Jerome C. Harsteâ€™s Intertextuality
Spring 2017 Issue â€” Volume 13(1) The Journal of Language & Literacy Education (JoLLE, ISSN #1599-9035) is a peer-reviewed, open-access 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.
Table of Contents Editors’ Introduction Exploring the Space Outside the Box and Inside the Margins Ø Jennifer Jackson Whitley & Nick Thompson, Co-Principal Editors
Academic Articles Voices from the Field Ø A Narrative Reflection on Examining Text and World for Social Justice: Combatting Bullying and Harassment with Shakespeare Stephanie Anne Shelton Ø Critical Literacy and Transgender Topics in an Upper Elementary Classroom: A Portrait of Possibility Jill M. Hermann-Wilmarth, Rosemary Lannen, & Caitlin L. Ryan Featured Articles Ø Are We Making “PROGRESS”? A Critical Literacies Framework to Engage Pre-service Teachers for Social Justice Holly C. Matteson & Ashley S. Boyd
Ø A Case Study of Struggle and Success: Profiling a Third Grader’s Reading and Writing in a Multimodal Curriculum Angela M. Wiseman, Melissa Pendleton, Christine Christianson, & Nicole Nesheim
Ø Representations of Adoption in Contemporary Realistic Fiction for Young Adults Sue Christian Parsons, Robin Fuxa, Faryl Kander, & Dana Hardy
Ø Power and Agency in a High Poverty Elementary School: How Teachers Experienced a Scripted Reading Program Rebecca Powell, Susan Chambers Cantrell, & Pamela Correll
Academic Book Reviews Ø Review of WHAM! Teaching with Graphic Novels Across the Curriculum by William G. Brozo, Gary Moorman, and Carla K. Meyer Chyllis E. Scott, Cadence Taylor, Bridgette Buhlman, Ana Dunne, Chelsea Garmon, Nerissa Lopez, & Alexandria Miles
Table of Contents Continued Ø Review of Reaching and Teaching Students in Poverty: Strategies for Erasing the Opportunity Gap by Paul C. Gorski Matthew J. Moulton
Ø Review of Review of Learning from the Federal Market-Based Reforms: Lessons for the Every Student Succeeds Act by William J. Mathis & Tina M. Trujillo Patrick Shannon
Ø Review of Humanizing research: Decolonizing qualitative inquiry with youth and communities by Django Paris & Maisha T. Winn Stephanie Anne Shelton
Ø Review of What Connected Educators Do Differently by Todd Whitaker, Jimmy Casas, & Jeffrey Zoul Melissa Adams-Budde & Joy Myers
Ø Review of Practical Classroom Implementations that Yield Results: A Book Review of Maximizing Motivation for Literacy Learning: Grades K-6 by Barbara A. Marinak, Linda B. Gambrell, & Susan A. Mazzoni Rebecca Benjamin
Ø Review of Review of Reading Upside Down: Identifying and Addressing Opportunity Gaps in Literacy Instruction by Deborah L. Wolter Yanty Wirza
Ø Review of Challenging perceptions in primary education: Exploring issues in practice, edited by Margaret Sangster Lin Chen
Children & Young Adult Literature (CYAL) Book Reviews Local Author Spotlight Ø Stan Mullins T. Hunter Strickland Elementary School Ø Review of Treasure Town by Doug Wilhelm & Illustrated by Sarah-Lee Terrat Student Reviewer: Askia Hylton Adult/Educator Reviewer: Mary Guay
Ø Review of Inspector Flytrap by Tom Angleberger & Cece Bell Student Reviewer: Pharaoh N. Nurruddin Adult/Educator Reviewer: Sharon M. Nurruddin
Ø Review of Inspector Flytrap in The President’s Mane is Missing by Tom Angleberger & Cece Bell Student Reviewer: Pharaoh N. Nurruddin Adult/Educator Reviewer: Sharon M. Nurruddin
Table of Contents Continued Middle School Ø Review of Fannie Never Flinched by Mary Cronk Farrell Student Reviewer: Spencer Hadley Adult/Educator Reviewer: Heidi Lyn Hadley Ø Review of Fuzzy by Tom Angleberger & Paul Dellinger Student Reviewer: Brennan Kajder Adult/Educator Reviewer: Sara Kajder High School Ø Review of The Intuitives by Erin Michelle Sky & Steven Brown Student Reviewer: Jordan White Adult/Educator Reviewer: Margaret A. Robbins Ø Review of The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge Student Reviewer: Brantley Power Adult/Educator Reviewer: T. Hunter Strickland
Poetry & Arts Ø Sarah’s First Visit to Shanghai Lei Jiang
Ø God-Read English Lei Jiang
Ø International Student Learns about American Chinese Food Viviane Klen Alves Moore
Ø Manifesto: The Mad Teacher Liberation Front Rebecca Powell
Ø Writing Club Agie Behounek
Ø Sentences Make Sense Sheryl Lain
Ø The Disenfranchised Learner Vivian Yenika-Agbaw, Laura Hudock, Paul Ricks, & Rene Rodriguez-Astacio
Ø Intertextuality Jerome C. Harste
Ø Out of the Box Scholarship Jerome C. Harste
Ø The Reader Jonathan Eakle
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017
Editors’ Introduction Exploring the Space Outside the Box and Inside the Margins Jennifer Jackson Whitley & Nick Thompson
pace is a perplexing concept. When thinking of outer space, it is difficult to understand its infinite complexity—the paradox of there being an end to it, but also that it could never, truly, end. There is space between us and others, between this word and that one. We ask for space, we create it, we maximize and minimize it. Sometimes it can be seen—or felt. Other times, it is silent and creeping. Space is unavoidable and, when considering the classroom space, it is and needs to be understood, grappled with, and troubled. Space in a classroom is like the white space in this letter. There are obvious identifiers of a page—words, indentations, punctuation, and spacing. We notice the words. We notice when something is “out of place.” But, do we notice that the majority of this space is white, boxy, and unused? Or, maybe this white space is used, but not intentionally? Or, maybe it is intentional—intentionally silent and powerful. We do not usually look up and engage with the air; we do not usually feel the power it holds, nor do we generally acknowledge its presence and importance. It’s just there, no excuses made for it. It is our hope that this issue of JoLLE engages with the air. When developing the theme of this year’s conference and correlating spring issue, we asked ourselves, “What are scholars doing differently?” In other words, how are teachers pushing back against normative discourses; how are academics breaking the mold of academia, shaping new ways to conduct and produce scholarship? How are students and teachers empowering themselves to move out of the box and into the margins, engaging in the complex spaces that encompass their classrooms? These questions led to an incredible JoLLE Winter Conference this past February and we believe an issue that will encourage our readers to step into places--or margins--that often are unnoticed, under-researched, and in need of space. Spring 2017 Academic Articles We begin this issue of JoLLE by inviting readers into the literal margins of society, as Stephanie Anne Shelton writes about her experiences in a rural classroom. Her piece, titled A Narrative Reflection on Examining Text and World for Social Justice: Combatting Bullying and Harassment with Shakespeare, addresses her use of The Merchant of Venice to engage in critical discussions with her high school students regarding sexism, religion, homophobia, and other social justice issues. According to Shelton, “What is most critical is that teachers realize that there is true social justice potential in every classroom, in every assigned material.” This piece encourages
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 educators to use the resources available to them in order to address important issues in their classrooms, offering ways to handle resistance and other curricular obstacles. Jill M. Hermann-Wilmarth, Rosemary Lannen, and Caitlin L. Ryan “explore the intersection of critical literacy pedagogy and transgender topics” by looking at a fourth-grade student, Brandon’s, journey and work through a classroom that employed a critical pedagogy focusing on LGBTQIA+ issues. Their article is titled Critical Literacy and Transgender Topics in an Upper Elementary Classroom: A Portrait of Possibility. This manuscript, while focused on one classroom, finds a way to exemplify how students at any level from kindergarten to graduate school can explore these topics. As their conclusion points out, it is a timely piece in a moment when “the federal guidelines regarding transgender students during the last months of the presidential administration of Barack Obama have been revoked in the first months of the presidential administration of Donald Trump.” In Are We Making ‘PROGRESS’?: A Critical Literacies Framework to Engage Pre-service Teachers for Social Justice, Holly C. Matteson and Ashley S. Boyd write, “As one way to engage pre-service teachers in the social justice endeavors endorsed by CAEP and to develop and subsequently assess their knowledge of critical concepts, we here offer the original framework PROGRESS,” which stands for: positionality, race, orientation, gender, relationships, environment, social class, and stereotypes. The authors offer readers a hands-on approach to this framework by applying it to their work with The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. In their conclusion, Matteson and Boyd write that their goal for this framework is that pre-service teachers “would extend this learning into action in their everyday worlds, translating the recognitions spawned by PROGRESS into deeds for social change.” Angela Wiseman, Melissa Pendleton, Christine Christiansen, and Nicole Nesheim’s article, A Case Study of Struggle and Success: Profiling a Third Grader’s Reading and Writing in a Multimodal Curriculum, reports findings on a case study of Ellie as she participates in a language arts curriculum that incorporates multimodal literacy practices, including photography, drama, and art to teach reading and writing. Wiseman asked, “How does the integration of multimodal instruction affect how a struggling third grade reader and writer responds and learns in the language arts classroom?” She argues that incorporating multimodal instruction has the potential to provide more opportunities for students to build and share knowledge, particularly if they struggle with printbased literacies. She found that Ellie’s reading and writing practices were complex and that visual strategies supported significant aspects of her literacy learning. This case study shows one example of literacy education that is more complex than the traditional combination of reading and writing, and how it can help students flourish when they might have floundered in a classroom that only employs canonized pedagogies. Sue Christian Parsons, Robin Fuxa, Faryl Kander, and Dana Hardy dove into young adult literature with a critical eye aimed to analyze the representations of adoption in their article, Representations of Adoption in Contemporary Realistic Fiction for Young Adults, which addresses how “A fun-house reflection that distorts or misrepresents identity or experience can be highly problematic, particularly when this distortion is repeated across multiple texts.” They argue how books that feature adoption are a small part of the young adult landscape, so each book can have a significant impact on the way that a reader constructs adoption. This impact is important, according to the authors, because “Negative, oversimplified, or unexamined depictions” are presented, and “accuracy and authenticity are lost in pursuit of a gripping tale.” The scholars end their article
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 with useful recommendations for how educators can build their libraries appropriately in consideration of these concerns. Our final academic article, Power and Agency in a High Poverty Elementary School: How Teachers Experienced a Scripted Reading Program, by Rebecca Powell, Susan Chambers Cantrell, and Pamela Correll, uses postintentional phenomenology to investigate “the impact of a scripted program in an urban, culturally and linguistically diverse, low socioeconomic elementary school” and explores “how teachers within this context experienced a scripted reading program while also facing the challenges associated with working in a high poverty environment.” Seventeen teachers were interviewed for this study after their first year using a mandatory scripted reading program. Despite the removal of autonomy this program seemingly encouraged, teachers were able to demonstrate agency in various ways. This article shows how teachers shape and mold their classrooms within a very constricting space. Book Reviews and Poetry and Art Our editorial board members, led by feature editors, have assembled academic and children’s and young adult literature book reviews, as well as original artistic and poetry pieces related to language and literacy education in addition to the academic articles featured in this issue. Our Academic Book Review Editor, Kathleen R. McGovern, has assembled a diverse collection of reviews for our readers, continuing the theme of “Out of the Box and Into the Margins” with her first two selections, WHAM! Teaching with Graphic Novels Across the Curriculum by William G. Brozo, Gary Moorman, and Carla K. Meyer, which was reviewed by Chyllis E. Scott, Cadence Taylor, Bridgette Buhlman, Ana Dunne, Chelsea Garmon, Nerissa Lopez, and Alexandria Miles, who completed this review together as a class. The second text, Reaching and Teaching Students in Poverty: Strategies for Erasing the Opportunity Gap by Paul C. Gorski, was reviewed in a multimodal way by Matthew J. Moulton. Additional texts in this section are: Learning from the Federal Market-Based Reforms: Lessons for the Every Student Succeeds Act by William J. Mathis and Tina M. Trujillo, reviewed by Patrick Shannon; Humanizing Research: Decolonizing Qualitative Inquiry with Youth and Communities by Django Paris and Maisha T. Winn, reviewed by Stephanie Anne Shelton; What Connected Educators Do Differently by Todd Whitaker, Jimmy Casas, and Jeffrey Zoul, reviewed by Melissa Adams-Budde and Joy Myers; Maximizing Motivation for Literacy Learning: Grades K-6 by Barbara A. Marinak, Linda B. Gambrell, and Susan A. Mazzoni, reviewed by Rebecca Benjamin; Reading Upside Down: Identifying and Addressing Opportunity Gaps in Literacy Instruction by Deborah L. Wolter, reviewed by Yanty Wirza; and Challenging Perceptions in Primary Education: Exploring Issues in Practice, edited by Margaret Sangster, and reviewed by Lin Chen. JoLLE’s Children’s and Young Adult Literature (CYAL) Book Review Editor, T. Hunter Strickland, began his section with a podcast interviewing local author and artist, Stan Mullins. Additionally, he included a great selection of texts for elementary, middle, and high school readers, reviewed both by students and educators. For elementary-aged readers, texts in this section include: Treasure Town by Doug Wilhelm and illustrated by SarahLee Terrat, reviewed by Askia Hylton (student) and Mary Guay (adult/educator); Inspector Flytrap and Inspector Flytrap in The President’s Mane is Missing, both by Tom Angleberger and Cece Bell, and both reviewed by Pharaoh N. Nurruddin (student) and Sharron M. Nurruddin (adult/educator). For our middle school-aged readers, reviewed texts are: Fannie Never Flinched by Mary Cronk Farrell, reviewed by Spencer Hadley (student) and Heidi Lyn Hadley (adult/educator); and Fuzzy by Tom Angleberger and Paul Dellinger, reviewed by Brennan iii
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 Kajder (student) and Sara Kajder (adult/educator). Our final texts reviewed in this section are for high schoolaged youth and include: The Intuitives by Erin Michelle Sky and Steven Brown, reviewed by Jordan White (student) and Margaret A. Robbins (adult/educator); and The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge, reviewed by Brantley Power (student) and T. Hunter Strickland (adult/educator). The final pieces of this issue of JoLLE are featured by Poetry and Arts Editor, Kuo Zhang. This section begins with a number of poems: Sarah’s First Visit to Shanghai and God-Read English by Lei Jiang; International Student Learns about American Chinese Food by Viviane Klen Alves Moore; Manifesto: The Mad Teacher Liberation Front by Rebecca Powell; Writing Club by Agie Behounek; Sentences Make Sense by Sheryl Lain; and The Disenfranchised Learner by Vivian Yenika-Agbaw, Laura Hudock, Paul Ricks, and Rene Rodriguez-Astacio. Additionally, we feature three pieces of art, including Intertextuality, our cover art, by Jerome C. Harste, who also created Out of the Box Scholarship. The final piece is called The Reader and was done by Jonathan Eakle. Thanks and Recognitions We—Jenn and Nick—first want to thank our readers and contributors. Without your readership and scholarship, JoLLE would not exist. JoLLE is a collaborative effort run by graduate students at the University of Georgia, and it is your support that gives us a reason to do what we do. We encourage you to continue your support by submitting your work for consideration in JoLLE’s future issues. We accept 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 more information about our journal, submission guidelines, and additional opportunities for involvement, such as reviewing for us or submitting a piece for our Scholars Speak Out (SSO) section, please visit our website. You can also follow JoLLE on both Facebook and Twitter (@jolle_uga). JoLLE’s editorial board rotates each semester. This semester’s board has worked tirelessly to put on a conference and produce a thoughtful issue, both themed “Out of the Box and Into the Margins.” We want to recognize this semester’s JoLLE editorial and review boards for the incredible job they do: Heidi Lyn Hadley (Managing Editor), Bradley Robinson (Production Editor), Rachel Kaminski Sanders (Conference Chair), William J. Fassbender (Digital Content 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), and Sharon M. Nuruddin, and S. R. Toliver (Editorial Board Members). Finally, we would like to recognize our fearless Faculty Advisor, Peter Smagorinsky, and thank him for his leadership and continuous support. Understanding that space is both limited and limiting as well as infinite and freeing, we constructed the Spring 2017 issue of JoLLE hoping to toy with the idea of space, including work that recognizes the issues boxing us in, constricting student creativity, and removing teacher autonomy and offering ways to break out of those boxes, even in places that literally or figuratively reside in the margins. Thank you, again, for your support of our journal. We recognize your contributions to this publication and understand that we are here to serve you, our readers, contributors, and collaborators. Sincerely, Jennifer Jackson Whitley and Nick Thompson, Co-Principal Editors
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017
A Narrative Reflection on Examining Text and World for Social Justice: Combatting Bullying and Harassment with Shakespeare Stephanie Anne Shelton Abstract: Based on classroom readings and discussions of William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, this Voices from the Field article examines the ways that teachers might use traditional canonized texts to encourage students to both critique and react against bullying behaviors. The author’s experiences detail the narratives that students introduced while reading the play, enabling complex considerations of contemporary issues such as Islamophobia, homophobia, racism, and sexism, with the hope that other educators and teacher educators might use similarly sanctioned literacy selections both to counter school- and communitybased resistances and to advance social justice in education. Keywords: Bullying, Secondary English Education, Shakespeare, Literary Analysis, Social Justice
Stephanie Anne Shelton is Assistant Professor of Qualitative Educational Research in the College of Education and affiliate faculty in the Department of Gender and Race Studies at The University of Alabama. Publications have appeared in Teaching and Teacher Education, Qualitative Inquiry, Sage Research Methods, and Rethinking Schools. Stephanie serves as the Vice Chair of NCTE's Genders and Sexualities Equality Alliance, as an appointed AERA Division D Committee on Equity and Inclusion member, and as Secretary/Treasurer-Elect of the AERA Queer Studies SIG.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 The Beginning
although the administration retrospectively realized its error, there was no alternative schoolwide course. I decided that I would at least address this problem in my classroom, so I looked for resources. The lesson plans, handouts, and activities that I found online and in the counselors’ offices were problematic; most of them treated bullying as something abstract that students should be aware of, in case it happened. Interestingly, nearly all of the secondary resources focused solely on gay and lesbian students’ rights, and although my research interests primarily focus on LGBTQ issues in education, I did not feel that students were only targeted due to (perceived or actual) sexuality, gender identity, and gender expression (e.g., see Bajaj, Ghaffar-Kucher, & Desai, 2016 for a discussion on the multifaceted nature of bullying). My experiences had demonstrated that bullying was complex and typically touched on various identity elements. Worst of all, nearly all of the resources required days of lessons if they were to be truly effective, which most teachers know is nearly impossible with the mandated and heavily standardized curricula that exist in many schools today. Momentarily, I faltered, unsure of what to do next.
fter a student at my high school was brutally beaten by three other students due to ongoing racial tensions, and another student transferred after homophobic bullying, the administration decided that whole-school bullying education was necessary and mandatory. I was elated; I had felt many times that I was fighting a losing battle alone (e.g., see Flam, 2014; UNESCO, 2009 for discussions of teachers challenging bullying alone), and I looked forward to the entire school community being more vigilant about anti-bullying and anti-harassment. In a single day, I had chased down a student in the hallway for hitting and calling another student “fag,” taken two of my male students into the hallway for discussing a female student’s chest, and chastised a group for assuming that a Muslim man who worked in a local store was “probably a terrorist.” And despite the public nature of the hallway and the presence of a co-teacher in one of the mentioned classes, I had done all of it solo. Day one of the anti-bullying campaign showed me, though, that the status quo would continue. The administration’s response was badly drawn animated anti-bullying cartoons that seemed to be targeting elementary and middle grade students (e.g., see Bidwell, 2013; Brackett & Divecha, 2013 for discussions on similarly ineffective anti-bullying campaigns). The entire student body scoffed at the film clips, and they seemed to sense that bullying was not a big deal.
I felt empowered, though, while reading Elizabeth J. Meyer, who suggests that even if teachers lack the power to change the school environment or cultivate sensitivity from the administration, they can educate the students in their classrooms to effect awareness and change (2009, pp. 43-44). There are a number of studies which describe the benefits of integrating topics related to bullying “into relevant core subjects, such as literature” (Bochenek, 2001, p. 14; see also GLSEN, 2014). In the Foreword of the Human Rights Watch’s Gender, Bullying, and Harassment, Lyn Mikel Brown describes the striking disconnect between antibullying literature and what she had actually experienced (2001; p. vii). Many students and
I want to assert that my administration adopted what they believed was a cost-effective and engaging anti-bullying curriculum. They were genuinely trying to make matters better. Unfortunately, though, the intentions did not match the effects. My students openly mocked the cartoons and tuned out when they were sent to homeroom to watch them. Because of the school’s limited resources, there could be no additional anti-bullying efforts. So,
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 educators can easily recall attending assemblies about “important issues” that never seemed to take into account the real-life experiences beyond the contexts where they had gathered to hear the information; and, the pages of literature available often seem to have no connection to real life. The Importance of Anti-Bullying Curricula in Classrooms
inappropriate or too politicized for public education (Blackburn, 2014; Shelton, 2014; Thein, 2013). I am currently a university faculty member who continues to teach and observe secondary students during a residential summer enrichment program. However, my most foundational teaching experience, especially regarding bullying, comes from the seven years that I taught in a traditional high school setting. The narratives and quotations featured in this article are based on research that I conducted, with my principal’s, parents’/guardians’ and students’ permissions, during that time. The student quotations are not direct quotes based on audio or video recording; instead, they were assembled from observational notes that I took while I worked to address bullying through my risks when curriculum.
