One of my (Cathy’s) favourite first tasks for my new teacher candidates is to have them define the term literacy on paper- written or drawn- no right or wrong. I tuck this away for them and then give it back on the last day of our literacy course so they can it to compare their (hopefully somewhat) altered definition. For some the definition changes a lot and for some not so much. The differences represent the teacher candidates prior knowledge of literacy and literacy practices; their ability to make adjustments; their open mindedness; and their ability to accept change. Reshaping ones definition of literacy is a process and its actually quite demanding.
Every year I look for new academic, scholarly, or institutional definitions of literacy, or as I prefer to refer to it- literacies- to share with my TC’s as their definitions shift and grow. This year I will include the definition below. It is from the Ontario government’s document Focus on Literacy (2013):
LITERACY – Kindergarten to Grade 12 Literacy is … the ability to use language and images in rich and varied forms to read, write, listen, speak, view, represent, discuss and think critically about ideas. Literacy enables us to share information and to interact with others. Literacy is an essential tool for personal growth and active participation in a democratic society.
Literacy involves the capacity to:
• access, manage, create and evaluate information
• think imaginatively and analytically
• communicate thoughts and ideas effectively
• apply metacognitive knowledge and skills
• develop a sense of self-efficacy and an interest in life-long learning
The development of literacy is a complex process that involves building on prior knowledge, culture and experiences in order to instill new knowledge and deepen understanding.
I especially like the last line. I hope my TC’s do to.