Jerome C. Harsteâ€™s The Muses Among Us
Fall 2016 Issue â€” Volume 12(2) The Journal of Language & Literacy Education (JoLLE, ISSN #1599-9035) is a peer-reviewed, openaccess journal housed in the Department of Language and Literacy Education in the College of Education at The University of Georgia. Since its inception in 2004, JoLLE has provided a space for scholars to engage readers in a broad spectrum of issues related to the field.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016
Table of Contents Editors’ Introduction Ø Intentional Meaning: Exploring How We Read and Write Our Worlds Nick Thompson and Jennifer Jackson Whitley, Co-Principal Editors
Academic Articles Voices from the Field Ø Ctrl F: A Scholar’s Tips for Delving into the World of Creative Writing Christina Berchini Ø The Trouble with Niceness: How a Preference for Pleasantry Sabotages Culturally Responsive Teacher Preparation Jeanne Dyches Bissonnette Featured Articles Ø Living and Learning in the Here-and-Now: Critical Inquiry in Literacy Teacher Education Katherine Crawford-Garrett and Kathleen Riley
Ø Beyond Mirrors and Windows: A Critical Content Analysis of Latinx Children’s Books Eliza G. Braden and Sanjuana C. Rodriguez
Ø Empowering the Foreign Language Learner Through Critical Literacies Development Margaret Keneman
Academic Book Reviews Ø Review of Nobody: Casualties of America’s War on the Vulnerable from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond S. R. Toliver
Table of Contents Continued Ø Review of Research-Based Practices for Teaching Common Core Literacy Courtney Shimek
Ø Review of Focus on Literacy Rhia Moreno-Kilpatrick
Ø Review of Engaging Writers with Multigenre Research Projects: A Teacher’s Guide Jessica F. Kobe
Ø Review of The Complete Guide to Tutoring Struggling Readers: Mapping Interventions to Purpose and CCSS Helene Halstead
Ø Review of Voices for Diversity and Social Justice: A Literary Education Anthology Kristen E. Duncan
Ø Review of Multimodality, Learning and Communication: A Social Semiotic Frame Jason DeHart
Children & Young Adult Literature (CYAL) Book Reviews Elementary School Ø Review of Tinyville Town Gets to Work Kate O’Rourke and Mary Frost Osborne Ø Review of Ada’s Ideas: The Story of Ada Lovelace, the World’s First Computer Programmer Madalene Ramsey and Faith Tucker Middle School Ø Review of Shadows of the Dark Crystal #1 Sam Tanner and Emily Whitney Ø Review of The Boy with 17 Senses Miriam Voyles and Madison Lavender High School Ø Review of Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go: A Novel of Haiti Daniel Hayes and Sierra Rainville Ø Review of The Red Abbey Chronicles: Maresi Shannon Lindsey Cheek and Rebecca Posten
Table of Contents Continued Poetry & Arts Ø A Writing Lesson Sally Jarzab
Ø The Poet Alex Johns
Ø When You’re Not Smarter Than A Fifth Grader Janine Certo
Ø Keep Ariel S. Maloney
Ø Let Us Feast at Poetry’s Table Johanna M. Bailie
Ø The Muses Among Us Jerome C. Harste
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016
Editors’ Introduction Intentional Meaning: Exploring How We Read and Write Our Worlds Nick Thompson & Jennifer Jackson Whitley
o matter where language and literacy educators are—in a classroom, in a meeting, driving to a friend’s house, on a date—we tend to story our lives. Individual contexts filter and shape those stories to be unique and influenced by the stories of those around us. Story is a tool we use to make meaning of our worlds. As members of the language and literacy education community, we often are charged with the privilege and responsibility of constructing, managing, and reconstructing narratives. Jerome Bruner (1986) argued that the human experience cannot be explained wholly in numerical terms because narrative “deals with the vicissitudes of human intentions” (p. 16). This intentionality instills a duty within educators, students, and researchers to frame their work and words in ways that move toward inclusion and acceptance. There is an ethic of making stories that invites people to connect with one another while reaching out to connect with the myriad voices found in others’ stories, even when they do not reflect their own. One of my (Nick’s) most difficult stories to reflect on from my teaching career happened in the spring of 2006, not long after I began teaching, when I watched two high school seniors in an argument about who suffered the most at the hands of their classmates, community, and even some of the faculty in the high school where I taught. To give a little context, it was an upper-middle class high school with a mostly White student body in the Southeast that led the charge to put stickers on newly-adopted biology books stating that evolution is only a theory, not a fact in 2002. I was struck dumb by the shocking realities that my students were unearthing for me. I saw my role as serving only to make sure that their words did not turn into personal attacks. I did not stop the argument because it seemed to be an important conversation for them to have so they could express their pain. It seemed necessary for me to witness so that I could move toward understanding the personal histories of two students who were treated unjustly by their school. I reflect on this story frequently as I trace the memory of my still unfolding path to becoming a teacher. I was struck by—and carry with me—a few realizations from witnessing my two students’ argument. First, I was not prepared in my own education to engage in this conversation. As a White, heterosexual, male with a middle-
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 class background, I did not have the personal experiences that allowed me to relate to my students’ contexts with acute instances of mistreatment that reflect the larger systemic, oppressive attitudes in our community and our country. Second, though aware of the racism, sexism, and homophobia around me, I was completely ignorant of the abusive behavior that some of my students, those whose well-being I was charged with protecting, suffered. Third, though my students’ experiences were different from each other and their stories were forged in different historical crucibles, I couldn’t help but view these two young people as embattled allies. There was a chance for the encounter to be mutually therapeutic, for them to gain each other’s perspective, but instead, it was only a standoff about who of the two could claim the most suffering. Lastly, I was left wishing for a magic button that would help me find the ethical response, much like the Ctrl + F function in Christina Berchini’s article in this issue of the Journal of Language and Literacy Education (JoLLE). There is no easy fix. From elementary school-aged readers to university faculty writers, the work presented in this issue seeks to help educators grow a hope for a “viable pluralism backed by a willingness to negotiate differences in world-view” (Bruner, 1990, p. 30). There is work to be done towards this end, and we are proud in this Fall 2016 issue of JoLLE to bring readers examples of the efforts being put forth by educators from many walks of life, in multitudinous settings, and through diverse mediums. It is our hope that this issue calls to question the stories around us, inviting dialogue, raising questions, and challenging the dominant discourses that construct—and potentially change—our worlds. Fall 2016 Academic Articles We begin JoLLE’s Fall 2016 issue with an experimental nonfiction essay, Ctrl F: A Scholar’s Tips for Delving into the World of Creative Writing, where Christina Berchini unpacks the creative writing process and the difficulties that come along with it using the Ctrl + F function as an extended metaphor. Throughout her piece, Berchini merges the two worlds of creative and academic writing, illuminating the ways in which they work together—not only in the physical process, but also through the vulnerability of putting one’s work out into the world and dealing with rejections when they inevitably come. According to Berchini, “If only there were a life function for Control Hide—which is about the only thing a teacher/scholar/writer who dares to delve into the creative wants to do the day they receive a rejection” (p. 7). In a way, this issue is about rejection—rejecting normativity, rejecting monolithic language, and moving toward (re)storying the narratives in constant flux around us in order to shape our unique worlds. In The Trouble with Niceness: How a Preference for Pleasantry Sabotages Culturally Responsive Teacher Preparation, Jeanne Dyches Bissonnette leads our readers through some of the possible reasons underlying why teacher training programs are under-preparing preservice teachers for teaching in culturally-responsive ways. What could be wrong with being nice? Critical thinking, speech, and action are rarely “nice.” Difficult change is seldom achieved through niceness. Bissonnette argues that change is a product of disrupting and dismantling normalized culture, and is therefore interpreted as rude, dangerous—even nasty. Niceness helps to perpetuate the dominant narratives in society, and the status quo only serves to advance those who benefit from disenfranchising forces. When opponents to change criticize the medium of an argument as “not nice,” and they
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 can’t challenge content of the message, the argument is probably on the right track. To Bissonnette, disrupting the order can be valuable. Calling for a “dramatic shift” in teacher education in Living and Learning in the Here-and-Now: Critical Inquiry in Literacy Teacher Education, Katherine Crawford-Garrett and Kathleen Riley argue for critical “here and now” positioning of preservice teachers. They show the value of looking at the political climate of teaching, not only in the abstract, but from a personal, lived, local lens. Crawford-Garrett and Riley claim that looking critically at “here and now” experiences is at the core of training to be a teacher. The authors discuss critical inquiries that their undergraduate literacy methods course students engaged in within two areas of the United States that are dealing with very different social issues, one in the Northeast, the other in the Southwest. Where and who preservice teachers are matters in their ability express their worldview as teachers, and Crawford-Garrett and Riley argue it can be an essential skill in teaching any student population. Eliza G. Braden and Sanjuana C. Rodriguez continue the work of advancing society toward critical consciousness in Beyond Mirrors and Windows: A Critical Content Analysis of Latinx Children’s Books. In their podcast interview for JoLLE, we asked if some students are too young for conversations about privilege. They argue that books are educational tools that can serve as a “vehicle to interrogate how groups are represented,” and that “children hold a wealth of knowledge around politicized topics” that some adults see as unfit for curriculum. They constructed four major insights through the content analysis of Latinx children’s books: a. English is privileged; b. The books don’t include significant cultural context; c. There is a reliance on traditional gender roles; and d. The books have a reliance on utopian society backdrops. This piece will help teachers, especially those in elementary contexts, to build a more culturally responsive classroom library. Braden and Rodriguez also provide specific recommendations as well as give guidance on how to choose books that more responsibly offer representations of Latinx peoples and cultures. In her piece, Empowering the Foreign Language Learner through Critical Literacies Development, Margaret Keneman notes that while strides have been made in the field of language and literacy education, too often, students in the foreign language classroom still receive education through a banking model that lacks critical pedagogical awareness. According to Keneman, “Students often have difficulty perceiving the wealth of opportunity that is possible as a result of studying a foreign language, including the potential to develop and grow personally as they interact with new cultures using new modes of expression in a new language” (p. 90). She challenges foreign language educators to use a critical literacy teaching model in order to create a classroom space for students to learn more than a language—to learn about a culture, a people, and to situate their own stories within those worlds. Book Reviews and Poetry and Art In addition to the academic articles in this issue, our board members, led by the section editors, have assembled book reviews and original artistic pieces related to language and literacy education. Academic Book Review Editor, Kathleen R. McGovern, has included a number of diverse book reviews in this issue of JoLLE that continue the theme of critical narratives, starting this section with a review by S. R. Toliver of Nobody: Casualties
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 of America’s War on the Vulnerable from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond (Hill, 2016). Other books reviewed in this issue are: Research-Based Practices for Teaching Common Core Literacy (Pearson & Hiebert, 2015), reviewed by Courtney Shimek; Focus on Literacy (Fu & Matoush, 2014), reviewed by Rhia Moreno-Kilpatrick; Engaging Writers with Multigenre Research Projects: A Teacher’s Guide (Mack, 2015), reviewed by Jessica F. Kobe; The Complete Guide to Tutoring Struggling Readers: Mapping Interventions to Purpose and CCSS (Fisher, Bates, & Gurvits, 2014), reviewed by Helene Halstead; Voices for Diversity and Social Justice: A Literary Education Anthology (Landsman, Salcedo, & Gorski, 2015), reviewed by Kristen E. Duncan; and Multimodality, Learning and Communication: A Social Semiotic Frame (Bezemer & Kress, 2016), reviewed by Jason DeHart. T. Hunter Strickland, the Children’s and Young Adult Literature (CYAL) Book Review Editor, continued a great tradition of mixing student and adult voices when reviewing books for young people. This section begins with a feature review of books marketed for elementary-school-aged children: Tinyville Town Gets to Work by Brian Biggs, reviewed by student Mary Frost Osborne and teacher Kate O’Rourke; Ada’s Ideas: The Story of Ada Lovelace, the World’s First Computer Programmer by Fiona Robinson, reviewed by student Faith Tucker and teacher Madalene Ramsey. For middle grades readers, JoLLE features reviews of Shadows of the Dark Crystal #1 by J. M. Lee, reviewed by student Emily Whitney and teacher Sam Tanner; and The Boy with 17 Senses by Sheila Grau, reviewed by student Madison Lavender and teacher Miriam Voyles. Lastly, the CYAL section includes reviews of books geared toward high school students: Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go: A Novel of Haiti by Laura Rose Wagner, reviewed by student Sierra Rainville and teacher Daniel Hayes; and The Red Abbey Chronicles: Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff, reviewed by student Rebecca Posten and teacher Shannon Lindsey Cheek. Finally, Poetry and Arts Editor, Kuo Zhang, is excited to feature the painting also shown on our cover titled, The Muses Among Us, by Jerome C. Harste. The Poetry and Arts section also includes five poems—all themed around language and literacy: A Writing Lesson by Sally Jarzab, The Poet by Alex Johns, When You’re Not Smarter Than a Fifth Grader by Janine Certo, Keep by Ariel S. Maloney, and Let Us Feast at Poetry’s Table by Johanna M. Bailie. JoLLE Winter Conference The JoLLE@UGA winter conference, to be held at the Georgia Center on February 3rd and 4th, 2017, strives to be a participatory and innovative place for academics, teachers, and students locally and across the world to learn from each other. This year’s conference, organized by Conference Chair, Rachel Kaminski Sanders, is built around the theme of Out of the Box and Into the Margins. The 2017 conference will feature keynote speaker Nick Sousanis, an assistant professor in the School of Humanities and Liberal Studies at San Francisco State University, as well as an opening session by children’s book illustrator and author, Eric Velasquez. This year’s conference features sessions by educators and students who take risks, sometimes subversively, to employ and widen the spaces between the essentializing forces faced by all people. JoLLE invites artists, gamers, remixers, techies, and fandoms to attend this year’s conference. We welcome all who experiment with the intertwining of identities and all who refuse to be labeled to share and explore how to exert agency within highly-constrained contexts—or, in other words, how to move out of the box and into the margins. We invite national and international scholars with ranging research interests in language and literacy education to join us for a
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 conversation on various topics within our field. Please visit our conference page for more details and information regarding registration. Thanks and Recognitions On behalf of the JoLLE editorial and review boards, Nick and Jenn want to say thanks to you, our readers and contributors. We also want to encourage you to support JoLLE by submitting your own work for consideration in future issues. We are currently accepting research articles, theoretical pieces, Voices from the Field articles, academic book reviews, reviews of children’s and young adult literature, and submissions of poetry and art. For all details regarding the submission process—or if you are interested in serving as a reviewer—please refer to the JoLLE submissions page and/or contact our Managing Editor, Heidi Lyn Hadley. In addition to the biannuallypublished journal, JoLLE also invites you to submit shorter op-ed essays to our Scholars Speak Out (SSO) feature. To learn more about the SSO purposes and publication process, please contact our Scholars Speak Out Editor, Lou Cardozo-Gaibisso. And, as always, please continue to follow JoLLE on both Facebook and Twitter (@Jolle_uga). JoLLE is an online, open-access, completely student-run journal that has a rotating editorial and review board each semester. This semester’s board has been a dedicated group who worked together to move the journal with current research trends in language and literacy education in order to advance the field towards new, progressive, critically-minded work—(re)storying our words and worlds. We want to take a moment to recognize this semester’s JoLLE editorial and review boards for the excellent job they do: Heidi Lyn Hadley (Managing Editor), Bradley Robinson (Production Editor), Rachel Kaminski Sanders (Conference Chair), William J. Fassbender (Website Editor), Kathleen R. McGovern (Academic Book Review Editor), T. Hunter Strickland (Children and Young Adult Book Review Editor), Kuo Zhang (Poetry and Arts Editor), Lourdes Cardozo-Gaibisso (Scholars Speak Out Editor), Kalianne L. Neumann (Communications Editor), Maria A. Van Allen, Isabel Balsamo, Khanh Bui, Lei Jiang, Sharon M. Nuruddin, Soudabeh Rafieisakhaei, and S. R. Toliver (Editorial Board Members). Lastly, we want to thank and recognize our Faculty Advisor, Peter Smagorinsky, for his tireless leadership and support. Without him, we could not continue to grow the field and produce a quality publication and conference. We, Nick and Jenn, and the rest of the JoLLE board, are grateful for your support, readership, authorship, and artistry as we help construct the story of language and literacy education toward advancing ourselves, our classrooms, and our worlds with thoughtfulness and intent. Sincerely, Nick Thompson and Jennifer Jackson Whitley, Co-Principal Editors 2016-2017 References Bruner, J. S. (1986). Actual minds, possible worlds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2â€”Fall 2016
Bruner, J. S. (1990). Acts of meaning. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2â€”Fall 2016
Ctrl F: A scholarâ€™s tips for delving into the world of creative writing
ABSTRACT: In this experimental nonfiction essay, the author recounts her (many) experiences with having her creative work rejected by mainstream outlets. Detailing the blessing and the curse that is the Ctrl Find command, she pokes fun at the creative writing process, and links her difficulties as a writer to her work as a middle school Language Arts teacher. She concludes with a final story about rejection (which happened to arrive as she was writing this very piece). Subtle implications about the difficulty of the writing process may or may not have been made for those who assess student writing. Keywords: creative writing, literature, rejection, scholarship
Christina Berchini is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire. Her scholarship centers on Critical Whiteness Studies and has appeared in the Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, English Education, The International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, and other scholarly venues. Her creative work has been featured in Empty Sink Publishing, Five 2 One Magazine, SUCCESS.com, the Huffington Post, and other outlets. Her Education Week Teacher article, Why Are All the Teachers White?, has been selected by SheKnows/BlogHer media as a 2016 Voices of the Year Honoree.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016
habitually promise myself that the first ten minutes of my waking hours will exist email, text, and app free. I’ll concede: It is the rare day that I keep that promise, and particularly as I await rejection notifications from prestigious outlets. I should probably stop leaving the phone next to my bed at night.1
clear in Glimmer Train’s newsletter. Nor does it matter. Is 6 a.m. too early for a White Russian? Yes? What about wine? That counts as fruit, right? Who knew that it would be “easier” to publish scholarship than to publish the product of your own imagination?
And even still, blurry-eyed and half-dreaming, I wipe away the vestiges of sleep as I lay in bed and study the email I received overnight. This one came from Glimmer Train, a coveted creative writing journal that actually pays its authors:
The Blessing and Curse of “Ctrl F” I grew up in a time when, if a word or phrase jumped out in a book, magazine, newspaper, or some other “hard copy” (as if there were some opposite version of this in 1980? Some non-holdin-your-hands version of whatever it is you happen to be reading?), you’d better highlight it, fold over the page, underline it, star it, put a sticky-note on it, accidentally smear peanutbutter on it, or otherwise flag it for safekeeping. On the other hand, if you failed to flag whatever it was that captured your interest, and if you desired to return to that word or phrase at a later date, you’d better carve out some time. Just a short while ago, Ctrl F—for “find”—was not an option for those of us who wished to revisit, reconsider, or re-experience whatever word, phrase, or idea that was worth saving at the time.
Last Fiction Open until December. Deadline: 6/30. Bulletin 101 follows. Winners and finalists have been notified, the Top 25 list is posted, and here are the Honorable Mentions. The editors to whom I submitted my short story have graciously completed two-thirds of the work for me. Unlike the ways by which the world of academic scholarship functions, I was not notified any which way as to the status of my fiction submission, so that part was easy. I did not have to scroll down or click to learn that my attempt at a short story is not a winner or a finalist this time—or any time, for that matter. Only the list of “Honorable Mentions” remains. I rush to my computer and click, over-flowing coffee in one hand, heart in the other. Perhaps the Honorable Mentions (quite the status to behold, even if miles away from “The Winners”) have also been notified, but this is not made
In some ways, I’ll bet we were all hoping for some version of “Ctrl F” to come to our rescue, in any given situation; we merely lacked the precell-phone, pre-computer language to articulate that desire:
I acknowledge that there is a gender spectrum and that myriad pronouns exist that I can use when referring to individuals in my writing. Throughout this article I will use the gender-neutral pronoun
“they” in an effort to recognize the fluid nature of identity and to not make assumptions about the ways that individuals identify or refer to themselves.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 “But Mo-oommmmm, I was right across the street at An-dreeews!” If I missed curfew, I’m sure some cosmic version of Ctrl F for Parents would have saved my mom a lot of aggravation (and me from a series of month-long groundings). Maybe Ctrl F for Families would have brought my lost dog home a bit sooner, from where he found his way, shivering, on a neighbor’s porch on Fillmore Avenue.
dissertation-writing year, a fraught year where I, at the very least, could rely on this gift from the technology gods to find a statement, a citation, a word, or a phrase with relative ease. The treasure troves unearthed by Ctrl F would determine, on a particularly rough day, whether a single page of my dissertation would come to fruition. (I, at times, could not move forward without “that” quote that I absolutely needed in order to make whatever argument I was hoping to make; an argument that would allow me to move on with my damned life, at least for that day.)
“Where. Were. You.” Perhaps some version of Ctrl F for Marrieds would have saved my parents’ relationship. (Or maybe it would have destroyed their marriage a bit more quickly if Ctrl F allowed her to know, truly, what he had been up to).
On such days, Ctrl F, accompanied by a strong White Russian, was the only thing guaranteed to bring me peace, happiness, and some sense of accomplishment. Ctrl F was that “thing” that “Where for art thou Romeo?” Maybe, just maybe, made me wonder how researchers of generations if there were some past ever managed to fourteenth- or fifteenth“With Ctrl F, one is granted finish their dissertations century version of Ctrl F and theses. On particularly the gift of efficiency and the for Star-Crossed Lovers, cranky days I believed that, inconvenience of a task left Romeo’s impending if not for Ctrl F, I might suicide would not have incomplete at the same time.” not have finished my been quite dissertation, at least not so…impending. satisfactorily. “Why do I do this for a living?” Ctrl F for Teachers and Professors on that frequent search for dignity lost.
On the other hand, and as most of us have experienced, Ctrl F does not always do its job as a lifeline. Perhaps an electronically formatted document does not recognize the words on the page. When Ctrl F comes up short, and if the computer’s speaker volume is turned all the way up, the result is sometimes deafening, releasing that single, abrasive chime; a ding signifying that Ctrl F was not able to accomplish what you hoped it would; the chime that mocks, “Do not bother with this search anymore—the word you need is not here.” With Ctrl F, one is granted the gift of efficiency and the inconvenience of a task left incomplete at the same time.
“Why was my writing rejected this time?” Ctrl F for Writers in search of validation. “Why was I rejected this time?” Ctrl F for Writers Who Take Rejection Far Too Personally. “Why? Where? When?” Ctrl F for Life, and for anyone in the middle of an existential crisis (namely, graduate students). And so on. Fast-forward three decades, and the invention of Ctrl F kept the tears at bay (usually) during my
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 To be sure, I am grateful for the advent of Ctrl F. In graduate school, Ctrl F was my savior. My partner might even say that my beloved keyboard shortcut delivered me from evil during that godless “Dissertation Year™.” But now that I’ve gotten that pesky PhD out of the way and am on to more creative, enjoyable, and lifesustaining pursuits, Ctrl F has come to symbolize rejection; a life constantly in “Ctrl F” mode, except that the F now sticks to the keyboard, completely dysfunctional, like that time when I was 10 and ate an apple while playing Nintendo. I maneuvered the controllers with sticky, juicy, slimy fingers, and with a blind determination only a child would know: It’s time to defeat the killer turtles and dragons.
I click on the “Honorable Mentions” link, a list containing somewhere around forty names of authors whose work did not place, was not quite “good enough” for that “Winner” designation, but was at least good enough for the honor of a mention. However, I could not bring myself to tap “Ctrl F” this time; I could not bring myself to enter my last name in a search box that would only chime and ding angrily at my efforts. So I scan the page. The results are clear, maybe even predictable, and my Italian-sounding last name is nowhere to be found. Not even an “Honorable Mention.” Maybe I’m not “literary” enough; perhaps too sophomoric for those who assess “literary fiction.” Too unsophisticated, at least when compared to those Winners whose characters entwine their delicate (or strong), expertly manicured fingers betwixt their perfect golden tresses as they meander, pensively, along the cobblestone path of some Parisian enclave or another. Those Winners whose literary inventions (with the most fabulous of tresses, be reminded) calmly—yet torturously, yet calmly— wait to be noticed by a mysterious other (or others, depending on how erotic of a tale we’re dealing with), and then wined, dined, and perhaps sexed (all in this order, mind you, but the story must always begin with someone’s golden tresses, whether belonging to a he or a she – perfect, flaxen tresses are nonnegotiable, and don’t you dare use that elementary word “hair,” what on God’s green Earth is wrong with you?).
All of the water-soaked Q-Tips and cotton balls in the world would not get those controllers to work quite right after that. And frankly, my metaphorical Ctrl F remains similarly mal/functional; it’s as sticky as those controllers tasked with getting Mario to the next level. Except, now I’m Mario and perpetually stuck in some sort of netherworld, battling dragons (i.e., editors) with fireballs (i.e., mediocre writing submissions), only to shoot too high. Mario, jumping a little too high and a little too fast, falls between the cracks in the surface and into the fiery depths of a pixelated hell; a black hole of a writer’s world where “credibility” and “validation” are for others. For those toothy, smiling, winning thumbnails that make their way into my email at 6am on a Monday morning (of all mornings). For those authors with (I presume) similar stories to tell, except, they’ve managed to crack the code and defeat the dragons. Their Fs, somehow, some way, have become unstuck. Though, they’d probably argue, “No. My F is just less stuck than it was before.” I continue to study the email I received from Glimmer Train.
All of this wining, dining, and sexing occurs (or will soon occur) at the masculine (or feminine) hands of another character with equally impressive tresses (the tresses do not have to be flaxen, this time, so perhaps choose something more exotic and literary, thank you) and who
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 cannot, should not, dare not be described using anything less than fifty-three adjectives, the likes of which most readers (except editors, for some reason) have not seen in print since the 15th century. In other words, the more obscure those adjectives, the better. Think SAT and GRE prep, and Shakespeare’s earliest works if you really want to be literary. Ideally, you will use Shakespearean models—not yet unearthed—as exemplars of the type of literariness to which you should aspire, so get crackin’ on those discoveries. And no, you cannot borrow my chisel because I need it to unearth my own exemplars of literary greatness, so find your own damned chisel, you incorrigible fool.
if the editors of those coveted journals are not asking for historical fiction, per se) and ideally around an event (or person) that most of us do not remember or have not heard of (no worries, your use of obscure adjectives will increase your historical-knowledge-credibility, and this I promise you). Make sure those flaxen-andexotic-tressed-characters are interacting, or sipping wine, or eating cheese, or sexing, or about to sex, or playing with their tresses or whatever, around some well-known national monument (ideally one that was destroyed in a war, and then rebuilt, and then destroyed again), or internment camp, or some really horrible natural disaster that occurred right around the time that we started keeping track of these Moreover, you increase your chances of an things (think Pangea, you editor’s nod of some sort if damned troglodyte), or “And no, you cannot borrow you situate your fiction in some type of prison with some kind of nonfictional, my chisel because I need it to guards who wear historical event. Those unearth my own exemplars camouflage and point rifles characters with the tresses at your temples twenty-two of literary greatness, so find and the nice fingernails? hours a day (one guard your own damned chisel, you (By the way, can’t you come positioned on each side of up with a more literary incorrigible fool.” your character’s face), at word for fingernails, stop some point in history that being so damned you haven’t given two shits about since you were sophomoric for Christ’s sake? What about, for required to know something about it on that 5th example, rigid cellular matter that tends to form grade history exam. The kinds of historical facts and re-form, emulating the shape of a crescent Jimmy Kimmel’s people ask you about on moon, at the fleshy tips of one’s fingers? Or! camera that you have not given a single thought Better yet, She seductively tickled his back with to since that damned 5th grade history test that her smooth crescent-moons and fleshy tips. Yes. you probably failed anyway and now you look That’s it. The literary types understand the need like a fool on national television, you friggin’ for such metaphors, even if you want to stab idiot. Situate your plot around those kinds of your eyes out of your skull as you construct details and you’re golden (golden, just like those them. For worthy readers and writers, the tresses we talked about). literary essence of it all simply rolls right off the eyeballs… Eyeballs?! Here we go again with your So pull out your 5th grade history book from your puerile, under-developed vocabulary.) mom’s attic (she’s so damned sentimental, isn’t she?) for inspiration and ideas for creating the Anyway, getting back to the tresses and the kinds of plots and narratives—the kinds of fingernails: Situate your fiction historically (even 5
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 literature (but make sure you pronounce this as “lítch-ret-chuhre” moving forward; monocle, cat, armchair, and cigarette optional)—that teach secondary school students how to hate their English classes and their English teachers; the kind of lítch-ret-chuhre that teaches students how to loathe literacy and books and stories in a general sense, until they read something like Harry Potter and are reminded that reading can—and should—result in an act of pleasure, as opposed to suicidal ideation, despite what they (and you) were taught.
Maybe I took his advice too seriously. Maybe my sentences are too damned short. Maybe they’re not annoying enough. Maybe I haven’t read enough good lítch-ret-chuhre. On those rare occasions when I happen to receive a personalized rejection, I’m told that my writing is “too dark,” and thus “not quite right for us.” I am left wondering how Stephen King dealt with such feedback. I consider revisiting On Writing to remind myself of the answer to my own question, but to also remind myself that there is only one Stephen King and to not even go there.
And if nothing else, should nothing come from this necessary research (all great fiction requires research), at least you’ll be that much better prepared when Jimmy Kimmel comes calling again.
I continue studying that damned Glimmer Train newsletter, coffee in one hand, heart in the other. Maybe if I review the list of Honorable Mentions over and over again, my name will miraculously appear. Maybe I’ve missed something; it is, after all, 6 a.m. on a Monday morning (of all mornings). Maybe I’ll tap Ctrl F to double-check. The whole process of receiving a rejection via email is a bit like opening the cupboards, refrigerator, and freezer, over and over again, when you know damned well that you haven’t been food shopping in over a week because you hate food shopping and sometimes, frankly, you’d rather just starve. But you’re still hungry, and thus hoping something simultaneously desirable and edible will magically appear behind one of those doors. (You know it won’t, but you keep looking. Stop looking.)
I am reminded of the time one of my own middle school English Language Arts students asked me, moons ago, a look of desperate boredom etched across his face, “When can we read something fun?” (Ctrl F for Middle Schoolers desperate for something enjoyable and relatable to read. Cue, also, Ctrl F for Teachers who know better than to assign that pretentious crap, that lítch-ret-chuhre, but do so anyway because mollifying their Subject Area Supervisor is profoundly more important than instilling, in their students, a love of reading.) Bless their hearts. Bless your heart. Bless my heart. One of my earliest graduate school professors, a dear man who I feared immensely, told me, after I painstakingly produced my second paper for a course I wished (at the time) did not exist: “Stop annoying your readers [with too many adjectives, adverbs, and overly complicated sentences].” (Ctrl F for Professors tasked with teaching thirty-year-olds how to unlearn the bad writing habits instilled in them by their earliest lítch-ret-chuhre teachers.)
While Ctrl F once functioned as your lifeline, your ticket to something coveted, whether to a quote that led to an analysis that led to an advanced degree, it has now come to symbolize something more sinister. Now, you dare not press your left pinky and pointer fingers against
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 those little black buttons, at least not simultaneously.
This time, they didn’t like your poem; nope, you’re “not quite right” for The New Yorker, either. And really, is anyone without a top literary agent “quite right” for The New Yorker? Why on Earth do you keep wasting their Godforsaken time when you know damned well you are not even worthy of top-shelf vodka, let alone a topnotch literary agent (monocle, cigarette, cat, and armchair optional)? And you laugh, at 6:30 on a Monday morning. Of all mornings. Because you don’t have an agent (or vodka) and you only have two middle fingers when you can use at least two more. And because that rejected poem was
You realize, also, and for the first time since you began your work all those years ago, that there actually are things in life more sinister than earning an advanced degree. And damn, you’re still hungry, but this time, for something else. You stare at your email. Maybe you’ve missed something, and maybe you’ll tap Ctrl F to double-check. You study the three happy-looking thumbnails that invade your Monday morning. You read their success stories. You notice that they all appear somewhat older than you, and for this terrifically misguided reason you hold out hope: Maybe there’s still time for me.
about your pain. And they rejected
You begin your previous three sentences (now four) with “You” and realize that you’ve broken yet another “rule” that “good writers” do not break.
it. They dismissed your
“[G]ood writing is less about talent and more about work,” one of those winning, smiling, God-forsaken thumbnails is all too happy to advise. I notice the short sentence and single adjectival phrase. Maybe my “creative” writing just overwhelmingly, seriously, ferociously, fantastically, honestly, wholeheartedly, devastatingly, mind-blowingly, actually, sucks.
pain. Again. You laugh and you try to remember the French word for “rejection.” (Google reminds you that it’s rejet.) And you have two containers of half-and-half, but you’re out of Kahlua and vodka.
And to compound matters, you don’t even know if you’re pronouncing “adjectival” correctly in your head because your three months of living in France that one time five years ago has forever destroyed your ability to pronounce the “i” in most words containing “i” in a way that sounds like “i” and not “e.” And you do not consider it at all ironic (eeroneeck?) that you receive yet another electronic rejection as you compose these very words.
If only there were a life function for Control Hide—which is about the only thing a teacher/scholar/writer who dares to delve into the creative wants to do the day they receive a rejection. Maybe Edgar Allen Poe left the Ctrl Hide function at that Philadelphian bar. Or that Maryland bar. Or maybe he took it with him. Or maybe he gave it to Reynolds. Those bastards.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 Oh well, my students never much liked Poe anyway. His writing, his lítch-ret-chuhre, is too dark and not quite right for them. He had some
pretty great tresses though, didn’t he? And decent fingernails, from what I’ve heard.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016
The Trouble with Niceness: How a Preference for Pleasantry Sabotages Culturally Responsive Teacher Preparation
Jeanne Dyches Bissonnette
Abstract: Because few teacher education programs are truly rooted in the philosophical aims of multicultural and social justice education (Asher, 2007; Banks, 2008; Hayes & Juarez, 2012; Miller, 2014), many pre-service teachers (PSTs) remain unpracticed—and unable—to teach in culturally responsive ways (Sleeter, 2012). But what structures and forces bear the culpability for the long documented shortcomings of this preparation? And how can literacy teacher educators honor their commitment to preparing practitioners capable of teaching all children? Here, the author postulates the ways in which teacher education programs’ preference for niceness functions as an iteration of Whiteness that obstructs attempts to actualize culturally responsive teacher preparation, tending specifically to the complicity of audit culture, pre-service teachers, teacher educators, and curricula and instruction. In an effort to disrupt and ultimately dismantle the culture of niceness, the author offers successful approaches to training PSTs for teaching in culturally responsive ways, including displaying sociocultural vulnerability, modeling and creating opportunities for critical reflection, and collaborating alongside PSTs to craft a transformative curriculum. Keywords: culturally responsive pedagogy, teacher preparation
Jeanne Dyches Bissonnette is an assistant professor of literacy education at Iowa State University where she researches secondary teacher education and social justice. Formerly a secondary English teacher and literacy coach, Dr. Bissonnette’s work focuses on promoting culturally responsive literacy instruction. Her recent and forthcoming publications include articles in Journal of Teacher Education, Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, The ALAN Review, and Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education (English).
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016
n order to be quality teacher education—that is, preparation that stimulates a sort of pedagogical dexterity that sees pre-service teachers (PSTs) leaving their teacher education programs capable of synergistically delivering their content in rigorous, differentiated, and multicultural ways—teacher education programs must commit to developing their students’ culturally responsive pedagogical skills.1 But are PSTs truly engaging in an authentically multicultural education—one that prepares them for their role as culturally responsive pedagogues so that they can, in turn, provide equitable educative experiences for their future students? To this query, Ladson-Billings (2006) issued a blistering “no,” charging that “teacher preparation plays a large role in maintaining the status quo” (p. 42) as teachers enter the work force (still) largely unprepared to meet the nuanced needs of their students belonging to historically marginalized populations. In a similar critique, Hayes and Juarez (2012) contended that, “U.S. teacher education programs have never been set up to prepare future teachers for social justice in education or culturally responsive teaching" (p. 6). Some English PSTs lament that their teacher preparation did little to help them with the day-today challenges of enacting social justice in their classrooms (Cook & Amatucci, 2006). Still other PSTs—even those who engaged in a rigorous, critical teacher education program focused on social justice—experience great difficulty when it comes time to enact culturally responsive pedagogies in their classrooms (Davila, 2011). These findings are ominous given that K-12 students continue to reflect an increasingly vibrant array of cultural and linguistic diversity (Hussar & Bailey, 2013) while the U.S. teaching force remains predominantly White,
female, and monolingual (Boser, 2014). If the teacher education process is failing to prepare its PSTs to teach in culturally responsive ways during their multicultural classes and experiences, we must ask: why? And, perhaps more pointedly, how do we fix it? Perhaps the greatest obstruction to preparing literacy practitioners to teach in culturally responsive ways lies in the challenge of disrupting the culture of niceness that imperceptibly osmoses many teacher education programs. Thelin (1978) wrote that “‘Niceness’…has been institutionalized, especially in schools of education” (p. 322). This construct allows PSTs to offer “nice”, liberaloriented insights without truly engaging in the complex, and arduous, self-reflection processes culturally responsive teaching requires. But PSTs are not the only culpable party: reticent to engage students in these often times difficult conversations, stakeholders in literacy education often shy away from exploring matters related to access, equity, and social justice (Glazier, 2003; Haviland, 2008), preferring instead to stick to traditional, and safer, territory—such as lesson planning (Ginsburg, as cited in Britzman, 2003). These silences make teacher education programs complicit with an ideology that never truly prompts PSTs—or teacher educators—to rethink, and reshape, their approach to teaching. Ultimately, a preference for niceness often functions as superficial farce “that does little to shake the patriarchal foundations [of teacher education]…much less dismantle them” (Asher, 2007, p. 65). In order to acknowledge and interrupt the forces that perpetuate the culture of niceness in teacher education programs, stakeholders must first develop
individuals who identify as gender-neutral. I have selected these pronouns because I believe they are more familiar for a diverse audience of readers.
I acknowledge that there is a gender spectrum and that myriad pronouns exist that I can use when referring to individuals in my writing. Throughout this article I will use “he” to refer to individuals who identify as male, “she” to refer to individuals who identify as female, and “ze” for
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 an understanding of the forces most culpable for its ubiquity. As such, this paper calls attention to the culture of niceness in teacher education programs, investigates the structures and forces that fuel the phenomenon, and offers teacher educators culturally responsive pedagogical possibilities that resist and reject educative niceness.
enjoying greater access to high quality educative experiences and resources (e.g., Kozol, 2012). These tenets, taken collectively, sought to identify and call attention to the ways in which schools, much like the legal system, perpetuate systemic and institutional injustices at the expense of students of color.
