Tag Archives: literacy

Defining Literacy

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.

http://www.edugains.ca/resourcesLIT/PayingAttentiontoLiteracy.pdf

 

 

Discovering New Pre-service Texts

I (Cathy) find myself skeptical of books or articles that use the term ‘activities’ in reference to assigning work to students in the classroom. I was once told the term activities infers no purpose or goal and can be viewed as ‘busy work’. Instead, I was instructed to use the term ‘task’ which infers a specific result must be achieved to accomplish the work.  I was therefore skeptical of a book I recently encountered titled, Pump It Up: Literacy Activities for the Classroom.  However, the caption on the book jacket read “specifically aims to help pre-service teachers learn to implement hands-on lessons for their content area.” So  I decided to take a closer look.  I quickly recognized the editors Joanne Kilgour Dowdy (Kent State University, Ohio USA) and Yang Gao (Kent State University, Ohio) required the contributing authors to include learning objectives for each learning ‘activity’ included in the volume.  I also realized the editors use the term activity to refer to a series of tasks that comprise a lesson.  For example, the activity depicted by contributing author Jessica Wilson explains, “This activity is devised to demonstrate how literacy and creativity can be achieved through all disciplines including science” and describes a free write lesson designed to encourage students to interpret key vocabulary words and develop appropriate syntax and discourse of key terms.

I was delighted to discover the activities or lessons in the book explore an array of disciplines and topics (e.g., health and physical education; drama and other arts; social justice; multiculturalism through children’s literature; literacy/language arts; and mathematics) and the disciplines appear to cross (e.g., using dram to explore science and journaling to explore mathematics). Further, I was intrigued by the sections earmarked Becoming an Artist and Embodying Social Justice.

Well, having now moved past my fear of the term ‘activities’, I have ordered a copy. I proved to myself I not only should not  judge a book by its cover, I also should not judge a book  by its title! As I will be teaching pre-service drama next semester and plan to include as many cross disciplinary ‘activities’ as I can , I am hoping this will be a nice addition to the book collection I will provide for my teacher candidates.  Can’t wait for it to arrive!

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Click here for a sneak preview of the book:

https://www.sensepublishers.com/catalogs/bookseries/other-books/pump-it-up/

 

 

Allegory as a Literary Device and the big Screen

Allegory as a literary device is a powerful tool in literacy development.  Beginning in the early years teachers use allegory to explore moral lessons and critical issues. How often do we read books with animal characters who experience significant challenges and how well do children respond to the texts?… very well!

Last week I (yiola) took my children to a birthday party at the movie theatre where they watched The Angry Birds.

Angry-Birds-final-quad

I had no idea what the movie was about although my 4 year son mentioned it had to do with birds protecting their eggs from pigs. Hmmmm, sounds… interesting.  As I sat in the movie theatre I watched and chuckled at the community of birds and enjoyed the simple characters of each bird… and then I watched as ships sailed onto “Bird Island” and a King Pig with a small entourage befriended the birds, showering them with gifts and new ‘treasures’ that were unfamiliar to the birds. Slowly the pigs began to take over the island and they stole all the birds’ eggs.  The birds then tried to rescue their eggs. Lines such as: “They stole our kids… who DOES that?” and later when the birds invaded “Piggie Island” to rescue the eggs the “King Pig” exclaimed, “what are you doing here? This is a civilized brunch” left me sinking in my seat and feeling uncomfortable. Without doubt The Angry Birds, to me, is an allegory of colonialism. After viewing the movie I began researching articles and critiques and while I found several interpretations very few note colonialism.

To my surprise, many an in-depth discussions have occurred over The Angry Birds. From story line to historical facts to critical literacy to media literacy, I am pleased to see how an animated film could spark such interesting discussion. Now, imagine how using popular culture like the popular video game The Angry Birds and combining it with popular media like a Hollywood movie and applying analysis and interpretation of the use of allegory in a middle school or high school setting to discuss critical social issues like Aboriginal history or immigration. Narratives are such powerful tools for thinking about life. Allegory as a literary device has the potential to raise significant awareness and heighten a love for literacy.

 

Actor’s insights into Literacy

If we talk about literacy, we have to talk about how to enhance our children’s mastery over the tools needed to live intelligent, creative, and involved lives.

Danny Glover

Danny_Glover_2014

I was curious as to why actor Danny Glover would be credited with such a profound quote on literacy.  Looking into his background I discovered two things about him:

1.Danny Glover suffered dyslexia at school when he was younger and the school staff would label him retarded. This definitely was not very encouraging for him but he ended up finding ways to feel better about himself. He says that dyslexia had given him the feeling that he was not worthy to learn and that the people around him would not care of what would happen to his education. With time he eventually regained his self-esteem and became a great actor.

