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Critical Literacy Basics - Cosentino


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Christine Cosentino, YCDSB

Published in: Education, Technology
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Critical Literacy Basics - Cosentino

  1. 1. Critical Literacy The Basics Beyond, Under, Over and Around the Text
  2. 2. A Snapshot • What Critical Literacy is: -refers to a stance one takes toward texts -engages students in asking questions that problematize or grapple with the complexities of text – oral, print, electronic; includes video games,
  3. 3. -can be traced back to the work of Paulo Freire, who taught people to “read the word” in order to “read the world” -seeking alternative explanations -examining attitudes, dispositions, values and beliefs that readers bring to a text that shape the way they read and perceive it -examining the way that text influences the reader – the assumptions and beliefs that underlie a text and the perspectives and voices that are missing or silenced -social action fairness, equity and meaning makers Learners are not only code breakers, social justice and text users, but they are also text of texts and look critics who second-guess the meaning analysts and beneath texts to sources and purposes of production. (Luke and Freebody 1990)
  4. 4. • What Critical Literacy is not: -teaching a universal set of literacy skills -approaching literacy as a neutral activity -a method or program “There is no magical method.” (Luke) -about traditional comprehension questions (e.g. what is the main idea?) -synonymous with critical thinking skills
  5. 5. • The Benefits: -application across all curricular areas, modes of expression, texts and new technologies -encourages students to be active readers and questioners -applies critical thinking skills, deepens comprehension and fosters integrative thinking -readers interact with the text -encourages students to research language -respects the literacy practices of minority cultures -develops a sense of agency, control over text, voice and identity -compels learners to social action -empowering
  6. 6. Key Themes: • Power relationships • Race • Gender • Class • Identity
  7. 7. Addressing Your Questions • “Would it work more effectively if you explain to students what Critical Literacy is and what you want them to accomplish and maybe take a poll to see which topics/issues interest them, and work together in coming up with specific assignments?” Absolutely! You’ll find that once you explain what Critical Literacy is, students generally “buy in” instantaneously. Where allowing students choice is most effective is in how they choose to demonstrate their learning and their plans for social action.
  8. 8. Some Quotes… • “Read the word to read the world.” (Freire, 1970) • “The literate individual is someone who knows that there is more that one version available.” (Green, 2001) • “Literacy is itself “an emergent technology – that is, a technology that changes the environment in which it is used.” (Freebody, 1993) • “The problem with words is you don’t know whose mouths they’ve been in…” (Cosentino, 2008)
  9. 9. • “Literacy is a dynamic, evolving social and historical construction. It is not a fixed, static body of skills. Standards of practice of literacy are contingent on the agendas and power relations of institutions and communities, governments and cultures. “ (Luke, 1993)
  10. 10. Student-Created Literacy Profiles • First memories of reading • First memories of writing • Favourite reading as a child • Favourite writing as a child • Favourite reading as an adolescent • Favourite writing as an adolescent • Most important books/authors in your life • Main roles and purposes for reading in your life • Main roles and purposes for writing in your life
  11. 11. • “What do evaluation pieces look like?” They vary… Evaluation pieces could be whatever you want them to be depending on the purpose of your lesson. You can have students produce counter-texts (videos, blogs, wikis) and work in more traditional formats (essays, posters, pamphlets/brochures, monologues, etc.) as long as the traditional pieces allow students to be critical of issues of power, gender, race, etc.
  12. 12. You could assess: • Video clips – • Visual: painting, sketches, collages, murals, posters • Written: letters, essays, poems, journals, press releases, news reports • Oral: speeches, monologues • Digital: re-mixes, web pages, blogs
  13. 13. “While more young people have access to the Internet and other media than any generation in history, they do not necessarily possess the ethics, the intellectual skills, or the predisposition to critically analyze and evaluate ……. these technologies or the information they encounter. Good hand/eye co-ordination and the ability to multitask are not substitutes for critical thinking.” Dr. David Considine, Appalachian State Univ.
  14. 14. • “How does one go about changing established curriculum to more of a critical literacy approach?” That’s a bit of a toughie… While it doesn’t appear as if the curriculum is going to change in it’s approach to teaching and learning in spite of recent revisions, teachers can use the existing documents in a critically-literate classroom. What a number of documents are showing is an increased number of expectations that embody critical thinking skills – a necessary tool for critical literacy. Remember – the curriculum tells you WHAT to teach, not how to teach…
  15. 15. • Something to keep in mind: “Literacy education is about the distribution of knowledge and power in contemporary society. Who gets what kinds of literate competence? Access to text? Where and to what ends? Who can criticize? How? To What extent? These issues are significant not only for students’ lives and economic destinies, but also for the overall distribution of competence and knowledge, wealth and power in a literate society.” (Luke, 1993)
  16. 16. • As teachers, we have to see critical literacy as the ‘new basics’ for 21st century teaching and learning. • Resistance to the ‘back to basics’ rhetoric that reflects only those skills assessed on standard tests. – Seldom reflect on what sorts of activities reading and writing actually are – how they shape our social and economic paths
  17. 17. Avoiding Contemporary “Literacy Myths” • Literacy makes you more intelligent. • The more literate you are, the more worthy you are. • Working-class children are inherently not as good at literacy learning. • There is a single, optimal formula for teaching literacy, which can solve the problems of student literacy once and for all. • Literacy learning is a “natural” and “spontaneous” process for all children. • Literacy consists of individualize, basic psychological skills. THIS IS IDEOLOGY!
  18. 18. • “How would parents react when they are used to a prescribed curriculum?” You’re not moving away from the curriculum… But you’re certainly putting a new spin on it! If you are concerned about parental reaction to some of the work being done in your course, it’s not a bad idea to send a notice home informing parents of the themes of your course and some of the learning opportunities that you will be providing for your students.