Culturally Responsive Pedagogy
Critical Race Theory
The theory of culturally responsive teaching provided a way to realize the aims of critical race theory, which challenged stakeholders to take action against widespread, if often unacknowledged, educational inequities. It rejected the genetic deficiency (Terman, 1916) and cultural deprivation (Bloom, Davis, & Hess, 1965) paradigms of teaching, both of which applied deficit-framing to explicate the long-documented underperformance of students of color in U.S. schools (e.g., African American Male Task Force, 1990; Ogbu, 1981), which continues today, with Latino, African American, and Native American students dropping out at nearly twice the rate of White and Asian American students (U.S. Department of Education, 2012). Though a commitment to disrupting inequities pulses throughout the theory, various stakeholders in the field conceptualize the notion of cultural responsiveness differently. Five strands characterize Gay’s (2002) theory of culturally responsive pedagogy: developing a cultural diversity knowledge base; designing culturally relevant curricula; demonstrating cultural caring and building a learning community; developing a sensitivity of cross-cultural communications; and demonstrating a commitment to cultural congruity offered culturally relevant teaching as instruction that fosters students’ authentic learning, enhances their cultural competence, and cultivates their sociopolitical consciousness. Building on the work of his forebears, Howard (2003) suggested that critical reflection, a process wherein teachers examine how their sociocultural identity, biases, and prejudices
In the 1990s, the theory of culturally responsive pedagogy established itself in the field of teacher education as a means to mediate the frictions between traditional schooling practices and students’ sociocultural identities. Culturally responsive pedagogy has roots in critical race theory, which first emerged in the field of legal studies and offered a perspective through which to understand the disproportionate rate of incarceration of people of color (e.g., Bell, 1995). The movement was supported by scholars and other activists who believed that the “color-blind” mentality (that is, the insistence of “not seeing” a person’s race/ethnicity) that was often central to civil rights work did not, despite its good intentions, properly address the systemic and institutional elements that led to and perpetuated widespread, endemic racism. In their foundational text “Toward a Theory of Critical Race Theory,” Ladson-Billings and Tate (1995) introduced critical race theory to the field of education, offering three maxims to describe its scope: that race continues to be a factor that perpetuates inequity in the U.S.; that the U.S. is based on property rights rather than human rights; and that understanding the intersection of education and property rights provides an analytical lens through which to understand both societal and educational oppression. Schools, understood as sites that reproduce both privilege and oppression, reify the relationship between race and property rights, with students belonging to dominant groups often
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 impact their instructional practices, is an essential precursory component to culturally responsive teaching, an assertion on which I base both this article and my own pedagogy. While the meaning behind the phrase “culturally responsive” may shape-shift somewhat relative to the framework applied, common to all of these conceptions is the notion that students’ cultural backgrounds are powerful assets that, if meaningfully acknowledged and incorporated into classroom practices, can radically transform their educative experiences and disrupt the inequitable, hegemonic conditions in which many of them learn. “Neutral” Teacher Education
pedagogy is best when apolitical, an orientation favored by many White educators (e.g., Picower, 2009). But all education is political; instructing from a neutral teaching platform is impossible (Bissonnette & Boyd, in press; Freire, 1970). On the topic, Horton and Freire (1990) maintained that: There can be no such thing as neutrality. It’s a code word for the existing system. It has nothing to do with anything but agreeing to what is and will always be–that’s what neutrality is. Neutrality is just following the crowd. Neutrality is just being what the system asks us to be. Neutrality, in other words, was an immoral act. (p. 102)
Enacting authentic culturally This apolitical insistence on “Enacting authentic culturally responsive teacher neutrality allows teacher responsive teacher preparation preparation relies on educators and their students relies on fostering discussions fostering discussions that to leave unexamined their provide students with the sociocultural identities, that provide students with the opportunity to examine and renders culturally responsive opportunity to examine and confront the various forms of teaching all but impossible, confront the various forms of power, privilege, and and helps explain why so power, privilege, and marginalization that mark the many teachers are leaving classroom. Solórzano (1998) their teacher education marginalization that mark the underscored this sentiment, programs unable, or classroom.” writing that educational unwilling, to teach in stakeholders committed to culturally responsive ways. realizing the goals of critical race theory should But “neutrality” assumes myriad forms, and perhaps “[challenge] dominant education theory, discourse, no manifestation is more problematic, and difficult policy, and practice” (p. 528). But teacher educators to untangle, than that of niceness. may shy away from having these critical Fallacious Niceness conversations for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the prospect of upsetting their students or disgruntling Often times, teacher education programs subscribe their administration vexes them; they may fret over to notions of niceness and see it as a superior form the dire consequences they might face as a result of of instruction—an aspirational one, even—and in these frictions (e.g., Hayes & Juarez, 2012). Teacher doing so, fail to recognize the problematic educators may avoid these conversations because properties of this reductive allegiance. Various they have not developed a sense of their scholars have worked to articulate the reasons sociocultural identity and how it shapes their behind teachers’ preferences for niceness. Like pedagogical maneuvers. They may endorse Horton and Freire (1990), Baptiste (2008) rejected (unconsciously or otherwise) the ideology that 12
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 the notion of classrooms as neutral spaces, offering four fallacies of educational niceness—that is, “a practice predicated on the belief that it is possible and desirable for educators (and other educational stakeholders) to share their views with each other without imposing their will and opinions upon each other” (p. 6)—to explicate teachers’ avoidance of critical posturing. These four fallacies of educational niceness operationalized by many teacher education programs include: Unwelcomed Acts are Unethical, an assumption that leads teacher educators to shy away from critical points of discussion because they perceive engaging students in these conversations as an act of strong-arming imposition that defies morality; Freedom is an Unqualified Good, meaning that teacher educators believe it unethical to constrain and attempt to shape the beliefs of their students; Titular Authority is Inherently Superior to Other Forms of Power, which assumes that power conferred to a person due to his/her status, position, or title wields a particular, and augmented, brand of dominance that can be used to sway students’ beliefs and thusly should not be used; and lastly, Power is a Weapon Wheeled by Malevolent Subjects, at Their Whim and Fancy, a notion that suggests that power is inherently oppressive and as such, is incapable of being used to promote a positive result. Teachers’ subscription to these fallacies underscores the motivations behind educational niceness, a construct many teachers don’t seem to realize they both uphold and perpetuate. Niceness and neutrality are iterations of the same phenomenon: Whiteness.
conferred dominance/non-dominance of the groups to which they belong (Brodkin, 2012). Because Whiteness often functions as the majoritarian, mainstream story, the construct has been normalized—seemingly neutralized—which perhaps explains why so many White PSTs struggle to understand themselves as racialized beings (BonillaSilva, 2006; McIntyre, 2002). But what, exactly, is problematic with niceness? Isn’t being nice a desirable, even admirable, characteristic? To be sure, American society places a particular value on the construct in ways that other regions do not (Boorstin, 1982). Hartigan (2009) posited that in America, the terms “nice,” as well as “friendly” and “comfortable,” wield tremendous power and are often applied to make racially exclusionary distinctions. Despite its seeming attributes, "Niceness,” Low (2009) postulated, “is about keeping things clean, orderly, homogeneous, and controlled...but it is also a way of maintaining Whiteness" (p. 87). Niceness allows White students to control their social environments and defend their privilege. Alemán (2009) cautioned, “Liberal ideology and Whiteness privileges niceness, civility, and commonalities which only serves to maintain the status quo, covers up institutionalized racism, and silences the communities” (p. 291). Yet, many teachers cling to niceness, believing that their allegiance to the construct highlights their humanity and improves their pedagogy. In a critique of the construct, Bapiste (2008) stated: Niceness is not a humanizing imperative. Rather, it is a deluding phantom—a salacious seduction which might make educators popular with students, and leave them feeling good about themselves, but, which, in the end, might turn out to be the unwitting handmaiden of oppressive hegemony. Until educators rid themselves of their yearning to be nice, until they embrace wholeheartedly their obligation to impose,
When “Niceness” Means “Whiteness” For the purposes of this paper, I conceptualize Whiteness as a social construction designed intentionally and purposefully to realize hegemonic purposes (Frankenberg, 1993). Whiteness allows for a systemic advantage of a particular group over another, which in turns creates privileges and marginalization doled out to people based on the
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 their educational impact--especially in addressing social inequalities—will be severely curtailed. (p. 26)
positionality and pedagogical repertoire. But many English teacher education programs struggle with navigating the “loaded matrix” (Miller & Norris, 2007) of social justice-oriented teacher preparation in an era of standardization. English teacher preparation programs often have a tenuous relationship with the concept of social justice. This strained relationship may be attributed to the term’s nebulousness (Alsup & Miller, 2014; Miller, 1999); it has perhaps only been further complicated due in part to the National Council of Accreditation of Teacher Education’s (NCATE) own troublesome history with the term: the organization removed the term entirely in 2006 though added it back in 2012 (National Council of Teachers of English, 2012).
While American society generally celebrates niceness, the convention provides a specialized insulation that allows White PSTs to circumvent wrestling with their complex sociocultural identities, prejudices, and biases. Ultimately, the ideology functions as another iteration of Whiteness. And, like the social construct of Whiteness, the culture of niceness is often hard to discern, never mind combat. The Usual Suspects: How Teacher Education Perpetuates Niceness
Among teacher education programs, there is little agreement in how to conceptualize, and “do,” social justice teacher preparation. Dissatisfied with its definitional multiplicities and applications, Levinson (2009) bemoaned that “multicultural education is a conceptual mess” (p. 682). This assertion is disconcerting given that quality multicultural teacher preparation is a critical piece of positioning PSTs to work as social justice-oriented practitioners. Without a uniform understanding of the social justice lexicon, universities and colleges endorse varying programmatic approaches to social education programs and orient themselves to authentically culturally responsive teacher preparation, working to unpack PSTs’ beliefs and identities, equip them with the tools necessary to provide their own students with a democratic education, and/or examine multicultural issues (Barnes, 2016; Cochran-Smith, 2009; Trier, 2005). But while these approaches have proven transformative and align with the aims of culturally responsive teaching preparation, other English teacher preparation programs have forgone more critical, social justice-oriented approaches to teaching (Gorski, 2009; Miller, 2014). The newlyformed Council for the Accreditation of Educator
In addition to understanding the phenomenon of educative niceness, equally pressing is developing an awareness of the structures and forces that perpetuate this quiet hegemony. In what follows, I explore how four entities—audit culture, pre-service teachers, teacher educators, and curricula and instruction—perpetuate niceness and, in doing so, stymy culturally responsive teacher preparation. Culprit 1: Audit Culture Because of their dichotomous properties, the culture of niceness and social justice-oriented teacher preparation come into direct conflict with each other. These tensions are exacerbated in light of the era of standardization in which teacher education programs operate. Social justice-oriented teacher preparation requires teacher educators to equip their students with the tools for content mastery, critical thinking, action and social change, personal reflection, and awareness of multicultural group dynamics with the ultimate goal of working to create more equitable realities for students (Hackman, 2005). Equipping PSTs with the knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary to teach in culturally responsive ways moves PSTs toward developing their own social justice
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 Preparation (CAEP, 2013) adopted the National Council of Teachers of English’s (NCTE) social justice standard, though research around the new standards and its relationship to assessing social justice in teacher education programs is forthcoming (Alsup & Miller, 2014).
prefer to focus on learning to “do” teaching and surviving in the classroom (Britzman, 2003; Sleeter, 2001). Thomas (2011) wrote that many of his English PSTs believe that “anything theoretical is impractical” (p. 123). These antagonistic feelings about multicultural education, and the superiority of learning to “do” teaching over learning to “do” equity, can perhaps be attributed to the fact that PSTs are predominantly White, monolingual, and middle-class (Boser, 2014) and have little concept of themselves as racialized beings (Powell, 1997); as a result, they tend to have minimal, and limited, understanding and vision of good multicultural teaching (Sleeter, 2001, 2012). In order to reshape their feelings toward multiculturalism, PSTs must first understand the relationship of these feelings with their dispositions toward learning to teach (Feiman-Nemser & Remillard, 1995).
To that end, assessment plays a role in the failures of teacher education programs to prepare their English students for culturally responsive teaching. Schools of education often actively avoid empirical examinations of their teacher education programs (Zeichner, 1999) and thusly fail to learn how their own policies and practices impact educational outcomes for the diverse students PSTs will eventually serve (Nieto, 2000). Ladson-Billings (1999) suggested that these avoidances obscure the fact that some teacher education programs have not helped their PSTs learn the best practices for teaching any children, much less students belonging to historically marginalized populations, a clear violation of social justice-oriented teacher preparation (Cochran-Smith, 2009; Cochran-Smith et al., 2009). Despite failing to prepare their PSTs to work in equity-minded ways, teacher education programs often pass their NCATE credentials easily (Alsup & Miller, 2014).
And perhaps there is no more important—and problematic—issue than that of dispositions, a concept that, much like social justice, presents definitional murkiness. For this paper, I borrow the definition offered by Alsup and Miller (2014), who wrote that “at their core, dispositions are the context and culturally specific embodied manifestations of one’s beliefs, values, and judgments about all practices related to the teaching profession” (p. 199). These deeply ingrained values and beliefs have been shown to guide PSTs’ behavior in educative contexts (Villegas, 2007) and reveal themselves through actions (or inactions) toward students (Diez, 2007). Dispositions are very difficult to change (Davila, 2011; Santoro & Allard, 2005; Zeichner, 1999) and, when unexamined, can have dire effects on K-12 students (Grant, 1991; Lee, 2007; Shoffner & Brown, 2010; Sleeter, 2012). For example, PSTs often demonstrate a belief in absolute democracy that assumes “kids are kids” independently of their cultures (Causey, Thomas, & Armento, 2000). This color-blind approach dismisses the importance of recognizing and affirming students’ sociopolitical
Culprit 2: Pre-Service Teachers Aside from programmatic hurdles, teacher education programs may also face an assortment of challenges from PSTs themselves while working to prepare them for culturally responsive teaching. Research shows that helping PSTs develop the awareness, insights, and skills required to combat educational inequities presents an extraordinary struggle (Cochran-Smith, 1995; Miller, 2014; Sleeter, 2001). Many PSTs demonstrate a disdain for multicultural courses, voicing their belief that multicultural education should be reserved for students belonging to historically marginalized populations ( Rios & Stanton, 2011). Instead, PSTs
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 backgrounds by suggesting that a solid pedagogy is 1995; Kendall, 2013). But developing this race generally appropriate for all students (Bonilla-Silva, consciousness is no easy feat given that Whiteness is 2006; Nieto, 1998). Another disposition common to often seen as a normal, and neutral, way of being PSTs is that of optimistic individualism (Causey, (McIntosh, 1989; Tochluk, 2010). But PSTs often balk Thomas, & Armento, 2000), which suggests that against discussion of privileges and refuse to with hard work and effort, a person, regardless of his acknowledge the racist systems that provide power or her sociocultural background, will triumph over to some while oppressing others (Hayes & Juarez, oppressive circumstances. These ideologies fail to 2012; McIntyre, 2002). Haviland (2008) found that account for the institutional, educational, and White pre-service English teachers often employed systemic structures that push students belonging to numerous strategies to evade discussing racism and historically marginalized groups "so far behind the the role of Whiteness and perpetuated this evasion starting line [in so many areas of U.S. society] that by changing the topic, avoiding words, or remaining most of the outcomes will be racially foreordained" silent altogether. PSTs may resist discussions of anti(Hacker, 1995, p. 34). Subscribing to these notions oppressive practices because such conversations allows PSTs to deny their own privileges and thusly require them to consider not only the experiences of underplay the experiences of marginalized populations, but their students (Nieto, 1998). also their own complicity in “PSTs may resist discussions Working to cultivate his PSTs’ these realities When PSTs of anti-oppressive practices social justice dispositions, come to see that Whiteness because such conversations Miller (2014) found that does not embody any positive students often lacked a attributes, White students require them to consider not developed critical often experience anguish only the experiences of consciousness of the school (McIntyre, 2002). This marginalized populations, settings in which they taught; traumatic epiphany often leads but also their own complicity those PSTs who did develop an them to a “crisis” (Kumashiro, understanding of how 2002) whereby they recognize in these realities.” pervasive, endemic, and their complicity, be it oblivious systemic injustices impacted their students were or otherwise, in the oppression of others. But these often too intimidated to position themselves as allies crises are constructive; these dispositions must first when opportunities arose. Yet, without taking action be troubled in order to be re-oriented. against these injustices, PSTs cannot truly align But, though the culture of niceness would have us themselves with the aims of culturally responsive believe otherwise, working to improve the attitudes teaching. of PSTs is not the same thing as, nor is it a substitute In working to identify and alter PSTs’ dispositions, for, preparing culturally responsive teachers. PSTs White students must first acknowledge that they must internalize that culturally responsive teaching benefit in a myriad of ways from a longstanding, is rooted in the way they view, engage, and respond often invisible racial hierarchy that relies on the to the world around them. Thusly, teacher educators oppression of persons belonging to marginalized must utilize various strategies to support their PSTs populations (McIntosh, 1989) and how their as they develop the equity-oriented dispositions that racialized experiences have impacted them both as act as the fulcrum of culturally responsive people and teachers (Feiman-Nemser & Remillard, pedagogy—no easy feat.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 Culprit 3: Teacher Educators
orient their dispositions may be accused of “classroom politicizing and indoctrination— teaching morality” (Alsup & Miller, 2014, p. 201). Colleagues may also balk against true multicultural teacher education, instead preferring a strategy of “adding on”: that is, keeping European-American curriculum and pedagogies intact but supplementing them with materials speaking to marginalized persons’ contributions in order to help all students see they belong to American society (Banks, 1989; Takaki, 1993). Perhaps the most famous instance of this collegial clash in English education emerged during “the canon wars,” which saw a heated debate between those advocating for the “Great Books approach” (Bloom, 1987) and those supporting a more multicultural canon (Ravitch, 1990). Even those teacher educators who wish to engage in critical discussions of culturally relevant pedagogy with their PSTs may shy away from these conversations in order to avoid confrontations with administrators and colleagues alike.
Like their students, teacher educators must acknowledge their own positionality and role in multicultural education in order to effectively teach their students (Ladson-Billings, 2006; Sleeter, 1996). That the college professoriate is, like the K-12 U.S. teaching force, an “embarrassingly homogeneous” (Ladson-Billings, 1996, p. 42) group comprised predominantly of White educators. Embarrassment aside, this homogeneity has almost certainly impacted the degree to which culturally responsive teacher preparation is actualized. Sleeter (1996) suggested that White educators’ increased involvement in multicultural education has played a role in the movement’s disconnect from social justice since so many belonging to this group have no previous experience performing social justice work. This finding is particularly unsettling given that these teacher educators determine what qualifies as essential knowledge for future English teachers (Morrell, 2005). Thusly, it is paramount for White teacher educators to grapple with their own sociocultural identities to ensure that they do not craft, and deliver, a self-servicing view of multicultural education (Sleeter, 1996). Troubling this positionality enables teacher educators to fulfill their responsibilities to their PSTs, their PSTs’ future students, and society at large.
Culprit 4: Curriculum and Instruction The final barrier to culturally responsive teacher preparation lies in the delivery of curricula and instruction. Banks (2004) faulted teacher education curricula for its celebratory nature— that is, for superficially presenting multicultural content using a “holidays and heroes” approach. University-based multicultural courses may also present multiculturalism as “ghettoized issues of diversity” (Ladson-Billings, 2006, p.42), inadequately preparing PSTs for the needs of their most underserved students. Some PSTs lament that their teacher education programs were too theoretical in nature (Cook & Amatucci, 2006) while others argue that the conventional training of English teacher candidates, which often focuses on the daily requirements of “doing” teaching per the political and bureaucratic mandates of the certification process, has resulted in novice English teachers
But these efforts may not be lauded: some teacher educators who actively adopt and model culturally responsive teaching practices for their PSTs face backlash from their administrations. Such was the case for Malik who, in attempting to teach his methods students about culturally relevant pedagogy, was chastised for being “too radical” and having a “problematic disposition” (Hayes & Juarez, 2012) when he admonished a student for saying he was tired of the “race crap.” Literacy teacher educators who work to disrupt the culture of niceness by pushing their PSTs to examine and re
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 entering the classroom uncritical of the world around them (Thomas, 2011). Even the multicultural courses PSTs complete tend to focus on personal awareness and pragmatic aspects of teaching rather than developing PSTs’ sociopolitical consciousness and commitment to educational equity, both marks of culturally responsive teaching (Gorski, 2009). Though the curricula and instruction PSTs engage is an unquestionably vital element of culturally responsive teacher preparation, these entities—and, in turn, the authenticity of PSTs’ culturally responsive training—often shift based on contextual curricular realities.
from teacher to students, rather than socially constructed through the transactions of teachers, children, and texts” (p. 496). Though these instructional methods have proven problematic, they are still pervasive in teacher education. In holding with the traditional lesson plan approach— one that frequently stops short of critiquing the confluence of hegemonic forces in the classroom— the culture of niceness is preserved. Pedagogical Possibilities for Rejecting Niceness Thus far, I have described the sources behind and the entities most culpable for perpetuating the culture of niceness that permeates many teacher education programs. But despite these aforementioned obstructions, I maintain that teacher education classrooms are powerful spaces, and teacher educators are capable of working as agents of change. Morrell (2005) called for a move toward a model of critical English education in which literacy teacher educators function as "explicitly political agents" (p. 319) in order to disrupt the educational norms, such as niceness, that have long disenfranchised students belonging to historically marginalized populations. These critically-oriented literacy teacher educators work as activists and see their work with PSTs as a powerful way to prompt disequilibrium and, in turn, promote equity.
Teacher education curricula is often delivered using a transmission instructional model that helps to explain PSTs’ underdeveloped critical lenses. This “absorptionist” model favored among teacher education programs involves students acquiring knowledge as their professors share it with them (Prawat, 1992, as cited in Tatto, 1996). This results in a rather haphazard implementation of culturally responsive teacher preparation; a teacher educator may dedicate extensive time and efforts to preparing her PSTs to work in culturally responsive ways while another teacher may simply decide not to introduce her students to the concepts at all. Students almost always turn to lesson plan assignments to demonstrate their mastery of a professor’s objectives, making it perhaps the most pervasive approach to preparing students for the demands of the classroom. Just as the concepts that undergird teacher education courses often shift based on the professor’s own positionality and preference, these lesson plans may or may not require students to reflect on, sharpen, and apply their knowledge of culturally responsive practices. Cochran-Smith (1995) cautioned that the lesson plan approach will not sufficiently prepare students for an activist’s stance as it instead suggests that “knowledge, curriculum and instruction are static and unchanging, transmitted though one-way conduit
Recognizing (My) Intentionality I pause here to note that mine is a social justiceoriented approach to preparing teachers capable of responding to the needs of their own culturally and linguistically diverse students by teaching in culturally responsive ways. Like Cochran-Smith and Lytle (1999), I affirm the belief that such a positionality is undeniably political. But I also believe that all pedagogical actions are politically charged, and refusing to acknowledge them as such
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 affirms both the culture of niceness as well as the Whiteness at its core. To that end, I maintain that teacher educators—myself included—should openly discuss their positionality with their students and make explicit this orientation in their research. Mine is an approach to teacher education that aims to open up and sustain candid conversations around pressing, salient, and sometimes difficult classroom realities. My students and I work through these challenges together, because like Watkins and Ostenson (2015), I hope this preparation will position my students to be more effective, and more self-efficacious, when they close the doors of their classrooms and begin to teach their own students. By forwarding my unequivocal agency, I hope to incense my students to develop their own identities as literacy activists.
teacher preparation, a model intentionally undertaken to prepare PSTs for the important work that lies ahead by first acknowledging and disrupting the niceness that hangs thickly in the air around us. Displaying Sociocultural Vulnerability
I have always been intrigued by the fact that, as a teacher educator who identifies as White, female, monolingual, and heterosexual, I am representative of the homogeneity that plagues teacher education. But I have found that, strategically utilized, my sociocultural identity provides a means through which to engage my students—so many of whom look like me—in discussions of power, privilege, and equity. Hayes and Juarez (2012) challenged teacher educators to openly discuss Whiteness, and its presence in teacher education programs, in order to To realize my pedagogical goals, I ready students for the demands of turn to a constructivist approach to “In my classroom, we culturally relevant teaching. One instructional delivery, an strategy for initiating these are all teachers; we are orientation that validates the belief discussions involves teacher that PSTs are learners who benefit all students.” educators "witnessing Whiteness" from making meaning in context (Tochulk, 2010). This tactic draws (Tatto, 1996). Accordingly, I attention to issues and instances of Whiteness, intentionally frame readings, discussions, and engaging students in its nuances and creating activities to rupture the transmission model of critical communities wherein all members can knowledge. In my classroom, we are all teachers; we discuss how the construct affects their lives. One are all students. I invite my students to participate way I open up this conversation, and work to dein a sort of dialogism—one in which we vacillate the neutralize Whiteness for my students, is by sharing roles of teacher and learner, itself a mark of moments in my life in which I recognize my own culturally responsive teaching. privilege. For instance, I shared with my students Secondly, it bears mentioning that to my way of how the weekend prior to class, I’d been pulled over thinking, the opposite of “niceness” isn’t a culture of by a [White] police officer while stopped at a red shaming; rather, its dichotomy is open, critical, and light. Baffled by the lights behind me, I sighed provocative instruction, conversation, and reflexivity deeply, and, annoyed, turned into a parking lot. The that makes culturally responsive teacher preparation officer, whose embarrassment matched my possible. In what follows, I detail three practices— annoyance, avoided eye contact; he sheepishly displaying sociocultural vulnerability, modeling and informed me that my tags were expired. Apologizing providing opportunities for critical reflection, and prolifically, he handed me my ticket, which he collaborating with PSTs to create transformative assured me would be dismissed as soon as I showed curricula—that offer a culturally responsive form of evidence of my updated registration. Inwardly, I 19
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 groaned at the thought of having to deal with the issue at all. Only later did I realize that I was in the minority of people whose first reaction to blue lights was annoyance. At no time during the exchange did I experience fear. The revelation of this privilege struck me, particularly in light of the recent violent acts of police brutality against Black and brown bodies that have been brought to the forefront of our national consciousness. Mine was not a common reaction to blue lights, but it certainly was a privileged one.
seat, a remembered instance of privilege springing to mind. They write their memoir and attach it to the Privilege Collage. Sitting back down, the returning student almost always quietly relates his/her experience to a peer, thereby opening up a dialogic space for students to engage in a critical conversation that they have themselves fostered. Periodically, I read the collage and invite willing students to share their experiences with the rest of us. I continue to add my own. In this way, I offer my own sociocultural vulnerability to coax my students into exploring their own positionalities. The activity has given students an individualized—but public— platform to share and come to grips with their complicated sociocultural identities. The collage’s presence at the front of the room stands as an everpresent reminder that this reflexivity is an ongoing, iterative process, one in which we all participate— myself included. In this public yet uniquely individual way, my students and I work to push back against a culture of niceness that would have us avoid critical examinations of self.
Having first offered my own story, I then asked my students to reflect briefly on a time in which they experienced a similar dawning of privilege. I tell them that if what they are writing presents a struggle, or makes them uncomfortable, they are likely completing the assignment with fidelity. After a couple minutes, I hand students pieces of paper in which they scrawl a Six Word Memoir, a literacy strategy rooted in Smith and Fershleiser’s (2008) project, which encapsulates their experience. To open up the conversation, I first offer my own memoir:
Modeling Critical Reflection
Bound inextricably to sociocultural awareness is the process of critical reflection. As a literacy teacher educator, I work to create opportunities for students to explore how their own sociocultural identities might shape their interactions with their future students, just as my sociocultural identity informed how I reacted to the blue lights flashing in my rearview mirror. Critical reflection is a foundational, precursory aspect of being able to teach in culturally responsive ways (Howard, 2003). But critical reflection is not easily undertaken, as evidenced by the difficulty teachers have in performing the action (Bissonnette, 2016; Siwatu, 2007). Just as teacher educators should model for their students how to differentiate instruction, manage their classrooms, and modify assessments, so too should they model critical reflection. Otherwise, how can we expect our
White Skin Blessed Exasperation. Once I have finished reading my memoir, students often return to their memoirs and make alterations. Some ask for a new piece of paper to craft an entirely new response. After writing, erasing, and writing again, students attach their six word memoirs to our classroom’s “Privilege Collage,” an expanse of paper we display prominently at the front of the classroom. I ask students to be vigilant throughout the semester in considering similar instances that come up in which they recognize how their sociocultural identity impacts a situation, or their response to it. Frequently—often before class or during class breaks—students shoot up from their
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 students to perform this important skill in their own classrooms?
Secondly, I tried to limit assignments that required computer access to ones we completed in-class, making full use of my school’s media center and computer lab. In this way, I began to consider my sociocultural awareness (emerging as it was) to scrutinize, and modify, my instruction. This example is particularly rich because it introduces students to the notion that the “cultural” in “culturally responsive pedagogy” is not confined exclusively to race or ethnicity—that, in fact, reducing culturally responsive teaching to those pedagogies that involve a discussion of race and/or ethnicity often leaves unexamined the issues of inequity on which the framework rests (Gorski & Swalwell, 2009; Hammond, 2014). By offering this anecdote, I open up conversation in which my students and I discuss the importance of recognizing and affirming the nuances of students’ sociocultural identities, which requires us to consider our students’ class, sexual orientation, gender identity, and religious affiliations (among other descriptors), and the manner in which these elements might intersect so that we may evolve our culturally responsive practices.
Going First. In my classroom, I work to model this skill so that my students will have concrete examples of the forms critical reflection might take. Research shows that modeling culturally responsive practices grants students an opportunity to more fully understand its nuances (Conklin, 2008; Ladson-Billings, 1995). My students always seem a bit surprised when I offer, “Sometimes, when I reflect, I don’t like what I see.” Their attention fixed on me, I move into a narrative example. When I was a high school teacher at a high school populated primarily by low-income students of color, I realized—a bit too belatedly, unfortunately—that many of my students did not have home computers. When I asked my students to complete tasks that required the use of a home computer, I was frequently frustrated with the number of students who came to class with the work uncompleted. I simply could not understand what I perceived to be my students’ academic apathy. They get it in class, I would think to myself. Why won’t they do it at home? It wasn’t until one downcastgazing student told me in private that her inability to complete the assignment stemmed from her not having transportation to the community library, a place she frequented in order to access a computer. Equal parts embarrassed by and grateful for her honesty, I realized that I had been teaching from my sociocultural paradigm, which included growing up in a household in which computer access was taken for granted. Without meaning to, I had marginalized the very students I wanted to support—all because I did not critically examine the ways in which my positionality impacted my instructional choices. Accordingly, I began to offer students more clearly defined times to access our classroom computers— before school, during lunch, after school, and by appointment—to provide them with more opportunities to complete their assignments.
In addition to owning up to my own classroom shortcomings, I find tremendous value in providing my students with timely examples of “real” teachers engaging critical reflection. To extend the conversation, we read Emily E. Smith’s acceptance speech for the Donald H. Graves Excellence in the Teaching of Writing award presented at the National Teachers of English Language Arts Convention (Strauss, 2015). In the speech, Smith, a fifth grade English Language Arts teacher in Texas, recounted an exchange during which one of her students of color told her that she “Couldn’t understand because[she] was a White lady.” Somewhat surprisingly, Smith conceded the point. We examine her speech—her epiphany, its ensuing traumas, and, most importantly, how she used this realization of cultural incongruences to change her
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 approach to instruction, making it more pertinent to her students’ lives and thusly more culturally responsive. Students apply Nieto’s (2006) five-level continuum of multicultural teacher awareness to the speech, labeling Smith’s progression throughout the text. In this way, they apply a germinal framework to challenge and deepen their understanding of culturally responsive practices; additionally, they have a concrete example of what critical reflection looks like—and how difficult it is to do. We have applied the framework to my narrative as well. I relish the moments when my students debate a level’s placement, as their dialogue is almost always indicative of the important theoretical grappling they are doing.
to promote more equitable educative realities for students belonging to marginalized communities, a particularly important relationship for White teachers working with students of color (Bissonnette, 2016). Co-Creating a Transformative Curriculum Revitalizing the curriculum in teacher education courses can drastically impact PSTs’ understanding of and willingness to perform culturally responsive pedagogy. Thomas (2011) recommended that curricula for English PSTs involve an investigation about the history of English as a discipline in order to help students learn the past, present, and potential for the subject. In my own classroom, I conceptualize required standards/curricula as entities capable of inciting rich, provocative conversation classroom, I around issues of equity.
Having discussed these episodes, I challenge my students: how might our “In my own sociocultural awareness, or lack thereof, shape our conceptualize required pedagogical actions? Our standards/curricula as entities Deconstructing the inactions? I pose these Curricula. capable of inciting rich, questions to acclimate my provocative conversation Despite my own feelings students with the tough work regarding the mandate, I that critical reflection around issues of equity.” acknowledge that the requires—to get them Common Core State Standards unaccustomed to discomfort. (CCSS) is a reality many PSTs will confront when Students admittedly struggle with this skill. Not only they move into their own classrooms. As such, in my is it a difficult skill to master as it often requires classes, I work to familiarize my students with the looking at the world often from an entirely altered standards—and help them develop the ability to paradigm, but also it is a practice few teachers have analyze, critique, and, should they choose to, made explicit for them. To support their efforts, I subvert them. To begin, we examine the Text encourage students to cultivate a critical Exemplars Appendix B (National Governors colleagueship (Lord, 1994) with someone they trust. This involves finding a peer or a mentor with whom Association Center for Best Practices & Council of they can be honest and forthcoming, but who will Chief State School Officers, 2010), a list of CCSSalso give them critical, honest feedback on how they endorsed readings, annotating as we go. I ask might improve their culturally responsive practice students to offer ideas as to which groups benefit by being more mindful of their sociocultural from the intellectual property of the exemplar texts. identities and the ways in which it shapes their This question returns us to critical race theory, pedagogy. If performed with authenticity, critical which suggests that understanding the ways in colleagueship wields tremendous power in the fight which property rights—here, the intellectual
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 property curricula affords—intersects with education, we are provided with an analytical tool to make sense of inequities. We compare our analysis with other critiques of Appendix B (e.g., Moss, 2013; Schieble, 2014). Because I want my PSTs to gain an understanding of the immediate ways in which local required reading lists will impact their own classrooms, I often have them examine state and district mandates. I pepper students with questions: What values and attitudes does this list endorse, if only implicitly? What patterns do you see? Who don’t you see? What stories are missing? Who is responsible for these lists? Students very quickly ascertain the narrowness of the secondary curricula, a critique that has long been projected in educative discourse (e.g., Applebee, 1974; Bissonnette & Glazier, 2015). I particularly enjoy having students examine required curricula and policies around British literature, a canonical body that marked the secondary classroom upon the inception of literature as a secondary subject in the 1870s (Harvard University, 1896). When we compare this original secondary curriculum with ones currently employed in various districts and states as well as against the most recent national study of secondary curricula (Stotsky, 2010), students are quick to point out how very little the British literature curriculum has changed, particularly compared to its American literature counterpart, making the teaching of the British canon, like niceness, another manifestation of Whiteness.
sociopolitical consciousness by having them consider, for example, Euro-centric canon formation (Banks, 1993), and alternative approaches to teaching literature such as the inquiry-based (Beach & Myers, 2001), deconstructivist (Morrell, 2005), or cultural criticism (O’Neill, 1993) models. Curriculum and discussions around multicultural literature should look to incorporate discussions of Whiteness in order to draw attention to the concept and likewise engage the authentic voices of White students (Glazier & Seo, 2005). This reconstruction process provides students with an opportunity to act as critical consumers of their discipline; in doing so, they develop a tangible product for pushing back against niceness. One way my students and I reconstruct required curricula is through finding and incorporating quality texts that supplement the required curricula. To that end, I introduce my students to the art of counterstorytelling, a practice that acknowledges, affirms, and projects the stories of people belonging to historically marginalized groups (Delgado, 1989). Because, like Goodwin (1997), I believe that "in the search for authentic materials that can be used to prepare culturally responsive pedagogues, teacher education programs should turn to their students" (pp. 141-142), I encourage students to suggest counterstories to supplement the required curricula we have already examined. Given the CCSS’s push for increased exposure to informational texts, I challenge students to find informational texts that could both supplement the curriculum while promoting sociopolitical consciousness. One promising practice involves having PSTs engage with informational young adult literature, an approach proven to catalyze PSTs’ sociopolitical consciousness by providing the substance for elucidating, humanizing, and complicating the realities of social phenomena; helping them develop and apply additive frameworks; and supporting their engagement in social critique (Boyd & Bissonnette,
Reconstructing the Curricula. But we don’t stop with this curricular query. Next, we consider possibilities for supplementing our required curricula. This activity helps PSTs develop a discipline-specific approach to actualizing social justice pedagogy (Kumashiro, 2001)—that is, an understanding of how they might modify their instruction to promote equity in their classrooms. Curricula development can help PSTs develop their
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 in press). I challenge them to turn to primary documents, such as Oladuah Equiano’s (1814) slave narrative, frequently anthologized in British literature textbooks, to buttress their required content. Additionally, I encourage students to incorporate news articles that shed light on pertinent social issues and thematically link to required texts. Having engaged with informational texts utilized to promote conversations around inequity, students feel more self-efficacious in their ability to seek out non-mainstream stories that can both satisfy the CCSS and promote culturally responsive teaching practices. I see this collaborative curricular investigation and re-creation as a means by which to equip my students with the skills to be critical of their content and the political forces behind its inception, history, and present realities. Threaded throughout these activities is an ongoing dialogue on how power and marginalization are made manifest in our required curricula and standards. Our sustained critique of the hegemony literacy practices often perpetuate allows us to apply discipline-specific strategies to disrupt educative niceness.
of so many teacher education programs. In looking ahead, it is my hope that other literacy teacher educators will offer their own successful strategies for dismantling this construct that renders authentic culturally responsive teacher preparation impossible. Like Baptise (2008), I hold that a grievous folly is produced when teachers refrain from imposing their own equity-minded beliefs on their students. Impose, impose, impose. To disrupt the inequities students belonging to historically marginalized populations continue to face, all of the usual suspects—audit culture, PSTs, teacher educators, and curricula and instruction— must combine forces and thus fortify their efforts to reject a culture of niceness that thwarts culturally responsive teaching. Such a collective transformation means a cessation of the halfhearted pandering around culturally responsive teaching and multicultural education and requires instead a revitalized, legitimate commitment to social justice-oriented teacher preparation. Takaki (1993) wrote that rather than ignoring and shying away from the challenging dynamics of their profession, teacher education should “embrace this timely and exciting intellectual opportunity to revitalize the social sciences and humanities” (p. 117). Over two decades later, this charge resonates. Will we finally answer this charge, or will we continue to honor the stifling niceness that impedes equity-oriented teacher preparation?