2. Danny Glover is a political and civil rights activist. For example, while attending San Francisco State University (SFSU), Glover was a member of the Black Students Union, which, along with the Third World Liberation Front and the American Federation of Teachers, collaborated in a five-month student-led strike to establish a Department of Black Studies. The strike was the longest student walkout in U.S. history. It helped create not only the first Department of Black Studies but also the first School of Ethnic Studies in the United States.

I am sure these two factors contribute enormously to Mr. Glover’s insightful views on literacy.  What we make of our backgrounds shape our identities as leaders, particularly in education.  My newly discovered knowledge of Mr. Glover increases my respect for him not only as an actor, but as  a human being.  I look forward to reading more about his journey and commitment to literacy development.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Danny_Glover#Civil_rights_activism

http://www.disabled-world.com/artman/publish/article_2130.shtml

 

Dora in the 21st Century

A few weeks ago, I (Pooja) was watching an episode of Dora the Explorer with my niece and nephew. Dora and her friends were on an adventure and as per usual got lost. I expected Dora to whip out her handy animated friend, Map (see below).

map

For as long as I could remember, Map had been an integral character of the Dora the Explorer Show. Map helped the viewers understand the cardinal directions, locate familiar landmarks, and use a compass. So, I was surprised when I saw Dora reach into her pocket and pull out her phone and open Map App!!! After my initial surprise, I started to understand why the Map character had been replaced with an app. Viewers, like my 5-year-old niece and nephew had never held a map or seen a map, so of course they couldn’t relate to it. Now, an app? They know all about those!

mapapp

The initial character Map was introduced to teach life skills. Do you  think the Map App will be able to teach the same skills or more?

World Book Day

I (Clare) just found out that Thursday March 3 is World Book Day. What a wonderful event Image_WorldBookDayto celebrate. Check out this site from England: http://www.worldbookday.com which has lots of suggestions for activities for the day.

Thought you would like this picture of children dressed up as Pippi Longstocking and Burgler Bill!

The “Google generation”

Many of our learners have grown up with access to all sorts of search engines, namely Google which has quickly turned from a noun to a verb: “Just Google it.” With access to Google, many of our learners have instant answers that are just a few clicks away.

There has been an ongoing debate on whether Google is harmful or not to our ability to critically think about texts. Tan (2016) from Mindshift recongnizes, “with the advent of personal assistants like Siri and Google Now that aim to serve up information before you even know you need it, you don’t even need to type the questions. Just say the words and you’ll have your answer.” However, there are ways to ensure questions/inquiries in the class are “Google proof.” A former Kentucky middle-school teacher suggests re-thinking our instructional design is key in making work Google proof. He says, “Design it so that Google is crucial to creating a response rather than finding one…if students can Google answers — stumble on (what) you want them to remember in a few clicks — there’s a problem with the instructional design.”

I envision project-based learning and inter-disciplinary approaches as a way into creating Google proof material. Any suggestions? What have you tried/created/heard about?

 

 

Short or Long Form Writing?

There is a lot of enthusiasm today about the potential of short form communication – SocialMediatweets, blogs, etc. – to facilitate inquiry and professional development. At the same time, books and long articles continue to be published in huge numbers. Which medium is likely to have greater impact? An obvious response is that we should use both; but when forced to choose (either as reader or writer), which should we opt for? In my (Clive’s) view it depends on the context and how we go about it.

Teaching is such a complex process that individual tweets or blogs about it may be of little use. However, if they are part of an ongoing conversation (literal or metaphoric) they can be very valuable. It is the same with articles and books: they must respond to the concerns and thinking in the field if they are to be helpful.

Wittgenstein once said (according to Iris Murdoch – NYT, January 24, 2016): “One conversation with a philosopher is as pointless as one piano lesson.” So much for short form communication! But it depends on the context. For a serious pianist, a single interaction with another pianist can have a big impact. And equally, if an academic is willing to dialogue rather than just lecture endlessly about their theory, one conversation can be very helpful.

Whether short or long, communication should as far as possible “keep the conversation going” (to use Rorty’s phrase) so people learn from each other and there is a cumulative effect. We cannot always have an actual conversation, but if we listen to what others are asking and thinking we can make a contribution.

 

 

 

 

A Book Printing Machine at Toronto Library!

books.jpeg

The CBC reported that this past weekend the Toronto Reference Library unveiled book printing machine which allows individuals to walk away with store-quality books. As of now, authors can print 10 copies of  their books (150 pgs) for $145. A bit pricey in my opinion, but definitely unique with a lot of great potential for students, writers, educators, etc. CBC reports that “What’s new is the ability to self-publish books – whether your own piece of literature, a cook book, dissertation or whatever you choose for a relatively.” The Toronto Reference Library will soon be offering courses on how to best format books for professional looking books.

Read CBC article here:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/toronto-library-offers-store-quality-book-printing-to-customers-1.2670661