  19. 19. • Need to demonstrate to parents that the functional needs are still being met  students are STILL reading and writing • Must be open to parental feedback and expressions of concern • Space can be made for parents to participate
  20. 20. • “Can I use critical literacy in every lesson of every unit?” Of course! So that your work doesn’t look contrived or artificial, the idea is to establish from the very beginning from what framework the class will be working. Post key questions that you always want students to keep in mind so that the ideas are Something else to consider… easily accessible. may want to plan your lessons around You certain critical literacy themes (power relation, gender identity, racism, classism, sexism, etc.)
  21. 21. Critical Literacy Lesson Framework • Engage a student’s thinking • Guide a student’s thinking • Extend a student’s thinking • Reflect
  22. 22. Frameworks and Connections • Critical literacy resonates with Brian Cambourne’s (2002) description of social constructivism: 2. Learning cannot be separated from the context. 3. The learner’s goals are central to what is learned. 4. Knowledge and meaning are socially constructed through negotiation, evaluation and transformation.
  23. 23. Some Strategies • Pose questions, and teach students to pose questions that “disrupt” common understandings, question the text’s authority, and second-guess meaning. • Examine the text from multiple viewpoints, including those not represented. • Compare/contrast texts. • Juxtapose predictions about text against discoveries made during reading. • Compare/contrast traditional and non-tradition versions of familiar stories/narratives.
  24. 24. • Create alternative texts (e.g. switching gender roles, changing the setting). • Focus on socio-political issues of power and relationship among people. • Engage student in writing to explore how language works, the ways various individuals and institutions use literacy to their own ends, the reasons behind such use. • Use language and literacy to reflect and act on behalf of social justice.
  25. 25. • Integrate strategies for Critical Literacy into familiar reading comprehension frameworks: modeling with think-alouds, direct instruction, shared and guided practice, reflection • Read, reflect and act: create opportunities for students to immerse themselves in texts, questions and “fearless speaking and listening”; to reflect on their reading/viewing/listening; to act (Lucy West, 2008) • Code-breaker, meaning-maker, text-user, text- analyst: students need to develop proficiency in each of these roles; although Critical Literacy is most aligned with text analyst, the • other roles are all implicated (Luke and Freebody, 1999)
  26. 26. • Use a variety of patterned partner readings: – read-pause-discuss – read-pause-make a connection – read-pause-sketch – read-pause-summarize – read-pause-make a prediction
  27. 27. • “How can I incorporate critical literacy into a computer class?” Apart from the Curriculum: -bring a discourse of equity and access to the classroom -be cognizant of the resources with which you teach -be aware of the language being used
  28. 28. • Within the Curriculum: -having class discussions about the kind of work environment one might expect to encounter in the field of computers/computer science -bringing in guest speakers who are women and visible minorities who have achieved success in the field examining issues of power, gender, race and class
  29. 29. From p. 26 of the Computers Curriculum Document… “Participation rates in computer studies tend to be higher for male students than for female students. To encourage greater participation among female students, it may be helpful to offer more projects and activities that have socially meaningful applications. For example, projects to develop assistive devices, as opposed to the more traditional activity of programming robotic arms, have proved successful in engaging the interest of female students. Similarly, projects involving graphical programming to develop animated stories, as opposed to abstract gaming activities, may hold more appeal for young women. Providing outreach programs and establishing study groups for young women
  30. 30. -analyzing the impact of computer use on the environment and developing creative action plans to lessen or eliminate the “footprints” left behind “Programming projects can be used to support these expectations. For example, students might program a survey to assess people’s knowledge of environmentally responsible strategies related to the use of computers. The program could be designed to calculate the respondent’s “environmental awareness” grade and suggest additional strategies, or it could be designed to provide feedback for each survey question. Students could also design surveys to assess the use of environmentally responsible practices in the classroom.” (p. 28, Computersof power examining issues Curriculum) can inspire social action
  31. 31. • “Can we have a modeled analysis of text?” Not really… The beautiful thing about critical literacy at work in a classroom is that there is no model. The educator and students have a lot of freedom to shape their inquiry as it fits their needs. There are, however, some ideas:
  32. 32. Types of Questions You Can Use to Interrogate Text • Textual Purpose(s): – What is this text about? How do we know? – Who would be most likely to read and/or view this text? Why? – Why are reading and/or viewing this text? – What does the composer of the text want us to know? • Textual Structures and Features: – What are the structures and features of the text? – What sort of genre does the text belong to? – What kind of language is used in the text?
  33. 33. • Gaps and Silences: – Are there ‘gaps’ and ‘silences’ in the text? – Who is missing from the text? – What has been left out of the text? – What questions about itself does the text not raise? • Power and Interest: – In whose interest is the text? – Who benefits from this text? – Which positions, voices, and interests are privileged in the text? – Who is excluded from the text? – Why is the text written the way that it is?
  34. 34. • Interrogating the Composer: – What kind of person, and with what interests and values, composed this text? – What view of the world and values does the composer of the text assume that the reader/ viewer holds? How do we know? Ultimately, you want students looking for issues surrounding: -gender -race -class -power relations
  35. 35. Keywords Core Concept Key Question Authorship All texts are Who created this text? “constructed” Format All text are constructed How do I relate to this using creative language text? with its own rules. Audience Different people How might different experience the same people understand this text differently. text differently? Content Texts have embedded What lifestyles, values values and points of view. and points of view are represented in, or omitted from, this text? Purpose Most text are organized Why was this text to gain profit and/or produced? power.