Concluding Thoughts Here, I have shared various strategies I have implemented with the intent of disrupting the culture of niceness—which is fundamentally a culture of Whiteness—that seeps into the very fabric
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Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 Ladson-Billings, G. (1999). Preparing teachers for diverse student populations: A critical race theory perspective. Review of Research in Education, 24, 211-247. Ladson-Billings, G. (2006). “Yes, but how do we do it?” practicing culturally relevant pedagogy. In J. Landsman and C. W. Lewis (Eds), White teachers/diverse classrooms: A guide to building inclusive schools, promoting high expectations, and eliminating racism (pp. 29-42). Sterling, VA: Stylus. Lee, C. D. (2007). Culture, literacy, and learning: Taking bloom in the midst of the whirlwind. New York, NY: Teachers College Press. Levinson, M. (2009). Mapping multicultural education. In H. Siegel (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Education (pp. 428-450). New York: Oxford University Press. Lord, B. (1994). Teachers' professional development: Critical colleagueship and the role of professional communities. In N. Cobb (Ed.), The future of education: Perspectives on national standards in education (pp. 175-204). New York: College Entrance Examination Board. Low, S. (2009). Maintaining Whiteness: The fear of others and niceness. Transforming Anthropology, 17(2), 79-92. McIntosh, P. (1989). White privilege and male privilege: A personal account of coming to see correspondences through work in women's studies. Retrieved from http://www.cirtl.net/files/PartI_CreatingAwareness_WhitePrivilegeUnpackingtheInvisibleKnapsack.pdf . McIntyre, A. (2002). Exploring Whiteness and multicultural education with prospective teachers. Curriculum Inquiry, 32(1), 31-49. Miller, D. (1999). Principles of social justice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Miller, s. (2014). Cultivating a disposition for sociospatial justice in English teacher preparation. Teacher Education and Practice, 27(1), 44-74. Miller, sj, & Norris, L. (2007). Unpacking the loaded teacher matrix: Negotiating space and time between university and secondary English classrooms. New York: Peter Lang. Morrell, E. (2005). Critical English education. English Education, 37(4), 312-321. Moss, B. (2013). The Common Core Text Exemplars—A worthy new canon or not?. Voices from the Middle, 21(1), 48-52. National Council of Teachers of English. (2012). NCTE/NCATE standards for initial preparation of teachers of secondary English language arts, grades 7–12. Retrieved from http://www.ncte.org/library/NCTEFiles/Groups/CEE/NCATE/ApprovedStandards_111212.pdf
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Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 Sleeter, C. E. (2001). Preparing teachers for culturally diverse schools: Research and the overwhelming presence of Whiteness. Journal of Teacher Education, 52(2), 94-106. Sleeter, C. E. (2012). Confronting the marginalization of culturally responsive pedagogy. Urban Education, 47(3), 562–584. Smith, L., & Fershleiser, R. (2008). Not quite what I was planning, revised and expanded deluxe edition: Sixword memoirs by writers famous and obscure. New York: Harper Collins. Solórzano, D. G. (1998). Critical race theory, racial and gender microagressions, and the experiences of Chicana and Chicano scholars. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 11(1), 121136. Stotsky, S. (2010). Literary study in grades 9, 10, 11: A national survey. Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers. Retrieved from http://www.alscw.org/publications/forum/forum_4.pdf Strauss, V. (2015). Teacher: A student told me I ‘couldn’t understand because I was a White lady.’ Here’s what I did then. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2015/11/24/teacher-a-student-told-me-icouldnt-understand-because-i-was-a-White-lady-heres-what-i-did-then/ Takaki, R. (1993). Multiculturalism: Battleground or meeting ground? Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 531(1), 109-121. Tatto, M. T. (1996). Examining values and beliefs about teaching diverse students: Understanding the challenges for teacher education. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 18(2), 151-180. Terman, L. M. (1916). The measurement of intelligence: An explanation of and a complete guide for the use of the Stanford revision and extension of the Binet-Simon intelligence scale. New York: Houghton Mifflin. Thelin, J. R. (1978). “Niceness” and professional education. The Educational Forum, 42(3), 319-325. Thomas, P. (2011). “A respect for the past, a knowledge of the present, and a concern for the future”: The role of history in English education. English Education, 43(2), 123-144. Tochluk, S. (2010). Witnessing Whiteness: The need to talk about race and how to do it (2nd ed). New York: Rowman and Littlefield Education. Trier, J. (2005). ‘Sordid Fantasies’: reading popular ‘inner-city’school films as racialized texts with preservice teachers. Race Ethnicity and Education, 8(2), 171-189. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD). (2012). “NCES Common Core of Data State Dropout and Graduation Rate Data file,” School Year 2011-12, Preliminary Version 1a. See http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_coi.asp. Villegas,
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 A. M. (2007). Dispositions in teacher education: A look at social justice. Journal of Teacher Education, 58(5), 370–380. Watkins, N., & Ostenson, J. (2015). Navigating the text selection gauntlet: Exploring factors that influence English teachers’ choices. English Education, 47(3), 245-275. Zeichner, K. (1999). The new scholarship in teacher education. Educational Researcher, 28(9), 4-15.
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Living and Learning in the Here-and-Now: Critical Inquiry in Literacy Teacher Education
Katherine Crawford-Garrett & Kathleen Riley Abstract: In this paper, we utilize practitioner research to consider what happened in two literacy methods courses when we positioned students as human beings in the present rather than solely as future teachers. We first situate our work within the current sociopolitical context of the U.S., making the argument that critical literacy education is more urgent now than ever. We then consider the ways in which a “here and now” positioning afforded deep engagements into two localized inquiries—one on migrant labor and immigration and the other on racial justice past and present—and illustrate that these experiences offered our students opportunities to view the world from a multiplicity of perspectives and to develop sociopolitical awareness. We conclude by arguing that literacy teacher education must undergo a dramatic shift, one that positions pre-service teachers as critically-conscious human beings and emphasizes inquiries that attend to the lived reality of the moment. Keywords: critical literacy, inquiry, teacher education Katherine Crawford-Garrett is an assistant professor of Teacher Education, Educational Leadership and Policy at the University of New Mexico. Her research broadly explores neoliberal contexts of schooling, teacher activism and critical literacy. She has published work in Children’s Literature, Workplace, Educational Action Research, Teacher Education Quarterly and has written a book titled Teach for America and the Struggle for Urban School Reform: Searching for Agency in an Era of Standardization that traces the experiences of Teach for America corps members working in Philadelphia during an era of high-stakes accountability and privatization. Her academic interests include practitioner inquiry, postmodernism, critical pedagogy, and feminism. Kathleen Riley is an assistant professor in the Department of Literacy at West Chester University of Pennsylvania. Her research focuses on critical literacy practices in K-12 and teacher education, teacher activism, and urban education. Her work can be found in the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy and Teacher Education Quarterly.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 Introduction1
is encouraged, and personal transformation occurs? We argue in this paper that these experiences are essential to becoming teachers. Yet despite the promise inherent in these approaches, teacher education is now increasingly subjected to accountability measures that mirror the value-added models already commonplace in K-12 contexts across the U.S. For example, a recent report by the Education Policy Initiative at Carolina (2015) aimed to assess whether graduates from teacher education programs ranked highly by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) had a greater impact on student achievement than those from lower-ranking programs. While the results of this assessment indicated no clear “advantage” of the highly-ranked programs in terms of student achievement, the proliferation of studies like these is deeply troubling as notions of success become more narrowly defined. According to Jones (2015), “In the regime’s last-ditch effort to force us (parents, K-12 educators, teacher educators, students, and citizens) to quietly comply with standardized testing that has turned into U.S. 21st century child labor…they are pinning Colleges of Education against the wall: Make your graduates’ future students’ test scores improve, or else” (para. 9). These attempts to mandate accountability not only discount the vast range of factors that impact student success, but consistently privilege future achievement at the expense of present engagement, an approach that seldom works in improving teaching and learning (Crawford-Garrett, 2013; Ravitch, 2014).
n the final class meeting of an introductory literacy methods courses at Southwestern University, students are presenting their final project for the course—interdisciplinary inquiries prompted by Francisco Jimenez’s (1997) memoir The Circuit, which chronicles his life as a Mexican migrant worker in California’s central valley. The students have selected inquiry topics ranging from deportation and reunification to migrant children’s experiences in public schools. After conducting research on their topic, a group shares their inquiry into deportation and reunification by creating a museum-like environment that enables their classmates to circulate silently while examining photographs, reading quotations from primary sources, and watching clips from recent documentaries on immigration. After thirty minutes of silent reflection, we pause to debrief the experience. I notice that several students are crying. Michelle, a White student, who has been quiet all semester, exclaims, “These people are human! And look at what is happening to them!” In this instance, Michelle is responding to the powerful interplay of texts not as a future teacher but as a mother, daughter, sister, and human being—someone who cannot imagine being forcibly separated from her own family and the trauma that such a separation would entail. Dahlia, a Mexican-American student whose family is intimately familiar with dehumanizing immigration policies, echoes Michelle’s emotion saying, “This all hits really close to the heart.”
In our experience as two White, female teacher educators working with pre-service teachers in separate and distinct geographic contexts, perpetuating technocratic and mechanistic modes of teaching will do little to prepare novice educators to face the nation’s shifting demographics (Frey, 2014)
What does a moment like this have to do with teacher education? And with literacy teaching and learning in particular? Why, as literacy teacher educators, should we attend to instances in which critical inquiry is central, interpersonal connection 1
We acknowledge that there is a gender spectrum and that myriad pronouns exist that we can use when referring to individuals in our writing. Throughout this
article we use pronouns to refer to individuals that correspond with the pronouns that they use to refer to themselves.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 or disrupt a policy environment that continually devalues teachers and extols standardized mandates over localized instruction (Simon & Campano, 2013; Ravitch, 2010). Therefore, we infuse our teaching with opportunities for future teachers to question their assumptions about the world or grapple with political issues that may impact their lives or those of their future students. If one of our primary challenges as teacher educators is to enable preservice teachers to work productively across difference and develop empathy for students whose experiences in school and society might be vastly different than their own (e.g. Jones & Woglom, 2013; Milner, 2006; Irvine, 2003; Sleeter, 2008), then we must fundamentally alter our approach to methods instruction by making lived experiences with critical inquiry central to our curriculum.
perspectives and develop sociopolitical awareness. We conclude by arguing that teacher education must undergo a dramatic shift, one that positions pre-service teachers as critically-conscious individuals and emphasizes inquiries that attend to the lived reality of the moment rather than solely considering what it means to be a teacher in some distant, imagined future in which test scores are the only indicators of educational attainment.
two literacy teacher education classes in which we carried out collaborative research and describe how our teaching and analysis are grounded in feminist notions of positioning, time, and space in teacher education. Our analysis considers the ways in which a “here and now” positioning afforded deep engagements into two separate, critical inquiries, arguing that these experiences offered our students opportunities to engage a multiplicity of
In addition, teachers are entering the teaching profession in a time of unprecedented pressure to conform to mandated curricula and standardized testing. As the effects of incessant testing associated with No Child Left Behind become apparent, critics lament the slashing of arts programs (e.g. AbdulAlim, 2012), the narrowing of curricula, the instructional time lost in favor of test prep, and the adverse health effects on students and teachers
The Need for Sociopolitical Consciousness in the Current Political Moment
Pre-service teachers are entering teaching at a political time. As national demographics shift and the U.S. student population becomes increasingly ethnically and socioeconomically diverse, the teaching force remains overwhelmingly White, female, and middle class (Sleeter, 2008). According In this paper, we utilize practitioner research to to the National Center for consider what happened in two Education Statistics (2015), the “Teacher education must introductory literacy methods number of white students in courses, one located at undergo a dramatic shift, schools has decreased over the Northeastern University and the one that positions prepast decade, while the number other at Southwestern of students of color has service teachers as University, when we positioned increased (p. 80). Although it is students as human beings in the critically-conscious imperative that we work at a present by engaging them in two individuals.” systemic level to recruit and critical inquiries—one on racial retain more teachers of color, justice and the other on migrant labor and this trend also calls attention to the need for immigration. We first situate our work within the critically-conscious White teachers who can teach current sociopolitical context of the U.S., making thoughtfully across various dimensions of the argument that critical literacy education is as difference. urgent now as ever (Janks, 2014). We then detail the
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 (Gallagher, 2009; Ravitch, 2010). Standardized testing is just one symptom of a larger neoliberal project, which includes the proliferation of charter schools, widespread privatization efforts, corporate encroachment into public education, the dismantling of ethnic studies programs (Cammarota & Romero, 2014), and the de-professionalization of teaching. Like Lipman (2011) we define neoliberalism as “an ensemble of economic and social policies, forms of governance, and discourses and ideologies that promote individual self-interest, unrestricted flows of capital, deep reductions in cost of labor, and sharp retrenchment of the public sphere” (p. 6).
and interrogate our practices in order to change them. Critical literacy education focuses specifically on the role of language as a social practice and examines the role played by text and discourse in maintaining or transforming these orders (p. 349). Comber (2015) builds on this idea by asserting that critical literacy education must reflect a global, capitalist context: “Designing curriculum with a social justice agenda requires knowledge about the relationships between people, places, and poverty. This will mean enhancing teacher knowledge of economics, statistics, geography, politics, and history” (p. 366). In other words, we can no longer afford to teach literacy as an isolated subject, bereft of criticality and divorced from other fields of study that determine how we come to view the broader world and one another.
This far-reaching disinvestment from the public good does not apply solely to education; rather, the larger sociopolitical context of the U.S. is equally complex and problematic. In addition to trends that are specific to education, issues such as systemic racism, unfair housing policies (Lipman, 2011), mass incarceration (Alexander, 2012), growing segregation (Kozol, 2005), exploitation of workers, torture, detention, and growing economic inequality are being framed and debated in the national media in ways that impact each of our local contexts. Within the current political landscape, critical literacy frameworks offer useful tools for making sense of—and responding to—these troubling trends. For example, Janks (2014) argues that the social conditions in which we live are not predetermined; rather, we create them through language and discourse. She offers critical literacy— the process of critically reading the world in order to transform it—as an antidote to taken-for-granted discourses that reproduce the status quo, which include social orders that create disparities based on social categories such as gender, race, class, ethnicity, and religion. These social orders do not develop naturally; rather, they are produced collectively and individually both by our actions and by our failures to act. Janks (2014) asserts that critical approaches to education can help us name
Given this political context and the urgent need to foster critical literacy within schooling, we aimed to create spaces that foregrounded historically marginalized perspectives so that students might recognize their interconnectedness with those who occupy different social locations. According to Darder (1991), Freire frames our vocation as educators as becoming “more humanized social agents in the world” (p. 76). Moreover, Janks (2014), in discussing the importance of raising critical consciousness, notes that “it is not enough for them [students] to learn how to interrogate the world; they need to develop a social conscience served by a critical imagination for redesign” (p. 350). Within this frame of social justice teaching and critical literacy education, we join a long line of critical teacher educators concerned with preparing a more humane and responsive cadre of teachers who are capable of teaching and learning across difference and advocating for a more equitable society (Sleeter, 2008). These scholars have focused on the ways that critical teacher education provides aspiring teachers a chance to come to know
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 themselves as raced, cultured, gendered beings (e.g. Cochran-Smith, 2004; Lee, Sleeter, & Kumashiro, 2015; Milner, 2006; Philip & Benin, 2014), develop theories of practice that recognize, value, and draw on students’ linguistic and cultural resources (e.g. Banks & Banks, 1995; Irvine, 2003), develop curricula with local relevance and transformative potential (e,g. Campano, 2007; Ladson-Billings, 1995; Sleeter, 2005), gain critical awareness of the sociopolitical context of American schooling (e.g. Edmondson, 2004; Kinloch, 2013), and begin to see themselves as ongoing learners, which includes a commitment to questioning assumptions related to their students and their practice (e.g. Campano, 2007; CochranSmith & Lytle, 2009). We supplement this line of scholarship by exploring how positioning undergraduate pre-service teachers in the here-andnow and inviting them into authentic inquiries around issues of social difference and inequality might add to our understandings of how to prepare critically literate and socially aware teachers in these times.
college and is the second course students take after admission to the College of Education. There were 20 students (18 women and 2 men) enrolled in the course, 19 of whom agreed to participate in the study. Of those, 8 identified as Hispanic/Latino and 2 others claimed multi-racial identities, while the rest identified as White. The course met once a week for 2.5 hours and was “high stakes” in that the course content is closely tied to a state certification exam. In addition to attending university courses, all of the students were enrolled in field placements at local elementary schools where they spent three full days per week. [Kathleen] taught a course called Foundations in Reading, Grades 4-8 at a large public university in the Northeast that is located about one hour from a major U.S. city. Students in the course are pursuing middle grades (grades 4-8) certification and have concentrations in math, science, social studies, and language arts. In the semester of this study, [Kathleen] collected data on two sections of the course, one that was comprised of 19 undergraduate students, 17 of whom were White (five men, eleven women), one of whom was a Puerto Rican man, and one of whom was an Asian-American woman. The other section of the course had a combination of nine undergraduates (three men, six women) and five graduate students (two men, three women), all White. Foundations in Reading, Grades 4-8 is one of four required literacy courses in a middle grades preparation program. The students were not in field placements in conjunction with the course.
Research Context The context of this study is two separate literacy methods courses that we taught during the spring semester of 2015, although our collaborative inquiry into our teaching has spanned the past two years and includes data collected over four semesters. While the courses we taught were required for students pursuing Bachelor degrees in education, they differed in that [Katy’s] students were primarily preparing for careers as elementary educators, while [Kathleen’s] students were planning to become middle grades teachers with specific content specializations.
Our Approach to the Courses Like Lewison, Flint, and Van Sluys (2002), we view critical literacy as inclusive of four dimensions: disrupting the commonplace, interrogating multiple perspectives, focusing on sociopolitical issues, and taking action and promoting social justice (p. 382). As with other semesters, we applied this framework
[Katy] teaches a course called, The Teaching of Reading in the Elementary School at a large, public, predominantly minority-serving university in the Southwest. The course is comprised of undergraduate students in their junior year of
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 to our courses, both in terms of our own approach sculpting their bodies into frozen scenes to depict to literacy in our classes and how we invited our moments when they felt empowered and students to think about the profession of teaching constrained in their past experiences with reading (Riley, & Crawford-Garrett, 2015). Framing our and writing. These engagements allowed students to courses using the concept of reading the word and bring their own lives into the room for critical the world (Freire, 1987), we invited pre-service collaboration, as well as see themselves as teachers to draw on their learners/thinkers in the hereautobiographies; question and-now who could be shaped “Like all critical literacy work, taken-for-granted best and transformed by these efforts often provoked practices within classrooms; experiencing the perspectives discomfort, which we respond to texts with art and of classmates, texts, and emotion; engage perspectives literature. Like all critical embraced as part of the vastly different from their literacy work, these efforts process of our courses and own; and design curricular often provoked discomfort, attempted to make transparent units with a focus on social which we embraced as part of to our students that we viewed change. We also recognized the process of our courses and the importance of providing attempted to make discomfort—our own and our students with concrete transparent to our students theirs—as a valuable part of tools and strategies that they that we viewed discomfort— the learning process.” could implement in our own and theirs—as a elementary and middle valuable part of the learning school classrooms (including reader’s theater, word process. mapping, literature circles, written conversations, Theoretical Framework character interviews, etc.) and attending to the core issues embedded in literacy instruction like In our teaching and analysis, we leveraged feminist comprehension, academic language, assessment, pedagogies, which privilege personal histories, and multimodalities. recognize the role of emotion in learning, encourage active, relational engagement with content, and acknowledge the significance of categories like race, class, gender, and sexuality in how learning does or does not happen (hooks, 1994; Shrewsbury, 1993). We modeled these tenets of feminist pedagogy in our classes by encouraging questioning; decentering ourselves as the classroom authority; encouraging deep collaboration among students; allowing space for a range of perspectives to surface; highlighting lived experiences as salient to the learning process; and embracing uncertainty. To this analysis in particular, we apply the intersecting frames of positioning, space, and time to 1) conceptualize our work as teacher educators and 2)
In addition to introducing these strategies and situating them within a broader framework of criticality, we explicitly positioned our students as readers/writers/thinkers rather than solely future teachers. For example, as an opening introduction to the class, Kathleen had students respond to the question, What is something that you read, viewed, or experienced recently that made you see something differently?, a prompt that signaled that the course was a space that valued personal transformation, broadened the definition of “reading,” and encouraged the students to bring personal readings and experiences into the room. Additionally, students in both classes created tableaus by
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 consider how our students responded to specific invitations within our courses.
such as museums and memorials, to show how certain kinds of structures allow learners to put themselves in relation to others and to new ideas without necessarily guiding or dictating how they make meaning in these spaces. Differentiating between learning as compliance (p. 16) and the experience of learning (p. 25), she acknowledges the inherent risk and discomfort in what she calls the “crisis of learning,” of “letting go of a former sense of self in order to re-identify with an emerging and different self that is still in transition” (p. 89). Pedagogical spaces, then, act as a “framework that protects as their users ‘go outside,’ and they provide supports for standing between realities and for being in transition during the time that the old self is lost and the new self is in the making” (p. 94). In other words, spaces of learning are potential spaces that are created with intent but are left open in terms of the meanings that might emerge.
Positioning Borrowing the notion of “mode of address” from the field of film studies, Ellsworth (1997) considers how our positioning as students and teachers in classroom spaces shapes our experiences with schooling. Specifically, Ellsworth (1997) asks us to consider questions like: Who does this text/teacher/classroom think you are? and How does that position come to influence how you take up or resist learning opportunities? (pp. 37-38). In narrating her own experiences with schooling, Ellsworth considers the limiting positions she was offered as a learner and how that narrow positioning influenced what she believed to be possible in school. Like Ellsworth, Dutro and Bien (2013) question the deleterious effects that narrow positioning can have on students and schools when they write, “No matter who is doing the narrating about students’ lives (students themselves, peers, teachers, administrators, researchers, policymakers, or the media), stories about students position individuals and groups—academically, socially, and culturally—within too often static categories of race, gender, class, and ability” (p. 11). Dutro and Bien (2013) also argue for broadening both the positions students can take up in schools and the stories that can be told and heard in these spaces. We drew on this concept of positioning to consider how shifting and flexible modes of positioning allow students to engage with work differently and take up ideas, content, and questions as human beings, and not exclusively as future educators.
Jones and Woglom (2013) take up the concept of space in teacher education when they assign students to ride a city bus route with the intention of supporting students in attending to their embodied experiences of being in different places, with the hope that they would “begin to create multiple and even contradictory storylines after their experience” (p. 11). Given that most students feel comfortable in school settings, Jones and Woglom (2013) advocate for “getting future teacher bodies into unfamiliar places” to “help them analyze various reasons why someone may feel comfortable or uncomfortable, included or excluded, powerful or powerless in different spaces” (p. 25). In our literacy methods classes, we attended specifically to the spaces that we created for students, aiming to structure embodied experiences in which our students felt emotions and could “go outside” of what they knew.
Space In another project, Ellsworth (2005) uses the concept of pedagogy as design to analyze ways that learning spaces are shaped with pedagogical intent. She draws on examples of public spaces of learning,
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 The concept of time is also relevant in our teaching and analysis, as much teacher education coursework positions students primarily as future teachers, and conversations are often dominated by discussions of how an idea might be applied in a distant, imagined classroom (Jones, 2006; 2012). Jones (2006) challenges this assumption by drawing upon a case study of one student reading two texts in her class to emphasize what becomes possible when pre-service teachers are allowed to engage with literature as readers of adult texts, and not necessarily as teachers of reading through children’s literature (p. 299). Jones (2006) emphasizes the importance of positioning pre-service teachers as readers in their own right in order to open up chances for transformative experiences (p. 302). She articulates the hope that her students will become teachers who will “listen with compassion to—and be responsive to—the lives of children and families who are traditionally marginalized in school” (Jones, 2012, p. 133). However, rather than teaching them in ways that imagine them into these future roles, she writes, “I try not to concern myself too much with such a lofty long-term goal and turn my attention to the young adults sitting in front of me to concentrate on hearing them, helping them to hear others differently, and position them as intellectuals who read and write public spaces” (Jones, 2012, p. 133). We engaged in this project, in part, because we were deeply motivated by this belief—that by supporting the students in front of us, to engage in transformative, critical dialogue, we could cultivate profound change in how teaching and learning happen in schools.
thick of things, from actual educational contexts that they shape daily,” teacher research has the capacity to open up new “educational possibilities for students” ((Simon & Campano, 2013, p. 22) and construct counter-understandings of who students are and what they are capable of achieving. Teacher research has a long history of responding to injustice and working towards more equitable conditions in schools (Ballenger, 1998; Campano, 2007; Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 2009) and teacher researchers, in a variety of settings, have mobilized their work to legitimize the experiences of historically-marginalized students and to disrupt deficit perspectives (Ballenger, 1998; Blackburn, 2003; Campano, 2007). As Simon and Campano (2013) argue, As a methodological stance on classroom practice, practitioner research provides a framework for working against deficit notions of students’ identities and literacy practices, and working toward re-envisioning the ‘normal’ in classrooms as intersections of students’ multiple worlds of culture, language, experience, and potential. (p. 23) Similarly, Morrell (2008) comments on teacher research as critical practice when he writes, “Traditional research is often defined by its distant and objective stance toward research subjects and data; critical research, on the other hand, is defined by its closeness, its engagement, and its interestedness” (p. 14). Thus, through the process of documenting our classes as university-based teacher-researchers, we continually wrestled with what felt puzzling, pressing, and urgent in our practice and aimed to disrupt notions of “best practice” in school and classroom settings (e.g. Cochran-Smith, 1995; Kinloch, 2013; Rogers, 2013; Simon, 2009). As teacher education increasingly contends with neoliberal
Methodology As university-based teacher researchers, we define teacher research as “systematic and intentional inquiry about teaching, learning, and schooling carried out by teachers in their own school and classroom settings” (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1993, p. 27). Because “[t]eacher researchers theorize from the
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 policies that aim to discredit academia and standardize university instruction (Giroux, 2014), teacher research becomes a promising mode through which to document practices that cultivate criticality and disrupt deficit thinking. The growing body of practitioner research focused on teacher education theorizes teacher education from the inside (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1993) and offers possibilities for resistance. As Morrell (2008) notes, “[teacher research] is activist research, interventionist research, and a potentially transformational research, which makes it different from research as it is usually conceived” (p. 14).
Data Collection and Analysis
Data collection occurred on a weekly basis throughout the Spring 2015 semester. After having collaborated for four semesters, we decided to narrow our broader inquiry to three specific areas: culture, emotion, and participation. During the semester that is the focus of this research, we attended closely to how culture was being talked about, how emotions surfaced (or not) in specific instances, and how different kinds of participation structures afforded different kinds of engagement. Shared data sources included weekly memos written immediately after teaching our Researcher Positionality respective courses (a total of 32 “Teacher research has a long memos) and artifacts from our history of responding to As teacher researchers posing respective classes including questions and collecting data injustice and working student work completed in from our own classrooms, we towards more equitable class, formal assignments, and recognize the salience of our photographs of classroom conditions in schools.” positionalities. We are White, experiences. In addition, we middle class, female teacher each conducted and transcribed two one-hour focus educators as well as former elementary classroom groups at the close of the semester with a total of 12 teachers who taught culturally, linguistically, and students (six from each of our courses) as a way to racially diverse student populations in urban verify initial themes and findings. All of the focus contexts. Our collaboration as teacher educators groups were conducted at the end of the semester began in graduate school where we co-taught after grades had been submitted and evaluations several courses together and began to develop and completed. build upon frameworks for critical, feminist, antiracist teacher education. As we each accepted Data analysis was recursive and ongoing as we refaculty positions in different geographic locations, visited our memos on a regular basis and responded we maintained our co-teaching partnership by to one another’s field notes through bi-weekly collaboratively reflecting on our practice and cophone conversations, email communication, and planning experiences for our students. Thus, we responses on the memo itself. At the end of the thought of ourselves as co-teaching from a distance semester, we re-read the entire set of memos, which in that we shared specific goals and questions for was more than 90 single-spaced pages in length, and our courses and consistently drew upon the conducted a round of open-coding (Strauss & knowledge generated through our collaboration to Corbin, 1998) to generate a set of broad themes. We understand our teaching more deeply. Even though then read the memos a second time with particular our university settings differed substantially, we attention to how and when these themes surfaced utilized our shared teaching philosophies to and/or seemed salient. We also cross-checked these structure and facilitate our courses in similar ways. themes against other data sources, including the student work we had collected throughout the 41
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 semester. Ultimately we used these themes to create a list of focus group questions and conducted focus groups with students who self-selected to participate (Emerson, Fretz, & Shaw, 1995). As a mode of analysis, we employed cross-case analysis (Stake, 2003; Yin, 2003) to look across our two settings in the hopes of generating new insights. According to Stretton (1969), cross-case analysis is a methodology that provokes questions and reveals insights about independently investigated cases, enabling researchers to compare across settings, groups, and communities in pursuit of new understandings.
the Southwestern city where the university is located as indigenous populations, Europeans, and more recent immigrants from places like Mexico, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Colombia, Somalia, and Cuba contend for jobs and resources. The inquiry began when students were invited to explore a collection of fiction and nonfiction texts related to immigration. After exploring the texts in depth, students posed questions prompted by the texts. They brought these questions into their reading of Francisco Jimenez’s (1997) text The Circuit and re-shaped them as they encountered new information about his family’s experience as undocumented migrant workers in California’s Central Valley in the 1940’s and 50’s. The Circuit provoked further questions about deportation, education, bilingualism, working and housing conditions, migrant worker rights, resistance, etc. Katy supplemented The Circuit by engaging in critical readings of the current refugee crisis in which thousands of Central American children are being detained on the U.S./Mexico border after fleeing violence in their home countries. Ultimately, students formed groups around the questions they found most compelling, including, When migrant families are split apart, are they ever reunited?; How is the idea of migration sold to people in other countries?; What compels them to come here?; What kinds of art have been produced in migrant labor communities?; and What resources are available to undocumented families (healthcare/schooling)? Students conducted background research on their inquiry questions, gathered a minimum of four sources (ranging from primary sources to newspaper articles to images to films to poetry), and translated these sources into four pedagogical experiences that could be used in a unit with elementary students. As the capstone experience to these rich inquiries, students implemented one of their experiences with the class. The class then collectively reflected on what it felt like to engage in the inquiry process and
Findings As we analyzed the data from our respective courses, we noticed how positioning students as learners in the here-and-now fostered critical consciousness as students responded to the content of each of our inquiries and engaged deeply with questions provoked by course texts (broadly defined). In what follows, we describe our respective inquiries into contemporary local issues and offer examples of how the spaces we created offered students an opportunity to both wrestle with alternative perspectives and confront sociopolitical issues. Inquiry 1: Immigration and Migrant Labor Across the U.S., various constituencies continue to debate what it means to be American, how best to secure America’s borders, and how to contend with the influx of children from Central America seeking solace from violence which, in many cases, has been a direct result of U.S. policies. In Katy’s class, the inquiry into immigration served two purposes. On the one hand, Katy initiated the inquiry in response to the university’s proximity to the U.S./Mexico border and utilized it as a means for discussing border politics and negotiating discourses related to immigration that were circulating in the region. On the other hand, she also sought to address the deep history of racial tension that has been endemic in
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 made explicit connections to the teaching and learning of literacy in their city as well as in the broader world.
deaths of unarmed African Americans at the hands of the police, led to massive protests. Kathleen’s personal reading of this event included anger about the way that the media disproportionately focused on a small group of protesters who destroyed property and an intensifying concern about campuswide discourses of colorblindness, indifference, and in some cases overt racial hostility. At the suggestion of a student, who expressed how important she believed it was to discuss the events in Baltimore, Kathleen designed a class that included a critical media analysis of the events in Baltimore and a discussion of an article about the Black Lives Matter movement, “Black Students’ Lives Matter: Building the School-to-Justice Pipeline” (2015).
Inquiry 2: Racial Justice - Past and Present Kathleen’s class inquiry into racial justice emerged in response to themes from course texts and also national and campus-wide events that occurred in the spring of 2015. The class read two novels, Seedfolks (Fleishman, 1997) and March Book 1 (Lewis, Aydin, & Powell, 2013). At the conclusion of reading each novel, the class organized into interestbased inquiry circles, in which students collectively raised questions and sought answers by sharing texts that they found on topics such as stereotypes, civil rights in Pennsylvania, and racial justice today. For the final project of the class, students designed integrated, inquiry-based Literacy for Change units for classes of middle grades students on self-selected topics related to the two class novels, such as the Great Migration, food justice, ecosystems, personal and community change, and racial justice today.
Engaging Multiple Perspectives A fundamental aspect of critical literacy teaching and learning entails engaging a multiplicity of perspectives and reading with and against dominant ways of viewing the world. According to Lewison, Flint, & Van Sluys (2002),
The study of Seedfolks included a short video about the North Philadelphia Peace Park, a community garden in a low-income neighborhood that was embroiled in a conflict with the city’s housing authority, which was planning to tear down the nearby housing project and displace both the residents and Peace Park itself. In a casual conversation after class one day, several students expressed interest in visiting the North Philadelphia Peace Park. Kathleen responded by arranging a Sunday tour, attended by six students, which included a story of how the community garden was created, the theory of change undergirding the work at the park, and the current battle that the park was facing with the housing authority.
[A]uthors who describe the multiple viewpoints dimension of critical literacy ask us to imagine standing in the shoes of others—to understand and experience texts from our own perspectives and viewpoints of others and to consider these various perspectives concurrently. (p. 383). Reading books within inquiry circles was one of the places where multiple perspectives surfaced. In Katy’s class, discussing The Circuit within inquiry circles created a space in which students coconstructed knowledge through talking and thinking collectively about what it means to immigrate to America and identify as American, often drawing on the diversity of their lived experiences. Moreover, inviting students to respond to this text as part of a smaller group allowed perspectives to surface that might not have been
Towards the end of the semester, Freddie Gray died in Baltimore, MD in police custody and his death, viewed in the context of other highly publicized
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 possible in whole group discussions. For example, Katy recorded the following excerpt in her field notes early on:
like when we looked at the pictures of the different, if you asked was this in Africa, was this not in Africa, just to go into the classroom with an open mind and [knowing] all of our students are not going to interpret things the same way. Everyone's going to have a different viewpoint.
Once again, I saw Dora, a quiet MexicanAmerican student guiding her group in a discussion about what it’s like to be undocumented, to pick fruit, etc. I really see that she has a great deal of family knowledge in this area and she later shared with me that her uncle was part of the Bracero program that brought Mexicans here to work from the 1940’s-1960s.
Similarly, the critical media analysis of the uprising in Baltimore led a student in Kathleen’s class to have this response: When you showed all those pictures and we all were thinking that they were riots and have a sports scene come up I was like ‘Oh my gosh.’ That was very eye-opening for me. So now, every time I see a picture of a police car damaged, it's not because of a riot, you know what I mean? It's not because of people fighting injustices and stuff. It can be stupid things like sports events and stuff. I don't know. I thought that was very eyeopening.
In a complementary example, Katy asked students to analyze a New York Times photo essay called “The Way North” (Cave & Heisler, 2014) in which people along U.S. Interstate 35 were asked what it means to be American. One of the people featured in the photo essay was a White politician who said that being American means getting a certain feeling in your stomach when you see the flag. Dora candidly shared that an undocumented worker might also get a feeling in her/his stomach but one based on fear and anxiety. While many other students critiqued the politician’s over-simplified idea of what it means to be American, Dora’s re-positioning of the undocumented perspective allowed many of her White colleagues to experience the photo essay differently.
Critical analysis of the ways in which historical events are represented in mainstream curricula also prompted students to raise critical questions about their own education. In Kathleen’s class, students read Rosa, a picture book that tells the story of Rosa Parks in a way that includes more nuance than many textbook accounts, alongside an article that critiques the oversimplified way that the Montgomery Bus Boycott is taught in schools (Kohl, 1991). Nick shared:
Other course experiences in Katy’s class further illustrated the importance of recognizing and leveraging a multiplicity of perspectives. In an experience where students unpacked stereotypes embedded in a series of visual photographs of Africa, Wendy recognized that not everyone “reads” an image or text in the same way, a realization that decentered the primacy of her experience as a White, middle-class woman:
When we read the article that literally said most people think it's this, that's what I thought it was. And then it told like the real story, and that was really eye-opening. And then, that just made me think about what else is something that I've perceived incorrectly? Due to the educational system or my own inability to look into things.
And [I realized] that, going into a classroom that not every kid is going to think the same,
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 Lisa then shared, “I feel like we were all a little mind blown when we learned that, when we got the specific facts.” She added, “Instead of just what we grew up always thinking that she just got arrested because she sat on the front of the bus.”
In Kathleen’s class, where the students were mostly White, the two racial minority students’ experiences with stereotyping and racial discrimination led White students to question their assumptions. The following exchange between Lisa, Courtney, and Braydon occurred in a focus group:
Further, the space created through the class inquiries offered students an opportunity to share Lisa: Courtney, you spoke about your their personal experiences with oppression. In Katy’s experiences with that [being asked, “where class, the foregrounding of nonare you from?”] and it was dominant perspectives provided something that never occurred “Critical analysis of the ways spaces in which students could to me and I think that opened in which historical events critically re-read their own my eyes because growing up I experiences in school and didn't have that, so it never are represented in identify those instances in which personally occurred to me. mainstream curricula also their perspectives were silenced. Braydon built on Lisa’s prompted students to raise Tanya, a Latina student, wrote comment by sharing that his critical questions about the following in a class paired conversation with reflection: their own education.” Derrick led him to realize that I want my students to Derrick needed to deal with feel that their experiences matter and that people making the false assumption that he was they are important, unique, and that people from Mexico. These conversations helped White should embrace their differences rather than students in the class become aware of racial hide them or feel ashamed of them. I microaggressions. remember in my schooling I always felt like I We are aware that relying on students of color to was different. Almost everyone was White, educate White students about the impact of racial spoke English and was well off economically, discrimination, especially in predominantly White when I was just the opposite of all of those contexts, may place an undue burden on students of things. I remember being a third grader and color. However, these examples also illustrate how wanting so badly to be blond and blue-eyed invitations to respond to provocative texts can make because everyone else was…I should have space for students to voice experiences that can help been shown that I could think critically other students see things in new ways. As a whole, about why some characteristics are praised these examples illustrate the ways that inquiry over others. circles, critical textual analysis, and discussions that Through critically reflecting upon her own lived validated students’ life experiences allowed multiple experiences as a person of color in the Southwest, perspectives to surface in each of our classrooms. Tanya problematized the notion that her rich These engagements with multiple perspectives linguistic and cultural background was ignored in prompted students’ eyes to be open as they read her schooling in favor of mainstream, White, texts and the world differently after engaging with dominant perspectives. their peers. However, in addition to engaging with multiple viewpoints, we wanted students to connect
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 these views to larger political issues. In the section that follows, we illustrate ways that the class inquiries enabled students to deepen their sociopolitical awareness.
been sugar-coated and it's not the truth. I think that made a big impact, that final project. Wendy, another White pre-service teacher, added to Michelle’s comment by stating, “Yeah, and I think about my final project [on deportation and reunification] all the time ‘cause it still happens. I'm like wow, well now I know about this, so…”
Raising Sociopolitical Awareness One of the essential aims of our courses was to help students develop a sense of sociopolitical awareness or, as Bartolome (2004), calls it, “political clarity.” According to Bartolome (2004), “political clarity refers to the process by which individuals achieve ever-deepening consciousness of the sociopolitical and economic realities that shape their lives and their capacity to transform such material and symbolic conditions” (p. 98). While our respective inquiries into immigration and racial justice allowed students from non-mainstream backgrounds, like Dora, Tanya, Courtney, and Derrick, to voice their perspectives, they also offered an entry point into critical consciousness for students who, by their own admission, had been “blinded” to some of the realities of the world.
Similarly, Christine, who is also White, made connections between the course and her field placement seminar that occurred weekly at a rural school in a historically-marginalized community on the outskirts of the city: I feel like this class really tied in with what I was learning in my seminar at [school]. We talked about social activism and social justice. And I talked a lot about how I'd never heard about these things, and my seminar leader was like, yeah, that's true, but I think people really do know that they happen. And I was like no, I really never heard this before and I think a lot of people like, you know, from different demographics might never be exposed to these kinds of things and that they happen in school all the time so it's something that we need to be exposed to.
For example, in one group in Katy’s class, Sandra, a vegetarian who had chosen not to eat meat for moral and ethical reasons, came to a realization that her diet was not, in fact, cruelty-free. Rather, as part of a group discussion about Francisco’s father’s (a character in The Circuit) ongoing health issues, Sandra realized that the vegetables she consumes on a daily basis are likely harvested under inhumane working conditions. Similarly, in a focus group conversation that occurred after the course ended, Michelle shared the ways in which the final inquiry project on The Circuit raised her awareness about the present-day struggles of migrant workers:
In this instance, Christine’s learning in the course was reinforced by the kinds of issues and ideas that surfaced in her field placement. As Christine increasingly recognized that her kindergarten students had salient experiences often disregarded in mainstream curricular materials and educational discourse, she became more committed to increasing her own sociopolitical awareness as a means of advocating for students.