Incorporating topics related to bullying into the everyday environment of the classroom is important not only because it gives students prolonged exposure to the content and a variety of opportunities to respond to the topics at hand, but because it can help students contextualize, and even normalize, the information; it also allows teachers to address “There are very real problems without discussing issues such as losing already limited instructional time. Another My school’s setting was, as is racism, sexism, and advantage is that situating always the case, a critical homophobia in isolation conversations about topics such component to consider as I that students will begin to as bullying in the classroom prepared to implement an antisee the targeted groups “as keeps students from seeing the bullying approach in my information as separate from classroom. My students were, ‘other’” and themselves as learning. There are risks when for AYP purposes, categorized as the norm…” discussing issues such as racism, 100% socioeconomically sexism, and homophobia in disadvantaged and isolation that students will begin to see the targeted approximately 70% students of color, in a rural high groups “as ‘other’” and themselves as the norm school located within a strongly conservative (Copenhaver-Johnson, 2009, p. 20), potentially Southeastern U.S. community. For context, it is perpetuating problematic behaviors and worth noting that the high school’s neighboring assumptions rather than stopping them. Or, that in county had its first desegregated prom only about a trying to discuss complex and difficult topics such as decade ago. Additionally, a little over five years ago I White privilege and heteronormativity, students will wrote a letter to the local paper protesting a halferect defensive barriers, bolstered by claims or page article that the paper’s owner had written notions that teachers have “an agenda,” that stop declaring that same-sex marriage was against God’s any productive efforts in their tracks. And, these will. My current teaching situations afford me a risks are outside those of community and parent great deal of flexibility and freedom, but within my protests of teaching materials many assume to be initial context, I struggled with how to address entrenched attitudes that not only allowed but even
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 justified bullying. I had to have a method that I could defend to parents, colleagues, and administrators; I had to have a plan that required no money: supplemental materials, copious copies, and regular access to technology were budgetary impossibilities.
the loan, Shylock will collect a pound of Antonio’s flesh. Meanwhile, in a subplot, Bassanio’s friend Lorenzo—a Christian—seduces Shylock’s daughter Jessica, and Lorenzo and Jessica steal a substantial amount of money from Shylock when they elope. When Bassanio arrives at Portia’s kingdom, with Lorenzo and his new bride Jessica in tow, Bassanio wins Portia’s hand in marriage by successfully solving a riddle. The bliss is shortlived, however, when they learn that Shylock has demanded Antonio pay his loan in full, to punish Antionio for his years of abuse and Antonio’s friends for their involvement in Shylock’s losses of both daughter and property. Bassanio, now wealthy with Portia’s money, rushes back to Venice but unsuccessfully beseeches Shylock to take gold rather than a pound of Antonio’s flesh. Portia arrives disguised as a man and successfully turns the tables on Shylock, arguing in court that the loan contract specifies only one pound of flesh but no blood. In short, if Shylock makes Antonio bleed while taking the flesh, then Shylock is in default. The Duke then steps in, frees Antonio of his bond, and forces Shylock to stop practicing Judaism and to surrender his remaining property.
The Merchant of Venice and Anti-Bullying Possibilities I had to find a way to open the lines of communication with students using materials that were already available and district-approved. My approach is likely easily transferrable to other texts, grades, and resources, and it demonstrates that even the most traditional texts can be used for social justice. Wandering through the bookroom, I brushed away cobwebs to find a corner holding various dog-eared class sets of Shakespearean plays. I selected The Merchant of Venice. The play’s plot is extensive and readily permitted a wide range of antibullying discussions. The play opens with an impoverished Bassanio begging his friend Antonio, a wealthy merchant, for a loan. Bassanio plans to use this money to woo and wed Portia, a wealthy heiress in a nearby kingdom. From the play’s opening, Antonio seems to have a more-than-platonic interest in Bassanio, demonstrated by his sustained willingness to give the ever-impoverished Bassanio money and his notable mood shifts when Bassanio is near. However, in this instance Antonio is unable to make a loan because all of his merchant assets are abroad. He and Bassanio go to Shylock, a Jewish money lender. Antonio and Shylock hate one another, and both Shylock and Antonio discuss the ways that Antonio has publicly abused Shylock due to Shylock’s Jewish identity. However, Shylock is wealthy, and Antonio needs money for Bassanio. They come to terms, and Shylock agrees to make the loan with one odd stipulation: If Antonio defaults on
Portia prepares to leave before she is discovered, but decides to test her new husband prior to departing. As Bassanio and Antonio thank her (him, they believe) profusely, Portia asks that Bassanio compensate her by giving her his ring—the wedding band that she had recently given him. Bassanio initially refuses, but after Antonio reminds Bassanio of how much Antonio loves him, of the fact that Antonio nearly died for him moments ago, Bassanio agrees. Portia leaves for home, angry that Bassanio has relinquished his wedding ring for Antonio. The play ends with all conflicts resolved in tidy Shakespearean comedic fashion, but the multilayered plot presented incredible opportunities for me. This was a text that explicitly examined
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 religious oppression, gender norms, gender performance, and socioeconomic class differences, all while implying a romantic relationship between two male characters.
I have long appreciated the irony of being a feminist teacher who specialized in the texts of dead white men, and no one is more representative of the European-heavy canon than Shakespeare. I explained to students that we were specifically studying the notion of “White privilege” (see McIntosh, 1988; 2009 for concise definition and discussion), with the understanding that society affords advantages to White people that are not available to people of color—such as White people being presumed non-violent, while young Black men are often unjustly suspected of (and killed for) assumed crimes. I did not begin this conversation, however, with Shakespeare. My school had a mandatory bell-ringer component that had to focus on critical reading comprehension. I used short articles that I could project for the students, many of which focused on racialized privileges and oppressions. For example, my students read a short editorial by a local activist who described how many times that he, as a Black man, had been stopped by local police, in comparison to his White friends, whom he had informally polled. A question that I asked my students to answer as part of their warmup was, “Explain why the author would include quotations from others [White friends, in this case], and what effects those inclusions have on his essay.” I was conforming to the spirit of the bell-ringer assignment, in that students were reading and analyzing a text, specifically in relation to state-wide standards on persuasive argument techniques. I was also pushing students to consider and have discussions on race prior to introducing the play; a major advantage of the approach was that it allowed for a broad range of discussions, including other bell-ringer articles discussing sexism, homophobia, and so on. These various short readings were easy to justify, in that they were aligned with a school mandate, they were nonfiction, they were often locally applicable, they were publicly accessible, and they provided various opportunities for student examinations. And while serving as a warm-up
To guide the students’ reading of the text, I based our examinations of the play on Francisco Valdes’s term “Euroheteropatriarchy,” which he states is so integrated into societal oppression that to discuss the prejudices implied in the term are of “central importance” in creating “a society where ‘difference’ is not only tolerated and accepted but cultivated and celebrated” (2000; p. 405). I adapted the three sections of the term to make them accessible to students, to address real issues in our school, and to allow for dialogue that would hopefully achieve precisely the social critiques and social justice shifts that Valdes and I envisioned. Euro Valdes’ discussion of “Euro” is one that is complex and far-reaching. The multilayered nature of “Euro” is unsurprising, given the ways that Eurocentricity have shaped and continue to inform both society-atlarge and school spaces in general (e.g., Giroux, 2009; Shelton & Barnes, 2016). For the sake of clarity and organization, I have divided this relatively large section into three subsections: “Race,” “Ethnicity and Religion,” and “The Complexities of Race, Ethnicity, and Religion.” While those three sections hardly encompass all that relates to issues of Eurocentricity, they capture the issues that emerged as my students and I read the play and demonstrate important areas of consideration for anti-bullying curricula, and the ways that the conversations examined race, ethnicity, and religion as both separate and constantly intertwined concepts. Race
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 reading activity for class, they were also warm-ups dismissed their objections as them being too for the discussions that I hoped to have in the sensitive, rather than acknowledging blatant or coming days with Merchant. nuanced racist undertones. As a result of the In the course of reading, the discussions began to conversations, which had certainly been bolstered shift from religion specifically to racial oppressions by outside reading such as the bell-ringers and within the community. Given the preceding bellMcIntosh, students were able to consider the ringer discussions and the large student of color assumptions that each of them had made about population, my students had little difficulty relating others based on race, and we considered how the text to their experiences, and one student racialized stereotypes were both damaging and described a time when a White cashier had put the easily perpetuated. money on the counter rather than put the money in her hand: “I guess she thought she’d catch a disease Ethnicity and Religion ‘cause I’m Black.” When a few White students tried to suggest that the issue was with that specific When we discussed ethnicity, my students often cashier and not racial inequality, I incorporated framed ethnic concerns as synonymous with racial Peggy McIntosh’s short essay ones, and literally as Black and “White Privilege: Unpacking the White. This tendency was “When we discussed Invisible Knapsack” (1998) as a unsurprising, as those two racial ethnicity, my students way to provide examples of a designations comprised the often framed ethnic White person’s understandings majority of the school. However, of White privilege from the play permitted different concerns as synonymous everyday life (e.g., asking to perspectives. We examined with racial ones, and speak to a person in charge at ethnicity specifically in relation literally as Black and most establishments usually to Jewish identity, given the White.” means speaking to a White play’s content, and we focused person). Empowered by those on the predominance of discussions, several students of color countered Christianity in Merchant, examining how Shylock’s White peers’ arguments against racism with their people were disenfranchised because they were Jews, own experiences. One Latino student shared that not White Christian Venetians. In the text, Shylock often when he paid with cash, those accepting charged Antonio, “You call me misbeliever, cutpayment assumed that he was a drug dealer. An throat dog / And spet upon my Jewish gabardine” Iranian American student sighed and said, “I get (1.3.111-112). The students were always shocked by the tired of people looking at me and thinking I’m accusation; I still remember one student saying, gonna blow them up.” In one class, he had been “Man, somebody spit on me, I’d kill ‘em.” Her horrified that another student skit had actually comment provided the perfect opportunity to featured “terrorists,” complete with black yarn discuss why Antonio abused Shylock and how that beards, who claimed to be Muslim. When he had prejudice translates into our own society, specifically confronted his peers, saying “Man, that wasn’t cool,” within the students’ schools and communities. they had responded that they “were just playing, and chill out.” Drawing on McIntosh, other students of We discussed, for example, the fact that noncolor agreed that if they tried to challenge Christian groups in our school community had to problematic representations, White students often drive to other counties to hold religious services—a
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 fact that most Christian students had not known. We examined the ways that Christian students were permitted to carry Bibles in their book bags, but that Islamic students were fearful of having a copy of the Quran on their person. We even considered the racial segregation inherent in the Christian community, with nearly all of the students’ churches heavily racially segregated. These discussions brought the oppression in Shakespeare’s text to life in their own lives. They began to critique their outrage of Antonio’s treatment of Jews as hypocritical, given their new critiques of longstanding acceptances of the real ethnic and racialized religious oppressions all around them. Meyer explains the need for a “response to bullying and harassment in schools […to include] social and cultural impacts such as […] race, ethnicity, religion, and the school environment” (2009, p. 23). Our discussions mattered, not because of the text that we used, but because we read our own lives as text once the play legitimized those discussions. Reading the play also allowed us to consider religion in a more academic sense, allowing students to put down walls regarding their particular beliefs. In one class, all of the students identified as Christian except two. The Muslim student elected not to discuss his religion, and I did not push him to do so for fear that he would feel tokenized and expected to impossibly speak on behalf of all Muslims. However, the student who identified as an atheist was readily vocal and said that she understood how Shylock felt, that she had overheard both teachers and peers say that she was going to hell. As the teacher-authority figure, I made sure regularly at least to discuss religions as diverse, both to prevent any student from feeling responsibility for doing so and to encourage broadened notions of religious practice. For example, if students were discussing religious oppression in relation to Judaism and Christianity, which was unsurprising given the play’s plot, I reminded them of assumptions made of other belief systems, including Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism.
Doing so relieved any student of feeling individual responsibility to do so while avoiding that Christianity be constantly centralized in discussions. Many of the students’ comments during discussions reflected their realizations that they had simply assumed everyone around them believed as they did, and that applying something true of the majority to all people was problematic. Some even apologized to the atheist student, saying “I didn’t know” or “That wasn’t very Christian of us,” allowing textual and historical discussions of religious intolerance, with the play serving as the catalyst and touchstone. The Complexities of Race, Ethnicity, and Religion Students understood racial, ethnic, and religious discriminations, but the play let us dig even deeper than that. During the trial scene, students who were staunch Shylock supporters shifted to Antonio’s camp. In the play, as the Duke demanded an explanation of Shylock’s determination to cut the pound of flesh from Antonio’s chest, students were frustrated with the money lender’s response: “So can I give no reason, nor I will not” (4.1.59). Defectors would complain, “You can’t cut somebody open just because you’re mad. That’s crazy.” However, Shylock’s supporters would remind their peers of the earlier scenes and the fact that Antonio had insulted, kicked, and spit on him. One of the common limitations of bullying education is that typically it only teaches teachers and students to identify and report bullying. Using a text to dialogue with students about bullying, however, allowed for much more. After considering the merchant’s and lender’s motivations, students could consider why people bullied others. Interestingly, a study of 6,500 middle and high school students found that 5% of student respondents could be identified as bullies, and of that group all but 0.5% had also bullied (Buckley,
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 2011). Consider that half of 1% of bullies were not “How shalt thou hope for mercy, rend’ring none?” themselves bullied. My students had little difficulty (4.1.88), implying that even if the Duke enforced understanding both the societal prejudices that Shylock’s legal contract, on which Antonio had condoned Antonio’s anti-Semitism and the source of defaulted, the Jew would pay at a later date. And Shylock’s hatred. Throughout the unit, at least a few indeed, after Portia nullified the bond, the Duke would recall a news story about a school shooting or stripped Shylock of half of his property, and more bullying incident in which the perpetrator was importantly, his Jewish identity, and ordered him, described as depressed, distant, or an outcast. Often “Get thee gone” (4.1.397). Even before the recent they would even discuss students in our school who news stories detailing police violence against people, fit those descriptions, and at one point I noticed that especially young men of color, Muslims, and Jews, some of the students who had been discussing my students understood the idea of a system crafted Shylock and Antonio’s relationship made a point to to prefer a particular group in a variety of ways. invite a withdrawn, trench coat wearing loner into Some of them talked about family members serving their collaborative project group. By the end of the time, and how when they visited there were far more year, the students and initial loner were working people of color, especially Black and Latino inmates, together regularly, and all of their averages had than White people in the jails and prisons. Others improved. This success does not told about how police officers “My very existence imply some magical fix, but it constantly harassed them when showed me that students found they attended a mosque or reinforced Whiteness as it much harder to ignore truths, synagogue, while none of their power, even if such as ostracized peers, if we Christian friends had ever has unintentionally.” were talking about them in such experiences at houses of relation to both literature and worship. real life. The most interesting topic, though, was related to Discussing discrimination based on race, ethnicity, the power structure of the school itself. Despite and religion were often challenging for me, admirable strides, “students of color are more primarily because I am White and was raised in a segregated than ever before” (Ladson-Billings, 2009, Christian religious tradition. In several of the p. 173), and students inevitably discussed the racial classrooms, I was both the only White person and separation that they saw. For example, they noted the person of authority, while nearly every student that the advanced placement and honors classes, identified as Christian. My very existence reinforced which required teacher recommendations, were Whiteness as power, even if unintentionally. My unrepresentative of the school; White students students’ religious identities reinforced Christianity constituted less than 20% of the school population as a norm, similar to the representations of the but typically made up 80-90% of the top tier classes play’s protagonists. However, my discomfort and my offered. Students also felt faculty targeted particular students’ identities were not justifications for students as discipline problems, because of the ways avoiding important conversations about the play’s they dressed, looked, or talked, and that usually portrayal of a power system obviously tailored to these students were Black. They pointed out the serve and protect the White Christian man. Despite aggressive administrative efforts to address sagging the fact that Shylock’s demand for Antonio’s flesh pants, a clothing choice typically made by Black and was perfectly legal, the Duke threatened the lender: Latino students, for example.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 signs of physical desire, not simply platonic love” (1999, p. 20).
These conversations on school rules and norms allowed us to discuss a bullying issue that often goes unspoken. Adults can be bullies, too, and in some cases, “teachers comprise[…] an overwhelming majority of the perpetrators” (Meyer, 2009, p. 18). My goal was not to fully subvert school order, as I wanted to keep my job and I wanted students to avoid disciplinary action. My goal was to have students examine the roles that adults in school settings (and elsewhere) have in determining what actions are deemed normal, and therefore acceptable, and which are, like sagging pants, deemed aberrant and therefore vulnerable to punishment. Students began to note that school rules, such as the dress code, seemed to target students of color while simultaneously treating what they termed “White behavior,” such as tucking shirts into belted pants, as acceptable and expected.
The first time that I taught the play, I felt my stomach rolling as I weighed the consequences of talking about a possibly gay character. I was an openly out lesbian teacher, and I was terrified of someone accusing me of pursuing the mythical “gay agenda.” But before I could say anything, students immediately commented on how sullen Antonio is before and how near-giddy he is after Bassanio’s appearance in Act I. One student said, “The only way you’re gonna give somebody who’s that broke money, after they’ve already wasted all of the other money you gave them, is if you got it bad.” When I asked her to explain, one of the other students rolled her eyes and said, “Man, Ms. Shelton, that fool’s in love.” A few of the students were startled by and rejected their interpretation, but as we continued through the play, Act IV caused some pause. Antonio, prepared to die to resolve Bassanio’s debt, told Bassanio, “Say how I lov’d you [Bassanio], speak me fair in death; / And when the tale is told, bid her be judge / Whether Bassanio had not once a love” (4.1.275-277), a clear statement of affection, if not more. And when Portia, Bassanio’s wife, freed Antonio from his bond, Antonio convinced Bassanio to relinquish his wedding band (from Portia) in payment to the attorney (4.1.449-457). By the end of the play, some students were sure that Antonio loved Bassanio; others decided that they were just close friends. Regardless, the conversation normalized the topic of sexual orientation, allowing discussions then and later.
Hetero Race and ethnicity remain issues when combating bullying, but homophobia often goes ignored because, particularly in the Southeastern U.S., many feel that it is a controversial problem that is inappropriate for school (Meyer, 2009; Thein, 2013). Even with opportunities to discuss lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) representations in literature, teachers often choose to either briefly mention or not mention an author’s or character’s sexuality. I have found that, while there can be risks, the benefits to students can be well worth them. Reading Merchant presented the opportunity to have students consider Antonio’s relationship with Bassanio. Numerous Shakespearean scholars point out the homoeroticism in the play. Steve Patterson wrote that Antonio’s “affection may be evident from the moment the merchant has Bassanio alone,” and that “Antonio’s grand gestures are further identified as
Numerous studies show that “[l]esbian, gay, and bisexual youth are nearly three times as likely as their heterosexual peers to have been assaulted” (Bochenek, 2001, p. 20), and GLSEN’s (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) 2013 National School Climate Survey found that nearly 90% of LGBT students experience some form of harassment
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 in school (GLSEN, 2014). Every one of my students said that they heard “That’s so gay” or a variation every day, and that sometimes it was from the mouths of teachers. In one class, I had several “out” students, and although all were talented and accomplished students who had strong social circles, each one had stories to tell about homophobic bullying in community and school. One student said that his church-going peers would tell him that they were praying for him, and that they “hated the sin, not the sinner.” Another nearly got into an altercation in the cafeteria when he had had enough of being called “fag,” talked back, and got shoved down.
Patriarchy Gender is an essential component of responding to bullying, and studies show that “female students experience more frequent and more severe forms of sexual harassment than males” (Meyer, 2009, p. 23). Near the start of reading the play, I had students list negative terms usually directed at girls. Nearly all of the terms were unsuitable for print, with some of the tamest being “bitch” and “whore,” but anyone in secondary education knows what most of them are, and with each class, the list got longer. Then I ask for terms negatively applied to boys; while there were some, the list was minimal in comparison— with most insults for boys actually feminizing them, like “pussy.” In short, students noted that not only were girls regularly insulted, but that for boys, being equated to a girl was usually the insult. The visual evidence of the lists allowed us to talk about the terms “commonly used in schools by male students as ways to assert masculinity by degrading female peers,” that are meant to objectify females while insulting them (Meyer, 2009, p. 9). This social contextualization within their own experiences allowed students to understand the nature of patriarchy: reinforcing the notion that females are objects rather than people, thus explaining why they could be so readily and simultaneously insulted and be the insult, and that masculinity, which was equated with strength, intelligence, and decisiveness, innately made someone more fit for authority.
I am sure that the students would never have shared these stories without the context of the play to open communication. I was out to my students, but it was not until we discussed Antonio and Bassanio that they talked about their own experiences. Sometimes teachers make the assumption that discussing controversial topics in structured ways is unnecessary, because students talk about them on their own (Shelton, 2014; Blackburn, 2014). It was clear, though, that although most of my students had known each other for at least twelve years, and some for eighteen, few realized that their peers were being targeted due to their LGBTQ identities. It took only a day for me to hear one of my students reprimand a friend in the hallway for saying that a shirt was “so gay.” She told her friend, “You don’t know if someone who’s gay is around, and if you use that word like it means ‘stupid,’ then you could offend them.” The same student later chose to do a research project on legal issues related to marriage equality, although she had planned to study animal rights before the play. I cannot assert confidently that all or even most of the students were sensitive to LGBTQ issues following Merchant, but a single ally is well worth my students’ vulnerable personal narratives and the stomach churning discomfort that I initially endured.
