What is the best way to teach literacy?

After talking and thinking a lot about literacy this semester, we’ve all developed our own ideas about the best definitions of literacy.  We know that there are huge consequences for every one of these definitions and we’ve read about how that can affect students.  A lot of the readings that we’ve done have been about teaching literacy in English classes.  Since many of us plan to go into education, I’m sure we’ve all developed our own ideas about how best to teach literacy.  In your opinion, based on the readings we’ve done and discussions we’ve had this semester, what do you think is the best way to teach literacy skills?  Are there few things that you think are key in teaching literacy skills?

Effects of computers on literacy

In his article, Baron argues that the current new technology of computers is parallel to the technology of the pencil at the time when it was new and exciting.  Computers have totally changed the way that literacy happens, and they make literacy more accessible for some people and less so for others.  Do you think computers and new technology will help increase overall literacy in the world or will they just make a greater divide between “highly literate” people and people with “low” literacy skills?

Fragmented Assimilation

In Kate Vieira’s article, “American By Paper,” she describes a concept that she calls “fragmented assimilation.”  Unlike the usual use of the word assimilation, fragmented assimilation accounts for the dynamic, changing environment and multicultural atmosphere that immigrants enter and assimilate into.  It also centers assimilation on the ways that immigrants use biliteracy to “assimilate partially to multiple host communities that are themselves being transformed by the writing of new immigrants” (Vieira 52).  Do you think that this concept of fragmented assimilation is useful for destabilizing the racist connotation of assimilation?  What is working and what could be better about the concept of fragmented assimilation?

Valuing Language Diversity in the Classroom

Last week , we talked and read about how sometimes well-meaning white teachers who want to value the culture of Black students end up not teaching their Black students academic English skills. They don’t mean to be doing a disservice to these students, but that’s what ends up happening because the students don’t learn how to write or speak in a more academic context. However, the flipside of this is when teachers enforce academic English all the time, even in casual conversations. We talked about a few different ways that teachers could do this, and they all had pros and cons. For example, the teachers could use roleplaying to practice formal English skills, but this is potentially problematic because students might see it as not accessible or part of themselves.

What do you think teachers can do to get the right balance of valuing language diversity while still teaching students important English skills? Is there something that is key to deciding when it’s time to enforce formal English?

Dwayne Lowery

In class on Thursday we discussed Brandt’s article, “Sponsors of Literacy,” where we read about Dwayne Lowery’s story.  He worked in a factory for a period of time before he attended a four month training in union organizing and subsequently became a field staff representative for the union.  When he began working, he had an advantage because of his training, but soon after, the companies responded to the union power by hiring lawyers.  The language and process was changing and Lowery fell behind, so he was forced into early retirement.  A recent MA graduate replaced him because of the “high track” literacy that was now required by the job.

In my group, we discussed the problematic nature of Lowery’s situation and we even thought that it might be a disadvantage to the union to replace Lowery with someone new because Lowery had so much more knowledge from working with the union for so long.  It also goes against the ideals of a union, which is to protect workers like Lowery.  Do you think that there’s any way to reconcile the newly required essayist writing skills with Lowery’s experience?  Is there any way that it would have been feasible for Lowery to keep his job?  Do you think that Lowery still could have helped the union even though he didn’t have the “essayist” skills?

Literacy Memory

One of my earliest memories of literacy is from kindergarten.  In the morning every day, we had to write a sentence describing a picture that we were given.  One day after school, I asked my mom about commas in a book she was reading to me, and she explained that they indicated a pause in a sentence.  From that point on, I thought commas were really exciting and proceeded to use them in all of my morning sentences.  Later, I learned what apostrophes were and they were equally exciting!  I eventually found out that you can’t just use apostrophes and commas whenever you want, and that was pretty disappointing.  Even today, I have a tendency to overuse commas and I think it stems from that initial excitement I had about them back in kindergarten.