I think that the final project definitely... just researching things that I never would have thought to research on my own, it just really opened my eyes to the issues that we see that I think we're blinded to or things that have
In addition to co-constructing knowledge in structured class settings, conversations in both of our classes extended into other, less formal spaces as
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 students lived their inquiries as humans, not just future educators. For example, in Katy’s course, Wendy shared a conversation she had with Eleanor outside of class time about the inquiry into immigration:
without as much exposure to thinking about systemic racism began reflecting on issues such as land, land ownership, and displacement in new ways, with one student sharing that “the idea that the land was stolen land” stood out to her.
I'd never really paid attention to those issues, I mean I just didn't hear about them and I know Eleanor and I got into quite an indepth conversation about it, after class. Just how hard it was just to even read about that stuff, and I had no idea that that stuff happens. It kinda goes back to how we portray our country as being so perfect and we become blind to some issues that happen. In Kathleen’s class, the visit to Peace Park raised important questions about land ownership, structural racism leading to the displacement of low income communities of color, and historical trends of discrimination. This out-of-class space provided an opportunity for Derrick, one of two students of color in the class, to bring his knowledge about systemic racism to the discussion in a way that he had not had the chance to do in class. The tour guide had spoken with a sense of clarity about the injustice over time (e.g. “we see this land as occupied land, as stolen land”), and Derrick, who was conceptualizing a unit on the Great Migration, was able to build on that narrative by making connections to his own upbringing as well as learning that he had done for his curricular unit on the displacement of minority groups over time. In the debrief, Derrick offered a detailed historical perspective that included statistics and facts about the ways that people displaced Black people and concentrated them in certain areas, concluding with “the name and the way it happens looks different, but it’s just the same today.” He added that he lived in one of the “inner ring” suburbs that the tour guide mentioned as a place of African American resettlement, and he confirmed that he could see the demographic change happening. Students
Students in both courses dealt with these sometimes new and often distressing realizations in contrastive ways, but certainly a range of emotions surfaced as students explored the depth of injustice and conflicting images and messages regarding ideas like equality and freedom. As one inquiry group conversation wore on, Katy overheard Stella, a White student, shouting, “How do we let this shit happen to people?” Similarly, Eleanor shared her intense anger about the treatment of immigrant/migrants by noting: I don't know; I feel enraged about things now. Like I've been reading to my child at bedtime, I've been reading him storybooks about migrant workers. They're children's books. They're child appropriate. Like the one, it was called Amelia's Road (Altman & Sanchez, 2000) that was used for my group. I've been reading it to him at bedtime. He's not interested in it at all, but I've been reading it to him because I feel like I need to start young, instilling these things in him because I just feel like I grew up not knowing any of this was going on. So, I don't want that to happen to the kids I'm around. I just feel lied to all my life. As a Latina student, Linda experienced these blind spots differently but with an equal amount of anger and frustration as she recognized the ways in which her affluent middle school students struggled to acknowledge her humanity as a person of color: I'm in a middle school full of rich kids, and I'm from the west side so I'm not like them at all. And so they ask me questions as if I'm
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 from another country which is hilarious but at the same time they're so unaware that yeah, I'm just from that side of town, but I'm still a human, I still go to college, I still can have a job and so, it's just kind of eyeopening that our students aren't really aware of these bigger issues.
This study points to the necessity of exposing preservice teachers to transformative pedagogies as learners, especially in an era of rigid policy mandates that have narrowed the kinds of teaching and learning that happens regularly in schools (Ravitch, 2010). Because the current cadre of pre-service teachers largely came of age in the era of NCLB, it is imperative to offer them counter-narratives about what schooling can be and what is possible in educational spaces. In a groundbreaking article in the Harvard Educational Review nearly two decades ago, Bartolomé (1994) theorized the importance of humanizing methods instruction by fostering critical consciousness and critical inquiry in precisely those classes that tend to privilege “banking” modes of education (Freire, 1970). Bartolomé (1994) writes:
Gaining political clarity is essential for these young teachers for a number of reasons. Not only will they have to make critical decisions regarding the kinds of content they choose to teach with elementary and middle grades students, they will likely teach in contexts with students whose experiences reflect various dimensions of our respective inquiries. Thus, while foregrounding the experiences of undocumented immigrants or people of color in historically-disenfranchised communities may cause discomfort, we believe that these practices are essential to learning to work productively across various lines of difference in complex sociopolitical settings.
One of my greatest challenges throughout the years has been to help students to understand that a myopic focus on methodology often serves to obfuscate the real question—which is why in our society, subordinated students do not generally succeed academically in schools (p. 175).
Discussion and Implications The data presented above points towards several key implications in the field of teacher education. If we are to adequately address the needs of historicallymarginalized students and truly change education so that it disrupts, rather than reinforces, the status quo, we must abandon a mechanistic approach to teacher education and model instead what it means to embrace our calling as “transformative intellectuals” (Giroux, 1988) and “humanized social agents” (Darder, 1991). We recommend, then, that teacher educators consider an approach to preservice preparation that emphasizes criticality, acknowledges the lived realities of students, and reconceptualizes undergraduate education as a time of critical inquiry.
Thus, by focusing solely on introducing technical strategies at the expense of deep engagement with content or rigorous consideration of structural inequities related to race, class, gender, sexuality etc., methods instructors actually promote rather than disrupt societal disparities. In advocating a focus on criticality, we look to the work of other critical teacher educators who have reconceptualized what teacher education can look like in an era of neoliberal reform (e.g. Riley & Crawford-Garrett, 2015; Jones & Woglom 2013; Sleeter, 2005). For example, an increasing number of teacher educators are positioning pre-service teachers as community researchers (e.g. Gonzalez, Moll, & Amanti, 2005; Jones & Woglom, 2013), leveraging multicultural texts in their courses as a means of thinking differently about what it means to
1. Emphasizing Criticality
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 teach and learn literacy (Adomat, 2014; Wissman, 2014), and foregrounding issues of justice even in courses that are conceptualized as “technical” (Bartolomé, 1994; Riley & Crawford-Garrett, 2015). As organizations like the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) make inroads into teacher education and attempt to corporatize and standardize higher education, teacher educators who take critical stances must fight to preserve spaces that engender authentic inquiry and intellectual rigor.
students they think we want” (p. 2). The only way to create teaching and learning opportunities that serve all students is to fundamentally alter the pedagogical and curricular approaches that have become normalized in teacher education by creating conditions of authentic inquiry in which personal experience can be mobilized in the interest of deep learning and rigorous engagement.
As our localized inquiries got underway, students in both of our classes brought their lived realities to bear on the content in ways that significantly 2. Acknowledging Lived transformed our classroom Realities community. Had we elected to “The only way to create exclude critical content that often Secondly, our data indicate teaching and learning felt difficult to discuss or neglected the importance of both to provide opportunities for opportunities that serve all creating curriculum that intimacy and connection, students students is to fundamentally builds upon the lived like Michelle could have easily alter the pedagogical and realities of students and maintained the othering stance utilizing this curriculum as a curricular approaches that towards immigrants she had means of disrupting previously adopted, a problematic have become normalized in normalized practices within positioning, given the fact that teacher education.” teacher education. At many of her elementary students different points throughout came from families who had the semester, each of us felt it would be easier to recently arrived in the U.S. with complicated and plow forward with the expected routines of often traumatic immigration narratives. Similarly, in annotating textbooks, delivering lectures and Kathleen’s class, students like Lisa and Braydon modeling best practices, thereby offering students could have continued to move through the world the kind of teacher preparation they have come to unaware that their well-intentioned questions were expect as natural or neutral. However, as Dutro and experienced by others as racial microaggressions Bien (2013) argue, “the difficult—those challenging (Wing Sue et al., 2007). And given the shifting life experiences that inevitably are carried into and demographics of the United States, it is increasingly lived within classrooms—can and must be made likely that they will have students of color in their productive relationally and pedagogically within classrooms, no matter where they choose to teach. research and teaching” (p. 11). As we noticed the prolonged and weighty silences of students like 3. Authentic Inquiry in Undergraduate Dora, Dahlia, and Michelle (in Katy’s class), and Education Derrick and Courtney (in Kathleen’s), we further Lastly, this study of the here-and-now points to the recognized the urgency of creating spaces that invite importance of authentic inquiry in undergraduate all voices into the classroom. As Jones (2013) argues, teacher education. Although college has the “Students who may not ‘fit’ into the nomos of potential to be a time to engage in deep curricular universities might work extra hard to ‘pass’ as the 49
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 exploration and to wrestle with taken-for-granted assumptions about the world, Giroux (2014) laments the ways in which critical thinking and a culture of questioning are under attack as colleges corporatize programs and de-emphasize criticality. Giroux calls this assault “an ongoing attempt to destroy higher education as a democratic public sphere that enables intellectuals to stand firm, take risks, imagine the otherwise and push against the grain” (p. 19).
Conclusion In her recent essay, Karen Spector (2015) advocates for a “pedagogy of relational being” (p. 448) amidst these top-down mandates that emphasize best practices and threaten to routinize and mechanize the teaching process, rather than recognize it as one that is creative, responsive, and context-specific. She writes, “Being with and being for others in this world is not a commodity; it’s an ongoing ethical engagement with the world that should be at the heart of teacher education programs that strive for social justice” (p.448). While we exposed our students to a range of strategies and methods in our courses, we also attempted to create spaces to “be with and for each other,” (Spector, 2015, p.443) by designing experiences where students could be moved to tears by photographs, inspired by the work of a community displaced by local authorities, invited to think about current events, or led to question deeply held assumptions about the world. None of these moments would be possible if our aims were to fill our students with best practices that they could apply in the future, rather than engage them as individuals with feelings, beliefs, and the potential to be transformed. As we teach against neoliberal reforms and contest dehumanizing initiatives that aim to reduce our profession to a series of technocratic tasks, we seek to preserve dignity, compassion, joy, discomfort, confusion, and revelation—in essence, the very crux of our humanity as educators.
As part of this neoliberal shift in higher education, teacher education programs are increasingly mandated to cover certain material and address various competencies, which are dictated by state and local governments or outside accrediting agencies. Under the looming threat of poor ratings, these outside forces have the potential to substantially narrow the curriculum of teacher education to include only pre-determined “best practices” that are often based on limiting conceptions of research (e.g. the National Reading Panel report, 2000). Further, according to Giroux (2014), this relentless attack on thinking threatens the core of our democracy as “democracy can only be sustained through modes of civic literacy that enable individuals to connect private struggles to larger public issues as part of broader discourses of critical inquiry, dialogue, and engagement” (p. 18). As teacher educators who want to expose students to authentic inquiry driven by their own questions of the world, provoked by engagements with texts, experiences, and classmates, we must find ways to include such engagements in the curriculum while also working collectively to resist an accountability regime that undermines inquiry and criticality. As the examples of the inquiries in our class show, transformative learning occurs when students are able to pursue their own questions about the world and come into contact with differently positioned others in ways that provoke new understandings and perspectives.
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Beyond Mirrors and Windows: A Critical Content Analysis of Latinx Children’s Books Eliza G. Braden & Sanjuana C. Rodriguez Abstract: This critical content analysis examines the representation of Latinx characters in 15 picture books published in 2013 and identified by Children’s Cooperative Book Center (CCBC) as having significant Latinx content. The theoretical framework undergirding this study is Critical Race Theory (Ladson-Billings, 1998; Solórzano & Yosso, 2002; Taylor, 2009; Yosso, Villalpando, Delgado Bernal, & Solórzano, 2001). This theory is used to uncover the assumptions and ideologies that are often represented in children’s literature. The results of this study indicate that (1) English is privileged in the texts, (2) superficial references to cultural artifacts are present, (3) traditional female centered roles are prevalent, and (4) authors situated books within a utopian society. The authors use these findings to argue for the importance of making curricular decisions with critical attention to text selections and the engagement of young children in critical literacy in early childhood and elementary classrooms. Keywords: Latinx children’s books, Latinx critical race theory, cultural authenticity
Eliza G. Braden is an Assistant Professor of Elementary Education in the Instruction and Teacher Education Department, College of Education, University of South Carolina. Her research interest includes critical language and literacy practices of culturally and linguistically diverse young children, in and out of school literacy practices, social justice education, and digital literacy. She has published in journals such as Journal of Language and Literacy Education, Language Arts, Language Arts Journal of Michigan, and English in Texas. Sanjuana C. Rodriguez is an Assistant Professor of Literacy and Reading Education in the Elementary and Early Childhood Department at Kennesaw State University. Her research interests include the early literacy development of culturally and linguistically diverse students, early writing development, and literacy development of students who are emergent bilinguals. She has published in journals such as Journal of Language and Literacy Education, Language Arts, and Language Arts Journal of Michigan.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 “.... And that will always be that way unless we kids choose to learn from city trees… Some of whom are crushed by the pavement. But I know others who fight back and BREAK OPEN the sidewalks… and grow despite of everything. And it is they who help us all to breathe” (I Dreamt… A Book About Hope by Gabriela Olmos)
In this study, we seek to examine text with significant Latinx content published in 2013 and submitted to the CCBC. The literature review that follows outlines the growing demographics of people that identify as Latinx and the research that has focused on authentic representations of underrepresented groups in children's books. Following the literature review, we discuss how we selected the books that were used in the study and how we gathered the data. We then move to discuss the findings and share the insights that we gained. Finally, we end with a discussion of what this study means for teachers and provide resources that will help teachers to implement a critical literacy framework.
ur interest in studying books began when we started to have conversations about the paucity of children’s literature in our classrooms that included Latinx characters and themes.1 Therefore, we tried to purposefully select literature grounded in students’ lives. For example, Eliza selected book titles related to topics around immigration when she discovered some students were silently dealing with the issue. As she read a number of texts with implicit and explicit themes related to immigration and engaged in discussions, she wondered if the books fully encapsulated the experiences of the Latinx immigrant children in her class. What was troubling was that as a child, Sanjuana had a similar experience in looking for books that reflected her own experiences. Additionally, as we conducted an informal inventory of our own classroom libraries, we concluded that only a handful of books reflected the culture of our Latinx students. What we began to realize was that 25 years after Sanjuana sought out characters that looked like her and reflected her family experiences; the need for books that provide those windows, mirrors, and possibilities for connections is still there.
Literature Review The number of Latinx students in U.S. schools continues to grow (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2014). Therefore, a modification to the curriculum should be the books that are available in classrooms. Despite the shifting demographics, Latinx students continue to be grossly underrepresented in children’s books (Naidoo, 2008). There is also a growing need to identify how this group of students can and should be represented in the literature (Fox & Short, 2003; Naidoo, 2008). According to Boyd, Causey, and Galda (2015), books rarely reflect the census figures for the United States. The 2010 census data confirm the diversity among the population, with 17% of respondents identifying themselves as Hispanic or Latinx. This study focuses on Latinx students and the representation of Latinx students in picture books published in 2013 and 2014. Each year, the
We acknowledge that there is a gender spectrum and that myriad pronouns exist that we can use when referring to individuals in our writing. Throughout this article we will use “he” to refer to individuals who identify as male, “she” to refer to individuals who identify as female, and “ze” for individuals who identify as gender-
neutral. We have selected these pronouns because we believe they are more familiar for a diverse audience of readers. Likewise, we have also chosen to use the term “Latinx” as a gender neutral alternative to Latino/a.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) compiles a list of the children’s books that are published in the United States. CCBC is a source for multicultural statistics about children’s books. Of the 3,200 books received by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center in 2013, only 57 books had significant Latinx critical content and only 48 books were authored by Latinx authors or/and illustrators (Horning, Lindgren, & Schliesman, 2014).
literature is the mirror in which young children see themselves and the window to see others, the depictions of children from diverse backgrounds should be accurate. Reading multicultural literature becomes a window to understanding the cultural heritage of others for young children and has the potential to reflect positive images of one’s culture by acting as a mirror. It also has the potential to reflect the cultural heritage of other groups. This perspectiveThe present research indicates that Latinx children taking approach to reading is defined by Galda from diverse cultural locations need the opportunity (1998) as a window. When young children are to challenge and change existing discourses (Janks, presented with literature that only reflects their 2003). The inclusion of literature related to students’ background, cultural heritage, and experiences, they cultural lives allows students to engage in a may believe that their experience dominates all reflection of the multiplicity of others. For this reason, the experiences represented within literature presented in “When young children are text; however, students come to schools—the site where presented with literature think critically when they children come to read, and that only reflects their engage in discussions around know themselves and others— topics which accurately portray should be inclusive. Children’s background, cultural issues related to their lives. The literature must give children heritage, and experiences, present study asks researchers pathways to interrogate and they may believe that their and practitioners to consider contest the ways in which experience dominates all how texts portray the cultural groups are presented experiences of Latinx students within stories. According to others.” and what is implicitly and Bishop (1997), children from explicitly suggested by the text. dominant groups have found their mirrors in books but they too suffer from the exclusion of other A number of researchers have demonstrated the groups in libraries. 26 years later, we agree with complexity of an authentic representation in Rudine Sims Bishop’s statement as she propagated multicultural texts (Fox & Short, 2003; Henderson, in her 1990’s column “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding 2005; McNair, 2008; Naidoo, 2008; Tolson, 2005; Glass Doors” that as xenophobic and racist beliefs Yokota & Bates, 2005). However, a limited number continue to plague U.S. schools and society, children of scholars have focused on books with Latinx need the opportunity to discuss the social problems themes. The use of Latinx literature in classrooms, that ill their communities. Children’s literature coupled with dialogic instruction within the becomes the place where they can offer insight, classroom context has the potential to provide discuss, interrogate, and “talk back” to the social children with both a window to other cultures and a problems they often live and struggle to make sense mirror reflecting their own culture (Galda, 1998). of in and outside of classrooms. For this reason, the Books also provide a potential for students to make authors of this study believe that children’s personal connections to texts. Since children’s literature needs to be constantly interrogated,
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 considering social problems such as racism and poverty are constant battles for children. Therefore, as we look at the demographics of our schools with larger numbers of Latinx students of whom and about literature is written as identified by the Children’s Cooperative Book Center (CCBC), we strive to examine the nature of books with significant Latinx content.
identities, language use, and involve themselves in transnational experiences. Chappel and Faltis (2006) examined the portrayal of bilingualism and identify affiliations in seven picture books that dealt with bilingual and cultural themes. The titles were selected from two notable children’s literature scholars whose work deals with Latinx children’s literature: Dr. Carmen Martinez-Roldán and Dr. Sarah Hudelson. The portrayal that Latinx immigrant families make a break from their cultural heritage to assimilate to mainstream American culture is often presented within children’s literature but does not accurately portray the crossnational identities that many children of immigrants hold. Therefore, the studies call for an increase in the number of bilingual materials that pay attention to accurate portrayals of the culture depicted in the reading material for young children. This study aims to understand nuances within children’s books about a specific cultural group that can add to criteria already assessed by scholars evaluating cultural authenticity and looking to identify further criteria for evaluating books. The following questions guided this study:
Others have already examined the role of cultural authenticity in Latinx children’s literature using critical content analysis. A study conducted by YooLee, Fowler, Adkins, Kim, and Davis (2014) examined the authenticity of forty-five multicultural picture books across three ethnic groups (AfricanAmerican, Asian Americans, and Hispanic Americans) using two selection tools: Novelist, an electronic reader’s advisory resource and CCBC, 2000-2008. First and second round analysis by two coders from each ethnic group examined whether stereotypical and culturally authentic features were depicted in selected titles. The analysis revealed that although the books were overall culturally authentic, stereotypical elements existed. These stereotypical elements included social dynamics like poverty, traditional foods, and clichéd gender roles. Although the authors of this study defined the nuances they evaluated as culturally authentic, research is still needed on what criteria cultural insiders use to evaluate the authenticity of literature. Concurrent with Yoo-Lee et al.’s (2014) findings that negative stereotypical features exist within children’s literature, Martinez-Roldán (2013) found that parodies of Mexican cultural heritage existed in the commonly known children’s book Skippyjon Jones, which potentially created negative images of Mexicans, places they live, and their language.
What experiences do the picture books with Latinx content portray? 2. What cultural narratives are implicitly and explicitly suggested by Latinx story picture books? Guiding Framework The following section describes the framework that guided our analysis of the Latinx picture books. Critical multicultural perspectives (Botelho & Rudman, 2009) deal with the representation of people of color in children’s literature. This perspective deconstructs the problematic representations of Latinx in literature. It challenges taken for granted assumptions about characteristics attributed to members of a particular group. This study also seeks to deconstruct the representation of
The extent to which culturally authentic representations are presented in literature can be examined in the ways characters construct their
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 Latinxs in books that have Latinx content. According to Gutierrez and Rogoff (2003), culture is not static and all members of a group are not homogeneous nor do they share the same experiences.
issues related to the lives of Latinxs. According to Beach et al., Critical theories are put into dialogue with children’s literature so that we can more deeply understand the cultural, social, political, and economic contexts of children’s texts and the ways in which these texts shape how children view and interact with the social world.” (2009, p. 166)
Therefore, our framework relies on Critical Race Theory (Ladson-Billings, 1998; Solórzano & Yosso, 2002; Taylor, 2009; Yosso, Villalpando, Delgado Bernal, & Solórzano, 2001) to uncover the assumptions and ideologies that are often represented in children’s literature. Critical race As researchers, we acknowledge that the context theory largely grew out of legal studies in the 1990s matters and that books have the power to shape and that challenged the system's structure which largely shift how children view the world. By using LatCrit, privileged white people. A goal of CRT is to rid we aim to make the voices of Latinx children and structures of racial oppression. In the field of families central to our research. This study aims to education, the perspective has critiqued curriculum, legitimize the intricate communities that exist for instruction, and funding (Ladson-Billings, 1999). Latinxs. We believe that children’s books are not This study uses CRT to examine neutral, but they provide “By using LatCrit, we aim to Latinx children’s literature. We insights into the intricate nature choose to draw on the of different communities. As make the voices of Latinx definition that views CRT in children and families central scholars of color, we understand education as “a framework or that there is hegemony of to our research.” set of basic insights, whiteness (Winograd, 2011) that perspectives, methods, and exists in education practice and pedagogy that seeks to identify, analyze, and research. Although well intentioned, authors may in transform those structural and cultural aspects of fact continue to perpetuate the majority way in education that maintain subordinate and dominant design of children’s books for Latinx children racial positions in and out of the classroom” because of the Eurocentric normative practices. (Solorzano & Yosso, 2002, p. 25). As a theoretical Thus, leaving young children to feel “left out” and framework, CRT allows us to critically examine not reflected in educational practices and children’s issues related to race and to challenge dominant and literature which stands is at the heart of early accepted ways in which groups are positioned. childhood and elementary classrooms. The next Drawing on Critical Race Theory will allow us to section will provide a description of how the books identify those explicit and implicit assumptions and for this study were selected. ideologies in the picture books. An extension of CRT, Latino Critical Race Theory (LatCrit), pushes Our Criteria for Selecting Books the envelope further by examining how Latinxs experience race, class, gender, and sexuality. In The books that were selected for this study were particular, LatCrit (Delgado Bernal 2002; Espinoza & books published in 2013 and received by Cooperative Harris, 1997; Yosso, 2006) allows us to focus on the Children's Book Center (CCBC) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The CCBC is a unique research
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 library for children and young adult literature. These books were listed as books received with Latinx content. The 2013 list contained 57 book titles with a variety of genres and formats. These included chapter books, informational text, poetry, and picture books. For the purpose of our study, we decided to study only story picture books. We narrowed our selection to story picture books due to the cultural and heritage related themes that may be translated through illustrations, characters, and language use in books. The books were also chosen because story picture books are read more often in early childhood and elementary settings. Therefore, we are primarily concerned in this study with how fictional narratives and cultural messages related to Latinxs are authentically transmitted to children in early childhood and elementary settings. We also chose to exclude informational texts since they do not inform our research questions for this study. After establishing criteria for the books that we would use, we included 15 books that met our established criteria. The book titles and descriptions are included in Table 1.
Chihuahua dogs has been seen as a racial stereotype of Mexicans by other researchers. The critical content analysis reveals what text is about (Galda, Ash, & Cullinan, 2000). Therefore, the text is not limited to words but can also include any object, such as pictures and other images, that hold meaning for someone or is produced to have meaning (Krippendorff, 2004, p. 19). Thus, the critical content analysis is an appropriate method to utilize while investigating cultural artifacts such as books and pictures as it allows the researcher to look at both text and pictures. Understanding the historical and political contexts of Latinxs in the United States and the present trends in children’s literature, this study will focus on the representational issues (i.e., language, cultural constructions, race, class, gender) and power relationships within books. Our study of these books was guided by the following research questions: What experiences do the picture books with Latinx content portray? And what cultural narratives are implicitly and explicitly suggested by Latinx story picture books?
The texts identified by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center were ordered and gathered from an online bookseller. We used an inductive procedure in addition to the guiding questions constructed by Mendoza and Reese (2001). In addition to our own research questions, we chose to use Mendoza and Reese’s (2001) guiding questions for our analysis of picture books:
For this study, we infused methods from Bradford’s (2007) critical content analysis with Botehlo and Rudman’s (2009) critical multicultural analysis to investigate the themes and contents of Latinx children’s literature compiled by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center in 2013. Martinez-Roldán (2013) conducted a critical investigation using Bradford’s (2007) and Botehlo and Rudman’s (2009) methods for the widely popular children’s literature Skippyjon Jones. Martinez-Roldan (2013) uncovered that the author’s representation of language use and parodies of Mexican culture may affect children’s self-image and degrade the Mexican culture. For example, Martinez-Roldán (2013) describes how Mexicans are represented by Chihuahua dogs in the Skippyjon Jones books and how the use of
Are characters outside the mainstream culture depicted as individuals or as caricatures? Does their representation include significant specific cultural information? Or does it follow stereotypes? Who has the wisdom?
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 •
For the purpose of this article, we have chosen to highlight four insights found in the books in our study. We are choosing to highlight these insights because they were the most prevalent insights that were related to our research questions. The first insight that will be discussed is the way in which English is privileged in the text. The second insight illustrates how the books fail to include significant cultural context and instead provide superficial references to cultural artifacts. The third insight identified from the data shows how the books rely on traditional gender roles. Our last insight deals with the backdrop and setting being framed as a utopian society. Each of the findings is discussed in depth in the following sections.
How is the language used to create images of people of a particular group? How are artistic elements used to create those images?
This framework gave us a starting point to begin to examine the text and to help us to think about cultural authenticity in the books. Similar to YooLee et al. (2014), we recognize that our study does not fully capture the criteria to evaluate cultural authenticity of texts. However, the guiding framework allowed us to have a starting point and helped us to get a clear sense of the unspoken questions that we were encountering as we read the books. We began our analysis of the picture books by reading several of the texts together and establishing a framework for reading and analyzing. We established a common understanding of how they would be analyzed in order to complete the remaining analysis independently. We analyzed data continuously during the data collection phase of this study. We first read the texts to get a holistic idea of the storyline. We then reread the texts page by page, considering the representations, ideologies, and assumptions demonstrated within the text. Initial coding involved reading each sentence and page to examine how Latinx characters were described and what was being described about them. We created a spreadsheet that included titles and summaries of all of the texts. While we conducted the initial coding, we continually went back to our research question as well as Mendoza and Reese’s (2001) guiding questions. After our initial coding, we constructed a number of categories that served to explicate the implicit and explicit ways children’s literature appears to foster representational issues of Latinxs. The coding of the text revealed several insights about the books. Table 3 displays these book titles and the insights that were identified in each of the books.
English is Privileged Through our analysis of the Latinx children’s books, we found several manifestations of English’s privileged status. We use the term privilege to denote more significance being given to one language over the other. Language is an important marker of culture and therefore we wondered if one language was portrayed as more or less significant than the other. One of the themes that emerged from the analysis is that English is privileged in most of the books through the way that it is presented in the layout of the text and also through the way that the texts were limited in the use of Spanish or other languages. Most of the texts that were analyzed were written solely in English, but also included some words in Spanish. This was to be expected since the books that were studied were published in the United States, but we did not expect it to be so prevalent since the books contained Latinx content. Eight of the books were bilingual books and the others were written solely in English. We believe that it is important to consider how language is privileged in the books and how it advantages some and disadvantages others.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 mami, and papi in Spanish. An example of kinship terms being used and introduced without a translation is the book Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote (Tonatiuh, 2013). This book included the terms, Papa and Mama. These terms and salutations such as Señor were included within the English text without the translation. These kinship terms did not include translations and were not introduced in the text; therefore, readers were expected to translate the terms or understand their Spanish translation. Table 2 represents the use of Spanish words in either the English translation of the text for bilingual books or the use of Spanish words in the books written solely in English.
Walker, Edwards, and Blackswell (1996) determined three categories in which bilingual books could be critiqued. Those three categories include typography, production, and language. The key question in regards to typography asked by the researchers is, “are typographic features such as size, space, weight, and color applied consistently across both languages?” (Walker, Edwards, & Blackswell, 1996, p. 275) Across all of the bilingual books, the English and Spanish texts were the same size, space, and weight. The production of the text deals with the way that the pictures and text were published. In most of these books, with the exception of one book, English was featured more prominently. The layout and Our findings of the use of “Our findings of the use of position of the text falls under Spanish words embedded Spanish words embedded the category of production. The within English text are layout of the text is important congruent with the Barrera and within English text are as it cues the reader to what Quiroa (2003) findings that congruent with the Barrera language should be read first. suggest that Spanish words or and Quiroa (2003) findings In bilingual books, the English phrases are added simply to that suggest that Spanish translation of the text was add cultural flavor to the text. always presented at the top of Barrera and Quiroa (2003) state words or phrases are added the page. This can send the that “Spanish words and simply to add cultural flavor message that the English phrases hold considerable to the text.” language is more significant. potential for enhancing the Additionally, the English realism and cultural translation was always written on the left page, authenticity of English-based texts, specifically by which is typically read first. Many of the books that creating powerful bilingual images of characters, were written in English did include some words in settings, and themes” (p. 247). Considering the low Spanish. The use of Spanish in these books was frequency of Spanish terms used in the English mostly superficial and included words that were based texts and the English translations in the books often translated. For example, the book When that we studied prompts us to question the Christmas Feels Like Home (Griffith, 2013), a book audiences for whom these books were written. that details the story of a little boy that moves to a Judging on the basis of the use of Spanish, we can new town, included words such as vamos, and the determine that these books were written for phrase no se puede. These more complex words monolingual (English) readers and that there is almost always included the direct translation for the privileging of the English language in the text. It is words before or after the word(s) were introduced in also important to consider the power associated the text. The book also included kinship terms with this privilege. In her account of historical (terms related to family) such as abuelo, tio, tia, privilege that the English language has had in
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 schools, García (2014) notes that the concept of power “determines whose language is taught and which language practices are taught and which are minoritized” (p. 89). In U.S. schools, the English language continues to be privileged and thus students who are fluent in English are afforded more power in the classroom (Cummins, 2000). This is significant because literature helps children make sense of their world, including the ways in which they view language.
instances where children are allowed to use their full linguistic repertories (García & Yip, 2015). Cultural Authenticity Another insight that emerged from the study of the Latinx picture books is related to cultural authenticity. The idea of cultural authenticity is complex and has generated debates due to varying perspectives from those who study and teach multicultural literature (Bishop, 2003). In their edited work about cultural authenticity in children’s books, Fox and Short (2003) discuss the issue of cultural authenticity and describe it this way: “cultural authenticity cannot be defined, although ‘you know it when you see it’ as an insider reading a book about your own culture” (p. 4). As for this study, we adopt Yokota’s (1993) characteristics for cultural authenticity as being “richness of cultural details, authentic dialogue and relationships, indepth treatment of cultural issues, and the inclusion of minority groups for a purpose” (p. 160). In our study of the picture books, it was helpful to have one of us who is an insider to the Latinx culture. Sanjuana found that many cultural nuances placed in the text were superficial. This is not to say that we want to generalize characteristics of the Latinx culture, but the degree in which authors regarded Latinx culture lacked depth and breadth. In our analysis, only a few books included authentic Latinx cultural details. Most other texts make superficial mentions of cultural artifacts. Many of the symbols that were included in the text were superficial symbols typically associated with Latinx cultural models. For example, in the book What a Party (Machado & Moreu, 2013), the symbols that represent the different cultures discussed in the book are foods. In this book, a little boy is having a party and he invites all the neighborhood kids to come to a party and bring whomever they want and whatever they like to eat. The kids that represent different cultures bring food including coconut
The book Tamalitos (Argueta, 2013) was an exception to the privileging of the English translation of the text. The pages of this book feature the Spanish version first and the English version below. The only Spanish word that is used in the English version of the text is the word “tamalitos.” What is interesting about this text is that the only word that is shared is the sound word “ummm.” This word is used to describe the smell of the tamales and is used in the same way in Spanish and in English. This is noted as an attempt by the author to signify that both languages were being used in a purposeful way. Reflected in the books is the idea that English is the language of power. Despite the fact that the books under examination were described as holding significant Latinx content, subtleties existed within some of texts suggesting that English was privileged. This is problematic since the number of books that are considered to display Latinx content has increased, but the English language still seems to hold more value than other languages. Children are navigating an increasingly multilingual world, yet the power associated with privilege has to be considered here, as the implicit message that English is a more significant language and that monolingualism is still the norm. The experiences of bilingual children in US schools parallel the use of languages that we saw in these books. The use of two languages is restricted and there are few
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 cookies, mangos, passion fruit, gelato, olives, and sushi. The book does not refer to the different ethnic groups of the children represented at the party, but the different hair textures, skin colors, and dress attempt to represent the different groups. This is an example of how texts continue to perpetuate the tourist approach to culture. The book attempts to show the collectivist nature of many Latinx groups, but does so in a reductionist manner by showing the different foods that people bring to the party instead of focusing on that aspect of Latinx culture that values family and community.
includes supernatural opponents for Niño that are well known. In the book, the author makes specific reference to Mexican Folklore such as La Llorona and La Momia de Guanajuato. In order to help readers understand the different Mexican cultural icons, the author creates what look like trading cards for each character. These cards are included on the cover of the book and include the pronunciation of the character’s name in Spanish and present some basic facts about them. This book affirms Latinx culture by including Mexican cultural icons that Latinx children (particularly Mexican) have heard of and that are an authentic representation of Mexican folklore.
Another example of this is the book Kenya’s Song (Trice, 2013). In this book, a little girl has to tell her class at school about her favorite song. Kenya does not have a favorite song. When she visits a cultural center, Kenya goes into different rooms where music from different cultures is being represented. For example, dancers are dancing merengue in the Dominican Republic room and they are playing maracas in the Puerto Rican room. As Kenya and her dad walk past people selling food from different parts of the world (i.e. tacos, jerked chicken) Kenya decides that she is going to write her own song. On the day of the performance, the book pages show different children dressed in what the author calls “special outfits” (p.22 ). What is concerning about these books is that the different cultures are represented simply by the food, outfits, or types of dance. By characterizing culture in this way, the authors define culture in superficial terms and do not problematize the complex nature of culture.
The Role of Mothers Five of the fifteen picture books are written from traditional female-centered roles. The depiction of females and males within children’s literature determines the valued behaviors, norms, expectations, and roles that are allowed within a context. The meanings assigned to gender influences the way children come to understand what defines femininity and masculinity. Across the texts, mothers are the primary caretakers and assume the duties of the home and taking care of children. Culturally, families from Latinx backgrounds tend to adhere to a traditional view of gender roles, where the role of ama de casa (homemaker) is prominent (Galante, 2003). However, the influx of immigrant families in the U.S. has shifted the dynamics of female labor, where women have become economically independent and found a new level of autonomy. Although some texts mirror the ama de casa role that many Latinx children experience in households across the U.S., the failure to not regard the multiplicity of Latinxs experience and take up contemporary ways of living in Latinxs homes may not provide the “mirrors and windows” needed for children.
The book that is the exception to the inclusion of authentic cultural facts is the book Niño Wrestles the World (Morales, 2013). In this book, a little boy is an aspiring luchador (wrestler) and is wrestling and defeating different villains. Wrestling or luchas libres are in itself a cultural practice that is prevalent and popular in Mexico. The author not only writes about popular Mexican culture, but she also
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 Despite the shifting dynamics, children’s literature convinces her working mom to try salsa classes at continues to highlight traditional gender roles and her local community recreation center after her thereby perpetuate this myth without considering mom notices that her clothing is getting tighter. The the diversity in Latinx families. For example, in mother in the picture book provides a counterPancho Rabbit (Tonatiuh, 2013), a migrant tale, the narrative of an upbeat, charismatic figure that author depicts the realities of family separation due depends heavily on her spouse for domestic to migrant labor. The brightly colored text uses tranquility and money as in other Latinx inspired caricatures of rabbits to invite young children into texts. When Estella asks her mom why she doesn’t realistic illustrations of the complex and join the other women, she tells her daughter that sociopolitical topics of migrant life, immigration, she’d have to adjust her work schedule to attend. and family stability. The author, Duncan Tonatiuh, a The mother’s response is in stark contrast to other native of Mexico City, has certainly legitimized the books that make the ama de casa role the frequent life in central Mexico through the inclusion of narrative. There are some features of this book that contemporary issues. He has brought a certain level we find to be problematic. For example, the text of understanding of the topics into the text for states that Estella’s mother is tired after working young children to grapple with in a traditional outside of the home. The author, Lupe Ruiz-Flores, storytelling manner. However, makes a point to place a the book counters the traditional thread in the text, “We do believe the enacting contemporary aim by providing by later showing Estella’s mom of agency in the text is vital a discursive frame towards doing housework; the father since young children need masculine oriented tales. In the who also works outside the book, the father leaves home to home is not doing this. This is representations of the ways work in the lettuce fields while not problematic due to its they can influence the course the mother stays home with inclusion, because it is well of events in a situation.” her male and female children. known that women often hold The setting, rural Mexico, multiple roles. It is, however, conforms to the traditional ama de casa view of problematic because the text fails to demonstrate family roles and responsibility. When the father the shared duties that exist in households of two does not arrive for his party to celebrate his return working parents. home to his family, the role of savior is extended to the male son, Pancho, who leaves his younger We do commend the author for providing a mirror siblings and mother home to look for his father. for children to see how they too can take up agency. The introduction of Estella’s petition in response to As stated previously, the majority of text within this not being allowed at salsa classes presents a counterstudy placed mothers in the role of homemaker and narrative of what children can and are able to do primary caregiver; however, there were exceptions when their desires are met with opposition. We do such as Let’s Salsa (Ruiz-Flores, 2013). We contend believe the enacting of agency in the text is vital that texts such as Let’s Salsa move beyond “windows since young children need representations of the and mirrors” approach to show how authors can ways they can influence the course of events in a simultaneously portray the complex nature of situation. Estella’s trajectory of setting up a table, women and family roles and responsibilities in creating a petition, and taking the petition to the home. For instance, the main character, Estella, mayor may or may not be viable for some children.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 However, it is promising to see literature that moves beyond noticing a problem to a more proactive stance. It is important that all children are able to see themselves as agents. This notion of being a change agent can be seen in the idealistic results of Estella’s stance to include children in the exercise program. Therefore, children’s literature should demonstrate how children can resist the norms and practices and show how children can be agents for change.
their being placed into an English-only environment. When Eduardo arrives at the new town he doesn't understand the language the other kids are speaking. Griffith highlights the language separation when Eduardo fails to understand the different meaning of the word football compared to the Spanish term fútbol. The problem arises when Griffith slights the reader by not fully tackling the issues of language separation and how this might play into profound emotional separation for immigrant children. Eduardo’s feelings continue to be diminished when his family continues to encourage him that his new home will feel like home soon. It becomes evident that the book only touches slightly on the issue of living in a new country without displaying any deep attendance to issues around acculturation, which many immigrant children experience. For example, the author portrays a utopian society as the family celebrates Thanksgiving for the first time in their new home with Eduardo’s new friends. The pictures show the family sitting at the table about to eat turkey; the text states, “He ate Thanksgiving turkey with them. They ate tortillas with him” (p.25 ). We admire Griffith’s tale for its effort to bring to life what is meant by the phrase home is where the heart is; however, we believe the Anglicization of this story, in fact, dismisses or marginalizes the perspective of Latinx children dealing with topics related to moving to a new country.
