Monday, February 28, 2011

Complexities of Literacy

As I have been reading articles about literacy and how teachers define it, I have found that it is an extremely debatable topic. I partly knew this with the articles read at the beginning of the semester; however, I am beginning to realize the complexities of the term “literacy.” After reading seven different articles, ranging from elementary to postsecondary, literacy is more than just reading and writing. It is based on theory, content, curriculum, culture along with many other things.

My case study is looking at how a few English teachers at the high school level define literacy and contrasting their concept of literacy with the literacy in my classroom. The reason for reading these articles was to understand the struggles of defining literacy. I honestly don’t know if I understand the struggles, but it definitely showed that there seems to be this tug-of-war with literacy.

I decided to pull one quote from each article that I found essential and that highlight the different parts of literacy:

  • “As teachers and teacher educators, it is imperative that we understand not only our own ideology toward literacy but that of the curriculum materials and processes that are utilized and promoted in our schools.” -Karen Cadeiro-Kaplan in “Literacy Ideologies: Critically Engaging Language Arts Curriculum” on page 372-373
  • [All] students must be allowed access to literacy. Without that access, they will not have what is needed for existence in our society…Our professional responsibility demands that we see beyond the limiting and arbitrary boundaries of how we have defined the world of reading and writing.” –Perry Gilmore in “Privilege, Privation, and the Ethnography of Literacy” on page 11
  • “[We] have also learned that the way teachers shape classroom discourse can at times be limited in scope and not reflective of the diversity of student language and culture.” –Trevor H. Cairney in “The Construction of Literacy and Literacy Learners” on page 497
  • “Teaching academic literacy becomes a process of constructing academic literacy, creating it anew in each class through the interaction of the professor’s and the students’ cultural resources.” –Patricia Bizzell in “Arguing about Literacy” on page 150
  • “As English studies shifts from an Arnoldian view of literature to a more inclusive one that extends to a wider array of texts, learning about literacies can help students hone the critical skills that will enable them to become better readers and writers of academic texts and to function as effective citizens outside the academy.” –Deborah Williams Minter, Ann Ruggles Gere, and Deborah Keller-Cohen in “Learning Literacies” on page 684
  • “If we are to be successful in restructuring high schools or reforming the nature of curriculum and instruction within secondary classrooms, we must sharpen our understanding of how the subject matters to secondary school teachers.” –Pamela L. Grossman and Susan S. Stodolsky in “Content as Context: The Role of School Subjects in Secondary School Teaching” on page 5
  • “Literacy is a wonderfully ambivalent term, its meaning dependent upon the contexts in which it is used.” –Jay L. Robinson in “Literacy in the Department of English” on page 483

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