The Kamehameha Early Education Program (KEEP) was a language arts program designed for underachieving native Hawaiian children. Developed in the early 1970s to help these children improve their reading skills, it emphasized anthropological knowledge and the importance of cultural compatability in educating students. The children's native culture was used as a basis for instructional practices.
Observing the children's home culture, researchers learned that Hawaiian children typically turn for assistance to their peers and older siblings rather than to adults. Villegas (1991) describes how KEEP utilized this observation as an effective teaching practice:
"To capitalize on this community practice, KEEP set up peer-learning centers in the classrooms. As used in the project, the centers encouraged children to help one another with learning tasks. The organization of learning in peer centers contrasts sharply with the way instruction is typically organized during teacher-led lessons, the most frequest form of instruction. In peer centers, the students have a fair degree of responsibility for their own learning, much like the Hawaiian children have in their own homes. In teacher-directed lessons, the instructor has tight control over the actions of students, a feature that clashes dramatically with the norms of the Hawaiian community." (p. 14)
Besides the emphasis on peer teaching and learning, researchers noted that Hawaiian culture promotes joint turn-taking during conversation. Watson-Gegeo and Boggs (1977) as well as Au (1980), Au and Mason (1983), and Au and Kawakami (1991) studied a characteristic speech event in Hawaiian communities called talk story. They successfully translated this participation structure into the KEEP literacy curriculum. Children were encouraged to engage in the cooperative production of responses. They co-narrated stories on the basis of a home speech-community pattern, in which turn-taking was negotiated within a group of peers. Equal rights were exercised during talk-storying and were applied to both teacher and students. Villegas (1991) notes:
"By design, the allocation of turns at speaking during the lessons resembles the rules for participation in the talk story, a recurrent speech event in Hawaiian culture. Specifically, students are allowed to build joint responses during story time, either among themselves or together with the teacher. This strategy of collective turn-taking parallels the joint narration of a story by two or more individuals, which is typical of the talk story. Joint turn-taking contrasts markedly with the one-speaker-at-a-time convention that prevails in mainstream classes." (p. 14)
Through an understanding of children's home and community experiences, cultural congruence was established successfully in the classroom context through KEEP, and literacy learning flourished.