Assumption that there is a Utopian Society The books selected for this study presented various topics inherent to the Latinx culture and community. Eight of the books we examined included references to a utopian society, a community that exhibits near perfect qualities. However, the literature failed to showcase the complexity in Latinx children’s households by painting near perfect pictures of family life. The storylines represented in the selected children’s literature revealed an attention to normalized family practices and community relationships. Therefore, such stories reinforce the false assumption that individuals get along and that the immensely popular elements of a happy ending will come together at the conclusion of a children’s book. We seldom witnessed issues around social justice topics (i.e., race, gender, same-sex families, immigrant life, poverty) being addressed.
One text that regards children as living in a real world with an awareness of difficult topics is the beautifully written and illustrated book I Dreamt (Olmos, 2013). The book offers an avenue to have discussions about difficult experiences for young readers as wells as older readers. Topics covered include wars, gangs, guns, crime, bullying, harassment, and fear. The 12 Mexican illustrators, all with diverse styles, offer windows into complex topics that children know much about, such as “drug lords who sell soap bubbles” (p.10 ) and “pistols that
One book stands out particularly when addressing normalized family patterns and relationships in the text is When Christmas Feels Like Home (Griffith, 2013). In the text, a young boy named Eduardo moves to a new town with his family. The author, Gretchen Griffith, a non-fiction Appalachian writer, fails to state that the little boy is moving to a new country. The reader therefore assumes that Eduardo’s family is moving from Mexico to the U.S. based on the mode of transportation—a car—and
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 shoot butterflies” (p. 12). The extraordinary work gives young readers an opportunity to wrestle with complex topics through images that showcase the reality of life where wars, gangs, and crimes are real. However, the poetic words help children to foresee the possibilities beyond what they encounter day to day in their communities. For example, pages 12 and 13 show soldiers holding flowers in their hands to represent pistols on the outskirts of cities where a tree stands, with words like amor (love), justicia (justice), libertad (liberty) placed throughout. Unlike many of the texts that we examined in this study, I Dreamt … A book about hope (Olmos, 2013) does not shy away from the harsh realities of life in Mexico. Although this tale is set in Mexico, it does not hinder readers from relating the story to their own context. Thus, the book encourages kids to be resilient despite tragedy and insecurity without being condescending to their knowledge.
exception of a few, perpetuate this language homogeneity by privileging English. Walker, Edwards, and Blacksell (1996) state that the purpose of bilingual books has been to “increase the status of minority languages; but ironically, inadequate attention to typography and translation sometimes has the opposite effect” (p. 275). In our study, we found moments of contention in the way Spanish terms were represented in English and bilingual texts. For example, the use of Spanish terms (e.g., mami, papi, señor) was scantily placed throughout the books. Additionally, when terms were used they were superficial in nature. The fact that the texts were grounded in Latinx culture and content but lacked any advanced vocabulary in Spanish makes us wonder if the authors have truly considered multilingual readers as their audience for these texts or if these texts are written for monolingual audiences. The finding of inclusion of kinship terms is consistent with findings from Barrera and Quiroa (2003). In their analysis of English-based text, the researchers found that Spanish terms used in texts were related to three semantic classifications: kinship, culinary terms, or ethnographic terms (words related to the physical environment). Although the Spanish kinship terms were presented throughout the text, what is important to consider is the paucity of words in Spanish used in the English versions and translation of the texts.
Discussion The purpose of this study was to see what experiences Latinx picture books portray and what is implicitly and explicitly suggested by the texts. Our findings revealed that misrepresentations were present in children’s literature. Moreover, these misrepresentations can be problematic as children seek to see themselves in the literature that they read and the books that hold pivotal places within classrooms walls. The moments of contention came in the form of the privileging of the English language, even in bilingual text; superficial associations to Latinx cultural heritage; a tendency to rely on traditional gender roles and perspectives; and an assumption of a utopian society.
The second barrier to children’s understanding of authentic Latinxs representation in children’s literature has to do with the author's’ decisions. As noted by May, Holbrook, and Meyers (2010), in an examination of informational texts written about President Barack Obama, authors in these books had to make decisions about what to include and exclude. When authors decided to include information, the way they framed the texts often differed. For example, the article looked at how texts framed the event around Reverend Wright, a pivotal figure to President Obama’s biography. Reverend
When we began this study, we expected that the books would challenge language homogeneity as the norm and move towards the inclusion of other languages in the text considering the contents of the books. Instead, we found that the books, with the
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 Wright, the former pastor of Trinity United Church There was a tendency of authors to rely heavily on of Christ, came to be known for his successful traditional values and roles in their representation of leadership of Trinity and for being the pastor of then characters. Stereotypical behaviors of women still senator, Barack Obama. After making some exist within literature. As Taxel (2003) notes, there disparaging remarks that were cited as harsh in tone has been progress in regards to how women are and rhetoric during the early part of his campaign represented in texts, but stereotypical for the presidency, President Obama, and his family representations are still prevalent. eventually cut ties with the pastor. In May, Holbrook, and Meyers’s (2010) examination of the The final barrier to children’s understanding of their framing of this event and its inclusion in social worlds is the tendency for authors to rely on a informational texts found that in the text Barack near perfect or utopian society in children’s Obama: “We are One People” (Shuman, 2008), the literature. This is pivotal as children are aware of the author used President Obama’s ties to Reverend real world topics that impact their lives and society. Wright and his membership to Trinity United The books are not problematizing the issues but Church of Christ differently than other texts. The delegating topics to romanticized experiences of book situated Reverend Wright’s and the president’s being Latinx. We would argue that these depictions relationship to a matter of limit the possibilities of change “We would argue that these setting by describing how as children recognize that the Wright’s church was the setting stories presented fail to take up depictions limit the of the Obama’s wedding. the nature of their reality. For possibilities of change as However, other books detailed example, we discussed the children recognize that the Wright’s controversial problematic nature in the way stories presented fail to take comments in relation to that Griffith, the author of President Obama’s political When Christmas Feels Like up the nature of their career. As May et al. (2010) home (2013), characterizes how reality.” indicate, “How Obama is Eduardo’s parents encourage storied in children’s books is him to accept his new home critical not only because the storying contributes to and that he would easily make friends in his new children’s understanding of themselves within a environment. We worry that Griffith's message of cultural context, but because it also contributes to complete assimilation is problematic because it may their notion of social and cultural change” (p. 287). play into the way children regard their own identity Thus, in our study, we realize the way Latinxs are in transnational social spheres. Eduardo often distinguished or represented needs to be expresses his fears to not feeling comfortable in his multifaceted and layered in order to rectify the new environment by replying with comments such tendency to overgeneralize the nature of cultural as “When will this feel like my school?”(p. 14). facts. However, he is met with a response such as “When your words float like clouds from your mouth?” (p. 14) In the examination of Latinxs children’s books, we We wonder how this can play into resisting identity also uncovered the discursive role of gender as development. This finding relates to Chappell and presented by authors. The meanings assigned to Faltis (2006), which found that parent characters gender influences the ways children come to assert that Americanized assimilation is a natural understand what defines femininity and masculinity. state of being.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 In acknowledging the lack of cultural authenticity and representations, we believe that teachers can engage critical conversations around these texts. Eliza, a former classroom teacher, often relied on Latinx children’s literature when discussing complex topics with her third graders. Similar to what we found in this study, Eliza found that authors sometimes skirted by politicized topics such as immigration. Despite this being the case, Eliza designed a unit of study around children’s literature devoted to immigration and/or provided an avenue to the discussion. She used small moments from texts or politicized terms such as “illegal” to create opportunities for further discussion. She details in What Can I Do? Using Critical Literacy and Multimodal Text Types to Enhance Students Meaning Making and Talk (Braden, in press), how she navigated the discussion from a character experiencing the emotional ramifications of dealing with immigration to her very own third grade student coming to terms with the same traumatic event of being separated from her father. Here’s one instance where Eliza engages young children:
What does this mean for teachers? While the field of books being published with significant Latinx content continues to grow, challenges still remain. Our argument in this study is that children’s literature should go beyond windows and mirrors; instead, we believe that literature has the potential for true connections and acceptance for all readers. We also argue that going beyond windows and mirrors means recognizing that culture is not static and that no ethnic group is monolithic in nature. We believe that is important for students to know that their experiences are honored and that they matter. Our examination of Latinx children’s literature reveals that many of the books currently being published still include problematic ideas in relation to culture. So what are teachers to do? Does this mean that teachers should not include these books in their classroom libraries? Despite the problematic moments that we encountered in our study of these books, we suggest that teachers still use these texts but remain mindful of their inclusion in their classroom. Two ways to counter the problematic moments within these books include creating potential discussion questions and opportunities to engage in critical conversations with young children. For example, in response to the privileging of the English language within some text, a teacher may ask a young child, What other Spanish words could the author add to this picture book? or Why is it important that we place Spanish first on the page rather than English? And does it matter to young children? Children are also capable of critiquing the ways culture emerges in books. For this reason, we would encourage a classroom teacher to ask young children to share responses to What type of family stories could the author of Kenya’s Song include in this text? Moreover, this brings forth opportunities for young children to share their cultural stories.
TEACHER: So yes, they are doing a lot of waiting. In real life when someone goes to another country do you have to do a lot of waiting? STUDENTS: Yeah. Jesus: In here they wait for a call [he is speaking of this book] [he was preparing to share his own story then stops abruptly] TEACHER: Yes, here they were waiting for a call and in the other book they were waiting for a letter? What were you getting ready to say about yourself? JESUS: I had to wait for three years. TEACHER: Anyone else had to wait? [Reads text] “… When I ask at last.” So I want you to turn and talk here, do you think she should go and live with her father in the U.S or stay in her own country?
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 ARIELLE: When I was little, like 7 years old, I missed my brother, … TEACHER: Who’s in El Salvador? Arielle: Yes, and he had to get on the computer to FaceTime me. TEACHER: So that’s one way you can stay connected to your family if they stay far away? ARIELLE: Yes. (Read-aloud, 5-3-13)
Latinx content. These books represent less than 2% of the books received by the CCBC. This impacts access to the books that are read in classrooms and therefore the way that students do or do not see themselves and others in books. As researchers and teacher educators, we understand that culture is complex and that there is no correct formula for representing culture due to that complex nature. We advocate the use of critical literacy (Lewison, Flint, & Van Sluys, 2002) as one way to help children make sense of texts. We understand that teachers have the power to facilitate conversations that prompt children to ask questions that can uncover ideologies in books thus creating spaces where kids see themselves and others, but also engage in uncovering the different layers of meaning in the text. The following section provides resources for educators to support the implementation of a critical literacy curriculum.
Therefore, by closely looking at the representation of Latinxs in books, educators work to scaffold children’s understanding of how some texts may or may not represent their lives and that there are unbalanced elements within literature. Final Thoughts We want to close with some final thoughts related to the books that we studied. Although this study examined the books through a critical lens, we want to establish our support for books that include diverse characters and experiences. Although we found some of the content of the books to be problematic, we believe that that there is a still a place for these books in classrooms. While we understand that other studies have had similar findings and recommendations, it is alarming that this issue still persists. There are not enough books being published that honor and include diverse experiences. As stated previously, only 58 books received by the CCBC in 2013 included significant
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 Resources Online resources Cooperative Children’s Book Center website- This website provides recommended lists of books for an array of topics. Publications on the diversity in children’s books received at the CCBC are also published on this website. https://ccbc.education.wisc.edu https://ccbc.education.wisc.edu/ This weebly was created by a student to document aspects of critical literacy in the 21st century. The website includes links to other websites, children’s books that can promote critical literacy, and sample lesson plans that incorporate critical literacy. http://thinkcritically.weebly.com/index.htmlhttp://thinkcritically.weebly.com/index.html http://thinkcritically.weebly.com/index.html Global Conversations in Literacy Research- This website contains archived seminars given by internationally recognized scholars such as Hilary Janks, Jerome Harste, Richard Beach and others. The project is hosted by Georgia State University and provides open and free access to all of the seminars. https://globalconversationsinliteracy.wordpress.comhttps://globalconversationsinliteracy.w ordpress.com/ https://globalconversationsinliteracy.wordpress.com/ The readwritethink.org website provides lesson plans that teachers can use to implement a critical literacy framework. Examples of lessons include: Seeing Multiple Perspectives http://www.readwritethink.org/resources/resourceprint.html?id=30792http://www.readwritethink.org/resources/resourceprint.html?id=30792 http://www.readwritethink.org/resources/resource-print.html?id=30792 Let’s Talk about Stories: Shared Discussion with Amazing Grace http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/lesson-plans/talk-about-stories-shared57.htmlhttp://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/lesson-plans/talk-aboutstories-shared-57.html
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/lesson-plans/talk-about-storiesshared-57.html The Big Bad Wolf: Analyzing Points of View in Texts http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/lesson-plans/wolf-analyzing-pointview-23.htmlhttp://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/lesson-plans/wolfanalyzing-point-view-23.html Books Kuby, C. R. (2013). Critical literacy in the early childhood classroom: Unpacking histories, unlearning privilege. New York, NY: Teachers College Press. Lewison, M., Leland, C., & Harste, J. C. (2014). Creating critical classrooms: Reading and writing with an edge. New York, NY: Routledge. McLaughlin, M., & DeVoogd, G. L. (2004). Critical literacy: Enhancing students' comprehension of text. New York, NY: Scholastic. Vasquez, V. M. (2014). Negotiating critical literacies with young children. New York, NY: Routledge. Articles Allen, E. G. (2015). Connecting the immigrant experience through literature. Phi Delta Kappan, 97(4), 31-35. Flint, A.S., & Laman, T.T. (2012). Where poems hide: Finding reflective, critical spaces inside writing workshop. Theory into Practice, 51(1), 12-19. Kuby, C. R. (2011). Humpty Dumpty and Rosa Parks: Making space for critical dialogue with 5-and 6year-olds. YC Young Children, 66(5), 36-40, 42-43. Lewison, M., Flint, A. S., & Van Sluys, K. (2002). Taking on critical literacy: The journey of newcomers and novices. Language arts, 79(5), 382-392. Wood, S., & Jocius, R. (2013). Combating “I hate this stupid book!”: Black males and critical literacy. The Reading Teacher, 66(8), 661-669. References for Children’s Books Argueta, J. (2013). Tamalitos. Berkeley, CA: Groundwood Books. Brown, M. (2013). Marisol McDonald and the clash bash/ Marisol McDonald y la fiesta sin igual. New York, NY: Children’s Book Press. Colato Lainez, R. (2013). Señor Pancho had a rancho. Johor, Malaysia: Holiday House.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 Delacre, L. (2013). How far do you love me?. New York, NY: Lee & Low Books. Griffith, G. (2013). When Christmas feels like home. Park Ridge, IL: Albert Whitman & Company. Hayes, J. (2013). Don’t say a word, mama/ No digas nada, mama. El Paso, TX: Cinco Puntos Press. Machado, A. M. & Moreau, H. (2013). What a party!. Berkeley, CA: Groundwood Books. Morales, Y. (2013). Niño wrestles the world. New York, NY: Roaring Books Press. Olmos, G. (2013). I dreamt… A book about hope. Berkeley, CA: Groundwood Books. Rivas, S. (2013). The cucuy stole my cascarones/ El coco me robo los cascarones. Houston, TX: Piñata Books. Ruiz-Flores, L. (2013). Let’s salsa/ Bailemos salsa. Houston, TX: Pinata Books. Ruiz-Flores, L. (2013). Lupita’s first dance/ El primer baile de lupita. Houston, TX: Pinata Books. Tonatiuh, D. (2013). Pancho Rabbit and the coyote: A migrant's tale. New York, NY: Abrams Books. Trice, L. (2013). Kenya’s song. Watertwon, MA: Carlesbridge. Weill, C. (2013). Mi familia calaca/ My skeleton family. El Paso, TX: Cinco Puntos Press. References Braden, E. G. (in press). “What can I do?” The possibilities of agency in elementary classrooms: When teachers design critical spaces for young children. In C. Martin and D. Scott (Eds.), Encyclopedia of teacher education and professional development (pp. 487-504). Hershey, PA: IGI Global. Barrera, R. B., & Quiroa, R.E. (2003). The use of Spanish in Latino children’s literature in English. In D. L. Fox and K. G. Short (Eds.), Stories matter: The complexity of cultural authenticity in children’s literature (pp. 247-268). Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English. Beach, R., Enciso, P., Harste, J., Jenkins, C., Raina, S., Rogers, R., Short, K., Sung, Y., Wilson, M, & YenikaAgbaw, V. (2009). Defining the critical in critical content analysis. In Leander, K., et al. 58th yearbook of the national reading council (pp.120-143). Oak Creek, WI: National Reading Conference. Botelho, M. J., & Rudman, M. K. (2009). Critical multicultural analysis of children’s literature: Mirrors, windows, and doors. New York, NY: Routledge. Boyd, F. B., Causey, L. L., & Galda, L. (2014). Culturally diverse literature. The Reading Teacher, 68(5), 378-387.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 Bradford, C. (2007). Unsettling narratives: Postcolonial readings of children’s literature. Waterloo, ON: University Press. Cummins, J. (2000). Language, power, and pedagogy: Bilingual children in the crossfire (Vol. 23). Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters. Ertem, I. S. (2014). Critical content analysis of Turkish images in bilingual (German-Turkish) children’s books. International Journal of Academic Research, 6(1), 469-474. Fox, D. L., & Short, K. G. (Eds.). (2003). Stories matter: The complexity of cultural authenticity in children’s literature. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English. Galanti, G. (2003). The Hispanic family and male-female relationships: An overview. Journal of Transcultural Nursing, 14, 180-185. Galda, L. (1998). Mirrors and windows: Reading as transformation. Literature-based instruction: Reshaping the curriculum, 1-11. Galda, L., Ash, G. E., Cullinan, B. (2000). Children’s literature. In M. Kamill, P. Mosenthal, P. D. Pearson, & R. Barr (Eds.), Handbook of reading research, Volume III. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum. García, O. (2014). Multilingualism and language education. In C. Leung & B. V. Street (Eds.), The Routledge Companion to English Studies.(page?) New York, NY: Routledge. García, O. & Yip, J. (2015). Introduction: Translanguaging: Practice Briefs for Educators. Theory, Research, and Action in Urban Education, 4(1), page?. Krippendorf, K. (2004). Content Analysis: An Introduction to its Methodology (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Ladson-Billings, G. (1998). Just what is critical race theory and what's it doing in a nice field like education? International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 11(1), 7-24. Lewison, M., Flint, A. S., & Van Sluys, K. (2002). Taking on critical literacy: The journey of newcomers and novices. Language Arts, 382-392. Martínez-Roldán, C.M. (2013). The representation of Latinos and the use of Spanish: A critical content analysis of Skippyjon Jones. Journal of Children’s Literature, 39 (1), 5-13. May, L. A., Holbrook, T., & Meyers, L. E. (2010). (Re) Storying Obama: An Examination of Recently Published Informational Texts. Children's Literature in Education, 41(4), 273-290. McGillis, R. (2000). Voices of the other: Children’s literature and the postcolonial context. New York, NY: Taylor and Frances. Mendoza, J. & Reece, D. (2001). Examining multicultural picture books for the early childhood classroom:
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 Possibilities and pitfalls. Early Childhood Research & Practice, 3(2). Retrieved from http://ecrp.uiuc.edu/v3n2/mendoza.html Naidoo, J. C. (2008). Opening doors: Visual and textual analyses of diverse Latino subcultures in Américas picture books. Children and Libraries, 6(2), 27-35. Shuman, M.A. (2008). Barack Obama: “We are One People”. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishers, Inc. Solorzano, D. G., & Yosso, T. J. (2002). Critical race methodology: counter-story telling as an analytical framework for education. Qualitative Inquiry, 8(1), 23-44. Taxel, J. (2003). Multicultural literature and the politics of reaction. In D. L. Fox & K. G. Short (Eds.), Stories matter: The complexity of cultural authenticity in children’s literature (pp. 143-164). Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English. Taylor, E. (2009). The foundations of Critical Race Theory in education: An introduction. In E. Taylor, D. Gillborn, & G. Ladson-Billings (Eds). Critical Race Theory in education (pp.1-16 ). New York, NY: Routledge. Walker, S., Edwards, V., & Blacksell, R. (1996). Designing Bilingual Books for Children. Visible Language, 30(3), 268-283. Winograd, K. (2011). Sports biographies of African American football players: The racism of colorblindness in children’s literature. Race Ethnicity and Education, 14(3), 331-349. Yokota, J. (1993). Issues in selecting multicultural children’s literature. Language Arts, 70 (3), 156-167. Table 1: Book Descriptions Book/author
Tamalitos: Un Poema Para Cocinar/ A Cooking Poem by Jorge Argueta (Bilingual)
In this book, written as a poem, two kids teach the readers how to make tamales.
Marisol Mcdonald And the Clash Bash/ Marisol McDonald y la Fiesta Sin Igual (bilingual)
Marisol McDonald is an 8-year girl Peruvian-ScottishAmerican girl who is having a birthday party and wants her abuelita from Peru to attend the party.
How Far Do you Love Me? by Lulu Delacre
This book begins with the question, “How far do you love me?” Each page focuses on a different place around the world and shows parents with their children.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 When Christmas Feels Like Home by Gretchen Griffith
A little boy moves from Mexico to the United States. The little boy is sad and his family tells him that the new place will feel like home when Christmas comes along.
Don’t Say a Word, Mama by Joe Hayes (Bilingual)
This book tells the story of mama who has two daughters. The daughters show their kindness by bringing their mother vegetables from their individual gardens and they ask Mama not to say a word about it.
Señor Pancho Had a Rancho by Rene Colato Laínez (Bilingual)
This book is a bilingual version of Old McDonald Had a farm. The book includes Old McDonald and the animals that make sounds in English and Señor Pancho whose animals make sounds in Spanish.
What a Party! Ana María Machado & Helene Moreau
This book tells the story of a little boy whose mother tells him that he can invite anyone he wants to his birthday party. Children begin arriving to his party and they bring foods from all over the world and both children and adults end the night by having a dance party.
Niño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales
A little boy pretends to be a wrestler or luchador wrestles opponents such as La Llorona and La Momia de Guanajuato. His biggest opponents turn out to be his baby sisters.
I Dreamt… A book about hope by Gabriela Olmos
This book was written in Mexico and it describes the realities of the war (guns, drug lords) and the imagined alternatives to these realities (guns with flowers and drug lords who only sell soap bubbles). The book ends with a call for children to know that they can make a difference.
The Cucuy Stole My Cascarones / El coco me Robo Los Cascarones by Spelile Rivas (Bilingual)
Roberto and his mom make cascarones or confetti filled eggs. The eggs go missing and Roberto sees a shadow that leads him to believe that the Cucuy or boogie man has taken them.
Lupita’s First Dance/ El Primer Baile de Lupita by Lupe RuizFlores (Bilingual)
In this story, Lupita is going to dance la raspa, a Mexican dance at her school celebration. On the day of the dance, her partner sprains his ankle and does not show up to the dance. Lupita decides to dance on her own.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 Let’s Salsa/ Bailemos Salsa by Lupe Ruiz-Flores (Bilingual)
In this story, Estela goes to the community center and sees her neighbors in a salsa class. Along with her mom, Estela joins the class. A few days later, she is told that kids are not allowed in the class. Estela begins a petition to allow kids to join the salsa class.
Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote by Duncan Tonatiuh
An allegorical picture that details the travels of a rabbit, Pancho, who goes on a quest to find his father. Pancho meets a coyote that offers help until he becomes hungry.
Kenya’s Song by Linda Trice
Kenya is given a task to choice her favorite song for her class. It is not until she attends the Caribbean Cultural Center with her father does she learns about different music and dances from Cuba and Trinidad, Haiti and Puerto Rico.
Mi Familia Calaca/ My Skeleton Family by Cynthia Weill (Bilingual)
This colorful bilingual text teaches young readers about the importance of family relationships also while teaching about the Mexico’s Day of the Dead.
Table 2: Spanish words in English-based text or in English translation Book/author
Spanish words in English-based text or in English translation
Tamalitos by Jorge Argueta (Bilingual)
Marisol Mcdonald And the Clash Bash/ Marisol McDonald y la Fiesta Sin Igual (bilingual)
perrito, por favor, quizás, abuelita, Mami
How Far Do you Love Me? by Lulu Delacre
When Christmas Feels Like Home by Gretchen Griffith
fútbol, vamos, Abuelo, Tío, Tía, Cuando?, No se puede, tortillas, ahora,
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 Don’t Say a Word, Mama by Joe Hayes (Bilingual)
Mama, híjole!, chiles
Señor Pancho Had a Rancho by Rene Colato Lainez (Bilingual)
rancho, muuu (moo)
What a Party! Ana Maria Machado & Helene Moreau
Niño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales
Niño, Señoras, Señores, La Momia de Guanajuato, Cabeza Olmeca, La Llorona, Mis hijos!, El Extraterrestre, El Chamuco, “ay, ay, ay, ajua! No, Señor!”, recórcholis, las hermanitas, los tres hermanos, “vivan las luchas!”
I Dreamt… A book about hope by Gabriela Olmos
jabón, justicia, libertad, respeto, derechos, amor, seguridad, violencia (all words included in illustrations)
The Cucuy Stole My Cascarones / El coco me Robo Los Cascarones
cascarones, Mama, Cucuy, Señora, tamales, Señorita, quinceañera, piñatas,
by Spelile Rivas (Bilingual) Lupita’s First Dance/ El Primer Baile de Lupita by Lupe RuizFlores (Bilingual)
La raspa, Mami
Let’s Salsa/ Bailemos Salsa by Lupe Ruiz-Flores (Bilingual)
Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote by Duncan Tonatiuh
Papa, Señor, rancho, fiesta, tortillas, El Norte, mole, aguamiel, papel picado, música, mochila, mjo, Mama
Kenya’s Song by Linda Trice
Mi Familia Calaca/ My Skeleton Family by Cynthia Weill (Bilingual)
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016
Table 3: Picture books and Insights English Is Privileged
Basic Inclusion of Cultural Facts
Traditional Gender Roles
Tamalitos by Jorge Argueta
Assumption of a Utopian Society
Marisol Mcdonald And the Clash Bash/ Marisol McDonald y la Fiesta Sin Igual
How Far Do you Love Me? by Lulu Delacre
When Christmas Feels Like Home by Gretchen Griffith
Don’t Say a Word, Mama by Joe Hayes
Señor Pancho Had a Rancho by Rene Colato Lainez
What a Party! Ana Maria Machado & Helene Moreau
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 Niño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales
I Dreamt… A book about hope by Gabriela Olmos
The Cucuy Stole My Cascarones / El coco me Robo Los Cascarones by Spelile Rivas
Lupita’s First Dance/ El Primer Baile de Lupita by Lupe Ruiz-Flores
Let’s Salsa/ Bailemos Salsa by Lupe Ruiz-Flores
Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote by Duncan Tonatiuh
Kenya’s Song by Linda Trice
Mi Familia Calaca/ My Skeleton Family by Cynthia Weill
English Is Privileged
Basic Inclusion of Cultural Facts
Traditional Gender Assumption of a Roles Utopian Society
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 Tamalitos by Jorge Argueta
Marisol Mcdonald And the Clash Bash/ Marisol McDonald y la Fiesta Sin Igual
How Far Do you Love Me? by Lulu Delacre
When Christmas Feels Like Home by Gretchen Griffith
Don’t Say a Word, Mama by Joe Hayes
Señor Pancho Had a Rancho by Rene Colato Lainez
What a Party! Ana Maria Machado & Helene Moreau
Niño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 I Dreamt… A book about hope by Gabriela Olmos
The Cucuy Stole My Cascarones / El coco me Robo Los Cascarones
by Spelile Rivas Lupita’s First X Dance/ El Primer Baile de Lupita by Lupe Ruiz-Flores
Let’s Salsa/ X Bailemos Salsa by Lupe Ruiz-Flores
Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote by Duncan Tonatiuh
Kenya’s Song by Linda Trice
Mi Familia Calaca/ My Skeleton Family by Cynthia Weill
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2â€”Fall 2016
Empowering the Foreign Language Learner Through Critical Literacies Development
Abstract: This article examines current pedagogical trends in the foreign language classroom and argues that a critical literacies pedagogical approach (Freire, 1970) should guide instruction. A critical literacies pedagogical approach is then discussed in the context of foreign language teaching and learning, and particular attention in this article is given to the approachâ€™s potential to deemphasize the dominance of the native speaker (Cook, 1999; Kramsch, 1997; Maxim, 2006). Theory and findings from research in a variety of disciplines (e.g., linguistics, English as a Lingua Franca, second language acquisition, education) is synthesized to posit that, through the use of a critical literacies pedagogical approach, learners will be empowered to overcome the impression that their non-native status puts them at an eternal disadvantage. The article concludes with some practical suggestions for the foreign language classroom and a discussion of broader implications that might affect not only the individual foreign language student but also the collective foreign language department at the university level. Keywords: critical literacies, foreign language, empowerment, pedagogical theory
Margaret Keneman received her Ph.D. from Emory University and is currently a Lecturer of French at the University of Tennessee. She conducts research within the fields of educational and applied linguistics. Her primary areas of inquiry are related to foreign language pedagogy, literacy, and multilingualism. A secondary line of research explores pedagogical practices and learning outcomes in a variety of artistic disciplines. Margaret is interested in the connections between artistic/embodied forms of (self-)expression, identity, and language learning. Her recent publication on using slam poetry to teach French appeared in Integrating the Arts: Creative Thinking about Foreign Language Curricula and Language Program Direction (AAUSC Volume 2015).
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 (e.g., Omaggio Hadley, 2001; Shrum & Glisan, 2005) suggested that CLT exposes students to authentic classroom instruction that formally integrates culture and language, thereby giving students the opportunity to express themselves creatively in a variety of contexts.
“There is a voice inside of you That whispers all day long, ‘I feel that this is right for me, I know that this is wrong.’ No teacher, preacher, parent, friend Or wise man can decide What’s right for you—just listen to The voice that speaks inside.” - Shel Silverstein, Falling Up
Communicative competence was a welcome change from earlier form-focused approaches to FL teaching and has been widely accepted among FL practitioners. However, researchers in the past several years have begun to question this learning model (e.g., Byrnes, 2006; Kramsch, 2006; Swaffar, 2006) and approaches have been theorized and designed to foster literacy development among FL learners (e.g., Allen, Paesani, & Dupuy, 2015; GUGD, 2011; Kern, 2000; Swaffar & Arens, 2005). While literacy-oriented theories and approaches are definitely a move in the right direction to resolve some caveats of CLT, they typically do not address a lingering problem with FL instruction, which is the idea of the “native speaker” (Cook, 1999; Kramsch, 1997; Maxim, 2006) with a “well-defined culture” (Kramsch, 2006, 2009; Banks, 1991).
oreign language curricula across the nation have been known to prioritize equipping students with certain communicative skills before challenging them to consider (multi)cultural phenomena and textual content. This kind of approach, known as communicative language teaching (CLT), dominated instruction in foreign language (FL) classrooms across the United States beginning in the 1980s and lasting into the new millennium. The approach’s primary objective is to help students develop communicative competence, a construct theorized by linguist Dell Hymes in the mid-1960s. In theory, communicative competence is the ability to make appropriate linguistic choices for specific social contexts. As Canale and Swain (1980) later outlined, a student who demonstrates communicative competence can be accurate (grammatical competence), appropriate (sociolinguistic competence), strategic (strategic competence), and coherent (discourse competence). Research conducted at the turn of the 21st century
The English as a Lingua Franca paradigm (ELF) has challenged and consequently deviated from the use of native speaker norms to teach English, but these standards are still quite commonplace in the context of teaching modern foreign languages in North American institutions. According to Jenkins (2006), most second language acquisition (SLA) research still focuses on investigating and understanding grammatical differences between native and non-
I acknowledge that there is a gender spectrum and that myriad pronouns exist that I can use when referring to individuals in my writing. Throughout this article, every effort has been made to prevent assumptions about the ways that individuals identify or refer to themselves. Although this article does not report data, I use the gender-neutral pronoun “they” when making hypotheses about students in general and the pronoun “one” when articulating thoughts about a single student.
Furthermore, the expression “he or she” has been replaced with the pronoun “they” (and the corresponding plural noun that is linguistically appropriate) in order to recognize the non-binary nature of gender identity. When referring to already established authors in the field I do use the traditional pronouns “she” or “he” (depending on the pronoun they have used in previous works).
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 native speakers, and pedagogical approaches are posited so that these grammatical differences can be avoided and so that learners proceed along a continuum towards native speaker competence. The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) Proficiency Guidelines (Swender, Conrad, & Vicars, 2012), a 24-page document that summarizes the possible proficiency levels for students studying a FL in the U.S., reference “the native interlocutor” (p. 5) or “natives” (p. 12) as the judges of linguistic competence in speech and writing. Furthermore, the highest level of proficiency in speaking, the Distinguished level, is characterized by language use that is “culturally authentic” (p. 4). In a familiar context, “near-native” is the term that is often used to label speakers at the highest levels of proficiency.
native speaker and discuss the way it affects FL students at the university level.
In order to empower adult learners who feel discouraged or even oppressed by native speaker standards, this article argues for a critical literacies pedagogical approach grounded in the theories of progressive educational reformer Paulo Freire (1970). Furthermore, and perhaps more importantly, Freire’s theoretical framework urges FL practitioners to confront and deal with racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic inequities that are perpetuated by teaching a standardized (i.e., native) version of a language in a FL context (and that are no doubt projected onto racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse groups of students). Although the concept of critical literacies is not often discussed “The native speaker is In light of global movements to explicitly in the context of FL therefore an imaginary embrace multiculturalism, this teaching and learning, this archetype that does not – article will reexamine why the article will provide a summary simply because it cannot – idea of the native speaker is of research that has investigated problematic. In particular, it a variety of similar issues in represent all of the nuances undermines realities about language education, including that constitute a language linguistic diversity within those related to empowerment, and a culture.” languages. It also ignores the voice, and multilingualism. This complex identities and cultural synthesis of research will serve values which commonly differ from person to as preliminary evidence to support the use of a person that are expressed through language. The critical literacies pedagogical approach in the native speaker is therefore an imaginary archetype collegiate FL classroom. This article will conclude by that does not – simply because it cannot – represent offering some pedagogical suggestions for the all of the nuances that constitute a language and a general FL classroom and by discussing the broader culture. By giving students the impression that they implications for FL departments at the university must assimilate to the elusive native speaker, the level. teaching of foreign languages, under the guise that it Existing Literacy-Oriented Theories and supports linguistic and cultural diversity, “ironically Discussions in the FL Context promotes monolingualism, monoculturalism, normatism, and elitism” (Kubota, 2010, p. 99). While Literacy-oriented theories with critical thinking this problem can manifest at any stage of language components and empowerment objectives are by no learning and regardless of a student’s age, this article means absent from research on SLA and FL will add to the already active discussion about the
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 teaching.2 Hasan (1996), for example, defined action literacy and reflection literacy, two types of literacy that go beyond recognition literacy. Recognition literacy is not sufficient because, although it equips learners with certain linguistic coding and decoding skills, language as a mode of social action is ignored. Action literacy, then, is the ability to understand and (re)produce the social, historical, and cultural elements of a variety of textual genres (for examples of genre-based pedagogy in FL research see Byrnes & Kord, 2001; Byrnes, Maxim, & Norris, 2010; Byrnes & Sprang, 2004; Swaffar & Arens, 2005). However, Hasan ultimately argued for reflection literacy as a means to overcome conformist discursive action. She explained that “participation in the production of knowledge will call for an ability to use language to reflect, to enquire and to analyze, which is the necessary basis for challenging what are seen as facts” (p. 408). According to Hasan, it is reflection literacy that empowers individuals to produce discourse that might contribute to society’s everchanging corpus of knowledge.
Literacy describes what empowers individuals to enter societies; to derive, generate, communicate, and validate knowledge and experience; to exercise expressive capacities to engage others in shared cognitive, social, and moral projects; and to exercise such agency with an identity that is recognized by others in the community. (p. 2) Furthermore, Allen (2009) reiterated the idea that foreign language learners are not blank slates, and she referred to the New London Group’s (1996) concept that students possess a number of available designs in their first language. There continues to be a trend in favor of literacy-oriented approaches as studies (Allen, 2009; Allen & Paesani, 2010) have illustrated findings that support their effectiveness. At around the same time that language scholars began proposing literacy-oriented theories for the FL classroom, the Modern Language Association (MLA) organized the Ad Hoc Committee on Foreign Languages – a committee of noted FL scholars led by former MLA President Mary Louise Pratt – to study the best way to teach foreign languages and culture in higher education. This committee was initially formed to examine the “sense of crisis around what came to be known as the nation’s language deficit” (MLA, 2007, para. 2), and the effects of this crisis on FL teaching in colleges and universities. The resulting MLA Report (2007) asserted that an ethnocentric and patronizing mentality on the part
Other SLA and FL scholars (Allen, 2009; Allen & Paesani, 2010; Allen, Paesani, & Dupuy, 2015; Kern, 2000; Swaffar & Arens, 2005) have theorized literacyoriented approaches for the FL classroom for a variety of reasons, including the need for a more nuanced learning construct that goes beyond communicative competence. Specifically, Swaffar and Arens (2005) made the following assertions about literacy in a FL context: 2
The terms second language (L2) and foreign language (FL) are sometimes used interchangeably, but there is a difference between the two. A foreign language (FL) is most often learned at a distance from where it is actually spoken (e.g., learning French at a university in the United States). For this reason, students often have less exposure to the language than they would if they were immersed in the culture where the language is spoken. On the other hand, second language (L2) learning happens (most often) when an individual is living in an environment where the language typically spoken is other than their
first language, and they are learning that second language as a result. Immigrants to the United States, for example, are labeled English as Second Language (ESL) learners because they are in a culture where English is primarily spoken, but English is not their first language. Although this article is primarily concerned with learners of a foreign language, the obstacles (i.e., the idea of the native speaker) are encountered by both foreign and second language learning. Therefore, the term second language (L2) is relevant to this research.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 of American people was the source of the crisis. However, the report also advised FL departments to take responsibility for the role they play, which echoed many earlier calls for change made by other FL scholars (e.g., Barnett, 1991; Bernhardt, 1995; Henning, 1993; Hoffman & James, 1986; James, 1996). In particular, the report identified a significant separation between language instruction at the lower levels (where CLT has been the pedagogical approach) and upper-level literature courses,3 thus dividing the study of foreign languages into two categories that should otherwise be interwoven.
paradigm that has been so popular among language practitioners for almost thirty years. As a result, CLT continues to masquerade in first- and second-year FL textbooks, where language and culture is standardized in an effort to promote communicative competence. Teachers may allude to the uncertainties and inconsistencies that are hallmarks of language in use, and students may get some exposure to the complex nature of the target language. However, a focus on functionality inevitably pervades the CLT classroom (Kramsch, 2006). Language lessons may be framed around some cultural content (such as the theme of ordering food in a Parisian café), but the emphasis on functional communication ultimately imposes a “tourist-like” (Kramsch, 2006, p. 251) identity on the language learner during the early stages of study. As students progress, the seemingly logical index to measure proficiency is governed by what a native speaker would (should and/or could) do. However, an emphasis on grammatical accuracy, native-like pronunciation, and a native-like understanding of literary texts often ends up eclipsing the language learner’s potential as a multilingual subject (i.e., non-native user of the target language).