I generally discussed the issue of gendered insults before the play introduced Portia in Belmont, because it gave me the means of discussing how, although Portia was powerful, intelligent, and independent, her dead father determined who would marry her and, even from the grave, controlled all of the wealth that Portia competently governed alone (1.2.24-25). Students were outraged
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 that Portia was obviously able to run a kingdom without a husband but that the play demanded that she be married, and that her husband would then assume all wealth and power. One student summed up the prevailing attitude nicely: “Bassanio’s this dummy who’s been begging folks since the start of the play for money, and now that fool is supposed to run a kingdom because Portia’s got a vagina? Nah. That’s straight dumb. And all them people in the kingdom gonna be homeless because we all know Bassanio can’t even manage his own life, but he’s a dude, so he’s in charge. This junk makes me so mad!”
boys” speech and a sympathetic pat on the head. (A response that recent events concerning the new U.S. President echo in unfortunate ways—a strong indication that these sorts of conversations continue to be vital.)
One student, who had a large bust, shared how guys joked that she could make a lot of money as a stripper and that she was wasting her time with honors classes. Another described how males on her bus would pop her bra strap and ask her if she wanted to have sex, and when she complained, the bus driver would respond that she needed to wear jackets over her shirts. The problem, my students and I found, was that treatment such as this was the norm, not the exception, and often when they reported such incidents they got the “boys will be
A study done in several schools with different populations found that it did not matter what the students’ socioeconomics, race, ethnicity, culture, or geographic locations were; every setting reported that “gendered harassment was prevalent” (Meyer, 2009, p. 37). Teachers and students often ignore gendered harassment, though, because it is an element of patriarchy. For millennia, females have been objectified to the point that sexism is unconsciously inculcated. However, just as my students mourned Portia’s loss of power and
Most female students who shared said that these kinds of treatment had gone on for years, and at this point they barely noticed it, unless they were exceptionally cruel. Many boys in the class begrudgingly and ashamedly admitted participating in such behaviors, claiming that they had not realized that girls had been so affected by their actions. Following our reading of the play’s Act V, The students truly began to apply the concepts of during which Bassanio makes a crude joke about patriarchy and sexism during the trial scene. It Portia’s “ring,” or within textual context, her vagina, frustrated female students that Portia had to dress female students, and some males, pushed those boys as a young man to be heard in court, and it who had acknowledged wrongdoing to be more selfinfuriated them that after critical and reflective. Why was “Many boys in the class successfully and impossibly it acceptable, they asked, for nullifying a contract that no boys to touch girls’ bra straps, begrudgingly and other character had managed to for Bassanio to talk about ashamedly admitted challenge, her ultimate reward Portia’s anatomy, and for boys participating in such was to be married to “that to reference girl’s breasts when behaviors, claiming that slacker scrub Bassanio.” The exchanges that might reverse play’s resolution invited the gender roles of such they had not realized that students to discuss sexualization interactions, such as girls girls had been so affected and minimization of girls and touching and commenting on by their actions.” their abilities, in homes, schools, boys, would be likely be deemed jobs, and in general. shocking and unacceptable?
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 independence, teachers need to take notice of the damage done to female students due to gendered bullying and harassment. Sexual harassment and bullying are “still prevalent in schools,” and female students often have “no outlet for response and complaint of tangible harm,” although there is evidence that sexism affects girls’ mental, emotional, and academic well-being (Meyer, 2009, p. 9). It is only through conversations about entrenched notions such as patriarchy and sexism that students and adults can not only recognize but stop normalized abuse.
Association and the National Bullying Prevention Center offer free curriculum guides that some teachers might find useful to pair with standard and/or mandated texts. What is most critical is that teachers realize that there is true social justice potential in every classroom, in every assigned material. Merchant went from being a dust-covered play in the bookroom to one of the most powerful tools that I had to educate and empower students. I have learned from my own experiences and as a teacher educator, too, that specific examples that can be adapted or altered for particular teachers’ needs are more helpful than abstract and generalized ideas that end up taking more effort to incorporate and implement. The important point is not to necessarily use this play; rather, it is to use what we have access to, to ensure that our students are safe in our hallways and classrooms, regardless of what they look like, who they love, or who they are. It is my hope that the research and conversations that were helpful to my students might inspire other teachers to examine how they might address the very real threats of bullying and harassment, with whatever resources that they and their students have. To not do so is to risk reinstituting the status quo that negatively affects children and society at large every day.
Conclusion I realize that not all teachers have access to this particular play, and that not all schools will permit these particular conversations, though I will point out that nearly all of the topics discussed here, after some cursory preparations on my part, were student-introduced and student-led. Crafting spaces that encourage students to broach difficult topics may provide some measure of protection from administrations, parents, and communities. Additionally, I would emphasize that due to its interdisciplinary nature, English Education permits teachers to use varieties of texts that might prompt conversations that address social ills, including bullying and harassment. For example, Huckleberry Finn, an oft-assigned text, provides material to examine not just race, but also concepts such as socioeconomics (e.g., considering Pa’s financial desperation and Huck’s stances on slavery versus Tom Sawyer’s) and gender expression/identity (e.g., the woman’s analysis of gender performance when Huck disguises himself as a girl). The Crucible, a play that many students read and that nearly all of my students adored, provides concrete examples of both peer group and judicial bullying that could enable a range of conversations on peer pressure and power differentials in schooling. Additionally, organizations such as the National Education
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 References Bajaj, M., Ghaffar-Kucher, A., & Desai, K. (2016). Brown bodies and xenophobia bullying in US schools: Critical analysis and strategies for action. Harvard Educational Review, 86(4), 481505. Bidwell, A. (2013). Study: Anti-bullying programs may have opposite effect. Retrieved from http:// www.usnews.com/news/articles/2013/09/13/study-anti-bullying-programs-may-haveopposite-effect Bloom, D. (2008). Study finds bullies are bullied too. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/ education/2008/aug/29/bullying.schools. Bochenek, M. & Brown, A. W. (2001). Hatred in the hallways. New York, NY: Human Rights Watch. Brackett, M. & Divecha, D. (2013). School anti-bullying programs ineffective. Retrieved from http://www.courant.com/opinion/hc-op-brackett-school-bullying-programs-ineffectiv20130906-story.html Brown, L. M. (2009). Foreword. Gender, bullying, and harassment: Strategies to end sexism and homophobia in schools. New York, NY: Teachers College. Buckley, J. (2011). Student reports of bullying and cyber-bullying: Results from the 2009 school crime supplement to the national crime victimization survey. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/ whatsnew/commissioner/remarks2011/ppt/09_22_2011.ppt Copenhaver-Johnson, J. F. (2009). Learning about heterosexism as a teacher educator: The resistant student as catalyst for change. In M. V. Blackburn, C. T. Clark, L. M. Kenney, & J. M. Smith (Eds.), Acting Out: Combating Homophobia Through Teacher Activism (pp. 17-36). New York, NY: Teachers College Press. Flam, L. (2014). Mom shares teacher’s “brilliant” secret for fighting bullying, easing loneliness. Retrieved from http://www.today.com/parents/mom-shares-teachers-brilliant-secretfighting-bullying-easing-loneliness-2D79322114 Giroux, H. (2009). Teacher education and democratic schooling. In A. Darder, M. Baltodano, & R. Torres (Eds.), The Critical Pedagogy Reader (pp. 438-459). New York, NY: Routledge. GLSEN. (2014). 2013 national school climate survey. Retrieved from http://www.glsen.org/sites/ default/files/2013%20National%20School%20Climate%20Survey%20Full%20Report_0.pdf Ladson-Billings, G & Tate, W. F. IV. (2008). Toward a critical race theory of education. In A. Darder, M. P. Baltodano, & R. D. Torres (Eds.), The Critical Pedagogy Reader (pp. 167-182). 2nd ed. New York, NY: Routledge.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 Meyer, E. J. (2009). Gender, bullying, and harassment: Strategies to end sexism and homophobia in schools. New York, NY: Teachers College. Patterson, S. (1999). The bankruptcy of homoerotic amity in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. Shakespeare Quarterly, 50(1), 9-32. Shakespeare, W. (1996). The Merchant of Venice. In G. B. Evans & J. J. M. Tobin (Eds.), The Riverside Shakespeare (pp. 284-319). 2nd ed. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin. Shelton, S. A. (2014). The sociocultural factors that influence a novice teacher’s LGBT activism. Teaching Education, 26(1), 113-130. Shelton, S. A. & Barnes, M. E. (2016). “Racism just isn’t an issue anymore”: Preservice teachers' resistances to the intersections of sexuality and race. Teaching and Teacher Education, 55, 165-174. UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization). (2009). Stopping violence in schools: A guide for teachers. Retrieved from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/ 0018/001841/184162e.pdf Valdes, F. (2000). Outsider scholars, critical race theory, and “outcrit” perspectivity: Postsubordination vision as jurisprudential method. In F. Valdes, J.M. Culp, & A. P. Harris (Eds.), Crossroads, Directions, and a New Critical Race Theory (pp. 399-409). Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017
Critical Literacy and Transgender Topics in an Upper Elementary Classroom: A Portrait of Possibility Jill M. Hermann-Wilmarth, Rosemary Lannen, & Caitlin L. Ryan Abstract: In this paper, we explore the intersection of critical literacy pedagogy, queer pedagogy, and transgender topics by turning our attention to the learning that supported the writing of an acrostic poem about Title IX and transgender students. We examine how this writing, in turn, created additional content and context that spurred others’ learning. We examine this particular poem because of the ways it demonstrates how a 4th grade student drew on three overarching components of the classroom’s instructional context to support its production: the critical literacy pedagogy present in the class, exposure to transgender topics, and the importance of situating students as expert teachers for an authentic audience. Keywords: critical literacy, queer theory, elementary language arts, transgender
Jill M. Hermann-Wilmarth is a professor of Social Foundations in the Department of Teaching, Learning, and Educational Studies at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, MI. Her research and teaching examine issues of identity inside and outside of classrooms using the lenses of literacy, social justice, and critical and deconstructive theories. Among other places, her work can be found in Language Arts, The ALAN Review, Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, Journal of Literacy Research, and The Journal of Early Childhood Research.
Rosemary Lannen is an Upper Elementary Humanities teacher at the Greta Berman Arbetter Kazoo School in Kalamazoo, Michigan. She began teaching in 1992, and has been teaching at Kazoo School since 1996.
Caitlin L. Ryan is an associate professor in the College of Education at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina. Her research interests center on the relationships among children’s literature, literacy, social positioning, and educational equity, especially at the elementary school level. Her research has been published in several journals including The Journal of Literacy Research, Language Arts, Sex Education, and The Journal of LGBT Youth.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 Title Nine 1
White, cisgender, 4th/5th grade teacher, reading a single LGBTQ-inclusive book to her2 class, although she and Jill, a White, cisgender, university professor who regularly co-taught with her, did read Gino’s (2015) George aloud to the students. It is not the result of a single mention of LGBTQ topics or ideas, although Rose and Jill often mentioned the sexual orientation of writers they were studying, and they also challenged the ways students used gender to make fun of someone. It does not stem from a single discussion of an historic moment in LGBTQ history, although the 2015 United States Supreme Court’s decision regarding same sex marriage did come up when the class discussed the ways that power shapes our culture. It isn’t even the result of Jill’s story to the 4th/5th graders about one of her university students who used transphobic language in response to the inclusion of transgender topics in her college course, although the poem was written with this audience of college students in mind. Instead, we share Brandon’s poem here as an illustration of one moment in a yearlong process of learning about power, literacy, and the ways students can use language to create change relating to LGBTQ topics.
By Brandon , 4 grade Transgender people are people too. Identities will be told by the person. Trans people can go to the bathroom that matches their gender identity. Lots of people disagree with Obama because they want more personal power for themselves, and they don’t want trans people to have the same rights as them. Everyone is treated fairly no matter what their gender identity is. Needed for transgender people. I agree with Obama, trans people are just the same as me. No person in the U.S.A. will be excluded for being transgender. Exclusion is finished.
e begin with this poem to demonstrate what is possible when critical literacy pedagogy expands to include transgender topics. As scholars in the practice of asking teachers and teacher educators to bring LGBTQ topics into elementary classrooms (HermannWilmarth & Ryan, 2013, 2015; Ryan & HermannWilmarth, 2013), we want to draw readers in with a portrait of the possible, a counter story to the homophobia and heteronormativity present in elementary schools (Blaise, 2005; DePalma & Atkinson, 2009). As teachers, however, we know that presenting an outcome of learning without sharing the sometimes-messy journey that leads up to it simplifies reality. In this case, Brandon’s writing didn’t just happen. It isn’t the direct result of Rose, a
In this paper, we—two university professors (Jill and Caitlin) and Rose, a veteran 4th/5th grade teacher— explore the intersection of critical literacy pedagogy and transgender topics by turning our attention to the learning that supported the kind of writing Brandon produced. We examine Brandon’s poem here certainly because of its power but also because of the ways it demonstrates how he drew on three overarching components of the classroom’s instructional context to support its production: queerly informed (Britzman, 1995) critical literacy pedagogy (Lewison, Flint, & Van Sluys, 2002) (explained below in our theoretical frame), exposure to information about transgender topics, and the importance of situating students as expert teachers
In this paper, we honor the pronouns used by the people to whom we refer.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 for an authentic audience. We find that the convergence of these three strands traces a possibility for other teachers who already look through the lenses of critical literacy and authentic audience but might need a push to move toward including transgender topics in their own classrooms.
sexualities, bodies, and desires. Queerly informed pedagogy (Britzman, 1995) rejects the notion that there is a singular view of normal with regard to gender or sexuality. This means that when discussing LGBTQ identities, students and teachers are challenged to interrogate their own culturally formed beliefs about these identities and challenge the ways that language and texts normalize specific Theoretical Framework ways of being gendered, or specific kinds of sexuality. When teachers and students make use of This work draws on critical literacy frameworks teachable moments about sexuality and gender in all (Freire, 1993; Lewison, Flint, & Van Sluys, 2002) to texts, students have opportunities to explore how all help us consider how power circulates with regard people are gendered and all people have sexuality— to the negotiation of multiple and intersecting in other words, that LGBTQ people are not any less identities. Specifically, our analysis focuses on how normative than non-LGBTQ people. Caitlin and Jill components of the critical literacy framework that (Ryan & Hermann-Wilmarth, 2013) have called this Rose brought to her classroom also served to shape “reading through a queer lens” (p. 149). Rose, Jill, student engagement with and and the upper elementary understanding of a wide range “Critical literacy pedagogy students explored this approach of identities. Critical literacy to texts long before they read directs attention to how pedagogy directs attention to George (Gino, 2015). how language, power, and
language, power, and social
social institutions interact with Setting the Stage institutions interact with and affect each other. Critical and affect each other.” literacy often includes elements The classroom described in this such as “1) disrupting the paper is a part of a K-8 commonplace, 2) interrogating multiple viewpoints, independent school in the Midwest with progressive 3) focusing on sociopolitical issues, and 4) taking roots. The class consisted of 15 students. Eight of the action and promoting social justice” (Lewison et al., students identified as male and seven identified as 2002, p. 382). female. Three students identified as people of color (specifically African American and biracial) and 12 Simultaneously, we use a lens of queer theory. While identified as White. All students were native English the word “queer” can be used to label an identity speakers. Facilitated by her relationship with Jill, a category, as an umbrella term for people who are university professor, Rose began to integrate LGBTQ not heterosexual or cisgender, it is also used to literature into her ELA curriculum during the 2013describe a theoretical approach to deconstructing 14 school year. In 2015, Jill became a co-teacher and and critiquing such identity categories (Jagose, 1996; researcher three afternoons a week; it was then that Warner, 1993). In particular, queer theory highlights queerly informed pedagogy became a part of the the culturally understood non-normativity involved critical literacy related to LGBTQ inclusion. Jill and in transgender and non-heterosexual identities, Rose co-taught a single book with LGBTQ characters particularly as these identities relate to what is during each of the first 2 years of their partnership, known as the heterosexual matrix (Butler, 1999), the but their collaboration expanded over the summer interlocking associations between genders, of 2015 when they co-planned a humanities 17
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 curriculum that Jill would help deliver. Rose and Jill had clear support from the head of school for their work around social justice issues.
list of identities on the board gave us the opportunity to both define that term and connect it to a transgender-identified person the students knew. It also provided a chance to discuss the term “cisgender” and add that to the board as well.
While Rose had always brought a social justice lens to her work, she wanted to be explicit with her students that the humanities curriculum would consistently explore issues of power. We began the school year by asking students to consider multiple identities that people might claim. We made an identities list on the board and together interrogated both the ways we see the world and the ways that particular identities, actions, and ideas are seen as normal and get treated as powerful. Students called out various identities: Black, White, Person of Color, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Not Religious, Male, Female, Gay, Lesbian, Straight, Immigrant, Native to the US, Child, and Adult. We then talked about the word “binary,” starting with what it means in math class and expanding to what it might mean with regard to identities. After we lined up identities as binary pairs on the board, students circled the identities that have more power in our society. This led to additional conversation about the terms. For example, Brandon, who is biracial, pointed out that the binary around race is hard for him to navigate because the stark division doesn’t capture the realities of his life. As Jill defined “gay” and “lesbian” for students who weren’t sure about the meanings of those terms, another student inserted an additional identity into the discussion when she asked, “What is ‘transgender’?” While these fourth and fifth graders had heard the words “transgender” and “non-binary” because they have an afterschool teacher who claims both of those identities, their level of understanding about what those words meant was superficial and attached to one person. This student’s question points to the importance of visibility and discussion: when students talk about the people in their lives—and they are heard by the teacher and their peers—those people can become a part of the curriculum. Adding “transgender” to our
Overall, these student experiences and questions helped us consider how binaries are often false, misleading, or limiting. We also considered that some of us claim identities that were circled, signifying power, while other of our identities were not circled. This helped students think about how intersectionality works. We asked students to think of their identities as lenses through which they see and experience the world and other people and then asked them to write the identities they claim onto pieces of paper with the outline of a pair of glasses. These activities helped students explore the question, “What identities create the lenses through which you see the world?” Such conversations provided both students and teachers the language to question each other about taken-for-granted notions of what people with specific identity labels experience or are expected to do. Within the context of this learning, the class read Woodson’s (2001) The Other Side in September. In the tradition of Britzman (1995), Jill and Rose worked with their students to consider how binaries work with regard to gender and sexuality in our reading. Tying together critical literacy and queer pedagogies, the teachers used a queer lens (Ryan & Hermann-Wilmarth, 2013) to ask students to consider “the way things have always been” (Woodson, 2001, unpaged) with regard to not only ideas about race and power but also friendship and love relationships among girls and boys and how girls and boys have been conditioned to like certain activities, wear certain clothes, and play with certain toys. This reading and rereading that occurred in September had a lasting impact on the students. In the weeks and months that followed, they would frequently refer to “the way things have always
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 been” when discussing a wide range of topics. Students began using air quotes whenever talking about “boy things” or “girl things” and often checked to be sure their classmates and teachers knew that they did not really believe that there was such a thing as a boy or girl thing.
Gupta, 2016), clarifying Title IX’s application and resulting protections with regard to transgender students, and an episode of transphobia expressed by one of Jill’s university students. These two events, which were external to the classroom and certainly not planned by the teachers, provided the direct catalyst for Brandon to write his poem. The slow building of understanding around power, social justice, and lesbian and gay people set the stage for the students’ deeper and intentional work around transgender topics. Much of student thinking about gender up to this point in the school year had been related to gender performance and construction as opposed to gender identity. Their most common thinking related to the kinds of things they and their friends liked to do or wear or read and how those things could be performed by boys or girls. In other words, their talk generally expanded their sense of how boys and girls could express their gender. What they had more trouble articulating—and what they did not discuss nearly as much—is how a person’s gender identity might not be tied to the gender identity that they were assigned at birth, especially since none of them identified differently than how they’d been assigned. The introduction of the book George (Gino, 2015) not only helped give them language (like “gender assigned at birth” and “gender identity”) but also helped them really think about what it might mean to be transgender.
When we asked them to compare “girl” things to “boy” things using a T-chart in small groups, for example, students complied but also rebelled. It was not difficult for them to come up with lists, but one group put a huge “X” over the T-chart paper we’d passed out (and that they’d filled out) and turned the paper over and made a list of the common things that the kids in their group liked to do, regardless of gender identity. Connecting to our reading of The Other Side (Woodson, 2001), students claimed that gendering activities was “the way things have always been” but rejected that kind of normalizing behavior. By February, students in this 4th/5th grade humanities class had researched, read, and written about a wide range of topics from classism to the Confederate flag—along with the issues surrounding its removal from a government building in South Carolina—to the Flint water crisis. They had explored these topics by reading poetry, questioning texts, looking at images, writing and sharing responses, and reading from multiple perspectives.
