Kamehameha Early Education Program (KEEP), Honolulu, Hawaii

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:

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:

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.


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