One of the most notable changes made in collegiate FL education to deal with this problem took place at the Georgetown University German Department (GUGD) and was framed by the concept of multiple literacies. The major curricular revision was driven by a genre-based approach to FL teaching, which guides students’ awareness of language conventions and cultural practices by way of their representation in textual genres. With this awareness, they reproduce the genres in a way that demonstrates their literacy. An overarching learning objective is that students are “competent and literate non-native users of German who can employ the language in a range of intellectual and professional contexts and who can also draw from it personal enrichment and enjoyment” (GUGD, 2011, Summary, para. 3). Byrnes, Maxim, and Norris (2010) provided evidence that learners who progress through the program generally end up as highly proficient users of German. Longitudinal data is being collected in order to further investigate the effects of the program on student learning (see GUGD, 2011).
The Lingering Problem of the Native Speaker Native speaker standards put an enormous amount of pressure on learners who are often under the impression that their non-native status puts them at an eternal disadvantage (Cook, 1999; Kramsch, 1997; Maxim, 2006). To explain why the native speaker should not represent the learning goal in the second/foreign classroom, Cook (1999) referred to Labov’s (1969) recognition of ethnocentrism in linguistics, and summarized it as follows:
Addressing the language/literature divide by adopting literacy-oriented instructional approaches, however, involves a major shift away from the CLT
People cannot be expected to conform to the norm of a group to which they do not
The traditional two-year language sequence is characterized by elementary and intermediate language instruction whereas the courses offered at the upper level
follow the traditional framework that divides the teaching of literature into the century or literary/cultural movement to which it belongs.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 belong, whether groups are defined by race, class, sex, or any other feature. People who speak differently from some arbitrary group are not speaking better or worse, just differently. (p. 194)
infrequently in the target language or for very specific purposes, but they would not necessarily be expected to master them for spontaneous production. L2 user situations and roles should also be included to remind students that there is a community of non-native speakers who have achieved proficiency in the target language.
Cook identified the way this concept is taken for granted in the second/foreign language classroom, precisely because instructed learners of a second or foreign language are judged against the standards of another group, which is that of the native speaker.
Literacy and multicultural education scholars have identified similar forms of not only linguistic but also cultural ethnocentrism in urban educational settings in the United States for decades (e.g., Banks, Although it might not seem quite as problematic, 1991; Giroux, 1988, 2011; Green, 2008). Educators Cook (1999) asserted the following: often attribute failure to the fact that knowledge is institutionalized and dominant discourses are the Just as it was once claimed that women only discourses presented by the curriculum. As a should speak like men to succeed in way to combat such ethnocentrism, it is the business, Black children educator’s responsibility to should learn to speak “Educators often attribute reformulate the canon by like White children, and representing a plurality of failure to the fact that working-class children voices. According to Banks should learn the knowledge is (1991), such an alternative elaborated language of institutionalized and curriculum challenges the the middle class, so L2 dominant discourses are the traditional concept that facts users are commonly only discourses presented by must be learned by students to seen as failed native become culturally literate. speakers. (p. 195) the curriculum.” Students who are exposed to In order to begin to rectify this the dominant canon are problem, Cook distinguished between native learning a very specific type of culture (e.g., “high”) speakers and L2 users (who were once L2 learners that is, of course, important to consider. However, and are native speakers of an L1). According to Cook, culture is not limited to dominant values and L2 users should be seen as a group of their own that traditions, and Banks alluded to the deficiencies in is not necessarily better or worse than a group of privileging cultural literacy as a learning outcome native speakers, just different. For this reason, the because it expects students to accept information pedagogy in the second/foreign language classroom about culture without being critical. The case should set appropriate goals for L2 learners. For studies to support Banks’ theories are taken from example, students might practice pronunciation, but junior high and high school social studies classes, an environment would be created to remind but this problem of teaching one culture to promote students that speaking with an accent is not cultural literacy happens all too often in the FL necessarily a setback. From a grammatical classroom. Foreign language instructors may be perspective, students would be encouraged to under the impression that they are teaching culture recognize certain linguistic structures that are used when they give students general information about
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 traditions and values, but these traditions and values often pertain to a particular dominant group of people.
classroom. In essence, the banking concept of education refers to a system where the teacher is the all-knowing authority figure while the student is a blank slate; the teacher knows everything, and the student knows nothing. The teacher teaches by making deposits (i.e., information, facts, and knowledge) into the student’s bank (i.e., mind). Students are ultimately expected to accept the knowledge they receive from the teacher, and there is little to no room for critical inquiry, reflection, or debate. For Freire, this is the primary educational tactic in oppressive societies (1970).
Students often have difficulty perceiving the wealth of opportunity that is possible as a result of studying a foreign language, including the potential to develop and grow personally as they interact with new cultures using new modes of expression in a new language. Understandably, they often focus on factors such as linguistic inadequacy, cultural misunderstandings, and sheer intimidation that might impair their ability to interact with speakers of the target language in a real-life setting. These inevitable realities, which actually have the potential to be excellent moments to learn, are usually swept under the rug as failed attempts to sound like a native speaker. Furthermore, it can be difficult to convince students that the native speaker is elusive, and they often lament the fact that they did not start studying a language at an earlier age (i.e., the critical theory hypothesis). While many scholars have refuted this hypothesis about age, (e.g.. Birdsong, 2006; Marinova-Todd, Marshall, & Snow, 2000; Singleton, 2005), it often influences the belief of the general population. Even President Barack Obama, in a powerful speech on the importance of bilingualism, alluded to the idea that it would be easier for a 3-year-old to learn a language than for a 46-year-old like himself (Baker, 2011). It would not be surprising if this popular belief – rooted in the concept of the native speaker – has discouraged adults from aspiring to be successful users of a second/foreign language.
Labeling the situation in the FL classroom as oppressive might be too extreme, but pedagogical approaches that use the native speaker as a model for students to emulate can provoke the perception that there is one authoritative source of knowledge. As a result of this perception, students might fall into a trap where they willingly accept information, facts, and knowledge while their (potential) multilingual capacities and contributions are undermined. To make matters worse, students who at the early stages of the curriculum are expected to understand and appropriate the language for basic communicative purposes are suddenly expected to be literary critics of texts charged with social, historical, and cultural nuances (see MLA, 2007). Offering advanced language courses later in the curriculum that teach canonical literature only perpetuates this problem. Students are faced with a body of literature that represents the most sophisticated and artistic form of expression and is often reserved for a very elite audience.
Dismantling Native Speaker Ideals
Because a language is much more than a static system of signs, and because it is used to convey highly subjective interpretations of reality, the use of a banking model to teach language violates an individual’s right to reflect, debate, disagree, and even bring a new perspective to dialogue. The teaching of a language as “foreign” is no exception, and the FL classroom is as good of a place as any to
Freire (1970) introduced the educational concept of “banking” to describe the possible repercussions if one authoritative source of knowledge dictates the learning process in the classroom, which is precisely the case with the “native speaker” with “a welldefined culture” as the learning goal in the FL
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 reject the banking concept of education. In other words, the FL classroom can and should be a place that fosters the development of critical literacies, a learning outcome that has been advocated in conjunction with emancipatory or problem-posing education (e.g., Freire, 1970; Freire & Macedo, 1987; Giroux, 1998, 2011). While the concept of critical literacies is often promoted to empower men and women from socially and economically disenfranchised communities, it is relevant in the FL classroom, a space where students are often trying to overcome their perception of the native speaker who dominates their learning. Furthermore, foreign language practitioners must come to grips with the power structures that are implicitly upheld by enforcing standardized (i.e., native) language use. Even with the good intention to help all students learn (and learn well), many individuals (often from diverse backgrounds) are inevitably excluded from a world to which they could potentially belong but to which they do not necessarily relate due to biased textbooks or classroom teachings.
insists that students occupy a unique position as adult learners of a foreign language. It is expected that students will be able to communicate adequately (as well as creatively and critically), but that should not be confused with the expectation that students will arrive at a native level of proficiency. In Other Words: Empowerment, Voice, and Multilingualism Although it was almost two decades ago, Maxim (1998) conducted a similar study that called for a pedagogical approach to authorize (i.e., empower) foreign language learners. He began by illustrating the problem that arises when students “uncritically [accept] the information presented by the teacher or the teacher-authorized text,” and students therefore “affirm the teacher’s and text’s preeminence as well as their subaltern status” (p. 408). For Maxim, this problem represented the symbolic power (Bourdieu, 1999) that teachers enjoy and is granted to them. To counter this power relation, Maxim designed an activity where students were asked to critically evaluate linguistic input instead of simply viewing any given presentation as objective truth. He analyzed students’ work as they participated in this process and ultimately found that “students [succeeded] at uncovering… symbolic power” and also “viewed the course and its pedagogy as a positive experience” (p. 417). While Maxim’s research demonstrated the advantages of empowering foreign language learners on a small scale, the issues that were the impetus for his study still affect foreign language learners today.
With this in mind, it is expected that by the end of a curriculum taught using pedagogy that emphasizes critical literacies development, students will be able to do the following: (1) move beyond initial stereotypes they have about the target culture; (2) express themselves creatively in the target language; (3) engage in a variety of tasks of self-expression (speaking and writing) while aware of cultural context and knowledge; (4) identify and use certain language features that are particular to certain textual genres; (5) self-reflect on their experiences as learners of another language (Hasan, 1996); (6) develop their voices within the context of the target culture; (7) communicate appropriately in a range of contexts in the target language; and (8) not only decode the foreign language and related cultural practices, but also analyze and challenge characteristics of these practices. It is important to keep in mind that this definition of critical literacies
However, if pedagogical approaches like Maxim’s (1998) are applied on a larger scale and if entire FL curricula are carefully designed with critical literacies learning objectives in mind, the idea is that students will cultivate their voice, and they will feel empowered to express themselves in a language
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 other than their L1. Canagarajah’s (2004) defines voice as follows:
synthesized abstract theories of language to help understand the distinct experiences on the part of the language learner. These experiences are [Voice is] …a manifestation of one’s agency illustrated through language memoirs, learners’ in discourse through the means of language. testimonies, personal essays, narratives, and This largely rhetorically constructed linguistic autobiographies. Similarly, Canagarajah manifestation of selfhood has to be (2014) explained how language learners might negotiated in relation to our historically compose a literacy autobiography (LA) to trace their defined identities […], institutional roles […], (multilingual) experiences learning a new language. and ideological subjectivity […]. These three These qualitative approaches to language learning, constructs… can be imposed on us or literacy development, and the research process itself ascribed to us. But it is at the level of voice acknowledge the intensely subjective nature of that we gain agency to negotiate these learning a language, which happens not only as a categories of self, adopt a reflexive awareness cognitive process, but can also be affectively and of them, and find forms of coherence and even, at times, physically demanding. To echo both power that suit our Kramsch (2009) and interests. (p. 268, “If the goal is to become Canagarajah (2014), the emphasis original) language learning process is multilingual in the sense very personal and different for The challenge, as Canagarajah that the ever-changing everyone, and it is important to (2014) later explained, is that nature of language(s) can be honor individual experiences. the pedagogy in the classroom
discovered, practiced, and promotes a negotiated (not an By the same token, it is imposed or prescribed) voice, so applied, the teaching and important to keep in mind that teachers must be mindful of learning of a new language the concept of multilingualism students’ investments, desires, is diluted when FL learners are does not have to happen in a histories, and motivations. This expected to demonstrate their silo.” kind of mindfulness is critical linguistic abilities in a when considering the teaching monolingual context. If the of foreign languages in North America but not often goal is to become multilingual in the sense that the explicitly stated or acknowledged. In the same vein ever-changing nature of language(s) can be as ELF (e.g., Jenkins, 2006; Seidlhofer, 2011), not all discovered, practiced, and applied, the teaching and students are studying a foreign language to sound learning of a new language does not have to happen like a native speaker, and they might not even plan in a silo. This is particularly true in today’s world, on exchanging information with native speakers. where students are learning multiple languages, However, all students can (and should, for that people are crossing real and virtual borders, and the matter) become culturally sensitive, multilingual world itself is becoming multilingual. Kramsch members of the global community. (2009) explained that in addition to linguistic competence (that is relative to their personal goals Kramsch (2009) explored in great detail the very and experiences), the multilingual subject personal and embodied transformation that learners undergo as they learn a second/foreign language and thereby become multilingual individuals. She
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 demonstrates symbolic competence,4 or the “…ability to draw on the semiotic diversity afforded by multiple languages to reframe ways of seeing familiar events, create alternative realities, and find an appropriate subject position ‘between languages,’ so to speak” (pp. 200-201). This “semiotic diversity” can absolutely be highlighted when teaching adult learners foreign languages, irrespective of whether or not they are encouraged and/or motivated to develop a highly proficient linguistic competence in the target language. It is their symbolic competence that could be the benchmark by which they are deemed multilingual subjects.
genre that gives students the space to develop their (multilingual) voice and, by extension, critical literacies. In a strictly FL context, for example, Maxim (2006) explicitly described the ways in which the reading and writing of poetry gives adult FL learners a voice. He reiterated the importance of a literacy-based approach to foreign language teaching and addressed the possible benefits of teaching poetry at the early stages of foreign language learning. Maxim acknowledged that using poetry in the beginning-level FL classroom has its drawbacks: students may feel like poetry exemplifies a level of language that they will never attain, especially as adult language learners. Maxim contradicted this assumption and explained that by following a methodology proposed by Mayley & Duff (1989) where adult FL learners read, and more importantly, write their own poetry, they can develop unique linguistic and even non-linguistic skills to the FL classroom. Most importantly, Maxim described how writing poetry in the FL classroom can actually “deemphasize the primacy of the native speaker” (p. 252) and dismantle the idea that the foreign language is “some monolithic entity that [students] are fated to never master” (p. 253). By writing poetry in the foreign language, students are encouraged to play with words and develop their identity.
The overarching concepts of empowerment, voice, and multilingualism are ultimately important so that students will eventually become individuals who can participate in society and provoke social change. This concept resonates with Gutierrez’s (2008) argument that students have a (civil) right to their own languages. Unfortunately, this right is often undermined by a one-size-fits-all approach in U.S. schools propelled by the assumption that “sameness is fairness” (p. 171). Gutierrez argued that schools must engage students in language practices that honor students’ right to language and literacy. While it may not seem as obvious, this is just as true in the FL classroom as it is anywhere else. These rights can be honored as students develop their voices, a sense of symbolic competence, and critical literacies in a foreign language.
Hanauer (2012) also proposed the idea of using poetry as a way to humanize the FL classroom. In response to students’ as well as instructors’ concerns that writing poetry in lower-level FL courses might be too difficult, Hanauer analyzed a corpus of 844 second language poems generated over the course of six years and used a range of instruments to measure
Writing Poetry to Develop Critical Literacies According to researchers of language, literacy, cultural studies, and linguistics, poetry is a powerful 4
“Symbolic competence” evolved from Kramsch’s idea of “third culture,” which was a notion initially coined as “third space” by Bahbha (1994). Essentially, third culture represents the symbolic space that language learners occupy as they navigate between two dichotomies, such as the L1 and the L2, the self and the other, or the “country of origin” and the “host country.” While third
culture was initially conceived as multiple and always subject to change, Kramsch (2009) decided it only really accounted for two opposing discourses present throughout the FL learning process, when in today’s world many learners are negotiating multiple ones. For this reason, Kramsch redefined the notion of third culture as symbolic competence.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 “text size, lexical category, the Lexical Frequency Profile (Laufer & Nation, 1999), poetic features, thematic organization, lexical content and degree of emotionality” (Hanauer, 2012, p. 111). Based on these analyses, Hanauer found that students’ poetry was emotive and expressive. He also found that students managed to use simple (yet effective) vocabulary while also emphasizing visual imagery. Hanauer concluded that poetry writing is well within the abilities of FL students. Furthermore, Hanauer (2010) deemed poetry a genre that gives students the opportunity to “learn about themselves, about the presence of others, and the diversity of thought and experience that are so much a part of this world” (p. 114). This is precisely the goal of a critical literacies pedagogical approach with a more explicit focus on the pluralities of language and culture as a way to empower FL “In a way, as learners.
contexts [that] expect bilinguals to have perfectly balanced language sheets in their brains” (Cahnmann, 2006, p. 346). This standardization, which may often be advertised in learning context as a means to help the student learn more about a particular language in question, actually ignores the reality that languages, and the ways people use languages, are not mutually exclusive. CahnmannTaylor and Preston (2008) explained how students can build their creativity, critical thinking skills, and confidence as they write poetry in a space that recognizes the reality of language use.
Similarly, in high school English writing courses, Fisher (2007) and Jocson (2008) researched the effects of teaching spoken word poetry in urban classrooms, since spoken word poetry became such a popular mode of expression students accept among teenagers in the late nineties. Although Fisher this willingness to fail by Cahnmann (2006) and (2008) noticed initial tensions writing poetry in both Cahnmann-Taylor and Preston as students were reluctant to English and Spanish, they can (2008) made the pluralities of share their (very personal) reflect on their multifaceted language and culture their main work, they eventually focus by investigating the use of encouraged each other to identity as users of more poetry as a vehicle for biliteracy cultivate their own language. than one language.” development. In particular, they Fisher called this kind of encouraged students (mostly elementary school encouragement “Students’ Right to Their Own children) to write their poetry in both English and Language” (STROL). Jocson (2008) found that, by Spanish. Cahnmann-Taylor and Preston (2008) writing poetry, students were able to rewrite identified the element of risk intrinsic to writing misperceptions and stereotypes, which forced them poetry that is very similar to what learners to “imagine themselves as active members of society experience when they try to express themselves in and as agents in changing the course of their lives different languages: in the same way that a and others’” (p. 129). Although these studies did not willingness to fail is the only way to succeed as a take place in a FL context, the process of writing poet, a willingness to be misunderstood is the only poetry helps students accept, envision, and way to express oneself. In a way, as students accept participate in the culturally, linguistically, and this willingness to fail by writing poetry in both socioeconomically diverse world that is their reality. English and Spanish, they can reflect on their In keeping with this concept of poetry as a medium multifaceted identity as users of more than one to empower students, Keneman (2015) recently language. The process also deemphasizes the conducted a study specifically on the use of slam standardization of languages and the “monolingual poetry in the FL classroom to foster critical literacies 94
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 development. In this study, a pedagogical approach using the slam poetry art form was designed and integrated into a standard intermediate curriculum (French 201) to foster critical literacies. Students were asked to analyze and (re)produce slam poems, and qualitative data were collected to investigate how the pedagogical approach influenced student learning. Findings indicated that most students valued the opportunity to practice linguistic features (i.e., grammar points) by producing work that was of personal importance to them. While students were not always aware of their own linguistic progress and critical literacies development, their final slam poems revealed their efforts to convey their sense of self as well as their “cross-cultural awareness” (Kramsch & Nolden, 1994, p. 28) in a way that was often linguistically appropriate and stylistically sophisticated. Furthermore, students shared their work in a process that allowed them to envision their successful L2 work as worthy of textual analysis.
Specifically, a critical literacies pedagogical approach could bridge the gap between foreign “language” and “literature” courses. A “lower-level language” curriculum designed using a critical literacies pedagogical approach would foster competencies that go above and beyond a touristlike understanding of how to communicate and a knowledge of dominant cultural values. Furthermore, some pressure might be alleviated in “upper-level literature” courses that are currently designed under the impression that students have very advanced, sometimes even native-like language skills in order to participate (Byrnes & Kord, 2001). Instead, upper-level courses would be conceived as such, not necessarily because they are more difficult from a purely linguistic perspective, but because they demand more sophisticated forms of critical thinking. To authorize their L2 voice at both the lower- and upper-levels of instruction, students would share and publish their work. In turn, more examples of successful L2 users would be available for students to witness. Ultimately, courses at all levels of instruction would be taught in a holistic, intellectually rigorous way, with the goal of empowering students to continue the study of a foreign language. Marcott (2008) alluded to this possibility when she described her motivation to continue to study Spanish thanks to the linguistic and cultural diversity represented in her favorite course. A very optimistic but real hypothesis is that such a transformation, be it high-stake and somewhat laborious from a curricular revision perspective, has the potential to strengthen the overall health of struggling FL departments.
Student Empowerment in Foreign Languages Empowering the foreign language learner has other, much broader implications for foreign language departments at universities across the nation. In particular, the elimination of foreign language departments over the past several years has made national news (e.g., Berman, 2011; Corral & Patai, 2008; Foderaro, 2010). As a result, many foreign language faculty members blame powerful, top-tier administrators who seem to be on a neoliberal mission to undermine the humanities. While this blame is understandable, warranted, and even supported by recent empirical research (Ramírez & Hyslop-Margison, 2015), foreign language educators should consider ways that collegiate foreign language learning and teaching can keep up with the changing face of education. Restructuring FL programs to adopt a critical literacies pedagogical approach has the potential to accomplish that goal.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2â€”Fall 2016 References Allen, H. W. (2009). A literacy-based approach to the advanced French writing course. The French Review, 83(2), 368-387. Allen, H. W., & Paesani, K. (2010). Exploring the feasibility of a pedagogy of multiliteracies in introductory foreign language courses. L2 Journal, 2(1), 119-142. Allen, H. W., Paesani, K., & Dupuy, B. (2015). A multiliteracies framework for collegiate foreign language teaching. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall. Baker, C. (2011). Foundations of bilingual education and bilingualism (5th ed.). Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters. Banks, J. A. (1991). A curriculum for empowerment, action, and change. In C. E. Sleeter (Ed.), Empowerment through multicultural education (pp. 125-143). Albany, NY: SUNY Press. Barnett, M. A. (1991). Language and literature: False dichotomies, real allies. ADFL Bulletin, 22(3), 7-11. Berman, R. A. (2011). The real language crisis. Academe, 97(5), 30-34. Retrieved from http://www.aaup.org/article/real-languagecrisis#. V_5UxpMrIxc Bernhardt, E. B. (1995). Teaching literature or teaching students? ADFL Bulletin, 26(2), 5-6. Birdsong, D. (2006). Age and second language acquisition and processing: A selective overview. Language Learning, 56(s1), 9-49. Bourdieu, P. (1999). Language and symbolic power. (G. Raymond and M. Adamson, Trans.). Boston, MA: Harvard University Press. Byrnes, H. (2006). Perspectives: Interrogating communicative competence as a framework for collegiate foreign language study. Modern Language Journal, 90(2), 244-246. Byrnes, H., & Kord, S. (2001). Developing literacy and literary competence: Challenges for foreign language departments. In V. Scott & H. Tucker (Eds.), SLA and the literature classroom: Fostering dialogues (pp. 31-69). Boston, MA: Heinle and Heinle. Byrnes, H., Maxim, H. H., & Norris, J. M. (2010). Realizing advanced L2 writing development in collegiate FL education: Curricular design, pedagogy, and assessment. Modern Language Journal, 94(Supplement), 1-235. Byrnes, H. & Sprang, K. (2004). Fostering advanced L2 literacy: A genre-based, cognitive approach. In H. Byrnes & H. Maxim (Eds.), Advanced foreign language learning: A challenge to college programs (pp. 47-85). Boston, MA: Heinle Thomson. Cahnmann, M. (2006). Reading, living, and writing bilingual poetry as scholARTistry in the language arts classroom. Language Arts, 83(4), 341-351.
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Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 Hasan, R. (1996). Literacy, everyday talk and society. In R. Hasan & G. Williams (Eds.), Literacy in society (pp. 377-424). London, UK: Longman. Henning, S. D. (1993). The integration of language, literature, and culture: Goals and curricular design. Professions, 22-26. Hoffman, E. F., & James, D. (1986). Toward the integration of foreign language and literature at all levels of the college curriculum. ADFL Bulletin, 18(1), 29-33. James, D. (1996). Bypassing the traditional leadership: Who’s minding the store? ADFL Bulletin, 28(3), 5-11. Jenkins, J. (2006). Points of view and blind spots: EFL and SLA. International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 16(2), 137-162. Jocson, K. M. (2008). Youth poets: Empowering literacies in and out of schools. New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc. Keneman, K. (2015). Finding a voice in the foreign language classroom: Reading, writing, and performing slam poetry to develop critical literacies. In L. Parkes & C. Ryan (Eds.), Integrating the arts: Creative thinking about FL curricula and language program direction (pp. 108-130). Boston: Cengage. Kern, R. (2000). Literacy and language teaching. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. Kramsch, C. (1997). The privilege of the nonnative speaker. PMLA, 112(3), 359-369. Kramsch, C. (2006). From communicative competence to symbolic competence. Modern Language Journal, 90(2), 249-252. Kramsch, C. (2009). The multilingual subject. Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press. Kramsch, C., & Nolden, T. (1994). Redefining literacy in a foreign language. Die Unterrichtspraxis, 27(1), 2835. Kubota, R. (2010). Critical multicultural education and second/foreign language teaching. In S. May & C. Sleeter (Eds.), Critical multiculturalism: From theory to practice (pp. 99-112). New York, NY: Routledge. Labov, W. (1969). Contraction, deletion, and inherent variability of the English copula. Language, 45(4), 715-762. Maley, A. & Duff, A. (1989). The inward ear: Poetry in the language classroom. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Marcott, P. F. (2008). Pursuing a foreign language education: A current student’s perspective. Journal of Language and Literacy Education, 4(1), 83-90.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 Marinova-Todd, S. H., Marshall, D. B., & Snow, C. E. (2000). Three misconceptions about age and L2 learning. TESOL Quarterly, 34(1), 9-34. Maxim, H. (1998). Authorizing the foreign language student. Foreign Language Annals, 31(3), 407-430. Maxim, H. (2006). Giving beginning adult language learners a voice: A case for poetry in the foreign language classroom. In J. Retallack and J. Spahr (Eds.), Poetry and pedagogy: The challenge of the contemporary (pp. 251-259). New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. MLA Ad Hoc Committee on Foreign Languages. (2007). Foreign languages and higher education: New structures for a changed world. Profession, 234-235. New London Group. (1996). A Pedagogy of multiliteracies: Designing social futures. Harvard Educational Review, 66(1), 60-92. Omaggio Hadley, A. (2001). Teaching language in context (3rd ed.). Boston, MA: Heinle & Heinle. Ramírez, A., & Hyslop-Margison, E. (2015). Neoliberalism, universities and the discourse of crisis. L2 Journal, 7(3), 167-183. Seidlhofer, B. (2011). Understanding English as a lingua Franca. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. Silverstein, S. (1986). Falling up. New York, NY: Harpers Collins Publishers, Inc. Shrum, J. L., & Glisan, E. W. (Eds.). (2005). Teacher’s handbook: Contextualizing language instruction (3rd ed.). Boston, MA: Heinle & Heinle. Singleton, D. (2005). The critical period hypothesis: A coat of many colours. International Review of Applied Linguistics in Language Teaching, 43(4), 169-285. Swaffar, J. (2006). Terminology and its discontents: Some caveats about communicative competence. Modern Language Journal, 90(2), 246-249. Swaffar, J., & Arens, K. (2005). Remapping the foreign language curriculum: An approach through multiple literacies. New York, NY: Modern Language Association. Swender, E., Conrad, D. J., & Vicars, R. (Eds.). (2012). ACTFL proficiency guidelines (3rd ed.). Alexandria, VA: American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016
Review of Nobody: Casualties of America’s War on the Vulnerable, from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond Reviewer: S. R. Toliver The University of Georgia, Athens, GA
Hill, M.L. (2016). Nobody: Casualties of America’s war on the vulnerable, from Ferguson to Flint and beyond. New York, NY: Atria Books ISBN: 978-1-5011-2494-5
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 Disposable. Hidden. It. Invisible. Nobody. These are the terms used to describe America’s forgotten. Those whose income does not allow them to live in the best neighborhoods, whose historical background makes it difficult to attain the “American Dream,” whose mere existence on this planet angers the nation so much that it holds a silent war against them daily. These are the people Marc Lamont Hill wants to identify in his book, Nobody: Casualties of America’s War on the Vulnerable from Ferguson to Flint. Looking at the cover of the book, the world Hill wishes to show is clear. A black picture frame with white and red words symbolize the color divide and the bloodshed of the vulnerable. In the picture, a young, lonely Black boy stands in the middle of a road amidst protests while police cars divide the protestors with police lights illuminating the sky. This lonely boy stands in front of the word, “nobody,” as if to show the world that he is here; he is present; he is somebody. This book aims to delve deeper than the superficial discussion of inequality in America, for it is not a discussion Hill is after, but an understanding of how history, society, and pride have created a class of people considered less than citizens. Hill’s chapters are focused on various systems within the United States that oppress the vulnerable, and he interweaves stories of Black lives that have been affected by these social and political institutions. He studies the story of Michael Brown and how his death was more than an instance of police brutality; it was a story of how the institution of public housing caused the degradation of an entire city. He examines the case of Eric Garner and how his death by police chokehold should be a reminder of the way jail and police officials have changed from protector to enemy with the enactment of stop-and-frisk laws that target racial minorities. He scrutinizes the story of Freddie Gray and how his death resulted in no convictions, showing that the judicial system is not one that tries to endorse justice, but one that penalizes the ignorant and bargains with the lives of those less fortunate. He inspects the killings of Jordan Davis and Trayvon Martin and works to identify how gun rights activists and stand your ground laws have done more harm than good by 101
resulting in the unnecessary killing of young Black men. He reviews the state prison system and looks at how it disproportionately houses Black men since the enforcement of crime bills, the initiation of a war on drugs, and the beginning of mandatory minimum sentencing laws. He discusses Flint, Michigan and how the water system was more than a monetary issue; it was an issue of government pride and a disinterest in the poor. The names of these Black people are used because they allow the reader to personalize the history. We know these names because they are the ones that are used in hashtags and protests throughout the world, but we may not know the history that lead to their names being plastered in the media. Hill works to correct this to ensure that no person can simplify the argument and state that any of these tragedies are predicated on race alone. What makes Hill’s text stand out amongst the other history-focused non-fiction texts is his combination of rhetorical techniques and conversational tone to draw the reader out of academic prose and into a conversation. In an anecdote about the trial of Trayvon Martin, Hill makes the connection between the prolific author of literary nonsense, Lewis Carroll, and George Zimmerman’s defense attorney, Mark O’Mara, when he states that in a conference after Zimmerman’s acquittal, O’Mara displayed logic that modeled the storyline of Alice in Wonderland; it just didn’t make logical sense (Hill, 2016). He later states that the over-incarceration of Black and Brown people is “the establishment of an irreversible system worthy of the imagination of Sweeney Todd,” (Hill, 2016, p. 126) a character whose apathy for the lives of others allowed him to kill his customers and use the dead bodies of his victims for personal gain. Both allusions carry his details from reality to the imaginary realm in an attempt to show how the illtreatment of the vulnerable is villainous absurdity. In addition to his use of allusion, Hill also employs ethos, pathos, and logos to guarantee that all angles of persuasion are addressed fluently. He appeals to the ethics of the nation by imploring readers to meet the oppression of people with resistance; he appeals to the emotions of the reader in the detailed descriptions of the death and degradation of the
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 vulnerable by the institutions designed to protect them; he appeals to logic by utilizing facts and numeric values from national data systems. In fact, he includes fifty-one pages of footnotes with 562 entries included at the end of the book to make sure that all of his facts have been referenced, so there can never be any question about the validity of his data. What makes his argument sound, though, is not in the rhetoric he uses to personalize the stories, it is in the way he uses the process of argumentation. When he makes his points about injustices to the vulnerable, he provides evidence retrieved from a multitude of sources, acknowledges counterclaims to his arguments, and refutes objections with prowess.
sources, most of which he retrieved from peer reviewed journals in criminology, law, and crime which can be checked in the notes section of the text. Of course, many people would disagree with his position, arguing that the incarceration of petty criminals assisted in the overall decline in crime. Hill anticipates those who may contest his views and submits a preemptive rebuttal. He says, “while it is indisputable that crime declined in New York during the broken-windows era, crime also went down in other major cities that did not adopt so-called broken windows approaches” (Hill, 2016, p. 45). He also mentions that New York’s own computer analysis tool may have helped in deterring crime because it helped to target resources to areas with a lot of crime, and that there is no way to prove that broken windows policies work other than by conjecture because all analysts can do is “speculate as to what would have happened if the policing of minor offenses had not occurred” (Hill, 2016, p. 46). Here, Hill presents refutations to possible counterclaims which is consistent with the methods of argumentation. Although this is a small example, every point that he makes uses this same method to ensure that all questions are answered and no refutations survive.
For example, Hill begins a discussion on the initiation of “Broken Windows,” an article written by a political scientist and a criminologist in 1982 for the Atlantic. The purpose of the article was to state that if police could stop people from participating in nuisance crimes - like loitering, littering, and jumping turnstiles - crime would decrease dramatically because those criminals would not be able to escalate their misconduct. With this theory brought forth, police precincts began to consider it more law than suggestion, providing summonses for numerous people, no matter how small the crime. In fact, the New York Daily News found that, “from 2001 to 2013, 7.3 million citations were issued for everything from public urination and littering to possession of small amounts of marijuana and consuming alcohol on the streets” (Hill, 2016, p. 55). Of the 7.3 million citations, about 81 percent were given to Black or Latinx people. Hill (2016) points out that there was some truth to the overall premise of the article, but “there is no evidence that disorder directly promotes crime,” and “crime would be more effectively redressed by investing economically in neighborhoods rather than targeting them for heightened arrests” (p. 44). To elaborate further, he states that “while there is a correlation between disorder (social and physical) and crime, research shows that this relationship is not causal. Simply put, there is no evidence that disorder directly promotes crime.” (p. 44). These points are proven by the gathering and synthesizing of data from five
In the forward, Todd Brewster, recognized for his studies in constitutional law and editorial positions at Time and Life magazines, sets the tone for the book by praising Hill’s argument that the state of America is affected by systemic issues that go deeper than race. He also says that to define the problem in such terms is to simplify the reality of what is truly occurring: the elimination of the less desirable. He posits that seeing “these events as nothing more than vestiges of a persistent racial antagonism is to misunderstand them” (Hill, 2016, p. xii). I agree with Brewster that focusing on race does not delve deeply enough into the issue, but pushing race to the background contradicts the premise of the book. Hill does talk about history’s effect on the current situation in the United States, but much of his argument is centered on the fact that Black people are the group most affected by this system. He even makes the statement that he wants to “show how
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 the high-profile and controversial cases of State violence [those in the Black Lives Matter movement] that we’ve witnessed over the past few years are but a symptom of a deeper American problem” (Hill, 2016, p. xx). The contradiction is that he foregrounds race in order to situate deeper systemic issues; his arguments shed light on the persistent racial antagonism backed by America’s social structures. Thus, although the issues go deeper than race, the elimination of certain undesirables is most definitely motivated by skin color; it is not a symptom, but the sickness.
reader time to shift with him. Some of these segues seem to be present to allow for the reader to experience catharsis from a solemn piece of information, like when he switches to the optimism associated with the 1950s after World War II right after leaving a story about how Michael Brown’s face went blank after being shot in the middle of the street (Hill, 2016). During other progressions, however, Hill shifts to a topic that is related in theme, but does not show the reader how they are related until later in the section. It is not difficult to see how the sections correlate, but the organization of some material could have been shifted to allow for a better flow in reading, and the use of transitions would assist the reader in the movement from one point to the next.
Further contradiction occurs in his appeal to members of various marginalized groups – immigrant, queer, trans, and poor people. He says that all of these citizens are included in the group of the vulnerable, but he focuses more on Black stories than those of the others. Although the Black Lives Matter movement is important to the progression of society, the book’s overall impact is diluted by his pandering to other groups in order to promote readership by a wider audience. He discusses a few token figures to ensure that all of the members noted in his preface are present, but they are not equally developed as major factors in his analysis of society. I understand that in order to create a book that addresses all of the nation’s troubles in regards to the vulnerable would be more of an anthology than a short, non-fiction text, but if race is going to undergird the argument, then it should be brought to the forefront. If his goal was to address all of the vulnerable - regardless of race, gender, sexuality, and income - their stories should not be relatively nonexistent in comparison. To superficially mention other vulnerable people and minimize their stories by not giving them as much attention perpetuates the idea of “nobody” within a book that is supposed to make us start recognizing these people and their situations. The only other issue is in the constant switching of ideas within the chapters. Each section is created to investigate a societal or political institution that has a reputation for marginalizing people, and because each section is wrought with information, it seems as though there are moments where Hill transitions to a related, yet alternate idea without allowing the
Although this book has some issues in reference to shifts and the lack of equal representation of the vulnerable, Hill does a great job in creating a book that can possibly open the lines of communication between people of all places in the social and political hierarchy. He avoids combatant speech because he understands the need for dialogue in the healing of national wounds. Every person is vulnerable in some way, and it is difficult for those that have higher cultural capital (Edwards, 2002) to understand some of the issues faced by those who do not have similar resources. In an effort to change the lack of understanding, teachers who aim to incorporate social justice pedagogies in their classrooms must help students to become cognizant of how measures of diversity can limit a group’s access to various American institutions (Schieble, 2012). There are students in classrooms who are considered to be “nobodies,” and it is imperative for teachers of all subjects to understand some of the systemic issues that affect them. If educators use this book as a starting point for change and discussion in the classroom, it can create a safe space for those students who do not feel acknowledged beyond the classroom walls. Beginning to create these spaces for intellectual discourse about what it means to be a “nobody” and how people become categorized as “nobodies” allows for people to be transformed into somebodies.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2â€”Fall 2016 This book is an essential primer to elicit discussion about the systemic race issues in society that affect a great number of people. Because of this, I would recommend this book to anyone who wants information regarding the social invisibility and denigration of people often overlooked. I would recommend this book to anyone who wishes to take part in the conversation on race that the reading elicits. I would recommend this book to anyone who does not want to be a bystander in social action and justice.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 References Edwards, T. (2002). A remarkable sociological imagination. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 23, 527–535. Schieble, M. (2012). Critical conversations on whiteness with young adult literature. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 56(3), 212–221.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2â€”Fall 2016
Review of Research-Based Practices for Teaching Common Core Literacy Reviewer: Courtney Shimek The University of Georgia, Athens, GA
Pearson, P. D., & Hiebert, E. H. (Eds.). (2015). Research-based practices for teaching Common Core literacy. New York, NY: Teachers College Press. ISBN: 978-1425805548
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 While current shifts in education emphasize positivistic practices such as standardized testing, Common Core State Standards, and scripted literacy programs, educational leaders are left wondering how these practices fit into the well established field of literacy research. Research-Based Practices for the Teaching Common Core Literacy (Pearson & Hiebert, 2015) assembles 14 chapters from prolific researchers across the field of literacy education to provide an overview of the past 50 years of literacy research, analyze the ways in which the Common Core Standards support or contradict this research, and discuss implications for teachers, teacher educators, and researchers. As stated in their forward, Pearson and Hiebert’s (2015) hope for this text is to “summarize and curate knowledge in our field,” provide a “context for learning and reflection,” and “inspire others to continue [the] tradition of curating knowledge” (p. xii). The chapters are divided into three aspects of literacy research: frameworks, content, and context. This review follows the outline of the book and provides a brief overview of each chapter, followed by a critique of the overall text.