Tying Together a Book, an Author, and Current Events
When Jill suggested including a class read aloud of Alex Gino’s (2015) George, a children’s literature novel for children about a transgender fourth grader, she and Rose planned multiple ways for students to engage with the text and designed a concluding multigenre project that would allow students to use their creativity to show what they’d learned. What they did not plan for was how the read aloud of George and the accompanying lesson plans would overlap with both the issuance of the Dear Colleague Letter from the United States Departments of Justice and Education (Lhamon &
To prepare for more direct discussions of gender identity as we read George (Gino, 2015), we did a few additional activities to help students explore how our culture expects girls and boys to act in specific ways and how challenging it can be to try to change those norms. In addition to the “boy things” and “girl things” activity, for example, we set up a scene where male-identified students were asked to role play female-identified characters and vice versa to help students think about assumptions made about
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 gender and how those assumptions situate our understandings of gender (McWilliams, 2016). Afterwards, we discussed the ways that students used stereotypes about men and women to convey the gender of the person they were portraying. Brandon, for example, primly crossed his legs and used a high-pitched voice as he acted out Queen Elizabeth. When Rose pointed out that both she and Jill have voices lower than the “female” voice Brandon used, the class chuckled, but the point was made: stereotypes about gender are limiting and not always true. We then asked students to think about how it might feel to know they were supposed to fit into one gender box while all along knowing that they either belonged in another, found comfort in both gender boxes, or did not fit into any gender box at all.
own understanding of who she is—a girl—is never in question. The nuance of the story is in how others accept or refuse this same understanding. As we read, students were asked to write about their ideas and feelings, act out scenes, and predict how other characters might respond to learning about Melissa’s identity.
Just as we were about to finish reading the book, Alex Gino, the author of George, did a reading at a bookstore in a town a few hours away. Rose and Jill decided to attend. Students excitedly wrote letters to Gino and drafted questions they wanted us to ask if we were able. In order to write the letters, we spent time reading Gino’s website and learned that Gino uses gender neutral pronouns. At first, students were confused. “How do we write…them?... a letter if we can’t say Ms. or Mr?” they asked. Once our read aloud of George Learning about gender neutral “At first, students were (Gino, 2015) began, students pronouns and how to use them engaged much more deeply in in authentic instances of spoken confused. ‘How do we write the definitions of transgender and written communication … them?... a letter if we can’t and cisgender and considered provided another opportunity say Ms. or Mr?’ they asked.” what it might be like to be to rely on queer pedagogy’s transgender through push to rethink what students George/Melissa’s character. The character, who is considered normal while simultaneously employing called George but self-identifies as Melissa (privately our commitment to critical literacy pedagogy to at first and with a select group of people by the end include and consider how power is at work when of the book), is a fourth grader who is in the process encountering transgender identities. Faced with that of coming out as transgender—first to her best question, we consulted a source written by a trans friend, then to her family, and finally at school. In and non-binary scholar to learn more (Airton, n.d.), these ways, George is a book that makes Melissa’s and we shared this source with students. life visible, tracing the process of how she navigates Subsequently, teachers and students thought her coming out as transgender to herself, her family, through the experiences of these writers and of her friends, and the larger community. Both at home George/Melissa’s feelings when called by the wrong and at school, she experiences a mix of pronoun. These lessons related to an authentic misunderstanding, bullying, and ally-ship. It is only audience, for their writing moved students toward when she tries out for the role of Charlotte in her comfort with using “they” as a singular for Gino and class production of Charlotte’s Web that Melissa’s others who identify as non-binary and use that best friend, her teacher, her family, and her pronoun. The students were thrilled to see our classmates begin the process of seeing Melissa photos of Gino receiving their letters and even more instead of George. Throughout the book, Melissa’s excited to watch a video of Gino answering some of
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 the students’ questions. Gino used the term “gender queer” in one of these responses which gave Rose and Jill the opportunity to teach students about additional words used by some in the LGBTQ community. Just as we planned to segue this work into a final project about George, the third strand that led to Brandon’s work came into play.
language about the mental capacity of transgender people, questioned the authenticity of the identity category, claimed that President Obama was trying to change laws without applying the democratic process, and claimed that transgender identities had nothing to do with schools and teaching. When the 4th/5th grade students heard about this graduate student’s response, their shock was palpable. “These are grown ups?” one student asked. “In college?” followed another.
Situating Students as Experts for an Authentic Audience As we planned the read aloud of George, we imagined that the culminating activity would be for each student to create a multigenre project that would both highlight genres the class had studied over the year and provide multiple perspectives on the text when the class’ work was looked at as a whole. Certainly, there would be value in concluding a literature unit in this way but plans changed after Jill approached the class following a challenging moment in her own university course. Rose and Jill already knew that an authentic audience mattered for these students. Because they had seen the genuine interest and dedicated effort the students had shown when writing letters to Alex Gino, they wondered what might happen if they knew that their audience were university students, and if they, the elementary-aged students, were positioned as the expert teachers.
After Jill told the elementary students this story and about how she had found it difficult to respond to this student’s misinformation, we asked if the students would be interested in helping Jill teach these and future college students by creating PSAs that she could use in her classroom. They agreed wholeheartedly and dove deep into research on the topic. First, students read the Dear Colleague Letter and several responses of politicians who both agreed and disagreed with the stance taken in the letter and by President Obama (McCrory, Berger respond, 2016). They then held small group discussions and came up with questions they still had. Rose and Jill invited a community member who does LGBTQ policy work at the state level to class to help answer their questions and give further context about what they’d been reading about. Along with writing the words, “transgender people are people,” on the board, he shared his experiences of talking with state politicians who had already been discussing many of the ideas put forth in the Dear Colleague Letter (Lhamon & Gupta, 2016). Students looked at websites from policy groups (e.g., Transgender Ally, n.d.).) to better understand the needs of transgender students. All the while, students remembered George/Melissa. As we talked through both the Dear Colleague Letter and the politicians’ responses, we continually asked the question, “How would these policies help her?”
At Rose’s invitation, Jill explained to the class that, as a part of a current events discussion in her graduate-level social foundations of education course, several students brought up the Dear Colleague Letter on Transgender Students from the Departments of Justice and Education (Lhamon & Gupta, 2016) that had just been released. She explained how her university class had talked about how this letter provided “significant guidance” on ways that schools might comply with legal obligations to help keep transgender students safe. She then shared that during this discussion, one graduate student in her class used transphobic
The Strands Converge for Brandon
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 As Jill peeked over Brandon’s shoulder on the first Jill: Exclusion? day of PSA drafting, he had several tabs open on his Brandon: Ex cluuuu …Could I start with laptop. Like most of the students in this class, “Transgender people are people”? Brandon was highly engaged in reading George. Brandon’s voice always joined or led the chorus of Jill: [reading over Brandon’s shoulder] “Noooooooo!” when we would close the book after “Transgender people are people!” That sounds reading a chapter or two. He was an active great! What is it that you want people to participant in whole group discussions and shared know from your acrostic poem? his written responses to the text with the class Brandon: Um … pretty much showing that regularly. If we acted out a scene from the book, Obama is correct in what Title IX really Brandon’s hand was in the air begging to volunteer. means and that Obama’s not trying to make a Because he was such an engaged student, Jill was new law. curious to see how he would respond to this assignment. Rose was surprised that he had chosen Jill: OK. … what is Obama to write an acrostic poem saying that Title IX really rather than, like some of means? the other students, write a script and act out an Brandon: That it means not advertisement style PSA or that only transgender people create a website with are getting the treated the multiple tabs containing a same, treated like other wide range of information. people … they have to be “I think he thought it would shown in, like, other ways in be easier,” she said like who they really are like regarding his choice. in the bathrooms. However, to create the Jill: Like going in the poem, Brandon, like the bathroom that matches other students, had to conduct research and was Figure 1: Snapshot of Brandon’s screen. Brandon: That matches their tabbing back and forth identity. from the Dear Colleague Letter to a Google document where he had begun Jill: OK. So, so since it’s Title Nine [spelled out his acrostic poem (see Figure 1). When Jill sat down for the acrostic poem], saying “Transgender next to him, the following conversation ensued: people are people, too. Identities of transgender people shown true.” What does that mean?
Jill [noting the cursor blinking by the “t” in “Exclut”]: What word are you trying here?
Brandon: That they are showing the true way, not the way that people think they are.
Brandon: Exclutation? Jill: That’s not a word.
Jill: OK! So, identities of transgender people are … OK, so I love it what you just said, so
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 what do people think that transgender people are?
looking at the computer screen, moving back and forth from his poem to the results of his internet search, or watching the wall a few feet in front of him, deep in thought.
Brandon: Um, a lot of people think they’re freaks. A lot of people think that they’re just wrong and shouldn’t get known the way, they should just keep the way at birth that they were named.
Between the lines of this poem were the conversations and texts we’d explored as a class. Students had been moved by George/Melissa’s experiences of going to the bathroom at school, where she was required to use the facility labeled “boy” and celebrated with her when she got to use the girls’ bathroom at the end of the novel (Gino, 2015). The class had debated about transgender students needing the President of the United States and his administration to step in on their behalf to create safe spaces for them when our 4th/5th graders saw transgender students as strong and capable on their own. These conversations helped us think about how people with power can use it in supportive ways. Brandon began his poem with the words that our class visitor wrote on the board, and one could see that visitor’s insistence that the words of transgender students had the most impact on policy makers at the state level. “The kids know what it’s like,” he’d said, explaining how transgender kids were effective advocates for trans-inclusive legislation. And finally, you could see Brandon’s challenge to Jill’s graduate student, “Obama’s not trying to make a new law.” He synthesized the stress associated with bathrooms for George/Melissa written about by Gino (2015), the words of the Dear Colleague Letter (Lhamon & Gupta, 2016) with regard to transgender student rights, the ideas presented by a community member who came in as a guest speaker, and the resistance of Jill’s graduate student together. Through his poem, he listened as an ally to the incidents of discrimination experienced by members of a marginalized group, heard those realities, and wanted others to have this same conviction. He fully engaged in the writing conference, taking Jill’s questions and prodding as a way to enhance his writing so that he could make
Jill: OK, so identities of transgender people … so Title IX is saying we should trust transgender people to know who they are. Is that right? Brandon: Mmm hmm. Jill: Is that what you …? So what if you say “identities of transgender people …” That “shown true” part is confusing. What if you say “should be trusted”? Or maybe not that, but we should believe the identity that people say that they are instead of questioning them. Because it sounds to me like that is what you’re saying ... we should trust people who, we should trust the identities that people say that they are, right…? Brandon: Um… [long pause for Brandon to blow his nose] Jill: So one of the things that you just said to me is that people think they’re freaks, or that people don’t think they should be transgender, they think they should be the Brandon: [types more on the computer into his poem] Jill: Oh my gosh, that’s beautiful. Brandon [reading]: Identities will be told by the person. In this four-minute exchange (including a nose blowing interlude), Brandon’s eyes were either
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 his ideas and perspectives more clear. He considered his audience, and how his word choice will help them understand the importance of Title IX for transgender students.
As the school year and our unit of inquiry came to an end, students presented their PSAs to the class. Standing in front of his poem projected on the screen in the class’ meeting area, Brandon walked through each line he had written. He took on the persona of a professor, perhaps imagining himself already in front of his intended audience of university students. Analyzing his own writing, he explained his reasoning for using particular words in particular lines. As is the custom in this class, students clapped for Brandon’s performance, and Rose asked, “Questions or comments?”
Throughout the exchange, Brandon drew on his experiences with critical literacy, his knowledge of transgender topics, and his role of teaching an authentic audience to create his poem. Brandon was successfully engaging in critically literate behaviors: he was questioning the power of those who do not believe that transgender people have a right to name their own identities, much less who decide where transgender people can go to the bathroom. And, he The discussion that ensued brings us back to the was thinking about language. beginning of this paper. The As ELA teachers, this excites reading of the poem was not an “As ELA teachers, this us—language play, creative outcome moment, but a part of excites us—language play, writing, and engagement in the a larger learning process. One creative writing, and writing process, all skills he is student challenged Brandon’s expected to grapple with in the use of the word “needed,” engagement in the writing th 4 grade, were symbiotically comparing the Title IX process, all skills he is developed alongside his recommendations to what he expected to grapple with in development around saw as bigger, more pressing the 4th grade, were transgender topics. He knew needs like food and water. “It’s that people were being not NEEDED but it’s going to symbiotically developed excluded, and he was trusting make it better.” Another alongside his development enough in the writing process student countered, around transgender topics.” to try out a word, “exclutation” I actually disagree. I think it IS that might help him make a needed because transgender point. He was actively using texts and ideas by and people, if they don’t feel comfortable with about transgender people. The teachers in his class using the bathroom, then that’s just … you initiated the inclusion of transgender topics by should be able to use the bathroom, like, reading George, but student voice and interest freely. You shouldn’t … I feel like it IS needed created space for further investigation. Brandon was for transgender people because you, like, able to take what he had learned in class and deepen NEED to go to the bathroom. his understanding through continued research. And, audience authenticity mattered. Brandon felt a Brandon’s poetry sparked a conversation among his responsibility to teach through his poem. His words peers about a hierarchy of needs that spoke to the had to convey meaning, so his writing process very real experience of wanting agency over going to reflected that intentionality. the bathroom. This audience, in the microcosm of his own classroom, took up his poem as a learning moment even before the intended audience would
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 have the opportunity to. The opportunity to teach college students also helped him teach his classmates and helped his classmates teach him. Everyone served as teacher and student. And, the teaching offered through Brandon’s poem continued. Not only did Jill share his poem with the graduate class she was teaching at the time (where responses ranged from stony silence to knowing smiles and applause), but she has continued to share it as an example of what might be possible with undergraduates who are unsure about the ability of elementary-aged students to understand LGBTQ topics. Further, while the federal guidelines regarding transgender students during the last months of the presidential administration of Barak Obama have been revoked in the first months of the presidential administration of Donald Trump (Trump administration rolls back, 2017), this does not erase either the power of Brandon’s work or the need for the kind of teaching around transgender topics that happened in Rose’s classroom or the importance of reading books that have transgender characters with elementary-aged students. Regardless of federal policy or practice, there will still be transgender people in our schools and communities, and our students have the ability to read critically, expand or enhance their knowledge, and enjoy stories from and about members of the transgender community and all LGBTQ people. Brandon’s is but one example from this classroom, and we are hopeful that there are many examples from classrooms across the country.
Poetry like Brandon’s is possible for students in classrooms where teachers already bring a critical literacy lens to their curriculum. When LGBTQ identities aren’t isolated as “special” or apart from the other kinds of work that many already do around race, gender, or class with their students but as a part of a diverse picture of identities that exist in the communities where students live, teachers might see ways to make space for outcomes like Brandon’s. Brandon’s opportunity to teach and to learn through interaction with authentic audiences, situated within a classroom where the curriculum was intentionally centered in critical literacy pedagogy with a focus transgender topics, offers a portrait of how elementary aged students can use literacy to make the world a more just and equitable place for transgender people.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017
Suggested Books with Transgender, Gender Nonconforming, or Gender Creative Characters for Elementary Readers Baldacchino, C. (2014). Morris Micklewhite and the tangerine dress. Toronto, ON: Goundwood Books. Bergman, S. (2012). The adventures of Tulip. Toronto, ON: Flamingo Rampant. Carr, J. (2010). Be who you are! Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse. Davids, S. (2015) Annie’s plaid shirt. Miami, FL: Upswing Press. Gino, A. (2015). George. New York, NY: Scholastic. Ewert, M. (2008). 10,000 dresses. New York, NY: Seven Stories Press. Gonzalez, M. (2014). Call me tree: Llamame arbol. San Francisco, CA: Children's Book Press Hall, M. (2015). Red: A crayon’s story. New York, NY: Greenwillow Books. Herthel, J., & Jennings, J. (2014). I am Jazz. New York, NY: Penguin Young Readers Group. Hoffman, S., & Hoffman, I. (2014). Jacob’s new dress. Park Ridge, IL: Albert Whitman & Company. Kilodavis, C. (2009). My princess boy. New York, NY: Aladdin.
References Airton, L. (n.d.). Theyismypronoun.com. Retrieved from http://theyismypronoun.com/ Blaise, M. (2005). Playing it straight: Uncovering gender discourses in the early childhood classroom. New York, NY: Routledge. Britzman, D. (1995). Is there a queer pedagogy? Or, stop reading straight. Educational Theory 45(2), 151165. Butler, J. (1999). Gender trouble (2nd Ed.). New York, NY: Routledge. DePalma, R., & Atkinson, E. (2009). Interrogating heteronormativity in primary schools: The No Outsiders Project. London, UK: Trentham Books. Gino, A. (2015). George. New York, NY: Scholastic. Hermann-Wilmarth, J. M., & Ryan, C. L. (2013). Interrupting the single story: LGBT issues in the language arts classroom. Language Arts, 90(3), 226–231.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 Hermann-Wilmarth, J. M., & Ryan, C. L. (2015). Destabilizing the homonormative for young readers: Exploring Tash’s queerness in Jacqueline Woodson’s After Tupac and D Foster. In D. Linville & D. Carlson (Eds.), Beyond Borders: Queer Eros and Ethos (Ethics) in LGBTQ Young Adult Literature (pp. 8599). New York, NY: Peter Lang. Jagose, A. (1996). Queer theory: An introduction. New York, NY: New York University Press. 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. Lhamon, C., & Gupta, V. (2016, May 13). Dear colleague letter on transgender students. Department of Education and Department of Justice. Retrieved from https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201605-title-ix-transgender.pdf “McCrory, Berger respond to federal bathroom mandate that transgender students must choose,” (2016, May 14). Retrieved from http://myfox8.com/2016/05/14/gov-mccrory-phil-berger-respond-to-federalbathroom-mandate-that-transgender-students-must-choose/ McWilliams, J. (2016). Queering participatory design research. Cognition and Instruction, 34(3), 259-274. Ryan, C. L., & Hermann-Wilmarth, J. M. (2013). Already on the shelf: Queer readings of award-winning children’s literature. Journal of Literacy Research, 45(2), 142–172. “Transgender Ally” (n.d.). Retrieved from https://lgbtrc.usc.edu/allies/transgender/ “Trump administration rolls back protections for transgender students,” (2017, February 22). Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/trump-administration-rolls-back-protections-for- transgender-students/2017/02/22/550a83b4-f913-11e6-bf01-d47f8cf9b643_story.html Warner, M. (Ed.). (1993). Fear of a queer planet: Queer politics and social theory. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. Woodson, J. (2001). The other side (E. B. Lewis, Ill.). New York, NY: Putnam.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1 —Spring 2017
Are We Making “PROGRESS”? A Critical Literacies Framework to Engage Pre-service Teachers for Social Justice
Holly C. Matteson & Ashley S. Boyd
Abstract: In this article, authors describe an original framework aimed to acquaint pre-service English teachers with concepts related to social justice to facilitate their critical literacies related to eight components: positionality, race, orientation, gender, relationships, environment, social class, and stereotypes (PROGRESS).Authors then illustrate this text-based approach through an application of the paradigm to the young adult text The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian with the hope that this model will be both useful for helping pre-service teachers participate in critical conversations on literature and social issues as well for assisting those candidates in finding starting points for similar work with their future students. Possibilities for implementing the paradigm in classroom practice are offered, which embrace examining intersectionalities and recognizing silences in the myriad texts to which the framework can be adapted. Keywords: teacher education/professional learning, social justice/activism, children's & young adult literature
Holly Matteson currently attends Washington State University where she is pursuing a degree in English. She is a Research Assistant in the Department of English and serves as President of the English Club. Her areas of inquiry include critical literacies, English education, and adolescent literature. She recently won a university research award for her work on PROGRESS, an original framework for engaging pre-service teachers' critical literacies. Ashley Boyd is Assistant Professor of English at Washington State University where she teaches graduate courses in critical theory and undergraduate courses in English Methods and Young Adult Literature. Her research interests include social justice pedagogies and young adult literature. She has recently published in The International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, Educational Studies, and The New Educator.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1 —Spring 2017
n many institutions across the nation, multicultural and social justice education— the promotion of equity and understanding of power and oppression—exist in some form in preservice teacher coursework (Gorski, 2009).1 While there are varied conceptions of social justice education, the core value intertwined through all definitions involves recognizing and “challenging the inequities of school and society” (CochranSmith, Gleeson, & Mitchell, 2010, p.37) while working to advocate and change these inequities. In the field of English Education specifically, the groundbreaking work of the Social Justice Strand of the Conference on English Education (2009) has secured the inclusion of ‘social justice’ in standards governing English teacher preparation, which have been approved by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). Based on these criteria, teacher candidates must demonstrate that they have enough familiarity with social justice theories to plan and implement lessons accordingly. They should, therefore, illustrate that they discern clear connections between theory and practice, that they can infuse their discipline-specific work with broader knowledge of culture and equity (Dyches & Boyd, in press). Melding information on social justice with content knowledge is a difficult task, and it is one that we in the field are working to make more accessible to our students. The presence of social justice in CAEP standards is affirming to those of us in teacher education who wish to prepare our candidates for the diversity of students they will work with and to do so in thoughtful ways. We now know well that statistics show a rise in varied student demographics while the teaching force remains largely White, female, middle class, and heterosexual (Boser, 2014; Ingersoll, 2011). Regardless of teachers’ backgrounds
and demographics, however, we must educate candidates currently in our pre-service classrooms to work knowledgeably and effectively with all the students they will encounter (Boyd, in press). As one way to engage pre-service teachers in the social justice endeavors endorsed by CAEP and to develop and subsequently assess their knowledge of critical concepts, we here offer an original framework: PROGRESS. Although there is a multitude of literature on broader social justice pedagogies and paradigms, candidates need discipline-specific, organized ways to help them develop the language and schemas for talking about areas related to social justice. With the exception of miller’s (2015) Queer Literacies framework, a model like the one we offer here, one that explicitly names and organizes thought around a set of equity-oriented topics, is lacking in the field of English Education. While we recognize and agree with the tendency to shy away from rigid classifications or prescriptive curricula in social justice education, in our position as pedagogical realists (Boyd & Dyches, 2017), we also avow the importance of scaffolding candidates’ potential to tackle difficult topics and thus feel a framework that sets them on this path is necessary. It is our hope that this paradigm will be both useful for helping pre-service teachers participate in critical conversations about texts and social issues as well as for assisting those candidates in finding starting points for similar work with their own future students. In what follows, we set the theoretical foundations on which we constructed the framework and we provide a detailed portrait of each of its components. We suggest ways teachers might
as female, and “ze” for individuals who identify as gendernon conforming. We have selected these pronouns because we believe they are more familiar for a diverse audience of readers.
