.

Note: The instructor will participate in every activity in order to create meaningful connections with each student and promote growth. Along with this, every new term will be defined in respect to dictionary definitions and students own interpretations.

General Layout of Program:

Course Plan:

These are the topics being presented throughout the course and brief definitions of each.

Topic 1 (second class):

Defining Capital and Cultural Capital

Capital (noun): a store of useful assets or advantages

Cultural Capital: “Parents pass on internalized beliefs, modes of thinking, and dispositions shared by members of their particular social class to their offspring”(556) “Referring to the possessions of the dominant culture as social capital”(“Cultural Capital”)

Topic 2:

Aspirational Capital

Aspirational Capital: “Encapsulated by the notion of resilience and specifically refers to the ability to maintain hopes, aspirations, and visions of success despite social and structural barriers” (557)

Topic 3:

Linguistic Capital


Linguistic Capital: ““Intellectual and social skills through communication experiences in more than one languages and style… connections between racialized cultural history and language””(557)

Topic 4:

Familial Capital

Familial Capital: “Refers to extended view of family and kinship that incorporates community history and memory in order to foster collective consciousness.”(557)

Topic 5:

Social Capital

Social Capital: “Refers to networks of people and community resources that cooperatively supply the emotional and instrumental support needed for success.”(557)

Topic 6:

Resistant Capital

Resistant Capital: “Refers to the knowledge and skills learned from challenging inequality”(557)


Lesson 1: Introduction to the course (First day of class)

Goal: Students will create a safe space and expectations for the program.

Objective: Have students collaborate to create a safe space by encouraging them to step outside of their comfort zones. This will enable constructive discussion for participant to set expectations for the program, instructor, and peers.


-        Introduction: Students will play name games in order to learn their peers names and participate in activities such as “Stand if…” where students will stand if the scenario said relates to them, to begin the process of creating a safe space.

  • “Stand if” should start off with common scenarios such as “stand if you went to the park when you were little” or “stand if you brush your teeth before bed” and move onto issues pertaining to the lives of immigrants.

-        Participants will be introduced to the concept of a Safe Space and create their own definition.

  • This will be posted on the wall and serve as a reminder to students to be respectful of the space and one another.

-        The instructor will pass out a course plan with a general terms reference sheet containing key terms pertaining to different types of capital and resources such as blog sites, slam poetry sites, public databases, public free libraries, etc. (see course plan)

  • A discussion will be held about students’ expectations for the program in regard to the course plan
    • All participant input will be taken into account
      • NOTE: The rest of the program will revolve and adapt to participants needs and expectations.

-        Introduction to “I Am From” poems and the concept behind them

  • Students should be shown several examples.


                  Students will create their own “I Am From” poems that they will be encouraged to share next class. There is no limit on length or content.

I decided to set up the first lesson like this because it gives students and the instructor a chance to create a meaningful relationship. Off the bat, students will be forced out of their comfort zones by participating in the activity “stand if”. By participating in this, students will be able to see commonalities between themselves and their peers. Along with this, I believe it is important for students to feel heard and make this course theirs, therefore, students will provide initial feedback, questions, comments, concerns on the course plan. At the beginning of each class students will be asked to collectively set their group expectations for the day and their own personal expectations. Students wont be asked to share their personal expectations, however they will be asked to write them down in their journals. In order to gain understanding of the students’ background and the way they identify, students will be assigned “I am From” poems that they will be encouraged to share the next class.



Lesson 2: “I Am From” and Cultural Capital (Second day of class)

Goals: Students will walk away with knowledge of their peers’ identities and a general idea of Bourdieu’s definition of cultural capital and how they will like to challenge it throughout the course.

Objective: Students will share their “I Am From” poems at their own comfort and through various activities. Students will also gain knowledge about Bourdieu’s definition of cultural capital and why challenging it is important in respect to first-generation Americans and Immigrants’ education and identities.


-        Expectations for the day

  • Questions pertaining to the course plan

-        Ideas for sharing “I am From” poems

  • Sharing “I am From” poems

-        Defining capital in all aspects

  • How is it most relevant to us?
  • How can we redefine it?

-        Introduction to Bourdieu’s definition of cultural capital and brief history of Bourdieu.

  • Explanation of why cultural capital is relevant in students lives
    • Discussion about whether the definition is appropriate and how it plays out in our lives
  • Brainstorming of how we can collectively redefine cultural capital

-        Choose next lesson topic to discuss next class


                  Keeping cultural capital in mind, students will be asked to find a piece of literature, media, or personal story that they think is representative of Bourdieu’s definition of cultural capital and another that is representative of the class or their definition.

                  Students will also be asked to bring in a piece of literature, media, or a personal story that is relevant to the next topic chosen.

                  Staring off the day with expectations will help students create a focus and achieve goals. Since the “I am From” poems are the students personal work, they should be able to choose how they share their piece. From there the class would transition into the definition of capital, we would look at a dictionary definition and then the definition in respect to how it’s used when coupled with cultural capital. I decided to use Bourdieu’s definition because of our in class reading by Jayakumar and how controversial the definition is. From there we will discuss the relevance and how we see this play out in our lives. I believe this is important because it bridge the gap between theory and reality.

Lessons 2-7: To Be Determined

                  The following lessons, up until lesson 8 will be determined based on students’ desires. However, each will revolve around a form of capital- aspirational, linguistic, familial, social, or resistant capital where students will define what this capital means to them after being exposed to the formal definition. The assignments for each will be the same, find a piece of literature, media, or personal story that relates to our given definition and our own definition.

Lesson 8: Recap of our capitals

Goals: Students will have formed their own definition of cultural capital in respect to the different types of capital. Along with this, the students will have formed their own interpretations of each capital and how it plays out in their lives.

Objective: Students will be able to relate each form of capital back to their lives and identities and understand how to utilize each to their benefit.

Agenda: The agenda is TBD based on students’ desires and level of understanding.


                  Create another “I am From” poem keeping in mind our different forms of capital

                  I believe it is important to have a recap class where students will be able to take everything they’ve learned and directly relate it to their lives. This will be a time for reflection and a time to share personal interpretations of our capitals and how to capitalize upon them.

Lesson 9: Celebrating diversity

                  This last class will have no structure and will depend on what the students want to do. Students will be encouraged to share their “I am From” poems with the class but are not required to. This last day will be used as a chance for students to celebrate each other and diversity. Food and refreshments should be served and games should be played.


                  As I described earlier, my idea behind this curriculum is to help immigrant and first-generation students form an identity through their capital. I believe that is it very important for these students to understand they type of capital they have available to them and challenge the common definitions in order to mold the different capitals to their needs. My hopes for this program is hat students will have access to resources and ideas that they didn’t before and understand how to fully utilize them before entering the confusing world of high school. A major reason why I left so much of the curriculum up to the students is because I want them to understand that they are the only ones in charge of their education. If students can grasp this concept while learning about their available capital, then they will have an easier time finding their identities and establishing a place (or not) in our Americanized society.




















Works Cited

"Capital." Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.

"Cultural Capital". 2014. Web.

Kayakumar, Uma M., Rican Vue, and Walter R. Allen. "Pathways to College for Young Black Scholars." Harvard Educational Review 4th ser. 83 (2013): 551-662. Print.