In Chapter 2, Kapinus and Long (2015) provide an extensive history of the educational policies that have shaped literacy education in the U.S. from 1965 to today, including an overview of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Reading Excellence Act, No Child Left Behind, and the CCSS. This chapter specifically addresses the ways in which assessment has been adjusted by federal policy and provides some critical thoughts for the future including current challenges and frustrations with policy.
Part I: Processes and Frameworks
Kamil (2015) continues the analysis of CCSS by applying some of the models discussed in Chapter 1 as they relate to current educational policies. In reviewing the numerous literacy models that have been adapted over the years, concepts such as decoding, automaticity, and balanced literacies are explored, specifically with the Common Core Standards in mind. Kamil (2015) articulates the numerous strengths of the CCSS for current literacy teachers, but also discusses the limitations and ways in which they can be improved upon. The chapter finishes with a discussion of implications for teachers and exposes which models CCSS specifically rely upon.
Pearson and Cervetti (2015) begin by providing a history of reading comprehension that includes theoretical perspectives from Thorndike (1910), Gardner (1985), Rosenblatt (1968), Harste, Woodward and Burke (1984), and Vygotsky (1978) to name a few. Thus, the reader gets a taste of theoretical frameworks such as connectionism, multiple intelligences, reader response, critical literacy, and sociocultural theory. Explanations of particular models such as the RAND Model (2002) and the framework developed by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAGB, 2008) are described, and the influence of these models on the development of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are brought to light. The chapter concludes with predictions about future literacy frameworks, as well as implications for schools and classrooms.
Finally, Horowitz (2015) completes the first section by emphasizing the importance, and often overlooked significance, of oral language in the development of literacy skills. The overview of research includes the work of Bernstein (1971), Heath (1982), Hart and Risley (1995), and many others. These theoretical perspectives analyze the differences in language across multiple economic environments. Throughout the chapter, Horowitz (2015) discusses the implications of oral language in listening and reading comprehension, the connection between academic language and school success, the role of argumentation in literacy, and the importance of talking about texts as a part of comprehension. The chapter ends with a discussion of how to apply the CCSS through an oral language perspective, and details both successes and shortcomings within the standards.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 Part II: The Content of Literacy Instruction
these skills to the CCSS, which target distinct goals and add complexities year after year.
Chapters 5 through 10 begin with Williams’ (2015) perspective on reading comprehension, which addresses the progression of comprehension theories over time from information processing through reader response theory. The CCSS address reading comprehension and critical thinking more than any other standards have before, but challenges still exist for schools, such as the introduction of more complex texts for students already by struggling to read and the emphasis on close reading. Williams (2015) provides helpful recommendations for teachers, including focusing on themes, helping students identify different text structures, and emphasizing comprehension from the very beginning of reading instruction.
Chapter 8 discusses the significance of vocabulary development and how this connects to college and career readiness, the primary goal of the CCSS. Graves (2015) analyzes what has been learned about vocabulary development over the past 50 years, describes how this knowledge has shaped current practices, and argues how these practices could better reflect what we know. The four-part framework employed by Graves (2015) encourages teachers to provide rich language experiences for students, focus on individual words, teach wordlearning strategies, and foster word consciousness. This chapter recognizes the current challenges with vocabulary instruction in classrooms and in doing research, but calls on the educational community to continue to learn about and foster extensive vocabularies in students.
Blanchard and Samuels (2015) take Williams’ (2015) work one step further by considering the multiple resources from which the CCSS require students to make connections. Although the concept of multiple-source reading comprehension is not a novel approach to teaching, the CCSS are the first set of standards to include the comprehension of multiple “texts” throughout all grade levels. Blanchard and Samuels (2015) specifically address the reading, writing, and speaking/listening standards of elementary, middle, and high school students, and provide sample assessment practices for each age group, which could be helpful to teachers, teacher educators, and administrators alike. They conclude with a constructivist theoretical perspective and implore educators to consider the many sources students can gain information from beyond books.
In Chapter 9, Rasinski, Paige, and Nageldinger (2015) argue for the inclusion of reading fluency as an integral component to any literacy curriculum. After a literature review demonstrating what fluency is according to researchers, discussions as to why fluency is often neglected and when fluency should be taught are suggested. Rasinski, Paige, and Nageldinger (2015) propose “promising practices” for teaching fluency including modeling, assisted reading, and phrasing to name a few (p. 148). Finally, the chapter is summed up with how to assess fluency and considerations for the classroom. Allington, Billen, and McCuiston (2015) address current research on reading volume and how CCSS may impact the amount of material students are reading. Although research shows the value of independent sustained reading in the classroom, due to the vast amount of information teachers are required to cover with limited instructional time, many classrooms do not provide students with adequate time to participate in reading. Allington, Billen, and McCuiston (2015) point to the CCSS’s neglect of the connection between reading proficiently and sustained reading practices. This
Guthrie’s (2015) chapter takes a look at the cognitive capabilities and motivations of students in grades 3, 5, and 7, in order to break down appropriate goals for each developmental benchmark and focus on which skills are most beneficial for students to develop based on current research. In addition to narrowing in on each of the aforementioned grade levels, Guthrie (2015) also examines the progressions of cognition and motivation over time and connects
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 chapter addresses the reading foundations, text selection, and tasks for all grade levels, and recommends practices which encourage students to read larger volumes of materials.
which reading is taught are provided at the end of the chapter. The final chapter of the book investigates the concept of trust with regard to both teachers and educational programs. After analyzing the history of trust in education throughout five different contexts, Hoffman and Pearson (2015) argue that although the debate has historically posited trusting teachers or programs opposite each other, perhaps the field of education should trust both teachers and programs equally. In the end, Hoffman and Pearson (2015) express frustration with the current accountability measures and the lack of improvement they have witnessed over the past 30 years, but are hopeful that the next generation can design a new way of doing school, which involves trusting teachers as well as programs to continue to make progress in the field of literacy.
Part II finishes with a look at formative assessments from Calfree, Kapunis, and Wilson (2015), who argue that formative assessments are an integral component to best using the CCSS, when used thoughtfully and purposefully. A model is presented which unites an inquiry-based approach and formative assessment and can be applied in four different ways throughout the school year: moment by moment, daily or weekly, throughout a unit, or at the end of a quarter or year. Calfree, Kapunis, and Wilson (2015) remind readers that formative assessments are much more involved than tests and are continuous and cyclical in nature for any learner. Part III: The Context of Literacy Instruction
Critical Review Taylor (2015) begins the last section by presenting research on school-wide reforms that focus on student’s literacy abilities and closing the achievement gap. In addition to providing an overview of current initiatives in schools, Taylor (2015) focuses most on practices that can be adopted school-wide that foster literacy and effective teaching of reading. She particularly addresses strategies high-poverty schools should employ such as consistent use of data on student performance and strong teacher collaboration, and goes onto describe ways in which administrations can support both the larger organization of the school and individual teachers.
“At this time of major transition, we, as reading researchers and educators, should make sure that we do not discard ideas and practices that have, in fact, been effective” (Williams, 2015, p. 84). This book achieves what the authors set out to do, which is to present a condensed history of literacy education, and integrate what research has shown to be effective with the Common Core State Standards. This book touched on many of the literacy concepts, theories, and debates that continue to circulate around reading education classes and programs, and overall is a great introduction to the field. As a former Early Childhood education teacher, a current instructor of Reading Instruction and Assessments for pre-service teachers, and a reading education researcher, I found this book to be useful for budding teachers trying to grasp the relationship between standards and research, and researchers who may not have personally experienced Common Core State Standards.
Chapter 13 address the ways in which texts used in reading instruction have changed over time and have adapted based on differing theoretical frameworks, federal policies, and teaching practices. Hiebert and Martin (2015) provide a compelling comparison of texts from 1968 and 2008 and demonstrate how the expectations for beginning readers has increased in complexity over time, which is supported by the CCSS. Suggestions for teachers both in selecting texts and in the ways in
However, although this book was informative, it read like a textbook and was not as user-friendly as it could be. Many of the chapters seemed to stem
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2â€”Fall 2016 from an educational psychology background, and did not address the overall intricacies within the field of teaching one would expect. For example, the use of literacy instruction in combination with other subject areas and how to establish literacy practices in a classroom were both ignored. The book is a useful introduction; however, due to the limited space allotted for each chapter, it felt as if many areas were discussed broadly, but some of the nuances and complexities were ignored. Topics that might interest teachers in particular such as literacy practices with students who have limited-English proficiency, or who have learning disabilities were neglected, and literacy practices for high-poverty schools were only addressed in one chapter.
not more, to the outcomes of literacy learning. Research-Based Practices for Teaching Common Core Literacy (Pearson & Hiebert, 2015) provides essential pieces of information, which are helpful in developing literacy practices, but ignore some of the other pieces which make up the larger puzzle of learning to read, write, and communicate.
The audience of this book was challenging to determine; it seems as if this book was written with teacher educators, researchers, and administrators in mind more than teachers, as often the implications for the classroom or the literacy practices proposed were brief and provided little detail. Also, as the book was published in 2015, some of the chapters felt a bit dated and less novel. Some states implemented the CCSS in 2011, and as such have already negotiated for themselves how these standards fit into the research of literacy practices. Teachers are living the dilemma presented in this book everyday, but many have already developed literacy practices that work well for them as they have been integrating the CCSS for five years. This book is a great resource for anyone who is still a bit unfamiliar with the CCSS, but may not be relevant to teachers already using these standards. Overall, this book provides a useful overview, but fails to consider the dilemmas everyday literacy teachers are feeling in the classroom. The theorists, books, and models referenced are worth knowing, and the extensive bibliographies at the end of each chapter are useful resources in and of themselves. Although there is a well-developed history and a wide variety of information on literacy education provided in this book, educators have to remember that literacy practices take place in a larger context, and that these contexts contribute just as much, if
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 References Allington, R. L., Billen, M. T., & McCuiston, K. (2015). The potential impact of the Common Core State Standards on reading volume. In Pearson, P. D., & Hiebert, E. H. (Eds.), Research-based practices for teaching Common Core literacy (pp. 161-178). New York, NY: Teachers College Press. Bernstein, B. (1971). Class, codes and control (Vol. 1). London, UK: Routledge & Kegan Paul. Blanchard, J. S. & Samuels, S. J. (2015). Common Core State Standards and multiple-source reading comprehension. In Pearson, P. D., & Hiebert, E. H. (Eds.), Research-based practices for teaching Common Core literacy (pp. 93-106). New York, NY: Teachers College Press. Calfee, R., Kapinus, B., & Wilson, K. M. (2015). Formative assessment: An evolution or revolution for classroom teachers? In Pearson, P. D., & Hiebert, E. H. (Eds.), Research-based practices for teaching Common Core literacy (pp. 179-200). New York, NY: Teachers College Press. Gardner, H. (2008). The mind’s new science: A history of the cognitive revolution. New York, NY: Basic Books. Graves, M. F. (2015). Building a vocabulary program that really could make a significant contribution to students becoming college and career ready. In Pearson, P. D., & Hiebert, E. H. (Eds.). Research-based practices for teaching Common Core literacy (pp. 123-142). New York, NY: Teachers College Press. Guthrie, J. T. (2015). Growth of motivations for cognitive processes of reading. In Pearson, P. D., & Hiebert, E. H. (Eds.). Research-based practices for teaching Common Core literacy (pp. 107-122). New York, NY: Teachers College Press. Harste, J. C., Woodward, V. A., & Burke, C. L. (1984). Language stories & literacy lessons. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Hart, B., & Risley, T. R. (1995). Meaningful differences in the everyday experience of young American children. Baltimore, MD: Paul H Brookes Publishing. Heath, S. B. (1982). What no bedtime story means: Narrative skills at home and school. Language In Society, 11(01), 49–76. Hiebert, E. H., & Martin, L. A. (2015). Changes in the texts of reading instruction during the past 50 years. In Pearson, P. D., & Hiebert, E. H. (Eds.), Research-based practices for teaching Common Core literacy (pp. 212-237). New York, NY: Teachers College Press. Hoffman, J. V., & Pearson, P. D. (2015). Teachers or programs? A historical perspective on where trust is placed in teaching reading. In Pearson, P. D., & Hiebert, E. H. (Eds.). Research-based practices for teaching Common Core literacy (pp. 237-258). New York, NY: Teachers College Press. Horowitz, R. (2015). Oral language: The genesis and development of literacy for schooling and everyday life. In Pearson, P. D., & Hiebert, E. H. (Eds.), Research-based practices for teaching Common Core literacy (pp. 57-78). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 Kamil, M. L. (2015). Relevance of models of reading for Common Core State Standards. In Pearson, P. D., & Hiebert, E. H. (Eds.). Research-based practices for teaching Common Core literacy (pp. 41-56). New York, NY: Teachers College Press. Kapinus, B., & Long, R. (2015). The use of research in federal literacy policies. In Pearson, P. D., & Hiebert, E. H. (Eds.), Research-based practices for teaching Common Core literacy (pp. 25-41). New York, NY: Teachers College Press. National Assessment Governing Board. (2008). Reading framework for the 2009 national assessment of educational progress. Washington, DC: US Department of Education. Pearson, P. D., & Cervetti, G. N. (2015). Fifty years of reading comprehension theory and practice. In Pearson, P. D., & Hiebert, E. H. (Eds.), Research-based practices for teaching Common Core literacy (pp. 1-24). New York, NY: Teachers College Press. RAND Reading Study Group. (2002). Reading for understanding: Toward an R&D program in reading comprehension. Santa Monica, CA: RAND. Rasinski, T., Paige, D., & Nageldinger, J. (2015). Reading fluency: Neglected, misunderstood, but still critical for proficient reading. In Pearson, P. D., & Hiebert, E. H. (Eds.), Research-based practices for teaching Common Core literacy (pp. 143-160). New York, NY: Teachers College Press. Rosenblatt, L. M. (1968). Literature as exploration (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Noble & Noble. Taylor, B. M. (2015). Grounding Common Core teaching in proven practices: Schoolwide efforts to “close the achievement gap.” In Pearson, P. D., & Hiebert, E. H. (Eds.), Research-based practices for teaching Common Core literacy (pp. 201-215). New York, NY: Teachers College Press. Thorndike, E. L. (1910). The contribution of psychology to education. Journal of Educational Psychology, 1(1), 5-12. Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind in society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Williams, J. P. (2015). Reading comprehension instruction: Moving into a new era. In Pearson, P. D., & Hiebert, E. H. (Eds.), Research-based practices for teaching Common Core literacy (pp. 79-93). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2â€”Fall 2016
Review of Focus on Literacy Reviewer: Rhia Moreno-Kilpatrick The University of Georgia, Athens, GA
Fu, D. & Matoush, M. (2015). Focus on literacy. Oxford key concepts for the language classroom. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. ISBN: 978-0-19-400086-4
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 In Focus on Literacy, Fu and Matoush (2015) present a new volume in Lightbown and Spada’s Oxford Key Concepts for the Language Classroom series. Intended for practitioners, this 2015 book discusses teaching second–language (L2) literacy in the 21stcentury. Literacy as a concept is no longer limited to the traditional printed format. Instead, it has moved beyond the text to include the various modes of communication presented through technology, languages, signs, and various settings. Digital platforms such as Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram foster new forms of expression and transnational connection while texting, tweeting, and even blogging also contribute to the term of multiliteracies. Fu and Matoush define multiliteracies as “literacy activity that involves any complex combination of multiple modes, multiple languages, multiple platforms (means of delivery), multiple sign-systems, and/or multiple perspectives in multiple social contexts and landscapes” (p. 125). The authors explain the importance of understanding multiliteracies in our highly globalized world as they affect how language learners develop.
Students are coming to the language classroom with different needs, capabilities, and goals than their predecessors. Fu and Matoush stress that educators can no longer just teach the target language; they must consider how to do so with the new understanding of a multiliterate communicative competence as a way to connect language learners across communities and modes. This slim and easy-to-read volume provides second language educators with a plan of not only how to understand 21st-century language learners, but also how to teach, support, and empower them as multilingual and transnational students. While Focus on Literacy is addressed directly to teachers of young and adolescent learners of English as a second or foreign language, the volume is also of interest to anyone working in the wider field of language education and is easily adaptable to a variety of instructional settings. As a collegiate foreign language instructor, I found the text insightful and had little issue applying the content to fit my own experiences. Fu and Matoush support this adaptability by supplying various “Classroom Snapshots.” These vignettes capture the essence of the content with real world examples and I would argue that anyone who has ever taught can relate either through direct, indirect, or even imagined experiences.
Fu and Matoush strive to address the critical point that many teachers have been trained to teach second language learners through a pedagogical approach no longer relevant in our current age. Too many educators are not versed in instructional strategies that will support the development of 21stcentury multiliterate and transnational students (p. 17). Globalization and technology have changed the face of education and the literacy goals of the classroom. Fu and Matoush add,
Fu and Matoush have taken care to create a text accessible to practitioners, but based in research. The combination of the two—often divided—camps, is refreshing and pleasant to read. The authors break up the text with interactive activity boxes for participatory application of the content and reflexive practice. New terminology is bolded and presented clearly within the text with an additional definition in the included glossary. “Spotlight Studies” are also interwoven throughout the volume, giving contextual support from recent research in the field.
In the course of reading and writing multimodal texts, L2 learners can connect with people all over the world and build their literate lives and identities as transnational citizens as they learn to make flexible use of 21st-century multiliteracies for their own social and academic purposes. (p. 103)
Chapter 1: Communicative Competence: Literacy for the 21st Century
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 Fu and Matoush frame Chapter 1 around “languaging-as-thinking,” a perspective they use and connect to Vygotsky’s (1978) research on language as a means for thinking. The authors describe their framework as “doing language, literacy, and learning while being and becoming” (p. 14). Languaging-asthinking provides a foundation for the concepts discussed in the book: L2 learners develop their language by ‘doing’ and in the process become multiliterate. Fu and Matoush use Chapter 1 to describe how contemporary language learners are seeking a greater level of communicative competence across borders in our increasingly globalized world. The authors discuss the rise of English as the lingua franca and the continual development of digital communication platforms in terms of how that impacts English language learners. With this in mind, it is emphasized that teachers need to shift from only teaching the linguistic functions of language to actually using it in as many modes as possible for authentic communication. Chapter 1 successfully captures the reader’s attention, bringing awareness to the importance of reevaluating and supporting the needs of L2 learners.
job to help pay the bills, and repair his own car in order to get to work (p. 33). The teacher that was able to best support the student was the one who developed literacy learning around these topics. Fu and Matoush add, “The goal of supporting students as they attempt to integrate household knowledge with academic knowledge makes sense in terms of supporting meaningful connection making” (p. 33). By doing so, L2 literacy learners make these connections through doing and through languagingas-thinking. Additionally, the authors note the importance of including the home language with L2 learning. They draw upon Moll, Amanti, Neff, and Gonzalez’s (1992) concept of ‘funds of knowledge,’ which Moll et al. define as “historically accumulated and culturally developed bodies of knowledge and skills essential for household or individual functioning and well-being” (p. 133). Much like capitalizing on a student’s funds of knowledge, so too should teachers incorporate the learner’s home language/s into the L2 learning experience to increase potential for meaning-making. Fu and Matoush introduce and define numerous terms used in the field such as Garcia’s (2009) ‘translanguaging,’ which refers to how multilinguals move back and forth between language to create meaning or Siegal’s (1995) research into ‘transmediation,’ which involves the meaning derived from translation of one system or mode to another. Crossover between modes, systems, and languages aids students in their “cognitive or inter-representational flexibility” (Fu & Matoush, 2015, p. 127). The authors argue that by understanding and building upon the hybrid relationship between an individual’s various identities, teachers will better support meaningmaking in the L2.
Chapter 2: Empowering L2-Literacy Learners In Chapter 2, Fu and Matoush turn the focus more specifically to L2 literacy learners and how teachers can help their development as multilingual and multiliterate communicators while also encouraging their transnational identities. Using vignettes of individual cases to represent the consideration of transnational identities, the authors explain how L2 learners move back and forth between social contexts that tend to straddle national boundaries. They discuss how all learners have numerous cultural, social, and linguistic experiences that inform their L2 identity. It is impossible to separate these experiences and knowledge from their learning and teachers should instead incorporate them into the learning process. One spotlight study, for example, discusses a refugee high school student who has to take care of his younger brother, work a
Chapter 3: Literacy Development for Young L2 Learners Chapters 3 and 4 concentrate on instructional techniques. Despite the focus on practice in these chapters, the authors seamlessly continue to
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 integrate research into the teaching points, nicely bridging the gap between praxis and theory. Chapter 3 introduces emergent bilinguals and how to encourage and support their biliteracy development. Fu and Matoush dedicate an early section of this chapter to patterned reading and writing giving example after example of how teachers have used patterned language and repetition as the basis for L2 emergent literacy.
learners. Fu and Matoush refer specifically to English language learners (ELLs) who enter the English language school setting as an adolescent. In addition to having to assimilate into L1 schooling and be evaluated at the same level of their L1 peers, each L2 student comes to the system with varying levels of literacy and language skills. Teachers are often not prepared to teach their content-area classes with ELLs in mind. Fu and Matoush reference Garcia’s (1999) study on ELLs in New York City as they advocate for the combination of integrated instruction and differentiated literacy instruction (p. 81). They use classroom snapshots and spotlight studies to showcase various ways of approaching this. The authors present teachers with numerous ideas for innovative instructional techniques. They give examples of how to thematically connect content and L2 literacy in schools, how to incorporate writing-process instruction, how to teach crossover literacy strategies, and how to introduce vocabulary embedded in reading and writing rather than in isolation.
The authors also express the importance of including reading and writing in the L2 classroom and provide a flexible lesson plan breakdown to show teachers how they can incorporate the two into their classroom schedule. Fu and Matoush stress the inclusion of the students’ funds of knowledge into literacy activities and explain that the incorporation of personal experiences through various modes such as journaling, drama, art, and digital media creates authenticity. Furthermore, the authors add that the multimodal approach encourages language ‘doing’ and allows students to actively use the L2 in line with the concept of ‘languaging-as-thinking’ rather than from a passive stance. Fu and Matoush underline the gravity of providing meaningful engagement within literacy activities for student success and suggest restructuring class time in order to do so. The authors give multiple examples (p. 59) of how to better engage and capture the voice of students in literacy learning by incorporating their experiences and interests into the activity. In one example, young students created their own poetic versions of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (Martin & Carle, 1967) as an activity that draws upon pattern book knowledge, but gives students the opportunity to showcase their own interests and experiences.
Fu and Matoush finish off the instructional-based chapter with a return to the focus on 21st-century multiliteracies, suggesting the use of digital platforms for activities such as online storytelling and building classroom websites. The authors declare that, “An understanding of L2 learners as 21st-century learners will lead teachers to use computer-mediated or other multimodal activities in our languaging-as-thinking classrooms to engage and empower L2 learners…” (p. 103). Teachers who recognize the importance of enabling L2 learners and who provide languaging-as-thinking multimodal activities will foster their L2 development.
Chapter 4: Literacy Development for L2 Adolescent Learners
Chapter 5: Second-language Literacy Instruction: What We Know Now
Although similar to the instructional purpose of Chapter 3, Chapter 4 discusses the importance of understanding the challenges faced by L2 adolescent
The final chapter serves as a summary of what has been learned in the process of reading this instructional guide. The necessity for continual
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 teacher professional development based in research is repeatedly emphasized. Whereas theory and praxis have often been separated, Fu and Matoush explain to readers why the two are indeed interlaced. Throughout the entire volume, the authors base their statements and suggestions in research and they conclude with a straightforward connection between teaching and teacher research.
Imagine the historical moment when National Council of Teachers of English is renamed to replace English with Languaging, or Languaging Arts, or Meaning. The National Council of Teachers of Languaging Arts… Imagine all the languages valued equally, multiple scripts and media used routinely, and new genres flourishing in ways that recreate institutional and disciplinary contexts. You may say I am a dreamer. But I’m not the only one. (p. 236)
Conclusion At only 128 pages, including a reading resource section and glossary, Focus on Literacy is a concise, but cogent guide for second language education. As mentioned above, the issues presented are often prevalent in any language classroom and can be adapted to various levels despite the concentration on young and adolescent L2 learners. However, Fu and Matoush oscillate in their use of the term L2 learners. At times L2 learners seems to encompass all learners of a second language, whereas in others, the term is specific only to ELLs or EFLs (English Language Learners as a Foreign Language). In the introduction, the authors explain the intent of the book: “It is written primarily for teachers and future teachers of children and adolescents who are developing literacy in second or foreign language classrooms” (p. 1). Indeed, most of the content presented is relevant for all L2 learners. Yet, the authors more often than not, refine the term to just those learning English.
That is not to say that the particular needs of ELLs and EFLs should be ignored. Perhaps a better solution for this volume would have been to dedicate specific chapters or sections to ELLs and EFLs or to clearly state the intention of the book as one for English language learners from the start. Despite this critique, any language instructor will benefit from reading this book. Fu and Matoush have created an accessible text, easily adapted to a myriad of classrooms and teachers. Focus on Literacy deserves a spot on any language educator’s shelf.
Fu and Matoush speak of the “hegemony associated with the dominance of English” (p. 29), and I found it surprising that the book still catered to it. I argue that Fu and Matoush could have better supported their theme of transnationalism and globalism had the book been framed for language learners in general or been more clear on the definition of language learners. Cushman (2016) spoke directly to this concept and the need to insert the more generalized term of language rather than continuing to rely on English as the common language. She stated:
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2â€”Fall 2016 References Cushman, E. (2016). Translingual and decolonial approaches to meaning making. College English, 78(3), 234â€“ 242. Garcia, O. (1999). Educating Latino high school students with little formal education. In C. Faltis & P. Wolfe (Eds.), So much to say: Adolescents, bilingualism & ESL in the secondary school (pp. 61-82). New York, NY: Teachers College Press. Garcia, O. (2009). Bilingual education in the 21st century: A global perspective. Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell. Martin, B. Jr. & Carle, E. (1967). Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see? New York, NY: Macmillan. Moll, L. C., Amanit, C., Neff, D., & Gonzalez, N. (1992) Funds of knowledge for teaching: Using a qualitative approach to connect homes and classrooms. Theory into Practice, 31(2), 132-141. Siegal, M. (1995). More than words: The generative power of transmediation for learning. Canadian Journal of Education, 20, 455-475. Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Journal of Education, 20, 455-475.
Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016
Review of Engaging Writers with Multigenre Research Projects: A Teacher’s Guide Reviewer: Jessica F. Kobe The University of Georgia, Athens, GA
Mack, N. (2015). Engaging writers with multigenre research projects: A teacher’s guide. 1- 128. New York, NY: Teachers College Press. ISBN: 978-0807756850
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 Are you a teacher or a teacher educator? Are you committed to providing student writers with opportunities to do research? Are you interested in refining your capacity to help students produce compelling pieces about interesting topics? If so, you should check out Nancy Mack’s (2015) book: Engaging Writers with Multigenre Research Projects. She offers her readers an engaging and rigorous alternative to the traditional essay-based research projects educators often assign. She argues, like their more traditional counterparts, multigenre research projects require writers to: do extensive research, build a works cited page, and synthesize information across various sources. But, she continues, they also differ in important ways. Traditional projects are teacher-centered and skillsbased; teachers expect students to produce a standard essay that includes an introduction, three to five supporting paragraphs, and a conclusion. In contrast, multigenre folklore projects are studentcentered and process-focused. Since students weave their insights into a coherent story, every writer generates a unique and creative product that highlights their strengths. Mack begins by acquainting her readers with the definition, purpose, and potential of having students engage in multigenre research work (Romano, 1995, 2000, 2013) about folklore topics of their choice. Mack explains that these kinds of projects require writers to: supplement and juxtapose archived textual sources with interviews conducted with family and community members who have firstperson experiences with the topics being investigated. Writers then communicate the multifaceted knowledge they have acquired through carefully selected genres and graphics. Building the report from real-life genres invites students to use their individual strengths with graphics, media, music, and art and challenges them to master unfamiliar genres (p. 1). Put differently, when
student writers engage in this kind of work they are empowered to creatively author captivating texts about topics they find interesting. And while they are engaged in the process, they have opportunities to expand their research and writing skills. Mack terms these kinds of projects multigenre folklore research projects. In order to understand how Mack conceives of multigenre folklore research projects, it is important to understand how she defines “multigenre research” and “folklore.” Mack explains that Tom Romano’s (1995, 2000, 2013) work on multigenre research writing inspired her to integrate this kind of writing into her curriculum. This format provides students with opportunities to decide what to include in their reports and how to share what they are learning with others. They choose their topics, select genres that will help them convey particular perspectives, and weave their pieces together into a multidimensional yet coherent story. Mack defines folklore by breaking the word into its respective parts. She explains, “Folk refers to common people and their traditions or customs” and “Lore refers to the stories and information shared from person to person” (p. 13). In essence, folklore topics are those which can be directly connected to people’s lived experiences (see chapter one for list of topics). Mack argues that when students have opportunities to inquire into folklore topics they are challenged to document people’s everyday lives and consider how the information they gather informs their understanding of their topic. Instead of relying solely on texts written by experts, students seek out first-hand accounts related to their topic of inquiry. As a result, students develop a deeper yet more nuanced understanding of their topic. In turn, this challenges students to (re)consider how they define expertise, where they seek out information, and how they judge the
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 reliability of sources. Since students are interacting face-to-face with members of their family and community, they must contemplate how they can ethically and accurately represent people’s lived experiences in their project.
topics, acquire important research skills, explore the potentials of various genres and literary devices, and create multimodal, multigenre representations of what they learned that they are eager to share with others. Following a brief introduction, each chapter is divided into four sections: “motivators and inspirations”, “minilessons,” “more strategies and activities,” and “tips and resources.” Many of the resources she references are housed on her companion website. Whenever possible, she describes how other educators and scholars have facilitated similar work with student writers. This format makes it possible for interested readers to easily locate the resources they need to design lessons and units for their students.
In an attempt to make sure that the multigenre folklore research projects that she assigns live up to their potential, she foregrounds the following commitments. First, she invites students to research topics that are in some way connected to their lived experiences. She argues that when student interest is high, it is likely they will put forth the effort necessary to produce high quality work and ultimately expand their research and writing skills. Second, she challenges students to consult numerous primary and secondary sources. She always requires them to design and conduct a research interview with a real person because, “Knowledge from a real person is more immediate, emotional and tangible for writers” (p. 4). Lastly she requires students to produce creative, multimodal, multigenre projects that showcase their strengths and insights. When students have opportunities to make decisions about how to creatively publish their work, they are more likely to produce projects that they are proud to share with their friends, family, and community.
Mack concludes her book by reminding her readers that the comprehensive yet flexible framework she introduces can be adapted to fit various contexts. She provides specific examples of how some of her former students have facilitated multigenre research projects in their 6-12 classrooms. She also includes examples of how college professors who work with undergraduate and graduate students across disciplines have integrated multigenre research projects into their classes. Although Mack describes many settings within which multigenre folklore research projects can be produced, a discussion about how elementary-aged students might do so is conspicuously absent. While Mack alludes to the fact that this kind of work can be done in elementary school settings, she attends most closely to how college professors, teacher educators, and 6-12 teachers might facilitate multigenre folklore work with student writers. For instance, at the end of her book Mack includes a table that helps teachers recognize the ways the lessons and activities she describes in her book align with the 6-12 Common Core State Standards. Since she did not include the K-5 Standards, it is harder
At the end of her introduction, Mack invites educators to imagine how they might integrate multigenre folklore research work into their school or community-based settings. In the next nine chapters, Mack calls on her experience facilitating multigenre folklore work with various groups of writers specifically referencing her experiences with secondary students, pre-service and in-service teachers, and male prison inmates. She highlights the important role educators play in the research, writing, and publication process. She explicitly addresses how teachers can help writers: select
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 for elementary school teachers to make similar connections.
educators might have difficulty defending their decision to integrate multigenre research projects into their curriculum. Hence, the part of Mack’s text that I appreciate the most is the way she helps teachers imagine how they can facilitate opportunities for student writers to engage in meaningful, authentic, rigorous work in standardsbased, performance-driven environments. Over and over again she illustrates how producing multigenre research projects will first and foremost benefit student writers. At the same time, she acknowledges that most teachers are given a curriculum and set of standards that they must follow. Mack helps educators see how assigning multigenre folklore research projects enables them to make curricular decisions that reflect their students’ needs and interests without neglecting the knowledge, skills, and dispositions prescribed in the standards.
Her inattention to elementary-aged students could be read to suggest that young children are not old enough or skilled enough to engage in this kind of authentic and rigorous work (Lee & Vagle, 2010). As a result, young children may miss out on the powerful experience of producing multigenre folklore research projects about topics of their choice. As a former elementary school teacher, I would argue that young children are capable of producing multigenre folklore research projects and thus Mack’s work is applicable to elementary school teachers. Interested teachers could look to scholars including Lucy Calkins (2003) and Katie Wood Ray (2004, 2006) who write about facilitating authentic writing work with young children to adapt Mack’s ideas to fit the elementary context.
As is evident in my review, Mack’s book has the potential to reach many audiences. Whether you are a K-12 teacher, teacher educator, or researcher this book may be of interest to you. By highlighting the benefits and challenges of doing multigenre folklore research with diverse groups of writers, Mack helps her readers anticipate the successes and struggles they might face. The comprehensive set of activities, tips, and strategies that she integrates throughout her text, provides readers with the resources necessary to launch multigenre folklore research projects in their contexts. She articulates how she has adjusted her practice in response to the needs and interests of the writers with whom she works, inviting her readers to do the same. All educators, novice and veteran alike, who ask students to produce research projects would benefit from reading Nancy Mack’s book, Engaging Writers with Multigenre Research Projects.
Researchers might also find this text helpful, especially those who are committed to doing participatory research. When researchers invite participants to play an active role in the research process, they are typically interested in accessing their participants’ perspectives and experiences. Since they understand research to be a responsibility rather than a recipe (Dillard, 2000), they carefully consider how they invite such participation. They are apt to privilege methods that not only shed light on their research questions, but also ones that will likely influence their participants’ lives in positive ways. Whether working with children, adolescents, or adults, giving participants the opportunity to produce multigenre folklore research projects enables researchers to do both. As a former teacher and current graduate student teaching assistant at a large university in the southeastern United States, I recognize that
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2â€”Fall 2016 References Calkins, L. (2003). Units of study for primary writing: A yearlong curriculum. Portsmouth, NH: FirstHand. Dillard, C. B. (2000). The substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen: Examining an endarkened feminist epistemology in education research and leadership. Qualitative Studies in Education, 13(6), 661-681. Lee, K. & Vagle, M. D. (Eds.). (2010). Developmentalism in early childhood and middle grades education: Critical conversations on readiness and responsiveness. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. Ray, K. W. (2004). About the authors: Writing workshop with our youngest writers. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Ray, K. W. (2006). Study driven: A framework for planning units of study in the writing workshop. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Romano, T. (1995). Writing with passion: Life stories, multiple genres. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook. Romano, T. (2000). Blending genre, altering style: Writing multigenre papers. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook. Romano, T. (2013). Fearless writing: Multigenre to motivate and inspire. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2â€”Fall 2016
Review of The Complete Guide to Tutoring Struggling Readers: Mapping Interventions to Purpose and CCSS Reviewer: Helene Halstead The University of Georgia, Athens, GA
Fisher, P., Bates, A., & Gurvitz, D. J. (2014). The complete guide to tutoring struggling readers: Mapping interventions to purpose and CCSS. New York, NY: Teachers College Press. ISBN: 978-0-8077-5494-8
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 Fisher, Bates, and Gurvitz (2014) stated in the preface of their book, The Complete Guide to Tutoring Struggling Readers, that it is “is designed for educators who want to plan and implement lessons for struggling readers that align with the English Language Arts Common Core State Standards” (p. xi). Having been a course instructor who teaches pre-service teachers how to teach reading in elementary and secondary settings as well as an assistant instructor in a Reading Clinic, I would add that this book could be helpful for new teachers, pre-service teachers, and teacher educators. For example, teacher educators who want to provide their students with the fundamentals of reading and writing instruction would benefit by using this book as a way to introduce instructional strategies.
to the authors, means spending time, often one-onone time, in order to provide intense studentcentered support to learners. The tutor is often a teacher who works separately with a student who is not exercising their own abilities. Individuals who read this book will immediately be introduced to important considerations when beginning intensive instruction. These considerations range from broad ideas, such as supporting vocabulary needs, to narrow ones, such as the idea that students are more likely to engage with humorous texts. The authors also clearly define the responsibilities of the tutor: listening to the student, releasing skill or task responsibility gradually, supporting motivation, student-tutor collaboration, and planning. Chapter Two explains what tutors should consider when planning their sessions. The authors discuss just how valuable each and every minute is during a tutoring session and, therefore, how planning for a session is a time-consuming, but essential part of the process. Lessons are designed to help students become more successful and engaged readers. When developing a lesson, the tutor should consider the grade level of the student, the order of events occurring during the lesson, and the components of reading that would best benefit the student. They state that, most likely, one of the following reading concerns will be a problem area for students: print, vocabulary, comprehension, or fluency. The authors stress that a tutor will not necessarily eliminate a concern, but will need to choose which concerns to emphasize during lessons.
This comprehensive text begins with a brief explanation of the concept of tutoring, and follows with eight chapters that guide the reader through administering and interpreting assessments to creating lessons that support fluency, vocabulary, and text comprehension. Because the book is designed to support tutors who work with students who may have already experienced frustration and negative association with reading, the authors address supporting motivational needs as well as academic ones. The book concludes with a chapter that establishes a connection between reading and writing instruction. The authors anchor their instruction in the Common Core State Standards. “Tutoring is a luxury most teachers do not have” (p. 9). It is this sentence that makes the reader think twice. While the reader may have opened this book with the contextual idea that tutors are Advanced Placement high school students helping a freshman who is wrestling with chemistry, after reading the first chapter, the reader will have a new understanding of the word. Being a tutor, according
The second chapter continues with several partial sample lesson plans, which the authors term “interventions,” for students of different ages. The lessons are first outlined, and then explained in detail. Examples are given for strategies that are referenced. The authors also stress that daily reading of connected texts is an essential
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 component of helping students become more successful readers. The text, however, is not designed to support tutors who may be working with learners with exceptional needs who may need interventions tailored to their individual learning differences.
repetitive, these reminders do assist the reader’s understanding. It is all too easy to focus on assessment scores instead of listening to the student and consistently updating their support. Each chapter continues with an explanation of the chapter’s main topic, a matrix of activities that are linked to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and then samples of scaffolded activities that can be used to support engagement and skill development. The reader learns how to choose appropriate materials for his, her, or their student, how to assess current levels, how to understand the assessment and then how to support the student’s growth as a reader. Each chapter provides lessons for instruction with a variety of age groups and reading levels. The vocabulary used in each chapter is especially helpful; new teachers will not only gain tutoring skills, but also ways to professionally discuss what they are doing with colleagues and parents.
The authors discuss each of the aforementioned potential problem areas, including print, vocabulary, comprehension, and fluency by dedicating a chapter to each one. They also supplement these critical areas with additional information on how oral language and literacy are tied together and the relationship between reading and writing. The topics addressed by the authors provide a detailed examination of typical reasons students may fall behind their peers and how to support these students. In order, these topics are as follows: print skills (chapter three), contextual reading and fluency (chapter four), vocabulary (chapter five), oral language (chapter six), comprehension (chapter 7), and the reading-writing connection (chapter eight).