We acknowledge and respect 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
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1 —Spring 2017 address the framework in their classrooms and help students connect to its individual pieces. Then, we offer an illustration through a popular young adult text, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian (Alexie, 2007), showing how the model itself can be utilized tangibly. Careful to note the complexities in this work, especially with regard to intersections and silences surrounding oppression, we describe the ways such realities can also be addressed while using this framework. Finally, we conclude with considerations for classroom practice, postulating several ways that PROGRESS might be implemented with students.
practices only meant for high-ability students. Rather, any embodiment of critical literacies takes seriously how language works in everyday environments to shape our perceptions (Lewison, Leland, & Harste, 2014). The end goals of critical literacies are to achieve the aims of social justice and to engage with the world for the benefit of local communities and broader contexts in ways that foster equity (Epstein, 2014). Specifically, “critical literacy interrogates texts in order to identify and challenge social constructs, ideologies, underlying assumptions, and the power structures that intentionally and unintentionally perpetuate social inequalities and injustices” (Wallowitz, 2008, p. 2). Theoretical Foundations: Fostering Critical Evolving from an understanding of reading and Literacies for Social Justice writing in the traditional sense to observing, evaluating, and analyzing the way the world While “social justice” has operates—including the ways “…English Education is not characteristically been defined people engage with society— as fairness and equality for all— critical literacies offer students a simplistic field of including the respect for basic an opportunity to build and practice; rather, it requires human rights—Sensoy and hone their analytic lenses in nuanced, yet concrete, DiAngelo (2012) added a critical reference to the world around element, differentiating social them. New literacy scholars (e.g. approaches to accomplish justice from “‘critical social Gee, 1996) have challenged us in myriad purposes.” justice”. This distinction the English education sector to considers the ways in which see that “literacy is no longer society is significantly stratified along group lines viewed as merely a set of skills one must master, but (e.g. by race, gender, class, ability) and discerns how as a set of practices, beliefs, and values as well as a inequality is deeply embedded in society. Critical way of being in the world” (Mulcahy, 2008, p. 15). social justice also entails actively seeking to change these injustices (Sensoy & DiAngelo, 2012). As a set of practices, then, Campano, Ghiso, and Recognizing structural dynamics within society and Sanchez (2013) re-conceptualize critical literacies as working to transform them is accomplished in plural and as “critical orientations and dispositions English classrooms through engagement with already seeded in the soil of [students’] local critical literacies. context” (p. 102). Attempting to mitigate the hierarchical power structure that often exists in Critical literacies operate through critiquing texts teachers’ enactment of critical pedagogies, they for implications of power (Luke, 2000), seeing advocate envisioning students as bringing with them inequity, and acting for change to make society knowledges from their worlds that connect to better (Behrman, 2006). As Lee (2011) notes, critical critical work, as “emerging organic intellectuals, who literacies are not synonymous with critical thinking employ reading to cultivate critical ideas about the or as an instructional strategy for traditional literacy world and imagine a better future” (p. 119). Such an
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1 —Spring 2017 approach recognizes the assets students bring to classrooms and opens up varied possibilities for analytic engagement. We see the framework offered here as a way to provide students with a space to enact those critical literacies and a structure within which to do so, recognizing that it must not be used in an overly rigid fashion so that it can allow for fluidity and the presence of localized knowledge that students bring with them. Ours is a platform to “mobilize cultural and epistemic resources in [students’] transactions with texts” (Campano, Ghiso, & Sanchez, 2013, p. 120). Thus, we hope to facilitate students’ interactions with content based on their knowledges and experiences with the categories of the framework.
Social Justice and Critical Literacies in the Preservice Classroom Working with teacher candidates to develop a social justice disposition in the pre-service context can be challenging, yet it is crucial. Teacher candidates often have a fear of “making waves” in their careers too early, and we know that often when teachers begin their careers, local environments restrain perspectives fostered in the university. Schools, generally promoting more conservative practices than pre-service teachers learn in their universities, tend to affect candidates when they enter their careers (Anagnostopoulos, Smith, & Basmadjian, 2007; Zeichner & Tabachnick, 1981). Teacher educators must, therefore, find ways to not only introduce social justice to pre-service teachers but also to equip them with ways to accomplish it in their own future teaching. As miller (2008) wrote, “it is critical that we open up conversations during students’ liminal time in teacher preparation courses so that we can support their emotional, cognitive, and corporeal development as social educators so that they have the tools that they can draw from in case they should experience duress” (p. 3). Thus, we need to provide our students with a repertoire from which to draw, not just pedagogically, such as in how to orchestrate effective groupings of students, but also in how to accomplish equity work in concrete ways with the content they will teach.
From these more contemporary notions of literacies, solidified by New Literacy Studies (Barton & Hamilton, 1998; Luke, 1991; Gee, 1996; Street, 1997), we now know that if students, as Freire and Macedo (1987) coined, are to read “the word” and “the world,” (p. 29)the focus in literacy education must include incorporating students’ critical literacies to teach for social justice. Scholars, however, in English Education have begun to ask how, when faced with increasingly diverse classrooms, we can address the complex issues of race, gender, social class, and sexual orientation (Darling-Hammond, 2002) while encouraging a classroom of equality and justice, all within the context of state and/or federal standards (Alsup & miller, 2014; Christensen, 2009). It is this consideration of classroom dynamics that illustrates that English Education is not a simplistic field of practice; rather, it requires nuanced, yet concrete, approaches to accomplish myriad purposes. These questions and complexities stimulated the work described in the remainder of this article. With these foundations of social justice and critical literacies, we sought to establish a clear framework that aimed to engage pre-service teachers in beginning to analyze texts in a way that explores the systems and ideologies they uphold as well as the possibilities for dialogue they contain.
miller (2008; 2010; 2014), having written extensively on tangible methods to cultivate social justice identities and practices with pre-service teachers, draws on Nieto and Bode (2008) to posit a metaframework of four stages: critical reflection; acceptance; respect; and affirmation, solidarity, and critique. Each is accompanied by what miller (2010) labeled six “‘re-s’, reflect, reconsider, refuse, reconceptualize, rejuvenate, and re-engage,” which “can be applied to . . . lessons and become practice for the possible social justice and injustice issues
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1 —Spring 2017 faced by students in the field” (p. 65). The focus is the role that pedagogy plays in creating the holistically on teacher’s identity development, conditions for equity in schools” (p. 66), and George recognizing that candidates will make decisions ‘in explained how he facilitated connections between the moment’ to enact their social justice young adult literature and action, having students dispositions. miller (2010) suggested exercises to research and investigate ways to address “the prepare pre-service students for this embodiment, injustices they read about” (p. 67). Glazier (2007) such as having “students role-play scenes that recounted how she intentionally scaffolded her demonstrate what a teacher can do to affirm students’ understanding of critical literacy and, students” (p. 257). The activities proposed simulate using this knowledge, challenged them to engage in experiences in powerful ways as well as facilitate “actively creating curriculum that is anti-oppressive” students’ critique of key educational institutions, (p. 145). Her candidates collaboratively constructed including aspects as fundamental as the physical unit plans that engaged their future learners with layout of a school and considering the ways it could critical literacy, and Glazier (2007) reported that one “be designed differently . . . for the betterment of the group “focused in particular on helping their own student body and faculty” (p. 252). miller’s (2010) students realize the partiality of text” (p. 146). framework applies to pedagogies, teachers’ stances, Glazier’s (2007) work is an example of how we can and knowledge and critique work with pre-service teachers with of the field as a whole. the actual texts they will use in the “We work toward Particularly relevant to our classroom. developing candidates’ work, at each of the metaknowledge of social justice stages that miller discussed, There are thus assorted ways to the ‘reconceptualize’ engage pre-service English teachers concepts through a defined element included attention in thinking about and planning for framework…” to how texts can be used to social justice, and ours is a “illuminate some aspect of contribution to this body of work. social justice” (p. 252). Thus in each of the phases Much has been done to engage students’ with equity there is a pointed need to engage with curriculum. pedagogies, to foster their general critical The model we will discuss provides one overt way to dispositions, and to engage them in local accomplish this “re” that miller calls for in the metacommunities; yet, ours is a step that is specifically framework. text-based. We work toward developing candidates’ knowledge of social justice concepts through a Other approaches that scholars have developed to defined framework, and we encourage deeper examine social justice perspectives with pre-service understandings of those ideas through application English teachers involve engaging candidates more to the literature they might one day teach. specifically with curriculum and lesson planning. In Applying the CEE Position Statement Beliefs about The Framework: PROGRESS Social Justice in English Education to Classroom Praxis (2011) a number of English teacher educators Seeking to blur the lines between theory and described their strategies to facilitate equitypractice, we developed the framework PROGRESS oriented dispositions amongst their students. For for enacting and developing students’ critical instance, Williamson illuminated his employment of literacies as well as cultivating their knowledge of a literacy case study assignment “to help future and capacities for social justice. We strove for a teachers critically examine their assumptions about delineated method that would assist pre-service
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1 —Spring 2017 teachers in reading and evaluating texts with a critical lens. As a result, PROGRESS signifies a system through which to examine the content of a text for eight specific social justice-related aspects: Positionality, Race, sexual Orientation, Gender, Relationships, Environment, Social class, and Stereotypes. It is essential to note that we differentiate Positionality (‘P’) from the remaining portions of the framework. Positionality should be approached as an assessment of the main character or characters that are well-developed, while the aspects ‘Race’ through ‘Stereotypes’ (‘R-S’) should be an in-depth evaluation of the context that affects the character under analysis, including considering circumstances that influence the choices the character makes in the story.
concept of positionality. For example, Holly (author) defines her social positioning as an able-bodied, White, heterosexual, English Education undergraduate female while Ashley (author) defines herself as an able-bodied, White, heterosexual, Southern female. Our positions are based both on how we see ourselves as well as how our social roles, such as being female, impact our identities. Once teacher candidates have reflected on themselves in terms of positionality, they could then transfer this understanding to how characters are situated in both individual and social ways. We borrow from the notion of positionality in qualitative research (England, 1994) where objectivity is rejected, thus nullifying claims of bias, and we therefore use the notion to show that we all see the world through the particular lenses into which we have been socialized. By coming to recognize our own positionality in society, then, we are able to locate ourselves within the cultural climate that has influenced our development. It is our hope that by discerning these elements of ourselves, we are better equipped to understand and analyze the positionality of the character in the text and vice versa.
Positionality We define Positionality as where individuals locate themselves in relation to others in society, including how that location is influenced by structural and historical elements (Sensoy & DiAngelo, 2012). Positionality takes into consideration a host of factors, such as ability, nationality, religion, race, citizenship status, orientation, gender, and social class. This aspect is often closely aligned with notions of identity, and yet it recognizes both external influences on identity as well as the fluidity in identity characterized by differing social settings and discourse communities (Gee, 1996). Therefore, due to the complexities of a character and how they develop throughout the text, an analysis of positionality will reveal that aspects of a character overlap, or intersect. We will return to a more detailed discussion of intersectionality and its relationship to the framework once we define and illustrate each of its components.
Race Historically—and currently—a controversial category, Race is defined here as a socially constructed, sociopolitical (Henry, 2010) category that labels people with shared (sometimes physical) traits (Sensoy & DiAngelo, 2012). Recognizing that characteristics associated with race have traditionally received a wealth of attention, possible areas of inquiry when examining race in a text could include addressing discrimination, prejudice, and racism and the difference between those concepts (Tatum, 2000); evaluating possible counternarratives in the text (or discussing narratives that counter those presented by the text) and how these perpetuate or challenge social norms (Glenn, 2012); and investigating racial oppression in terms of minoritized and dominant groups. For, as Nieto and
Before having pre-service students contemplate the various ways in which a character in a text is positioned, it is likely best to have them engage in their own self-evaluations to understand the
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1 —Spring 2017 Bode (2008) noted, “although race as a notion is preponderance of White individuals who make up dubious at best, racism is not” (p. 33). A discussion the teaching force (Boser, 2014) and the fact that of race with pre-service teachers, then, would “Whites usually spend their lives in Whiteinclude the cultural consequences experienced with dominated spheres, constructing an understanding race as well as an examination of the system of of social equality from that vantage point” (Sleeter, Whiteness, White privilege, and White complicity 2013, p. 160). We do, however, issue caution in (Applebaum, 2010). An example of such a directed personal questions about race and conversation examining race is found in Jiménez’s recommend strategies that encourage students to (2014) work, wherein she utilizes The Human Bean see systemic implications of race and to exercise Activity to engage pre-service teachers in reflection on those through appropriate classroom conversations surrounding race. This hands-on, assignments. An example of such an assignment is visual activity included assigning colored objects a one that prompts students to situate their own race, ethnicity and culture, followed by a autobiographies within larger cultural narratives, consideration of the people students interact with in discerning how they might have experienced their communities, and concluded with placing the privileges by the sheer structures within which they corresponding object into small, clear existed, such as being a White student living in an plastic bags they were given as part of the activity. affluent school district (Boyd & Noblit, 2015). This method worked to “Just as in a consideration reveal the racial makeup of Orientation the communities with which of race, then, connections the pre-service teachers We delineate the next aspect of the between individuals and engaged and to recognize framework, Orientation, as a society are crucial, and White privilege. person’s sexual identity and attraction to another person (Sensoy teacher sensitivity and The conflation of race with & DiAngelo, 2012). Inquiry into this discretion is advised …” ethnicity (Omi & Winant, aspect could include looking at the 2007) and the dynamics of pervasiveness of heteronormativity diverse and multiracial groups could also be and the privileging of heterosexuality in society, elements for critical consideration with the Race which “implicitly positions homosexuality and section of the framework. We thus include an bisexuality as abnormal and thus inferior” examination of ethnicity in this category, noting (Blackburn & Smith, 2010, p. 625). It would also that “ethnicity implies history, culture, location, recognize and affirm lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, creativity” (Hilliard, 2009, p. 27), and yet race has intersex, agender/asexual, gender creative, and historically subsumed ethnicity because of the questioning (LGBT*IAGCQ) (miller, 2015) “political necessity” to “shift the basis of group identifications and contain an analysis of how designation. . .to an exclusively physiological one” society views and treats people based on that (Hilliard, 2009, p. 27). We therefore encourage a association—including any discrimination and discussion of these complexities in this category. prejudice towards individuals. The systemic power Engaging pre-service teachers with these issues upheld in such treatment is also fodder for study. As would include asking them to evaluate how race and Blumenfeld (2000) reminded us, “It cannot be ethnicity are portrayed in the text under study as denied that homophobia, like other forms of well as how they are current social issues. This oppression, serves the dominant group by section is especially important given the establishing and maintaining power and mastery
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1 —Spring 2017 over those who are marginalized or disenfranchised” (p. 380). Just as in a consideration of race, then, connections between individuals and society are crucial, and teacher sensitivity and discretion is advised with regard to personal prodding related to sexual orientation. As an entry point, teacher educators could ask their pre-service students to evaluate the different types of sexual orientations that are represented (or are not) within the text and how those are reflective of larger social narratives, connecting representation explicitly to cultural texts. Students could also be tasked with identifying the social consequences of representations, both in terms of government legislation as well as in everyday encounters.
crucial (Boyd, 2014). Hinchey (2004) avowed, “not only are female teachers bound in tightly restricted roles. . . but their own culturally induced and unexamined assumptions help perpetuate their subordinate roles inside and outside of schools” (p. 36). Challenging future educators on aspects of roles and assumptions, by way of a focus text, could therefore include asking them in what ways the text’s author represents gender, including the practices, norms, and behaviors that are associated with gender. Teacher candidates could also be asked to imagine possibilities otherwise, to develop spaces for fluid gender identifications, so that they can actively attempt to mediate rigid gender norms in their future classrooms.
Gender, another controversial and fluid distinction, exists in the framework as referring to a person’s identification, which in Western culture has traditionally been defined as male or female. Newer conceptions posit gender on a spectrum, opening up the binary to include affiliations such as “gender independent, gender creative, gender expansive and gender diverse” (Kilman, 2013, para. 9). Discussions with teacher candidates in this area could include how society constructs expectations for femininity and masculinity. For example, Meyer (2007) observed, “The purchasing of gender-‘appropriate’ toys and clothes for babies and young children is one way adults perpetuate. . . lessons” (p. 17) on gender. This includes well-known associations, for instance, of the color pink with girls and the color blue with boys.
When contemplating Relationships in the framework, we consider the ways in which people are connected as well as examine the dynamics of power involved in those networks. That is, this element considers how individuals are linked (e.g. partner connections, familial connections, employer/employee connections, group connections) and how power differentials exist within those individual and communal relationships. This includes, for example, an examination of social capital, which allows students to see how “membership in a group. . . provides each of its members with the backing of the collectivityowned capital, a ‘credential’ which entitles them to credit” (Bourdieu, 1986, p. 51). Thus students might examine how an affiliation provides access to or limits social power, depending on the nature of the relationships and the group dynamics it implies. Kirk and Okazawa-Rey (2000) explained how association with distinct social categories leads to the unequal stratifications in our society, noting, “In each category there is one group of people deemed superior, legitimate, dominant, and privileged while others are relegated—whether explicitly or implicitly—to the position of inferior, illegitimate,
Gender roles are another potential area for analysis, especially traditional constructions that portray women as homemakers and men as bread-winners (Friedan, 1963). The media is particularly influential in our perceptions of gender (Wood, 2011) and thus unpacking taken-for-granted assumptions with teacher candidates, who largely identify as female, is
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1 —Spring 2017 subordinate, and disadvantaged” (p. 11). Thus, as applicable to the text, possible areas of inquiry for relationships could include oppression and privilege experienced as part of a relationship.
symbols, interpretations, and perspectives that distinguish one people from another in modernized societies” (Banks, 2010, p. 8). For example, the cultural norms and behaviors to which characters in texts subscribe are persuasive factors in their approaches to decision-making. In addition, and related to culture, geography plays a part of environment, as characters’ locations also often impact their ways of being in the world. Finally, characteristics of the physical environment, such as the landscape, climate, and natural resources, can equally impact a protagonist’s development. When having pre-service teachers examine this aspect, teacher educators could address the elements that define the cultures and physical features present in a text and how those are portrayed in the daily life of individuals. The focus on environment continues attempts in the field to steer away from surface-level treatment of culture as a static entity (Nieto and Bode, 2008) or a collection of celebrated ‘heroes and holidays’ (Banks, 2010) and rather examines culture in a context.
For instance, a typical relationship within society is that of employer/employee; the employer wields the power to maintain or release the employee based on a number of factors, including overt aspects such as performance and other more latent ones involving, for example, gender dynamics. This can affect how the employee approaches responsibilities in a work setting and brings up the ways that relationships are structured by social implications. Or, consider the relational power dynamics between a teacher and student: a teacher has the authority to academically reward or punish students based on their completion of assignments. Thus there is room for overlap between this category of the framework and others. However, while the other categories focus individually on delineations such as race, this section prompts students to see how that distinction impacts the text under study in multi-directional ways, how it influences their interactions with others. It forces readers to think in broader social terms, and thus we feel it is a necessary component. Discussion on this element of the framework could center on evaluating what relationships are central in the text, how those affect the character’s daily life, and how being in a position of power influences various associations.
Social Class Inherent in the environment in which one exists are implications of social class. Social class is defined in the framework as a person’s economic status and the structural consequences or advantages ascribed to that position (Sensoy & DiAngelo, 2012). Jones and Vagle (2014) noted how manifestations of social class could also appear in “moment-to-moment interactions” (p. 134) where aspects such as individuals’ body language can be perceived as classed. Inquiry into this element helps determine how a character’s economic standing limits or enhances access to both tangible and symbolic resources. Barry (2005), for instance, illuminated how “‘the socio-economic’ gap in education has been shown to start as early as 22 months” (p. 47), and traces how cumulative disadvantage related to a person’s financial resources accrues over a time, compounding as it continues. To demonstrate, Barry
Environment We categorize Environment within the model as the context in which a person operates, including cultural and physical aspects. Inquiry into this component could center on the importance of religion, the traditions embedded in characters’ lives, or the variance of language within dialogue in the text, including how these areas may influence characters’ outlooks and decisions. Culture is thus central to environment, defined as “the values,
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1 —Spring 2017 (2005) declared, “There is a well-established finding that children who go to school without having had breakfast learn less well than others, and this effect is stronger among children who are generally malnourished” (p. 54). Thus, lacking in one area leads to missing in another, at no fault of the individual but in the way the system operates. The system, especially in the institution of the school, reifies social class norms through curriculum and school policies, such as students’ capacities to participate in school sports that require financial contributions (Jones & Vagle, 2014).
example, emphasized how Native American mascots of primary and secondary schools “help deny the modern-day existence of ‘real Indians’” and “perpetuate the stereotype that Native Americans are bloodthirsty and savage” (p. 375). The harm then, comes when “we add values to our stereotypes” (Sensoy & DiAngelo, 2012, p. 31) and those lead to negative treatment of others on both individual and social levels. This is perhaps most dangerous when stereotypes are so normalized by society that they go unquestioned, when they are so ingrained in our shared repertoire that we do not perceive the pain or unwarranted expectations they Related to these findings on social class and inflict on others. This includes, for instance, African structure, in her innovative work on social class, American males being “perceived as violent and sociologist Lareau (2011) documented how societal economically and socially irresponsible” (Gay, 2012, inequities result from variations in social class. p. 148) and female students of Asian ancestry being Lareau (2011) particularly related “stereotyped as passive, quiet, these disparities to families and cute, and accommodating” (p. “…lacking in one area leads child-rearing practices. She 150). It might also include to missing in another, at no illustrated “that cultural stereotypes of adolescents and practices in the home,” commonly held assumptions fault of the individual but specifically those of middle-class about teenage behaviors in the way the system homes, “pay off in settings (Sarigianides, Lewis, & Petrone, operates.” outside the home” (p. 257), thus 2015). again emphasizing parallels between social class and educational settings. In Conversations centered on the stereotypes revealed addition, having pre-service teachers consider in texts, either expressed or experienced by a economic-related statuses of characters in the text character, should include making connections to the promotes understanding characters’ actions. Finally, social significances of those stereotypes. Questions examining the consequences of characters’ social for discussion include: How might stereotypes classes could translate to an understanding of social perpetuate prejudice and oppression? Who do these advantage and disadvantage that avoids a discourse stereotypes serve, and how? Challenging future of “moral superiority” and eschew one that “blames educators on this aspect might also involve how they individuals for their life circumstances” (Lareau, have engaged with stereotypes in their own 2011, p. 257). schooling experiences and communities. Stereotypes
Accompanying PROGRESS: Guiding Elements in the Framework
The concluding aspect, Stereotypes is defined here as widely held and oversimplified images or ideas of particular groups or people. These have damaging ramifications if not disrupted. Miner (1998), for
To help with understanding and applying each element of PROGRESS, we developed a table (see Appendix A) in which we defined each element,
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1 —Spring 2017 suggested potential areas of inquiry, and some questions overlap, which reflects the recommended three initial questions to guide interconnectedness of the Questioning Circle. We exploration in the associated category. The intended for these inquiries to initiate conversations explanations of each aspect of PROGRESS are based on the social implications in the text in order to on scholarship in the respective area, yet we also produce discussion, promote critical thinking, and recognize the fluidity in definitions and the very real facilitate the inclusion of critical literacies. Using social consequences attached to each. Therefore, for this table as a resource, pre-service teachers will be the sake of a teaching tool and for our aspirations to able to consider the ways in which the text make them comprehensible to students, addresses social issues, locate themselves in the simplification was necessary in order to provide a discussion of the topic, and evaluate how society platform from which to begin discussion. For each of approaches these issues. We hope that this selfthe categories, we also recognize that pre-service reflection and assessment of social issues will foster students can discuss not only how the element is a critical approach in their future teaching practices. present in the text, but how the text might uphold dominant ideologies around that particular Enacting PROGRESS: Exploring the Framework category. A text might, for instance, work to defy racism but simultaneously uphold the gender Perhaps the most useful explanation of the binary. The categories are framework PROGRESS is through “When he transfers to an meant to facilitate an application. We thus turn here to discussion related to that describing how we related all-White school off the topic, in whatever form it PROGRESS to a text’s content to reservation in pursuit of a might fit. (See Appendix A) demonstrate how it can be used better education, Junior is specifically in classrooms. The considered a traitor by his We based the questions Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time associated with each Indian (Alexie, 2007) is a story about people, especially his best component on Leila a self-identified Spokane Indian boy friend Rowdy.” Christenbury’s (2006) named Junior. Having been born Questioning Circle, with a variety of medical concerns, investigating the following: the matter (the having grown up in poverty on the Spokane Indian subject/text), the personal reality (the Reservation, and having witnessed systemic individual/reader; ‘you’), and the external reality alcoholism on the reservation and in his own family, (societal implications) in relation to textual study. Junior grapples with holding on to hope. When he Because Christenbury’s second level of questioning transfers to an all-White school off the reservation relates to personal topics and many pre-service in pursuit of a better education, Junior is considered teachers (and their future students) are still a traitor by his people, especially his best friend developing, we modified the questions in some Rowdy. He endures bullying, personal loss, and instances to avoid unwelcomed prodding or student social triumph as he struggles between accepting distress. The questions will, however, allow students who he is in his culture and what he wants for to bring themselves and their knowledge into the himself on his journey in being a “part-time Indian.” classroom, connecting their own personal experiences to the topics and texts discussed. Those Application of Framework to Content we developed are not all-inclusive nor do they comprise the entire spectrum of each category, and Positionality. We begin our analysis with the first
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1 —Spring 2017 element of the framework, positionality, which first notes how an individual locates their self in relation to others in society. The character Junior in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Alexie, 2007) defines himself in multiple ways and is likewise variably situated by others. He is a young, smart, heterosexual male that enjoys playing basketball. Junior is a son to a heterosexual married couple, the youngest of two children (he has an older sister), and he is a cartoonist. He also is a Spokane Indian living in poverty on the reservation. This affects how others perceive him, such as his teacher who encourages Junior to seek opportunities off the reservation. Knowing that Junior identifies himself in this way and seeing how others recognize his positions gives readers an understanding of who he is, including how these aspects will influence the ways in which he views circumstances and makes decisions. One unique element of Junior’s positionality that should be included here as well is that Junior was born with physical disabilities. These are an integral part of his situation in society, especially when he is a victim of bullying. As a whole then, Junior’s positionality affects the way he views the world within and outside of the reservation as well as how both of those entities view him.
become [sic] white if you try to make your life better, if you become successful” (p. 131). Race and ethnicity are ever-present both in dialogue such as in these examples and in Junior’s understanding of the ways his people have been historically oppressed. He noted, for example, Indians’ loss of all aspects of life, including “native land,” “languages,” “songs and dances” (p. 173) and references Indian boarding schools and their attempts to eradicate a whole culture. He cataloged the cycles of alcoholism and poverty that ensued from years of domination largely based on racial and ethnic makeup. These cases related to race arise throughout the book and lend themselves to understandings of dynamics between dominant and minoritized groups, specifically providing a lens through which to discern issues related to assimilation and preservation. Orientation. Alexie (2007) alluded to Junior’s sexual orientation when the character stated, “I like girls and their curves” (p. 25). However, there are instances when others question Junior’s sexual attractions. For example, Rowdy’s father mentioned to Junior, “You’re kind of gay, aren’t you?” (p. 103) when Junior tried to give Rowdy a comic that he drew of both of them. In another instance, when Junior attempted to become friends with Gordy at Reardan and said, “I want us to be friends,” Gordy responded, “I assure you, I am not a homosexual” (p. 94). There is, again, an implied questioning of Junior’s orientation. Both of these examples uphold traditional notions of masculinity and homophobia, suggesting men cannot be simply friends with one another.
Race. As mentioned above, Junior’s story is that of a boy who distinguishes himself as part of the Spokane Indian tribe and experiences conflicting worlds; thus, The Absolutely True Diary of a PartTime Indian contains innumerable instances related to race and ethnicity. This is particularly evident in Junior’s experiences with White people and dealing with structural Whiteness as an indigenous person. For instance, after Junior’s White teacher, Mr. P, tells him to leave the reservation in order to find hope, Junior asked his parents, “Who has the most hope?” (Alexie, 2007, p.45), to which they responded, “white people” (p. 45). While speaking to Gordy, his White friend at Reardan, Junior said, “…but some Indians think you have to act white to make your life better. Some Indians think you
In addition, heteronormativity is further illustrated when Junior drew a picture of himself and his best friend Rowdy. The image showed two boys holding hands, jumping into a lake. An inscription on the bottom of the image said, “Boys can hold hands until they turn nine” (Alexie, 2007, p. 218). This observation exposes how society assumes that
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1 —Spring 2017 holding the hand of a member of one’s own sex after a certain age implies a questionable relationship, or that it is no longer appropriate to hold the hand of a member of your own sex after a certain age. However, there are also attempts at affirming samesex relationships within Absolutely True Diary as well, such as when Junior mentioned his grandmother’s greatest gift of tolerance and how she talked with anyone without prejudice and discrimination. Her influence on Junior’s life is apparent when he said that “Gay people could do anything” while noting at one time in his culture, “gay people, being both male and female, were seen as both warriors and caregivers” (p. 155). These differing perspectives further exemplify the conflicting cultural narratives Junior experienced throughout the novel.
p. 17). This leads Junior to rely on Rowdy for defense against those who wish to physically harm him. This security, however, is removed when Junior begins to attend Reardan, a school off of the reservation. His complicated relationship with Rowdy is indicative, again, of the two worlds in which Junior struggles to live. His rapport with Rowdy reflects growing up on the reservation, yet when he leaves for the White school, this bond is sorely damaged. Although being in the White world gives Junior some power, he realizes that his relationship with reservation life is complex. He saw both the oppression experienced on the reservation and the limitations in access to resources it offers, and yet he noted its beauty and the close community bonds it created. In his reflection at the end of the novel, he shared, “I would always love and miss my reservation and my tribe” (p. 230).
Gender. Like sexual orientation, gender norms are presented in varying ways throughout the novel. For instance, Junior questioned his own crying in terms of whether men are allowed to feel emotion. In his commentary on being bullied, he said, “I don’t like to cry, other kids, they beat me up when I cry. Sometimes they make me cry so they can beat me up for crying.” (Alexie, 2007, p. 41). This behavior towards Junior reinforces that males are discouraged from showing their emotions because they will be physically punished for it. In another instance addressing gender, Rowdy mentioned to Junior, “I’m sick of Indian guys who treat white women like bowling trophies” (p. 115). This commentary in how males perceive the role of a woman, a prize that is to be won, brings to light how women can be objectified in pursuit of the male gaze.
Another pivotal relationship that Junior had was with his grandmother. Junior’s respect for his grandmother influenced his life by providing a moral compass for him, as she had “never had one drop of alcohol in her life” (Alexie, 2007, p. 158), making her stand out as one of “the rarest kind of Indian in the world” (p. 158). In addition, her guidance and advice helped Junior in processing circumstances surrounding his life. His relationship with his grandmother kept his connection to the reservation strong in many ways, and yet she was the one who encouraged him to attend the White school. In fact, Junior told the audience, “My grandmother was the only one who thought it was a 100 percent good idea” (p. 156) for him to seek education elsewhere. Again, his relationship reflects the conflicts of two worlds and the social consequences he experienced in each.
Relationships. The relationship dynamics between Junior and other characters in the narrative affect how Junior navigates his life, and the inherent power within these relationships highlights their connection to social justice. Junior sees his best friend, Rowdy, as his guardian, sharing that “Rowdy has protected me since we were born” (Alexie, 2007,
Environment. Junior’s environment provides the cultural context for the decisions he made throughout the novel and the way he saw the world. For example, when Roger (a student at Reardan) insulted Junior, Junior referred to “The unofficial
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1 —Spring 2017 and unwritten Spokane Indian Rules of Fisticuffs” (Alexie, 2007). These rules included, for example, that “if somebody insults you, then you have to fight him,” (pp. 61-62) and the rules inform the way Junior responds to confrontation. After hitting Roger, Junior was shocked when Roger walked away from the potential fight. Curious, Junior proceeded to ask Roger, “What are the rules?” (p. 66), to which Roger responded, “What rules?” (p. 66). This reveals the centrality of environment, which we largely define through culture, to a person’s socialization; in Junior’s situation, the only way for a person to know what rules specified and why they were important was to be a member of the Spokane Indian culture.
house…none of them were going to college” (p. 195). This assessment brings to light how access to resources affects a person’s trajectory. Continuing this theme, in his geometry class at Wellpinit High School, the reservation school, Junior was given a textbook that his mother used before she was married. The continued use of the book shows a dire lack of money to buy new textbooks. Meanwhile, at Reardan High School, which was off the reservation, Junior had access to “one of the best small schools in the state, with a computer room and huge chemistry lab and a drama club and two basketball gyms” (p. 46). These differences in the availability of resources reveal how advantages and disadvantages between the two groups are created in social structures.
Another demonstrative illustration from Junior’s Stereotypes. Stereotypes are “We see how the stereotype environment was the way in addressed throughout Absolutely inflicts harm on an actual which his culture True Diary. For instance, when approached death and Junior expressed to Gordy how member of the group to funerals. After the untimely Rowdy and other members of the which it refers.” death of his grandmother, Spokane Indian tribe viewed his Junior shared, “Each funeral attendance at a White high school, was a funeral for all of us. We lived and died Junior said, “They call me an apple because they together” (Alexie, 2007, p. 166). He reported how think I’m red on the outside and white on the storytelling was a central element to the grieving inside” (Alexie, 2007, p. 132). This image of Junior process of his culture and emphasized the massive being an apple is in reference to how the tribe views response to his grandmother’s death, with so many him—as a traitor. The stereotype of a deserter, an people attending the funeral that it was moved to a assimilated Indian, is upheld. Another instance of nearby football field. These statements reveal the the association with the color red resides in the importance of community in Junior’s life and how Reardan High School mascot. In a visual included in his environment informed his everyday habits. Absolutely True Diary, the mascot was a male Indian, with a large nose, feathers in his hair, war Social Class. After winning the basketball game paint on his face, and an inscription pointing to the against Wellpinit, Junior made a poignant face stating “bright red” in reference to his skin color observation about the discrepancies in social class (p. 56). Alexie intentionally brings attention to this that he discerned between those from his home well-known and widely accepted social stereotype school and his new school. He noted, “all of the and problematizes it with Junior’s connections and seniors on our team were going to college…had their rejections. We see how the stereotype inflicts harm own cars…had iPods and cell phones and PSPs…” on an actual member of the group to which it refers. (Alexie, 2007, p. 195). While in contrast, Junior “knew two or three of those Indians might not have Yet another instance of a stereotype was when eaten breakfast that morning. No food in the Junior addressed the perceptions of those outside of
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1 —Spring 2017 the Spokane tribe regarding casinos. Understanding how others perceived his tribe, Junior stated, “Everybody in Reardan assumed we Spokanes made lots of money because we had a casino” (Alexie, 2007, p. 119), implying that perhaps he and his family were financially stable. However, Junior dispelled this stereotype by sharing that the “casino, mismanaged and too far away from major highways, was a money-losing business,” (p. 119) and noted the only way to make money from the casino was to be an employee. Through these words, he dissolved a commonly held cultural stereotype.
duke of Milan, Prospero, and his usurper and brother, Antonio, on a remote island, lend themselves to a number of post-colonialist and feminist critiques. Furthermore, a media text that could be read with PROGRESS and continues the themes of colonialism and imperialism proffered in both Alexie’s (2007) and Shakespeare’s work (1623) is the film Avatar (Landau & Cameron, 2009). In this motion picture, the protagonist Jake struggles between the promises made to him in the human world for completing a dangerous mission on the moon and the growing sympathy and relationships he builds with its original occupants. The film also affords discussion of the gendered heroine, the relationships in the community of the group it highlights, and the stereotypes it confronts that are associated with colonized individuals.
Possibilities for Practice While the previous section provides a detailed portrait of how PROGRESS can be implemented with a young adult text, this is merely one illustration. It is our belief that this framework can be applied broadly to a number of texts, including canonical works and films. Kumashiro (2004) wrote, “the ‘classics’ are not inherently oppressive: They can be useful in an anti-oppressive lesson if teachers ask questions about the ways they reinforce the privilege of only certain experiences and perspectives” (p. 75). Our model provides a tangible way for teachers to ask those questions, to read critically across a number of topics. This is often noted in scholarship on critical literacies as reading from a resistant perspective, which Behrman (2006) explained “can . . . be motivated by inviting students to read from an alternate frame of reference” (p. 493). The standpoints through which we ask students to read are the individual elements of PROGRESS, and ultimately these can be applied to any text (Matteson & Boyd, 2016).
Further Classroom Application Beyond unifying varied texts through a general theme with PROGRESS, there is also a host of ways that a teacher could facilitate the application of the framework in a classroom setting. Using an individual novel, a study involving the paradigm could occur at any point in the text or upon completion of reading. The pedagogies that accompany PROGRESS are key—merely presenting the framework with the text does not in itself lead to critical literacies. After collectively defining the aspects of PROGRESS, students could be assigned one letter to ‘track’ evidence for as they read and to keep a reading journal on, or small groups of students could be responsible for one aspect together. Teachers could organize a jigsaw in which the original group explores ‘P’ and students break into sub-groups by letter, examine an assigned letter from ‘R’ through the final ‘S’, and then return to their original group to teach their peers about their topic (see yaprogress.com for example handouts). Of course, as with any teaching tool, we do not advocate using PROGRESS with every text read in the English classroom, but rather we offer it as a way
For example, one work commonly taught in secondary classrooms that could be placed alongside Sherman Alexie’s (2007) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is William Shakespeare’s (1623) The Tempest . The thematic undertones of the drama, which recounts the clash between the former
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1 —Spring 2017 to structure and begin students’ recognitions of the issues it includes and to scaffold them for subsequent texts in which, hopefully without this prompting, they will see problematics related to such issues as race and gender on their own. Some students will bring to the classroom more developed and experienced critical literacies than others. Students new to reading with critical lenses might be best served by tracking one letter, as mentioned above, but those who are more accustomed to this type of analysis might be challenged to examine multiple letters or to note the intersections and silences related to the categories (discussed below).
Before teaching with the PROGRESS framework, educators should consider some additional relevant aspects. As with teaching any text or employing pedagogies that are overtly political in nature, it would be important to first build a classroom community where the discussion of sensitive topics is welcomed and in which respect for ideas has been established. Students should be encouraged to engage in “exploratory talk” in which “the teacher no longer exclusively holds the floor, but instead orchestrates students’ efforts to realize new ideas” (Smagorinsky, 2008, p. 11). It is important to adapt strategies documented by scholars such as Hess (2009) that promote effective and democratic discussions in classrooms, where teaching students how to have a discussion is just as important as the content of the conversation. There should be a clear understanding of the expectations students are to uphold, such as listening deeply while others are speaking and knowing how to engage in critical dialogue, and students should recognize the need for connecting textual evidence to their insights. As with most social justice topics, a key element to remember in teaching about these issues is that “most people have very strong personal opinions about the issues examined,” yet we must also be aware that “there is a difference between opinion and informed knowledge” (Sensoy & DiAngelo, 2012). Therefore, integrating historic and current events associated with corresponding aspects of the framework would help foster understanding and empathy of others’ opinions during discussion.
In addition, we include a corresponding resource, a “PROGRESS Report,” to give pre-service teachers a method through which to materially evaluate texts (See Figure 1). This handout includes the basic definitions of each aspect of the framework (which can be detached as a bookmark for reference while reading) and an area to write a few specific examples of Positionality, Race, Orientation, Gender, Relationships, Environment, Social Class, and Stereotypes. The “PROGRESS Report” can help instructors with assessing student understanding of the concepts discussed, an evaluative element called for by Alsup and miller (2014) in the growing need to find ways to facilitate our students’ application of social justice knowledge. It also gives pre-service teachers the opportunity to reflect on the content and larger implications of specific social justicerelated issues. As an extension, students could also be encouraged to take the framework into their everyday social worlds and to read texts, such as television shows or current events, using the model and the “PROGRESS Report.” This would further promote the critical literacies we aspire to cultivate and provide teachers another avenue for assessing students’ understandings of the concepts. (See Appendix B)
Beyond the classroom environment required for PROGRESS, we also note it as a starting point for more nuanced recognitions of systems of oppression. The framework initially aims to compartmentalize each singular aspect in an attempt to simplify the concepts, yet the ways those overlap is unavoidable, and rightfully so. Each part of PROGRESS is an individual “letter,” yet those pieces purposefully unify into a cohesive collection in order to represent one of the most important
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1 —Spring 2017 considerations related to the framework—the notion of intersectionality (Krenshaw, 1989). Intersectionality is the recognition of the interconnectedness and coinciding nature of social categorizations (Sensoy & DiAngelo, 2012). Thus, classifications do not realistically exist separately but rather coalesce in the individual, and “making such connections is important because it discourages students from viewing things in isolation from one another and instead encourages them to understand the far-reaching impact any issue may have on the larger society” (Wallowitz, 2008). Intersectionality affords a lens to see the complexity in approaching subjects and subsequently shows us how domination works in varied ways depending on those layered constructions.
layers. The separate pieces of the framework are thus a starting point in their customized focus. It is our intent that the framework be a springboard for collaborative discussions and endeavors. Once each section is recognized, the relationships and intersections amongst them can be drawn. This effort therefore moves beyond reductive elements and into more complicated recognitions. A discussion of intersectionality promotes disagreement, re-consideration, and in-depth analysis of the ways the sections of the framework coalesce in varied ways depending on the text and issues addressed. And while these topics—along with the others mentioned in the paradigm—may already arise in a classroom study, our argument here is that the framework first ensures they will appear and second guarantees that they explicitly arise for the purposes of facilitating students’ social justice dispositions and critical readings.