The reader should not pass by this thin publication with the notion that it could not possibly support the novice tutor. Each of the 200 pages is chock full of information. On pages 93 and 94, the authors describe how to use a semantic map during vocabulary instruction and provide an example of a completed semantic map graphic organizer. On page 41, the authors provide a list of important terms, with definitions, to use when teaching phonological awareness. New instructors will have a detailed understanding of phonemic awareness or the alphabetic principle after reading Chapter Three. On page 141, the reader will learn ways to teach students how to coordinate learning text features by the ABCDEF strategy: Attack the title, Be aware of bold words, Capture the captions, Determine the main idea, Examine the graphics, and Fish for facts. A reader can open the thin book randomly to any page and find a useful idea for tutoring instruction.
Chapters Three through Eight use similar formats, which is helpful in supporting the reader-tutor who may be searching for specific information on a strategy or lesson as they return to this book time and time again. The chapters’ predictability make the book easier to navigate and use a reference tool. The chapters open with a vignette about a student during a tutoring session in order to illustrate what a tutor learned and how this new knowledge can influence future tutoring sessions. This contextualization would especially be helpful for tutors who are not in a classroom setting and would, therefore, benefit from a narrative description that indicates how to identify struggles. The authors also stress the idea that tutors should constantly be reflecting on the sessions and developing upcoming sessions based on what they have learned. Though
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 While the authors may simplify what can be a complex task, they do so in order to give the new tutor a starting place. After reading this text, tutors will have the skills necessary to begin working with readers who need additional support for better comprehension, fluency, and vocabulary skills. This text provides a strong framework for new educators as well as reminders for those who have been teaching for years. The text, however, falls short in one primary area: the student demographic. The authors assert, “When students enter a tutoring situation, they usually have experienced at least a year of failure in terms of literacy learning in school…” (p. 1). This reviewer, a previous teacher of middle school special education students, hesitates to use the word failure to discuss students who are not making progress toward the Common Core State Standards on grade level. The authors limit their concept of a struggling reader to those within a general education setting; their text does not provide support for tutors working with learners who may need more intensive reading instruction or assistance.
When providing examples of students who are struggling, coupled with instructional suggestions that could be used to support them, the authors use a wide range of ages and even discuss students who may have immigrated to the United States recently. However, the authors only give a nod to the Response to Intervention (RTI) system, which is designed to identify students with learning and behavior needs. Students who do not respond positively to the RTI system are then considered for additional testing and potential placement into a special education program. The authors do not address special education students’ needs. The strategies provided in the text are useful for general education students; however, a new tutor working with special education students may wonder why progress occurs significantly slower than the book suggests. There is no mention of working with students who have dyslexia, moderate intellectual differences, or specific learning disabilities in reading and writing literacies. While this reviewer recognizes that addressing theses topics is beyond the scope of the book, the authors should have noted what population of students would best benefit from the lessons and suggestions.
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Review of Voices for Diversity and Social Justice: A Literary Education Anthology Reviewer: Kristen E. Duncan Texas State University, San Marcos, TX
Landsman, J., Salcedo, R., & Gorski, P. (2015). Voices for diversity and social justice: A literary education anthology. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN: 978-1-4758-0713-4
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 Voices for Diversity and Social Justice, edited by Julie Landsman, Rosanna M. Salcedo, and Paul Gorski (2015), is an anthology composed entirely of pieces authored by people who live in the margins of American society or work on behalf of those whom society marginalizes. This text features nearly fifty different authors, including a diverse group of K-12 students, college students, K-12 teachers, and college professors. The volume is composed of poetry, short fictional studies, and brief but deeply personal narratives. With each piece, the reader gains a greater and deeper understanding of how people who are oppressed because of race, gender, sexuality, poverty, or linguistic barriers move throughout the world and navigate the complicated spaces we know as schools.
you?” (p. 32). In the first piece of the book, student Fred Arcoleo uses the word HUMAN in all capital letters on multiple occasions, as if he is trying to remind both himself and the reader of his humanity as he seeks to navigate difficult terrain on his way to school each morning. This sets the tone for the rest of the book, as in a schooling context that focuses on high-stakes testing and qualitative data, the humanity of the students who enter the building each day can sometimes be lost on teachers and administrators who place a premium on standardized test scores. Although the authors have labeled this text as a literary education anthology it is much more than that. This book is a necessary read for both preservice and in-service teachers, no matter what subject they teach. The vignettes in this book allow the reader to take a glimpse into the experiences of those who are often overlooked not only by society but also by the teachers who teach them each day, many of whom have good intentions. As a former classroom teacher, this text made me question the ways in which I may have silenced or marginalized the students in my classroom, the very students I sought to help. The contributing authors remind the reader that one off-hand comment or one seemingly insignificant gesture can have a profound impact on a student’s schooling experience and self-esteem. Authors also demonstrate for the reader the ways in which centering whiteness and other markers of privilege affect the daily lives of students, including the junior kindergarten student who feels she is ugly because she is not white but is surrounded by white faces, as Sidrah Maysoon writes “i still tried to be beautiful/even though i was taught i was ugly/surrounded by white faces deemed ideal” (p. 71).
Organized by themes that include “Being the Target” and “Celebrating the Power of Teachers,” each section includes various forms of expression, followed by questions at the end of each section. The poems, narratives, and short stories that comprise this book all bring attention to the experiences and perspectives of students who are not only marginalized but have largely been silenced and rendered invisible. Adaline Carlette Love writes about her experience with homelessness and how the transient nature of being homeless caused her to fall behind in school, leaving her to “feel dumb” (p. 20) and not want to participate in classroom activities. She also notes that this outcome is doubly frustrating, because she has become shy at school, and “[She’s] not like that at all” (p. 20). In a brief narrative, Salvador “Chato” Hernandez writes about an opportunity he had as a young student to attend a leadership conference. His teacher told him to “dress to impress” (p. 31), and that’s exactly what he did, sporting the finest items of clothing he owned to school in preparation for the conference. While he admits that his clothes were not the best fit, they were all his parents could afford to buy, and he left home feeling like he could take on the world. His confidence was immediately crushed, however, when he asked his teacher what she thought of his ensemble, and she responded, “What’s wrong with
While the first section of the book is titled “Speaking through the Silence,” one could argue that this could be the title of the entire book. The contributing authors provide the reader with access to experiences and emotions that frequently go unspoken about in K-12 schooling and the academy, because survival in those spaces does not typically
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2â€”Fall 2016 allow speaking out against the norms of those spaces, especially for those who are already marginalized. These authors allow the reader a glimpse into the humiliation, frustration, and pain they often experience for trying to exist in their school environments as they are, be they native Spanish speakers or black women in academia. The authors clue the reader in on the ways that they are rendered invisible and hypervisible, sometimes simultaneously. A common thread with most of the authors is that they are frequently misunderstood, if not overlooked, because they do not fit particular identity markers that are valued in the United States. In a world that is just as segregated as ever, while pretending not to be, this text provides readers with unadulterated access to knowledge and experiences that they would not likely have otherwise. I should add that this knowledge of the experiences of marginalization that so many students face is absolutely vital to anyone who plans to enter a classroom door as a teacher.
In conclusion, I would recommend that anyone in the field of education read Voices for Diversity and Social Justice, but it is imperative that anyone who has direct contact with students read this text. The experiences and emotions that the authors are kind enough to share with the reader will hopefully lead teachers to think about these and other marginalized students as they plan their lessons, but more importantly, they will help teachers notice, acknowledge, and interact with students who are frequently rendered invisible in ways that are affirming and acknowledge their strengths. A note to any preservice or in-service teacher debating whether or not to read this book: Read it. You and your students will be better for it.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2â€”Fall 2016
Review of Multimodality, Learning and Communication: A Social Semiotic Frame Reviewer: Jason DeHart University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN
Bezemer, J., & Kress, G. (2016). Multimodality, learning and communication: A social semiotic frame. London, UK: Routledge. ISBN: 978-0415709620
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 What is the meaning of a stop sign lying in the back of a truck bed? What is the role of the digital landscape when considering social justice? What resources do we use when we communicate? The questions raised in Multimodality, Learning and Communication: A Social Semiotic Frame deal with notions of how we read the world around us, and how signs exist and operate. The text is particularly aimed at educators conveying messages in classrooms. Reading this text caused me to reconsider what I once thought to be simple communication practices in my day to day work as a classroom teacher and teacher educator, but which are in reality much more complex and nuanced.
are truly interested in the learning process and all of the positive impacts that can take place in pedagogy, teachers and theorists should consider all manner of signs with no regard to their predisposed mode or the origin of sign-making. That being said, the authors did not condone an equal consideration of all the sign-making taking place in an environment, but recommended a careful analysis of which signs were most meaningful, and how these meaning-bearing signs might aid in the larger work of learning and communication. This prioritizing of signs rang true as I considered sign-making and instruction. As a person who spends time communicating with students in university classrooms, as well as in middle grades, these ideas made sense to me and I recalled my own experiences of trying to explain often complex literary or grammatical concepts by using not only technological tools, but also the everyday tools of words and gestures.
Bezemer and Kress arranged their work in seven chapters, beginning with early stages of messages in “Recognition” (Chapter 1), and concluding with “Applying the framework” (Chapter 7), in which they suggested expanding their findings across more fields and situations. The authors began their discussion with what might seem to be a surprising scenario: a surgeon in the middle of a laparoscopic procedure. But, when considering literacy and social semiotics, or sign-making, all worlds are fair game for discussion. The surgeon performing the procedure uses a snapshot, a gesture, and spoken instructions to communicate meaning. In our current age, the concept of teaching, like surgery, involves using all possible communicative resources, including the visual and verbal tools we find at our disposal. One of the attractive and intriguing aspects of reading this book was the use of surprising foci, and I never felt that the examples were so removed that they could not translate to classroom habitus. There was a distinction made between sign and mode, with signs being defined as the “starting point” of semiotics and as a place where the “signified (a meaning)” comes together with material resources to be “shaped by the environment in which [the sign] is made” (p. 8), while modes were defined as “socially shaped, culturally available material resources” (p. 7). Multimodality refers to what the authors called “ensembles,” in which multiple methods for sign-making occur together (p. 7). Bezemer and Kress contended that if educators
The authors, to their credit, did not wish to spend a great deal of time engaged in what they call “naming,” which involves careful use of multimodal terms and formation of new terminologies; rather, they intended to be descriptive about how semiotics work in environments (p. 8). I found their intention to describe rather than produce a new lexicon of terminology freeing as I read this text. The book’s focus on applying ideas to situations rather than defining terms may be a potential drawback for readers who are just encountering concepts of signmaking. Shaping Engagement Chapter 4, “Shaping engagement,” explored the interaction of text and image, and the role of intertextual learning experience was illustrated through a variety of examples, including excerpts from science textbooks and a screenshot of an education resource for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) teachers. As an educator, I would have found even more examples of this type helpful and interesting.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 Digital platforms create an additional forum for communication. Each of these modes followed a specific frame, including elements of color, movement, and other design features. Interestingly, the absence of a feature could also be read as the presence of a feature, a comment which reminded me of McCloud’s (1994) discussion of the space between panels when reading a graphic novel, and how these spaces can be interpreted, particularly when related to temporal constructs.
situation, or a set of situations. The discussion takes place within the context of a job interview, a Facebook status update, and a surgical operation. In the case of the job interview, as one instance of interaction, the authors acknowledged that this is a “mode” in which speech is largely considered to be the dominant form of communication. The interview, however, turns out to be a more complex social-linguistic endeavor than a reader might first consider. Close consideration of taped interviews revealed other features at work, including gaze, lengthening of vowels, and expressions. The Facebook status update and surgical operation examples also revealed complexities beyond the surface of interaction. Such complexities carry with them intended meanings, such as “uncertainty” (p. 20) or a sense of “completion” (p. 21), among other messages; these uses of gesture and even silence help to contextualize interaction so that those wishing to communicate, including educators, can be analytic and responsive.
Bezemer and Kress considered learning as an allencompassing, constant process and contended that, so long as the learner is engaged, communication and learning are taking place across a wide range. Learning, in fact, may not always rely on the presence of a teacher if the learner is truly engaged, and the role of teacher and learner is viewed more flexibly. Chapter 5, “Assessment and judgment,” was particularly helpful in considering the changing roles of teachers and students. Social Change
Bezemer and Kress went on to question power relationships in the process of learning and communication. The authors indicated that the learning process is usually conceived as one that begins with the teacher as the primary communicator who passes the learning on to the student as a receiver. Bezemer and Kress suggested the actual process is not simple; rather, learning is a complex process that involves both teacher and student. This discussion hinted at the highly political nature of taken-for-granted daily interactions. A learner’s insights might be valued differently, depending on the priority given to his or her mode of communication. What used to be vertical positioning or hierarchical power relationship in social interaction has now shifted to a horizontal participatory relationship, and the import for literacy is that the “reader” is more involved in a shared role. Educators interested in the role of student-centered learning versus teachercentered learning would find connections with this discussion of learning, and I reconsidered some of my own classroom interactions after reading this portion of the book.
Concepts of social change are explored throughout the text, but Chapter 6, “Gains and losses,” addressed this topic directly. The authors included an historical account of the impact of design that takes place in multimodal texts, using examples including German poetry albums and a 1934 English textbook to talk about multimodality in a larger view. For those interested in additional reading, I would recommend Serafini’s (2013) consideration of multimodal texts. Serafini’s work focused on practical implications of multimodal literacy for pedagogy. Most ambitiously, Bezemer and Kress set out to create a social lexicon that encompasses the sum of multimodal literacy, a process that they began early in Chapter 2, “Sign-making.” Rather than using a multitude of terms, like visual literacy and nonverbal communication, the authors sought to use a terminology that would encompass a wider breadth of communication. Again, as in the case of the surgery example, the focus of agency for this task took on what may seem to be an unlikely
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2â€”Fall 2016 The authors pointed out that frequently in our current landscape, the person who takes on the role of the learner eventually takes on the role of the instructor. This was brought home in an example of IKEA customers who built products and then were given the opportunity to participate in improving the online resources available for the building task they had just completed. Again, I appreciated this everyday example of what the authors were trying to convey.
elements that speakers and listeners usually take for granted. I found it difficult to avoid personalizing the findings. Students in my own classroom sit through a variety of intonations, gestures, and expressions, and these features are simply a list of my own embodied meaning-making practices. Behind me is usually a flicked-on screen that displays content that either accentuates or flattens the overall message of my discourse. In addition, that content often involves video and audio inputs which bear their own meaning in a variety of ways. Our world clearly provides many opportunities for communication and learning to take place. Without pausing for a close evaluation, too much is taken for granted in the language game. This book, although intended for an audience more inclined to theoretical texts, caused me to take a step back and give more thought to my own communication practices and my own assumptions about the process of learning.
Conclusions and Applications Bezemer and Kress rendered a sometimes surprising consideration of socio-linguistic signs in a multimodal world, and the implications for classrooms and beyond encourage readers to carefully reevaluate the ways in which meanings are communicated and learning takes place. According to the authors of this book, the processes of instruction are not simple, drawing on many
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2â€”Fall 2016 References McCloud, S. (1994). Understanding comics: The invisible art. New York, NY: William Morrow Paperbacks. Serafini, F. (2013). Reading the visual: An introduction to teaching multimodal literacy. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016
Children and Young Adult Book Review Elementary School Tinyville Town Gets to Work Student Reviewer: Mary Frost Osborne Educator Reviewer: Kate O’Rourke
Biggs, B. (2016). Tinyville Town Gets to Work. New York, NY: Abrams Appleseed. ISBN: 978-1419721335 Pages: 30
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 Student Review: I liked this book, and the things I liked best about it were the building of the new bridge, the ribbon cutting, and the “donut truck.” I really liked the illustrations. Mary Frost Osborne Atlanta Classical Academy, Atlanta, GA Kindergarten Educator Review: In this book, the workings of a tiny town are briefly explored. The main characters are the mayor and various professionals. We see from the beginning of the book that the jobs of the townsfolk are very interdependent. When a traffic jam on the bridge occurs, a chain of events begins that keeps everyone from doing their “I chose this jobs. So the town comes together, solves the problem, and decides to because the title build a bigger and better bridge in order to alleviate traffic. They then plan and build the bridge, showing the process to the reader. Then they was enticing and come together as a town to celebrate the completion of the bridge with a fun, and I thought ribbon cutting ceremony. After the bridge is complete, the town resumes the book would working peacefully. I chose this because the title was enticing and fun, and I thought the book would appeal to my kindergarteners. I think K-1st grade would be drawn to a book like this. The illustrations are dynamic and beautiful, drawing in the reader.
appeal to my kindergarteners” -Kate
I can’t think of many concerns educators might need to consider before using this book. I think it would be beneficial for the teachers to take time to explain the different professions at work in the story because many young children won’t know what a city planner, mayor, or an engineer is. This book is a fun way to introduce those professions. Kate O’Rourke Atlanta Classical Academy, Atlanta, GA Kindergarten Teacher
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016
Children and Young Adult Book Review Elementary School Ada’s Ideas: The Story of Ada Lovelace, the World’s First Computer Programmer by Fiona Robinson Student Reviewer: Faith Tucker Educator Reviewer: Madalene Ramsey
Robinson, F. (2016). Ada’s Ideas: The Story of Ada Lovelace, the World’s First Computer Programmer. New York, NY: Abram’s Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 978-1-4197-1872-4 Pages: 30
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 Student Review: I thought it was a wonderful story! The author picked a boring topic and made it a joy to read! Although, I don’t think it used many facts about who she was, but it was still so much fun to read and that I was learning something was hard to believe! I thought it was a great book, but I would recommend it to younger audiences. But all in all I thought it was a fun learning experience and I would recommend it to any elementary students. Faith Tucker Colham Ferry Elementary School, Watkinsville, Georgia 5th Grade
“The author picked a boring topic and made it a joy to read!” -Faith
The book Ada’s Ideas: The Story of Ada Lovelace, the World’s First Computer Programmer describes the life and visionary ideas of Ada Lovelace. The reader is taken through Ada’s childhood and upbringing to discover how a young girl’s dreams and imagination intersect with her background in mathematics. When Ada’s path leads her to meet an inventor, Charles Babbage, she is able to use her creative and analytical skills to create an algorithm for his newest invention and become the world’s first computer programmer. Ada’s Ideas: The Story of Ada Lovelace, the World’s First Computer Programmer would most appeal to an upper elementary student. The content lends itself to many research opportunities for students to dig deeper and make connections to historical information they may already be familiar with at that age. The beautiful illustrations, sentence structure, and vocabulary usage would appeal to a more mature elementary audience as well. Many elementary schools across the nation are implementing S.T.E.A.M. programs and pursuing S.T.E.A.M. certifications, and Ada’s Ideas would align perfectly with these initiatives. My only concern with this book is the explanation of Ada’s algorithm on pages 26-27. It attempts to take a complex algorithm and simplify it for a child to understand. However, it is very confusing and could be simplified further. I also feel that these pages would be better suited at the end of the book because they are a different writing style than the rest of the story that the reader interacts with in the book. I would suggest adding these pages as an appendix to be read and explored by students after finishing the story. Madalene Ramsey Colham Ferry Elementary School 5th Grade Teacher
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016
Children and Young Adult Book Review Elementary to Middle School Shadows of the Dark Crystal #1 Student Reviewer: Emily Whitney Educator Reviewer: Sam Tanner, PhD.
Lee, J.M. (2016). Jim Henson’s Shadows of the Dark Crystal. New York, NY: Grosset & Dunlap. ISBN: 978-0448482897 Pages: 272
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 Student Review: The crystal is cracked. The song of Thra (their fantasy world) is out of tune. The Dark Crystal-- the crystal that used to be the heart of Thra-- is now broken. The Skeksis Lords tasted vliyaya, and now they are mad for it. Trying to get all the vliyaya they can, they cracked the crystal, and it started creating shadows, dark shadows that are spreading across the land of Thra. They are shadows that show you the worst of people you love, altering their words. But a young Gelfling girl, Naia, is doing all she can to make things right. This book is important because it talked about power and the right and wrong ways to use it. Naia thinks that power should be used to help all of Thra, and it is! But the Skeksis lords have other ideas.
“I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes fantasy, outrageous plots, and a few monsters here and there” -Emily
This book is based on the movie The Dark Crystal by Jim Henson. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes fantasy, outrageous plots, and a few monsters here and there. The thing I liked best was how no matter what, she kept on trying to save the world. Emily Whitney Park Forest Elementary, State College, PA 4th Grade Educator Review: I had never watched Jim Henson’s 1982 film The Dark Crystal. I finished the first two chapters of J.M. Lee’s new book, Jim Henson’s Shadows of the Dark Crystal #1, and decided to watch the film. I was awed by the ambitious puppetry, but more so by the complex and dark mythology of the story. The film was not an episode of The Muppets, to be sure. Henson’s universe of the Dark Crystal is worthy of further exploration. J.M. Lee won a contest to write a prequel to the dark film. Grosset & Dunlap published the first book in this new series on June 28th, 2016. This book is best suited for ages 12 and up, or grades 7 and up. Lee manages to capture the organic sprawl of Thra in a way that avoids simple exploitation of the notoriety of the popular film from the ‘80s. Instead, Lee’s work explores themes of connectivity, empathy, and the pitfalls of privilege. This book should appeal to adolescents in search of a compelling fantasy series. I would also argue that Lee has written a book with broader appeal for those of us concerned about our increasing separation from nature, the damage selfishness has on our environments, and the poisonous potential of power. I would recommend this book to adolescents and adults alike. This is a world that is worthy of our imaginative energies. The subject matter is not overly dark, and I can think of no other concerns educators might have should they recommend this book to readers. Sam Tanner, PhD. The Pennsylvania State University in Altoona Assistant Professor, Literacy Education
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2â€”Fall 2016
Children and Young Adult Book Review Middle School The Boy with 17 Senses By Sheila Grau Student Reviewer: Madison Lavender Educator Reviewer: Miriam Voyles
Grau, S. (2016). The Boy with 17 Senses. New York, NY: Amulet Books. ISBN: 978-1419721199 Pages: 250
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 Student Review: Recently, I read the book The Boy with 17 Senses by Sheila Grau, and let me just say, it was fantastic! It’s probably one of my favorite books. The whole concept of another world where everyone has synesthesia (kind of like a “sixth sense” where you give certain songs or noises a color or emotion, or maybe whenever you see the number Once you pick this five you coordinate it with the color yellow) is very interesting and original. book up, you can’t I’ve never read anything like it.
put it down. It’s so interesting and creative! -Madison
This book is important for a variety of reasons. It gives an in depth look at people who have synesthesia and other types of extra senses similar to it. The author also has something called misophonia, meaning “hatred of sound.” This is very similar to synesthesia, but instead of making her coordinate certain sounds and/or noises with colors or emotions, it makes her extremely angry when hearing certain sounds. You can tell that the story is told by someone who knows a lot about what they’re talking about. On the planet Yipsmix, everyone has synesthesia to an extreme. They can taste words, see and feel sounds, and to them, every number has its own personality. The author does an amazing job at describing these things, like the colors and patterns the main character sees whenever he hears noises. They’re all very vivid, and it gives an interesting mental picture of what the character is going through and how it is living with synesthesia. I actually have synesthesia- every song has certain colors, and I can say that the descriptions are pretty accurate. I can’t actually see the colors when I listen to music, but I can feel them, and the author describes the feeling extremely well. A large variety could enjoy this book. It’s not just targeted towards a younger audience although the book’s main audience probably will end up being largely made up of kids. I think adults could definitely enjoy this book as well. It’s kind of like with cartoons- you’re never too old to enjoy them! People that actually have synesthesia would probably enjoy this book the most because they can relate to the characters in it to an extent. Really, anyone can enjoy this book. It’s fantastic, and anyone that has a love of reading and fantasy can see that. I have a few favorite parts of this book. One of my favorite parts of the book is the whole concept. As I said in the beginning, it’s original. I’m pretty sure almost no one has written a book about tiny aliens living on a planet where everyone can see sounds, and they eventually attempt to explore earth to save their family’s failing farm from their neighbors who are trying to take it (my mistake if someone else has and I didn’t know about it). Once you pick this book up, you can’t put it down. It’s so interesting and creative! The only thing I didn’t like in this book is Jaq’s evil neighbors, the Vilcots. The whole book, they’re trying to take all the things Jaq loves away from him, and it’s all over an incident that happened years before the story takes place. They’re the antagonists of the book, and it’s so irritating whenever they take something that Jaq really wanted to keep. You’re really rooting for Jaq and his family, so that’s why it’s so irritating. That’s how the book was written though. You’re supposed to dislike the bad guys, so if you really think about it, that’s actually a good thing! If I were to recommend any book to someone, it would probably be this one. It’s fantastic, and I think everyone should read it. Anyone can really get into this book, regardless of age, gender, or what their interests are. I absolutely love this book, and I think a lot of other people would love it, as well. This book is a truly amazing one, and if I could taste the words the author used to write this book, they’d taste wonderful- but not how the word “wonderful” tastes to the people of Yipsmix because that word tastes pretty bland. Madison Lavender Oconee County Middle School, Watkinsville, GA 6th Grade
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 Educator Review: On a planet in which all people have 17 senses, a poor boy named Jaq is swindled into selling his beloved pet for a magical key that contains a map to another world- a world filled with valuable treasure that could save his family’s farm, but is filled with giants. Jaq, along with an unlikely friend, must journey to this land to rescue someone and try to save his grandfather, who has been falsely accused of a crime and thrown in jail. This fanciful retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk is perfect for pre-teens. It’s advanced enough that the retelling is not obvious, but young adolescents will enjoy making the connections to the classic tale. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and saw nothing to concern me about recommending this book to any middle or upperelementary school age child. Miriam Voyles Oconee County Middle School, Watkinsville, GA 6th Grade Language Arts Teacher
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016
Children and Young Adult Book Review Middle to High School Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go: A Novel of Haiti by Laura Rose Wagner Student Reviewer: Sierra Rainville Educator Reviewer: Daniel Hayes
Wagner, L.R. (2015). Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go: A Novel of Haiti. New York, NY: Amulet Books. ISBN: 978-1-4197-1204-3 Pages: 249
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016
Student Review: Before reading Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go, I didn’t know much about Haiti. This novel truly opened my eyes to the country, and I began to see the struggle and pain that the people there went through in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in 2010. Laura Rose Wagner painted an authentic picture of the social conditions in Haiti at the time through the eyes of Magdalie, a young girl whose life was changed drastically by the earthquake. By writing the novel from her perspective, the issues faced by those in Haiti became more personal to the reader. This book was important because it presented the conditions of life in Haiti to an audience who may not know much about the country, and it was done in a poignant way that will make a long-lasting impact on any reader.
“…reading this book reminded me of what I often take for granted” - Sierra
I connected with Magdalie in ways that I didn’t expect. Her reflections about growing up, dealing with grief, hope, and the importance of family made an impact on me. Even though Magdalie’s story was different from anything that I have ever gone through, some of her comments were universally relatable. Additionally, reading this book reminded me of what I often take for granted. Things such as going to the movies, attending school, and having safe drinking water are completely normal in my life, but were not accessible to those living in the makeshift camps in Haiti. These connections that I made to the novel helped Magdalie’s story truly come to life, and made it even easier to understand her and some of the emotions she was dealing with. I enjoyed reading Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go, and would definitely recommend this book to other high school students. The journey that Magdalie went through and the observations about Haiti, grief, love, and hope that she made along the way were impactful. Not only does this powerful story expose the reader to the harsh realities of life for a young girl in Haiti, but it was an engaging story with complex characters that kept me interested. The combination of the coming of age story with the atrocities of life in Haiti created a novel that was both relatable for young adult readers, and presented important social issues. Although there were times when it was difficult to read because of what Magdalie was going through, by the end of the novel it was her courage and growth that stood out the most. Sierra Rainville The Canterbury School, Fort Myers, FL 11th Grade Educator Review: The novel is a first-person narrative from the perspective of Magdalie, a relatable fifteen-year-old young woman, living in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go portrays the grand scope of poverty-stricken Haiti through Magdalie’s intimate coming-of-age tale. Although Haiti, the earthquake, and poverty are inextricably intertwined with the story’s plot, we never lose focus of the universal struggles that Magdalie faces. In this regard, Laura Rose Wagner is able to tap into prior knowledge and maintain relatability while taking her audience on a journey that is likely foreign to most readers. This book will appeal to any educator attempting to create a space for more socially conscious students. The organic discussions that will undoubtedly flow from Magdalie’s circumstances will create lively discussion in
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2â€”Fall 2016 the classroom. Often, novels like Things Fall Apart are taught with similar intentions, but characters like Okonkwo possess cultural ideals that are so foreign to American students (for instance, concepts of masculinity and violence that are at odds with our moral fabric) that the novel unintentionally creates further disconnect. Wagnerâ€™s novel, on the other hand, has a protagonist with modern sensibilities that most students share, making the journey not only palatable, but enjoyable. The novel explores prostitution and its function within the greater society. Forced to make a choice, Magdalie puts herself in a precarious situation in which she comes dangerously close to engaging in prostitution. This is a red flag when considering the novel as a whole-class instructional tool. Daniel Hayes The Canterbury School, Fort Myers, FL 11th Grade AP Language & Composition and American Literature Teacher
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2â€”Fall 2016
Children and Young Adult Book Review High School The Red Abbey Chronicles Maresi Student Reviewer: Rebecca Posten Educator Reviewer: Shannon Lindsey Cheek
Turtschaninoff, M. (2016). The Red Abbey Chronicles Maresi. New York City, NY: Amulet Books. ISBN: 978-1-4197-2269-1 Pages: 244
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 Student Review: This book is important because it discusses the significance of education and how it can impact an individual’s life. For example, Maresi arrives at her favorite place on the entire island: the library. She says: “It is the best part of the day. It makes everything worth it: living here, away from my family, far from our lush valley between the towering hills. Lying in bed night after night with a pining in my heart” (p. 26). She believes that access to books and the knowledge they hold is worth all of the sacrifices she makes to live within the Red Abbey. Without education, people deal not only with ignorance, but with poverty and poor living conditions.
It is an important life lesson to learn to protect the ones you love. -Rebecca
I would recommend this book to mature female readers. I do not see myself recommending it to males or even immature females. Much of the content could be really awkward for some people, especially males. People who enjoy reading books with strong female protagonists will enjoy this book, particularly if they enjoy mystical fantasy books. The goddesses associated with the Abbey appear in supernatural ways and Maresi learns to conquer her fear of the most terrifying goddess, The Crone. I enjoyed the sisterhood element of the story. The characters rely on one another because they cannot be with their actual families. There is a great deal of emphasis on the importance of friendships. It is an important life lesson to learn to protect the ones you love. Unlike high school, the Abbey seems to create a sisterhood of loyalty and kindness. Despite enjoying the sisterhood concept, there were a few parts of the book I disliked. The first issue I had was the strange names of the characters. I felt that there were too many unusual names, and it was overwhelming at times. I know that unusual names are common in fantasy novels, but I felt like the characters were not developed enough to distinguish between all the names. I also did not always understand the feminine rituals, particularly the one in the ocean that seemed to center around “life blood” and made them all feel womanly. The final issue I had with the book was the simplistic plot. Based on the prologue and the first few chapters, I could mostly guess the sequence of events that followed. The events seem a little too predictable and the climax was slightly anticlimactic. Rebecca Posten White County High School, Cleveland, GA 11th Grade
Educator Review: Maresi is a young lady who lives on an island, Menos, which houses the Red Abbey. The Abbey is dedicated solely to the education of young women. The students are expected to attend classes, perform chores, and carry out other duties. Most of the women have been abused or come from poverty-stricken lands, though a few are there just to receive a superb education. A new girl named Jai arrives seeking shelter and shortly after her arrival, danger follows. Jai’s misogynistic father and his crew of barbaric men arrive to collect her and take her back to her abusive home. The women of the island battle the men, and ultimately, the women prevail. The women are then able to return to their peaceful existence, focusing again on their educations, typically with plans to return to their homelands and improve the places they left behind. Maresi comes of age and develops 149
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 a newfound sense of confidence in herself. At the end of the book, she is preparing for her journey back to her family. This book would likely appeal to young adult females, particularly erudite individuals who recognize the power of education and acquiring knowledge. There is a decent amount of focus on the significance of getting an education, but the young women are also learning about their own identities and capabilities beyond the realm of academics. The book is not likely to hold much appeal for a male audience due to the lack of positive male characters, the emphasis on the powers of sisterhood, and the seeking of feminine powers. One of the major factors that educators should consider before using this book is the aforementioned issues with teaching this type of text to a class with male students. This book is clearly designed for a female audience and is likely to have little appeal to male students within this particular age group. As far as the content, teachers should know that this book discusses several topics that may require some disclaimers and prior discussion. Some of the potentially controversial topics include: ceremonial worship of the female body, explicit references to “monthly moon blood,” descriptions of pagan-style rituals involving supernatural entities, disturbing descriptions of violence towards women, examples of blatant misogyny, and a scene involving ritualistic sex. One last concern is that this book is referred to as a feminist book multiple times on the jacket and description, yet feminism typically implies equality between men and women. Except for a few isolated instances, this book seems to vilify men.
Shannon Lindsey Cheek White County High School, Cleveland, GA English Teacher
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016
A Writing Lesson Sally Jarzab You have, I suppose, dreamt of finding the bottom of a page, but you’ve lost the hand that writes. The writer could, of course, not write. Having nothing to write, nothing to say, no law, no grammar, no knowledge—above all, no knowledge— you are returned to your innocences, your possibilities, your freedom. It is no wonder that all work becomes impossible. Writing is a blind alley. You have to play in the tombs. Learn to write with your eyes closed. Learn to write with the other hand. This is what poetic practice means. Let us now pass on to the lesson of the lesson. It goes like this: everything’s already written. I am already text.
Sally Jarzab is pursuing a PhD at the University at Buffalo, studying writing theory and composition studies from a Learning Sciences perspective. She has worked for more than twenty years as a copywriter and copyeditor and has consulted in UB’s Center for Excellence in Writing. She has had creative work recently published in Pupil and The Journal of South Texas English Studies. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2â€”Fall 2016
The Poet â€”on the occasion of the first interbreeding between disparate ancient species of hominids
Alex Johns Before words were, as such, and gestures developed together with grunts in the ritual toolkit to communicate among members of the band of Neanderthals, one manward ape awoke in the cave where he'd studied the sound of his own voice, a single, repeated note bouncing off the wall, the god made of himself calling back in there in the earth's womb where he'd eventually paint the hunt, his hope's highest moment. He had dreamed of a field of butterflies burying themselves in the dirt. Then the shape of her face, that strange and wonderful shape, that Day he 152
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016 wandered off to a meadow, collected all the yellow flowers his hairy, opposable-thumb hands could carry and wove them around a pyramid of branches: a fire of color and fragrance, a cover of comfort and safety, the opposite of decay. He carried her away from the shared kill up the hill to the chapel with no name.
Alex Johns is an Associate Professor of English at the University of North Georgia, where he teaches creative writing and American literature. He is the recipient of the 2013 Pavement Saw Press Chapbook Prize for “Robot Cosmetics,” and his poems have appeared in Town Creek Poetry, Stray Dog Almanac, Chaffin Journal, The Oklahoma Review, Red River Review, Two Drops of Ink, Kota Press, Scrivener’s Pen, and Bellemeade Books, and other publications and were featured in the No Small Measure Georgia Broadsides project. Alex is the managing director of Athens Word of Mouth, a monthly reading series bringing together nationally known and local writers. He can be reached at Alex.Johns@ung.edu
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016
When You’re Not Smarter Than a Fifth Grader Janine Certo But in the night still comes the unexplained figure —Mary Oliver My students once asked if they could learn about bats. They were outraged. There was a ring of men who killed for fun. Bat shoots, they said. So we read, hammered bat houses, wrote reports. The Bat Guy from Game and Inland Fisheries came to give a talk. One night I was sitting outside a P.T.A. meeting, watching children put up posters they’d designed: colorings of ponds, woods, triangle ears and umbrella top wings, their letters scrawling: EAT 3,000 IN ONE NIGHT. Promise roosts like a long, soft fur in the caves, preserving its marvelous dreams: the small moth, the mayfly, the lacewing. But to the idiot who works against the intelligent shift in the air: watch what will vanish without notice of these schoolchildren, whose high-pitched sounds probe who’s listening. At least ten-year-olds care that the Virginia big-eared bat does not join the Caspian Tiger, Pyrenean Ibex, Yunnan Box Turtle, and the Dodo Bird.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015
Janine Certo is an associate professor at Michigan State Universityâ€™s College of Education. Her recent scholarship focuses on poetry to express cultural lived experiences, children's poetry writing practices, and teachers' engagement with poetry. Her articles are published or forthcoming in journals such as Journal of Literacy Research, English Education, Journal of Aesthetic Education, Pedagogies, English Journal, Language Arts, The High School Journal, and The Reading Teacher. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Alimentum, Burningword Literary Journal, Cider Press Review, Crab Orchard Review, JoLLE, and Main Street Rag. She can be reached at email@example.com
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2â€”Fall 2016
Keep Ariel S. Maloney I used to think that only some people saw magic woven into the sky like observing animals in the clouds or how they believe in elves in Iceland But now I know that there is a kind of magic in words like the secret singing I can hear underneath the silences we share when you think I am not paying attention So I want to tell you now: it is important that you keep scribbling your charms and passwords, the codes that tie you to each other to the world beyond what lies directly in front of you keep pretending that there is a language that you will understand if you write it enough times, and when you take a breath, know that I will be there, listening for you Ariel S. Maloney teaches literature and writing to high school students in Cambridge, MA. She has published multiple op-eds about educational policy issues online, and her poetry and nonfiction have appeared in publications such as The Ekphrastic Review, The Inman Review, and Around the World: An Anthology of Travel Writing Collected by Harvard Book Store. She can be found on Twitter @MizMaloney and via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2—Fall 2016
Let Us Feast at Poetry’s Table Johanna M. Bailie Let us feast at Poetry’s table – Let us taste each seasoned dish – Savory words – buttered, herbed; Sweet words and dissolving powders; Words with crunch, spice, bitterness; Words like the hard pits of olives – Like fish bones pricking the throat; Words like bread and wine; Earth’s salt and heaven’s water.
Johanna Bailie is a Georgia native, and she currently attends the University of Georgia as an undergraduate English major with a concentration in Poetics. Her interest and academic focus is nineteenth-century poetry, which she hopes to continue studying through the doctoral level. Her own poetry and other creative writing is stylistically informed by her studies of the Romantic and Victorian ages and materially informed by her cultural and religious experiences. She can be reached at email@example.com
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 12 Issue 2â€”Fall 2016
The Muses Among Us Jerome C. Harste
Historically the Muses have semiotically signified the arts. Artistically they are often depicted as "other," somehow distant from us. A close look at "The Muses Among Us" shows viewers as part of the depiction, thus suggesting that the Muses are us and we them. 158
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015
Jerome C. Harste is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Culture, Literacy, and Language Education at Indiana University. Prior to his retirement in 2006 he served as president of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), the National Reading Conference (now the Literacy Research Association), The National Conference on Language & Literacy, and the Whole Language Umbrella. Since retiring from IU, he has had time to develop his artistic skills. His watercolors have been featured on book covers and in Language Arts, JoLLE, California English, and juried into several national watercolor exhibits. He holds â€œSignature Statusâ€? in the Bloomington Watercolor Society and the Missouri Watercolor Society and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
This is the Fall 2016 Issue of the Journal of Language and Literacy Education