For example, in Alexie’s (2007) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Junior referenced being called an “apple” by his tribe, meaning he is red on the outside and White on the inside (p. 132), revealing the overlapping complexities in a text. While the expression is considered a stereotype (or simplification of a person), it is also a reference to race. By using the colors red and white, the quote implies that people are categorized based on the color of their skin. The intersections of stereotypes and race reveal the sophistication of content within the text, for one sentence can summon multiple aspects of the framework. Another potential intersection that exists is how Junior’s embodied capital, his way of being, which includes mannerisms, appearance, and language, affects his ability to build relationships at his new school, where his new peers embody a different, valued, mainstream form of embodied capital. Hence the intersection of social class, environment, and relationships is evident. Therefore, we would encourage students to recognize places of overlap and be aware of how a section of text that arises under one heading could appear in another. In this way, students can grasp the complexities of the issues and how oppression can exist in interrelating
Finally, PROGRESS also provides an opportunity to discuss any aspects that are not included in the text under study—that is—silence around a social justice topic means something. Blank spaces in elements of PROGRESS give instructors the opportunity to ask important questions: “Why is one element included and another excluded?” “Who gains by the omission/inclusion?” “What purpose is there in addressing the issues raised in the text?” “How does addressing these issues help or hurt society?” For example, in texts with predominately White characters, where race exists unquestioned, this element may at first seem unanswerable and therefore lacking. Yet, what this dearth really represents is the potential to open up conversation about the normalization of Whiteness. This level of inquiry helps to solicit, reinforce, and achieve critical literacies through the identification and evaluation of power structures, ideologies, and assumptions (Wallowitz, 2008) that are inherent in the text, thus helping students further recognize the
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1 —Spring 2017 intricacy of social justice issues. Similar to what Kirkland (2011) has shown, it is the approach that often makes the difference for students in achieving both their engagement and their understanding.
This process is further reflective of work with students’ critical literacies, wherein they are consistently invited to examine structures of power (Janks, 1993).
We have here outlined PROGRESS as a theoretical framework as an initial step. We see great possibility for implementing PROGRESS with pre-service students for both their benefit and as a tool they could use with their future students. We are currently extending this work to empirical research in secondary and pre-service settings to explore additional successes, challenges, possibilities, and limitations of the PROGRESS framework. Providing the framework on its own, however, we feel is a necessary first phase.
Finally, it is crucial to remember that the framework is intended for entry-level discussion, in order to initiate conversations about equity within a classroom setting. However, we want to caution that these topics are not simple and easily defined. There are deep-seated historical, ideological, institutional, and cultural elements that have contributed to current societal dynamics (Sensoy & DiAngelo, 2012). Due to these issues, we suggest that instructors implement sustained projects for students that create insight into topics pertinent to particular texts (Newmann, 1988). We would also Conclusion advise that teachers use “Our hope is that they will PROGRESS as a springboard for On a final note, we are aware social action since, “anticritically reflect on that PROGRESS is not alloppressive teaching in the themselves and discern inclusive. It is difficult to create English Language Arts requires their connections to the a comprehensive method to critical literacy as a starting evaluate texts via critical point, leading ultimately to the complex problems literacies in the pursuit of social creation of new texts, new confronting them today.” justice. Unfortunately, there are discourses, and new actions” countless manifestations of (Glazier, 2007, p. 147). Once social injustices in society, making an exhaustive students can converse on these topics, they should exploration of every injustice within an allotted time then be challenged to engage their local and broader of instruction difficult. The topics chosen are communities to address them (Boyd, in press). Thus, reflective of categories that are broadly understood the goal of PROGRESS is to give students the and widely debated. We recognize as a limitation opportunity to become aware of social justice issues that our framework foregrounds some, such as race, through a textual evaluation that employs critical class, and gender, at the risk of minimizing others, literacies, but this is not the final objective. Our such as ability and ethnicity. Therefore, we hope is that they will critically reflect on themselves encourage instructors to open up PROGRESS for and discern their connections to the complex critique by students, inviting them to determine any problems confronting them today. Once those steps elements they wish to add. This pedagogical are complete, the ultimate aspiration is that they approach would allow room for students to identify would extend this learning into action in their aspects of a text they find relevant from their own everyday worlds, translating the recognitions critical readings, and it would move toward a more spawned by PROGRESS into deeds for social change. democratic classroom practice in which the teacher and framework are seen less as static authorities.
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Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1 —Spring 2017 Landau, J. (Producer) & Cameron, J. (Director) (2009). Avatar [Motion Picture]. United States: 20th Century Fox. Lareau, A. (2011). Unequal childhoods: Class, race and family life. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Lee, C. J. (2011). Myths about critical literacy: What teachers need to unlearn. Journal of Language and Literacy Education, 7(1), 95-102. Lewison, M., Leland, C., & Harste, J. C. (2014). Creating critical classrooms: K-8 reading and writing with an edge (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge. Luke, A. (1991). Literacies as social practices. English Education, 23(3), 131-147. Luke, C. (2000). New literacies in teacher education. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 43(5), 424-
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Appendix A Guiding Framework for Social Justice Analysis of Texts Definition of Element
Suggested Areas of Inquiry
Positionality: Where an individual locates themselves in relation to others in society, including how that location is influenced by structural and historical elements
Ability, Race, Orientation, Gender, Social Class, Stereotypes, and more, including the history associated with these social groups
- How does the author construct the character’s position in the text? - How would you describe your own positionality? - How is a person’s positionality influenced by society?
Race: A socially constructed category to label people with shared (often physical) traits
Discrimination, prejudice, counternarrative, and minoritized and dominant group.
- What issues with regard to race arise in the text? - How do you identify your own race? - How is race a social issue?
Orientation: A person’s sexual identity and preference for sexual attraction to another person.
Heterosexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and queer with an analysis on how society views and treats a person based on their sexual orientation
- Which sexual orientations exist in the text? - How do your own experiences with sexual orientation match or differ from the text? - How does society view and treat a person based on sexual orientation?
Gender: How a person identifies their role in society on a spectrum including masculine or feminine.
Femininity and masculinity, including discussion on heteronormativity and how society upholds or challenges these expectations
- In what ways does the text construct gender (what practices, norms, behaviors are associated with gender)?
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1 —Spring 2017 - In what ways has gender affected your own life? - How does society uphold traditional gender roles? Relationships: The ways in which people are connected, including dynamics of power involved in those connections.
Internalized dominance, oppression, and privilege, including where power resides or who has power in the relationship
- What relationships are central in the text? - How do your relationships affect your daily life? - How does being in a position of power influence relationships?
Environment: The context in which a person operates, including cultural and physical aspects.
Religion, traditions, language, etc. and how these areas may influence a character’s decisions.
- What physical and cultural environments are present in the text? - How does your own environment affect your daily life? - Why is it important to consider environments with relation to understanding people’s culture and daily life?
Social Class: The structural consequences or advantages ascribed to a person’s economic status.
How a character’s social class can limit or enhance a character’s access to resources and influence the decisions that are made.
- How does the author portray the characters’ social classes in the text? - If you were to assume the status of a wealthy or poor individual, how would you react in the character’s situation? - How does social class limit or enhance a person’s access to everyday resources?
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1 —Spring 2017 Stereotypes: A widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular group or person.
How the image of the character is portrayed, including how stereotypes reinforce ‘social norms’ thus normalizing our understanding of others
- What stereotypes are raised by the text? - How have you experienced stereotypes in your own school or community? - How are stereotypes portrayed and upheld in society?
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1 â€”Spring 2017 Appendix B PROGRESS Report Handout for Student Use
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017
A Case Study of Struggle and Success: Profiling a Third Grader’s Reading and Writing in a Multimodal Curriculum
Angela M. Wiseman, Melissa Pendleton, Christine Christianson, & Nicole Nesheim Abstract: This article reports findings on a case study of Ellie as she participates in a language arts curriculum that incorporates multimodal literacy practices—including photography, drama, and art—to teach reading and writing. Our study was informed by the theoretical framework of multimodal social semiotics, which provides insight into how mediational tools allow for greater complexity of thought while engagement within the modes expands the potentials for learning. Multimodal interaction analysis (Norris, 2004) was applied to video data from this study. Findings reveal the significance of using photographs for Ellie’s meaning making in the third grade classroom. In addition, we were able to observe how Ellie’s responses at times conflicted with the intentions or expectations of the classroom. This study reveals the significance of multimodal video data analysis as a way of understanding the complexity of literacy practices in the classroom. Keywords: visual literacy, photography, multimodality, language arts, multimodal social semiotics
Angela Wiseman, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Literacy Education at North Carolina State University. Angela’s research focus includes two topics: 1. Responding to children’s literature and 2. Visual and multimodal research methodologies. Her current research project focuses on formerly incarcerated parents as they respond to children’s literature in book discussion groups. Angela teaches doctoral courses on literacy theories and qualitative research as well as language arts methods courses. She is the co-editor of the Journal of Children’s Literature.
Melissa Pendleton, Ph.D., NBCT, is an Assistant Professor of Literacy at Western Kentucky University. Melissa’s research interests include classroom discourse and disciplinary literacy. Currently, she is investigating teacher candidates’ digital stories in a clinical teacher preparation program. Melissa teaches undergraduate literacy methods courses and graduate courses in research methods and advanced literacy concepts.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 Christine Christianson, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Teacher Education at Ferrum College. Christine’s research interests include expressive writing, trauma studies, and teacher education. Her current research examines how teacher education programs prepare diverse populations to pass the minimal competency testing required by states for teacher licensure. Christine teaches introduction to teacher education; content area literacy; and curriculum, instruction, and assessment methods courses. Nicole Nesheim, Ph.D., is an Assistant Principal at Saint Raphael Catholic School Diocese of Raleigh. Nicole’s research interests include teacher preparation, apprenticeship models, teacher-leadership, and dialogic learning. Her research currently focuses on alternate spaces for professional development and how asynchronous dialogue can enhance these experiences.
his article reports findings on a case study of Ellie, a third grade student, as she participates in a language arts curriculum that incorporates multimodal literacy practices, including photography, drama, and art to teach reading and writing.1 Our interest in researching a multimodal language arts curriculum is to consider how students use expanded modes of learning in the classroom. Incorporating multimodal instruction has the potential to provide more opportunities for students to build and share knowledge, particularly if they struggle with printbased literacies. As literacy researchers, we believe it is important to consider how multimodal instruction could allow for new ways that students engage in the language arts curriculum. Ellie stood out as an illustrative case because she was especially reflective of how her photographs helped her writing, yet she was identified by her teacher as “struggling.” As we analyzed her literacy learning in the classroom, we found that her participation in reading and writing practices was complex and that visual strategies supported her literacy learning. Our primary question is this: How does the integration of multimodal instruction affect how a third grade
reader and writer responds and learns in the language arts classroom? Theoretical Framework The analysis of Ellie’s participation in a multimodal language arts curriculum rests on her connections and responses within the classroom context. In this section, we will explain how the theoretical framework of multimodal social semiotics informed our understanding of this case study. Multimodal Social Semiotics Ellie’s language arts curriculum featured multimodal projects with a specific focus on photography as a means to communicate and learn. In multimodal social semiotics, social actors rely upon available modes to create meaning; the potential meaning created is directly influenced by the availability of resources and their related affordances and constraints (Halliday, 1977). A multimodal curriculum refers to the idea that many modes, or systems of expressing meaning, are used to build knowledge (Kress & van Leeuwen, 2006; Serafini, 2012). Multimodal social semiotics also describes learning as a process that occurs collaboratively with
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 individuals who identify as gender-neutral. I have selected these pronouns because I believe they are more familiar for a diverse audience of readers.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 others and is affected by social contexts (Halliday, 1977; Lenters, 2016).
has the potential to support students’ literacy skills (Bomer, Zoch, David, & Ok, 2010).
While all texts can be considered multimodal (e.g., a child’s written story might reflect ideas from her imaginary pretend play she did at recess or a television show she watched at home), a multimodal pedagogical approach that intentionally integrates a variety of communicative modes expands options that students have for both learning and expressing. Using a range of mediational tools allows for greater complexity of thought while engagement within the modes expands the potentials for learning. Research has documented how emergent readers and writers have learned and even situated themselves as experts through tools (e.g., maps, visuals) made available with semiotic resources (Kissel, Hansen, Tower, & Lawrence, 2011). For example, Cappello and Lafferty (2015) found in their research on integrating photography in an elementary classroom to promote disciplinary literacy that students’ responses demonstrated an “alternative language” that reflected complex understandings across subject areas. Specifically, the teacher and researchers observed how students’ metacognition, risk-taking, and reflective thinking were important aspects of how they responded to the multimodal curriculum. Encouraging multimodal responses (e.g., products combining visual and linguistic modes) is one way educators have developed pedagogy that encourages more expansive approaches for learning, thus creating more inclusive classroom contexts (Cappello & Hollingsworth, 2008; Siegel, 2006). In addition, incorporating multimodal approaches to learning may be more engaging for students because it often builds on their out-of-school literacy practices (Kyser, 2015). Opportunities to mediate understanding using what could be considered traditional production (e.g., linguistic communication) alongside the incorporation of multimodal elements (e.g., photographs, textiles)
Methods This study investigated a third-grade student in her natural, classroom environment and relied upon data sources consistent with case study research (i.e., field notes, interviews, and artifacts) (Dyson & Genishi, 2005; Yin, 2009). In the following sections, the context, participants, data collection, and data analysis are described in detail. Context and Setting This article represents analysis of part of a larger study that took place in an elementary school that is a magnet for the arts and humanities (Wiseman, Kupianinen, & Makinen, 2016). In this study, Angela documented a third-grade classroom in a diverse urban public school that integrates photography into the language arts curriculum as a central component of reading and writing instruction. In the classroom, there were 22 students: 8 males and 14 females; the students identified their racial background as Hispanic (4), White (7), Black (10), and Multi-racial (1). Five of the students received services because the school identified them as Academically Gifted and four received services for English Language Learning. The teacher reported that twenty percent of the students passed their state reading test, which is the end of the year exam that involves vocabulary and reading comprehension questions. Ms. Brown (all names in this article are pseudonyms), the teacher of this classroom, identifies as a Caucasian woman who has taught in public schools for more than 10 years. She implemented an art-based curriculum called Literacy Through Photography (LTP) into her reading and writing instruction. Students used critical thinking and creative understanding as they completed projects related to three themes: self-
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 portrait, proverbs, and community. In each project, students worked in groups to develop ideas by using photography, drama, art, writing, reading, and other methods of understanding. Each of the three projects took approximately three to five weeks to complete and were integrated in the language arts curriculum throughout the school year (see Wiseman, Kupianinen, & Makinen, 2016; Wiseman, Pendleton, Christianson, & Nesheim, 2015).
guided reading and writers workshop as instructional opportunities to meet Ellie’s needs. Ellie was an illustrative case (Creswell, 2013), providing us with the opportunity to delve further into understanding her meaning-making with a multimodal curriculum.
Ellie was very motivated and engaged in class, but she seemed to struggle with articulating her thoughts in writing and comprehending reading Data that comprised the final project, “My texts. Ellie identifies herself using positive Community,” is the focus of this case study. In this language— “friendly, good listener.” Reading was project, students began by reading books and her least favorite subject because “it is so quiet. She conceptualizing how they might define community. added, “I don’t like quiet.” She enjoyed interacting They created maps, labeled different features, and with others and preferred any assignments where thought about various modes of representations she could work collaboratively in groups. Ellie (e.g., pictures, colors, sounds). Students took a comes from a family with two brothers and two 35mm camera home for one or sisters and lives in an apartment “In each project, students two nights and photographed 12 a few miles from school. Ellie is scenes representing their close to her family, and she told worked in groups to communities. After studying Angela that if she had to develop ideas by using their negatives and discussing photograph her most important photography, drama, art, how their visual representations thing in her life, that “it would reflected their communities with be [her] family.” As Angela writing, reading, and other others, students selected one methods of understanding.” documented Ellie across the picture to develop in the school year, it became clear that darkroom. As they developed photography was a tool that their pictures, they learned about exposure, light, supported her literacy learning, particularly her chemicals, and other aspects of image development written expression. Ellie explained that photography affecting the meaning, tone, and mood of a helped her remember details and “add information photograph. in [her] mind.” She told Angela that when she uses photography, “I can add more details. After I looked Ellie: An Illustrative Case Study at it and imagined it, I added more details [to my story].” We chose to focus on Ellie; she was a student who was described by her teacher as “struggling” with reading and writing. Ellie identified as an AfricanAmerican female; she was one of many students in the classroom who had not passed the state reading test and was targeted as a student of concern. She did not qualify for any school services and did not have an Individualized Education Plan. However, the teacher integrated visual learning into her
Data Collection In the larger study, Angela applied ethnographic techniques of participant-observation and descriptive analysis in the classroom setting as data were gathered, on average twice a week, throughout a full school year (Creswell, 2008; Kamberelis & Dimitriadis, 2005). A case study approach was used
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 to provide an in-depth, multi-dimensional consideration of this classroom by drawing on multiple data sources (Dyson & Genishi, 2005) to examine and describe the LTP program in this third grade classroom. Data sources included classroom observations, student writing and photographs, interviews, and discussions. During the photography projects, Angela observed and videotaped students, collected work samples, and informally asked questions about their work. After each of the three projects was completed (i.e., self-portrait, proverbs, and community), Angela conducted a retrospective think-aloud protocol (Schellings, Aarnoutse, & van Leeuwe, 2006) with Ellie after each project using multimodal interviews. For the retrospective thinkaloud, Angela sat down with Ellie and viewed the various multimodal artifacts for each project and she asked open ended questions about how she designed the artifacts and how the artifacts reflected her understanding of the project. Examples of questions include, “What were you thinking about when you created this (mode, example photograph)?” and “Explain what this (mode, example sketch) means?
medium of photography provided a deeper and expansive mode of learning in the language arts classroom (Wiseman, 2011). After the data collection and initial analysis were completed on the larger data set, Angela began the second phase of data analysis by collaborating with three other literacy researchers who are also the coauthors of this article using multimodal interaction analysis (Norris, 2004; see Wiseman et al., 2014). Multimodal interaction analysis is a framework that provides a means to capture the perceptions, thoughts, and feelings people express as well as the attention and awareness levels they exhibit through both embodied modes (i.e., spoken language, posture, gesture, gaze, and head movement) and disembodied modes (i.e., music, print, and layout). (Norris, 2004). Discourse analysis, interactional sociolinguistics, mediated discourse analysis, and multimodality inform this qualitative framework. Our purpose for examining the videos using this process was to illuminate the complexity of Ellie’s learning and understand moments of struggle and success. Our collaborative data analysis sessions began with discussion of significant themes, literacy events, and ideas that took place in this classroom. We reviewed data from the focal students and discussed how to identify segments of video clips for the purpose of conducting a microanalysis, which can be defined as a more detailed form of coding (see Wiseman, Pendleton, Christianson, & Nesheim, 2015). As a team, we devised our interpretation of multimodal analysis and applied it to three students who were identified as struggling with reading and writing in the classroom. Ellie was selected because we felt we would learn about the complexity of her learning through the research methods; we selected five episodes that reflected her progression of learning in a multimodal LTP project that was about community. The episodes included Ellie’s writing reflection after an initial brainstorm, her discussion
Data Analysis Data analysis occurred in two different phases. The first phase occurred in the larger study and involved using descriptive analysis to create a thick description of the LTP program, language arts block, and classroom routines (Merriam, 2009) and thematic analysis to determine the impact of multimodal instruction on student learning (Miles & Huberman, 1994). Interviews with the teacher and students, student work, and field notes were used for describing the classroom context (Yin, 2009). The themes from the larger study reflected three main ideas about student learning: (1) students’ options for meaning making expanded when working with photographs; (2) student learning and engagement increased from integrating students’ experiences in the curriculum; and (3) the visual
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 of the negatives she took of her community, her description of the picture she developed, her elaboration on her community, and her reading of the final product after developing her picture and writing her story.
stronger inferences about her engagement levels and attention foci. Head movement. We focused on head movement, considering where her attention was directed. Ellie’s head movement in our video data primarily alternated to focus on image negatives, the researcher, her writings, and her peers.
Modes such as proxemics, gaze, posture, head movements, music, and language are part of a semiotic system that Norris (2004) refers to as communicative modes. For the purposes of our data analysis, we focused on the modes of gesture (hand and arm movement only), posture, gaze, head movement and spoken language because they seemed most relevant to our study. The modes were considered as follows:
Spoken language. In addition to non-verbal communicative modes, we carefully analyzed Ellie’s spoken language. We analyzed transcripts of Ellie's spoken language in the classroom and during her interview session.
We coded each video clip separately with our assigned individual communicative modes, and we Gesture. Defining gesture as how she moved her also wrote research memos on hands as she spoke, we observations while coding. We considered how Ellie used “We ultimately realized that ultimately realized that modes gestures and noticed that she modes such as posture, such as posture, gesture, gaze, often used gestures when her and head movement played as gesture, gaze, and head modal density was at its peak. This indicated that she was movement played as critical critical a role as verbal modes because they carry “interactional using many different ways of a role as verbal modes…” meaning as soon as they are communication and she could perceived by a person” (Norris, be struggling or engaged during 2004, p. 2). The clips were presented to the entire these times. team for discussion and further analysis. When Posture. Posture describes how she positions her there were differing opinions regarding coding, we body in relations to others. An important aspect of watched the clips together repeatedly until we came posture was how posture changes when interacting to a consensus on the analysis and interpretation. with other people; we could see her lean in when she In addition to coding modes, we also analyzed the was engaged or move away to break off interactions clips for both modal density and modal dissonance with others. It is important to note that Ellie’s since they represent generative places that either engagement in both class settings and interview reflected sources of struggle or opportunities for settings was inferred largely through the coding of learning (Norris, 2004). Modal density occurs when posture. participants in an interaction draw upon several Gaze. To understand gaze, we followed Ellie’s modes at once or draw upon numerous modes in direction and intensity of eye contact. We also quick succession (Norris, 2004). We defined modal analyzed Ellie’s head movement, or the way a density as instances where Ellie actively participant holds her head (Norris, 2004). In the demonstrated at least three modes at once. Modal majority of the clips, Ellie’s gaze enabled us to make dissonance refers to the notion that the
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017
communication of the different modes seems to be in opposition.
and, rather than approach students as “struggling,” promote the idea of understanding students’ literacy practices as complex and affected by social contexts.
Working with a teacher who incorporated photography seemed like an opportunity to understand how students respond to a multimodal curriculum. Our goal was to employ multimodal methods of data analysis in order to illuminate and explore the complexity of Ellie’s literacy practices in the classroom.
All four participants of this research team identify as Caucasian women and have had English/language arts classroom teaching experiences. We have all had classroom teaching experiences and have explored ways that we could develop learning opportunities for and with students. We have particularly been concerned about our students who are marginalized, particularly those labeled as “struggling” due to linguistic or cultural diversity. Our goal is to develop research methodologies that acknowledge the complexities of classroom response
Findings During the three different clips that were reported in this section, we gleaned information about Ellie’s learning, specifically how important it was for her to
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 use photographs to organize her thoughts. However, we found that certain types of questions or feedback could affect her ability to participate. In this section, we reveal how our microanalysis provides insight on her meaning making for this project.
result, Ellie’s communicative modes change drastically. Her verbal response becomes sluggish, abrupt, and minimal (see Figure 2). Analysis of the text Black Cat alongside her writing demonstrated that Ellie exhibited sophisticated writing that mimicked the rhyme and repetition of the text by Myers (1999). Her writing matched the community theme of the lesson and mirrored poetic features of the text. Ellie inserts her perspective into this poem, and her voice is strong. She uses descriptive words and incorporates language in ways that are rhythmic and rhyming. Her use of repetition, words such as “round” and “a lot goes down,” gives the poem a cadence and flow that have dramatic effect. The descriptive phrase “dreaming of bright sounds” provides strong imagery of Ellie’s interpretation of community; she is even there when she is dreaming. When Ellie describes that “a lot goes down when nobodys [sic] around,” she alludes to how things are happening in her community, even when she is not there. Even when she is sleeping, Ellie identifies as part of the community and feels that she plays an integral role.
Sharing her Story: Ellie’s Initial Shut-Down The focal lesson began with the teacher leading students to consider how multiple interpretations can exist within a visual image. In a later interview, Ms. Brown explained that the idea behind her introduction was to acknowledge the multiple ways of interpreting images and ideas and that she wanted to “open up the idea of multiple interpretations.” This notion of multiple interpretations was explored further when the class read the book Black Cat (Myers, 1999), in which community is described through the eyes of a cat. In clip one, Ellie’s full attention is devoted to volunteering to read a story she wrote in response to Black Cat (Myers, 1999). When the teacher calls on Ellie, Ellie looks up, holds her gaze on the teacher while she stands, positions herself and her paper, then shifts her gaze down as she begins reading. As she reads aloud, her posture remains open and engaged. Our microanalysis (see Figure 1) revealed the modal ensemble created by her spoken language, gaze, posture, gestures, and head movement. We viewed this data as evidence of the importance Ellie placed on the opportunity to contribute to this classroom.
The teacher provided more of a direct or focused response. Returning to Halliday’s (1977; 1978) notion of meaning potential, it is clear that there were parameters to what was an acceptable “braindrain” in this classroom. Our microanalysis revealed that the manner in which Ellie focused on the language and organization of the picturebook actually conflicted with her teacher’s intentions for the writing assignment. Children access resources purposefully in various social contexts that define and address certain forms of literacy (Ranker, 2009), yet those resources may not match the intended purposes of the teacher. While Ellie’s focus when she wrote the braindrain was on rhyme and rhythm of text, her teacher’s intention was to have students incorporate specific visual images from their community. Ellie’s approach differed from her teacher’s goals for this assignment as her response
Upon completion of her reading, Ellie looks outwardly at the teacher. Edward, a student who is sitting at her table, leans towards her and says, “That sounds like a poem.” Despite Edward’s comment, Ellie does not break her gaze with the teacher. Ellie’s teacher focuses on a specific response that is more of a critique; the teacher responds that Ellie should clarify her writing by adding more concrete descriptions of sounds in her community, and as a
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 demonstrated attention to language and rhythm exemplified in the picture book. Because the larger project was to have students photograph aspects of their community, we can see the purpose of focusing on concrete images in lieu of poetic elements. However, as we watched Ellie’s gaze fall and her gestures slow down, we saw that the response from her teacher reflected different expectations. Ellie
During the second part of the project, students worked on conceptualizing and describing their communities through photographs. During this process, Ellie took twelve pictures, brought her camera back to school, and selected one negative to develop in the darkroom. We selected three separate clips from an interview that Angela conducted with her in the library regarding her project.
attempted to successfully contribute to the lesson, but it seemed to us she was not positioned as a successful participant. In this context, her chosen way of responding to the picturebook did not fit the intentions of the assignment.
Our multimodal analysis revealed how important the images portrayed by the negatives were to the way Ellie articulated her thoughts. Ellie’s movements, gestures, and gaze all indicated that she was leaning on these images to respond to questions that Angela posed, indicating high engagement in the conversations. Her use of gestures increased, and she was very animated as she described her
Accessing her Community: Describing Photographs and Writing
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 photographs. Ellie was clearly impassioned to explain her conceptualization of community. The meaning making that ensued reflected a connection among images, words, body language, and social interaction.
the first clip. There was a mismatch in the questions and Ellie’s own understanding of her community. During the different clips that were reported in this section, we gleaned information about Ellie’s learning. Her motivation, engagement, and learning were best reflected through open-ended conversations and when she had access to her visual images. In other words, the multimodal curriculum was providing her with opportunities to express and communicate in ways that were productive for her
However, when Angela asked very specific questions about the project that were devised for the research interviews, Ellie’s response was quite different. During this section of the interview, Angela asks Ellie to list three words that describe her
community. The matrix above (see Figure 3) shows how Angela guided the conversation and how Ellie’s responses change.
learning. However, she was clearly affected by directed or specific questioning that limited the way that she could conceptualize and respond to ideas or concepts. Also, at times, her responses were not aligned with expectations of the teacher or the interviewer. These connections between expectations and her response demonstrated how certain expectations from teachers (or interviewers) positioned students to be “struggling” (Triplett, 2007).
During the initial interview in which questions were open-ended, Ellie was highly engaged; however, we observed a distinct change in her communicative modes. Specifically, when Angela asked Ellie to use three words to describe her community, Ellie’s speech was halted, and other communicative modes were disrupted. Ellie looked downwards toward the negative and broke eye contact during this question. Ellie’s communicative modes demonstrate less engagement and decreased participation with specifically focused questions and are an example of modal dissonance. These specific questions were not connected to her ideas or intentions about the picture. In many ways, this response to Angela’s narrow question and answer request paralleled her initial experience as she shared her “braindrain” in
Reading the Community Story In the last video clip, Ellie read the final version of her community story. At this point, Ellie stood in front of both her teacher and classmates to read the piece she has composed about her community. The act of reading her work aloud to her peers is one she took seriously, and the video clip reflects this intentional focus. Ellie’s reading reflected high modal density (Norris, 2004); our analysis showed
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 that she was completely focused on reading her story, and all modes demonstrated her intensity and engagement. Ellie’s final and revised story was as follows:
In the first draft, Ellie was focused on the author’s style. Her writing featured repetition of words and a rhythmic style, which echoed Christopher Myers’s (1999) description in the story. Her integration of “dreaming” evokes images of strong memories of what she considers community. She incorporated creative language with her word choice and the sounds she included. The final draft reflects a conversation with her community that was influenced by her experiences outside of school. She integrated very specific images that we could see in photos and her attention to these images supported her storytelling. She also used the collective “we” along with specific conversations and references to her family, referring to memorable moments she spent with them.
The Pond. Daddy, can't we go to the pond? Yes. We speed walk there. We don’t want to miss the geese. We look around in silence. We see geese swimming. We hear waves going through the water. We smell dandelions. We imagine the spaghetti and garlic bread for dinner. Then we started to race to the door. The End. As Ellie read her story, she stood still and looked down at the paper she was holding. Her posture was open; her body upright and engaged. She read fluently and did not stumble over any words. Toward the conclusion of her story, she briefly looked up at the camera. When she completed her reading, she looked directly into the camera, bounced on her toes in a quick up-down motion, and smiled.
This literacy through photography assignment built on Ellie’s experiences outside of the classroom, and in both versions of the story, we see evidence of her strengths as a writer. In her initial draft, she capitalizes on the business, noisiness, and brightness of her community; our impression is that she is a part of a vibrant one. In addition, we can see that her father offered her guidance in this instance and encouraged her to think about how they defined community by what is important to the family (e.g., landmarks, people). In this way, Ellie was building on the funds of knowledge and the experiences available in her home (González, Moll, & Amanti, 2005). Our microanalysis revealed the nuances of the home-school relationship and its implications for Ellie’s literacy practices.
There is a contrast between Ellie’s first draft and her final copy in her communicative modes as well as response to the story. The first draft is the result of a five-minute “braindrain” wherein students were asked to write about people or sounds in their community. The final version of Ellie’s community story was written after talking with her family, taking twelve pictures that were observed as negatives, and selecting the picture that represented her community to her. She used that picture to write the story and was positioned as a skillful writer. Ellie read with a quiet voice but without any of the movement and distractions from her earlier reading. Ellie did seem to look up for approval once toward the end, but she quickly returned to reading. When she was finished reading, Ellie looked up at the camera and gave a huge smile; in this final clip, she exudes confidence.
Discussion and Implications We observed how important it was for Ellie to have the opportunity to guide her own meaning making. Ellie’s final product incorporated various aspects of her poetic voice, community knowledge, and understanding of the assignment. We have three main implications from this research that include
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 the potential for multimodal learning in the classroom and the importance of video data analysis.
meaning-making. Photography provided an opportunity for Ellie to participate in new literacy practices as she integrated values, meanings, and perspectives from her community.
Potential for Multimodal Learning in the Classroom
Video data analysis Despite being engaged and interested in school, Ellie struggled to meet local and state literacy Video data analysis offers insights into struggling benchmarks. She enjoyed peripheral success; readers’ behaviors that may otherwise be missed. however, the Literacy Through Photography project For example, our microanalysis revealed times when allowed Ellie to bring aspects of her community into Ellie demonstrated modal density; therefore, at least the language arts classroom and showcase her three communicative modes were active (i.e., writing skills. The visual image provided more than spoken language, gesture, gaze, posture, head a fixed representation of her community; her movement). At such times, Ellie was the most photograph opened semantic pathways (Halliday, talkative and constructed more complex meaning. 1978) and allowed her to build meaning across We noted that during times of modal dissonance, modes. For Ellie, we see that creating school texts or Ellie struggled to make meaning. responding to teacher-directed Microanalysis has the potential inquiry was a challenge. In the to help researchers pinpoint “The opportunities that first clip, we observed that her times when modal dissonance students have to respond spoken language was slow when occurs and lead to a better trying to meet her teacher’s and participate within understanding of how students requirement for sound in her literacy events of the do and do not construct work (see Figure 1). We viewed meaning. For example, classroom play an this again in the second clip researchers may ask: when Angela asked her to give important role in the three words that describe her • Are struggling students able opportunities they have in community (see Figure 3). to convey complex meaning their lives.” However, when Ellie was able to without modal density? rely on photographs, her speech • Do struggling students rely was more fluent, and her writing was more complex. on artifacts when formulating answers to open-ended questions?
We see potential for students to develop their writing abilities through the use of photography or other multimodal means in open-ended ways where students have time and space to reflect and develop their own meanings. Children construct the world with semiotic resources that are available (Gilje, 2010; Kyser, 2015). The opportunities that students have to respond and participate within literacy events of the classroom play an important role in the opportunities they have in their lives. In this particular case, the photographs supported Ellie’s
Microanalysis may offer literacy researchers a new tool for investigating ways to meet the needs of struggling readers and writers. While this type of analysis may be impractical for practicing teachers, it demonstrates the need for further understanding of body language, gaze, and attention of students. Limitations
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 Although we followed a rigorous process when conducting this microanalysis, we recognize that this study has limitations. In particular, our perceptions as white middle-class women may have led us to make assumptions about Ellie that differed from how she would have positioned herself. Moreover, this single-subject case limits our ability to generalize the findings. These lessons learned about Ellie’s progress within a multimodal project express her communicative modes, which are not necessarily transferrable to other readers. We realize that since one researcher on this team collected data, this could represent a potential limitation of the study. However, our team spent extensive time discussing various modes, analyzing videos of multiple students from the classroom, and corroborating each other’s analyses. The collaboration ensured an in-depth focus that could not have been achieved by a single researcher. However, we maintain that increasing knowledge of incidents of modal density and dissonance (Norris, 2004) exhibited by other readers who, like Ellie, are marginalized and separated from academic success may yield rich understandings of how to support all students.
Conclusion The findings of this study expand upon extant research and demonstrate how a “struggling” student can use multimodal texts to transition to “success.” We hope educators can see the strengths of such transformations and provide opportunities for multimodal engagement in their classrooms or learning contexts (Siegel, 2006). The findings of this study may encourage further understanding of how multimodal approaches benefit all learners, including those who struggle. Research on multimodal methods of teaching and learning demonstrates how many ways of understanding response and engagement are being re-visioned as we recognize the impact of expanding options for making meaning. Findings from this study support expansive practices that elevate students’ reading and writing skills through meaningful multimodal experiences.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1â€”Spring 2017 References Bomer, R., Zoch, M., David, A., & Ok, H. (2010). New literacies in the material world. Language Arts, 88, 9-20. Cappello, M., & Hollingsworth, S. (2008). Literacy inquiry and pedagogy through a photographic lens. Language Arts, 85, 442-449. Cappello, M., & Lafferty, K. E. (2015). The Roles of Photography for Developing Literacy Across the Disciplines. The Reading Teacher, 69(3), 287-295. Creswell, J. W. (2008). Educational research: Planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson. Creswell, J. W. (2013). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches. London: Sage. Dyson, A., & Genishi, C. (2005). On the case: Approaches to language and literacy research. New York, NY: Teachers College Press. Gilje, O. (2010). Multimodal redesign in filmmaking practices: An inquiry of young filmmakers' deployment of semiotic tools in their filmmaking practice. Written Communication, 27, 494-522. GonzĂĄlez, N., Moll, L. C., & Amanti, C. (Eds.). (2005). Funds of knowledge: Theorizing practices in households, communities, and classrooms. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum. Halliday, M. (1977). Learning how to mean: Explorations in the development of language. New York, NY: Elsevier. Halliday, M. (1978). Language as a social semiotic. Baltimore, MD: University Hark Press. Kamberelis, G., & Dimitriadis, G. (2005). On qualitative inquiry. New York, NY: Teachers College Press. Kissel, B., Hansen, J., Tower, H., & Lawrence, J. (2011). The influential interactions of pre-kindergarten writers. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 11, 425-452. Kress, G., & van Leeuwen, T. (2006). Reading images: The grammar of visual images. Oxon: Routledge. Kyser, C. D. (2015). Reading, writing, and designing: Getting students on the path to thinking like designers. Journal of Language and Literacy Education, 11(2), 186-196. Retrieved from http://jolle.coe.uga.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Kyser_Template-Final-fixed-links.pdf Lenters, K. (2016). Riding the lines and overwriting in the margins affect and multimodal literacy practices. Journal of Literacy Research, 48, 280-316. Merriam, S. B. (2009). Qualitative research: A guide to design and implementation. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Miles, M. B. & Huberman, A. (1994). Data management and analysis methods. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (pp. 428-444). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 Myers, C. A. (1999). Black cat. New York, NY: Scholastic Press. Norris, S. (2004). Analyzing multimodal interaction: A methodological framework. New York, NY: Routledge. Ranker, J. (2009). Redesigning and transforming: A case study of the role of semiotic import in early composing processes. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 9, 319-347. Schellings, G., Aarnoutse, C., & van Leeuwe, J. (2006). Third-grader's think-aloud protocols: Types of reading activities in reading an expository text. Learning and Instruction, 16, 549-568. Serafini, F. (2012). Expanding the four resources model: Reading visual and multi-modal texts. Pedagogies: An International Journal, 7(2), 150-164. Siegel, M. (2006). Review of research: Rereading the signs: Multimodal transformation in the field of literacy education. Language Arts, 84, 65-77. Triplett, C. F. (2007). The social construction of "struggle": Influences of school literacy contexts, curriculum, and relationships. Journal of Literacy Research, 39, 95-126. Wiseman, A. M. (April 2011). Literacy through photography: A snapshot of multimodal and visual learning with three “struggling” readers. Presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association. New Orleans, LA. Wiseman, A. M., Kupianinen, R., & Makinen, M. (2016). Literacy through photography: Multimodal and visual literacy in a third-grade classroom. Early Childhood Education Journal, 44 (5), 537-544. Wiseman, A. M., Pendleton, M. J., Christianson, C., & Nesheim, N. (2015). A cross-case analysis of Ellie & David: Using multimodal interaction microanalysis to understand “struggle” in the classroom. Literacy Research Association Yearbook, 77-90. Yin, R. K. (2009). Case study research: Design and methods. Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017
Representations of Adoption in Contemporary Realistic Fiction for Young Adults
Sue Christian Parsons, Robin Fuxa, Faryl Kander, & Dana Hardy Abstract: In this critical content analysis of thirty-seven contemporary realistic fiction books about adoption, the authors examine how adoption and adoptive families are depicted in young adult (YA) literature. The critical literacy theoretical frame brings into focus significant social implications of these depictions as the researchers illuminate and resist stereotypes in an effort to advocate for inclusiveness and respect. Analysis reveals a strong presence of literary archetypes such as Orphan and Seeker, age-old patterns of narration that resound with readers at deep but not necessarily conscious levels and thus may lend a sense of credibility and familiarity to even problematic portrayals. These stories provide a content for exploring cultural and social identities but are also rife with negative stereotypes, including adoption as a shameful secret, a problem to be solved, or a legally suspect event. Negative portrayals of birth parents and imbalanced gender perspectives suggest that adoption is a feminine story and marginalizes fathers. Overall, adoption literature raises significant questions about what family structures and contexts are valued, who has power and choice in relationships, and how adolescents are positioned and viewed, but the complex picture of what adoption looks like and means for those involved needs to be more carefully considered. Keywords: Adoption, Young Adult Literature, Critical Literacy, Diversity, Archetypes
Sue Christian Parsons is the Jacques Munroe Professor of Reading and Literacy Education at Oklahoma State University. Dr. Parsons’s research relates to inclusive literature and effective literacy education for all learners, with recent work addressing culturally diverse books (Parsons et al, 2016, The Dragon Lode), supporting teachers in high-need settings (Sanders, Parsons, Mwavita, & Thomas, 2015, Studying Teacher Education), and integrating literacy into STEM contexts (co-authored chapters for 2017 release, NSTA).
Robin Fuxa is the Interim Director of Professional Education at Oklahoma State University. Dr. Fuxa’s research centers on diversity and social equity in literature and the media and on teacher education. In addition to her dissertation on how teachers make decisions about teaching for social justice, she has published about media literacy in teacher education (Fuxa, 2012, Journal of Media Literacy Education).
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 Faryl Kander is a Reading Specialist in Jenks, OK and a Faculty Mentor at California Southern University. Dr. Kander’s recent publications address how standardized tests define readers (Kander, 2015, Arizona Reading Journal), technology integration in teacher education (Vasinda, Kander, & Sanogo, 2015 in Niess & Gillow-Wiles (Eds), The handbook of teacher education in the digital age), and writing as springboard for inquiry (Kander & Lambson, 2014, Texas Journal of Literacy.) Dana Hardy holds an MS in Teaching, Learning, and Leadership from Oklahoma State University. She has worked as a public school teacher, reading specialist, curriculum coach, and teacher educator. She is currently an academic language therapist in Bartlesville, Oklahoma.
e are teacher educators, so diversity and equity is fundamental to our work.1 In public school classrooms, we look and listen for it and learn from it. In our university classrooms, we engage teacher candidates in conversation and inquiry about it. For each of us, understanding and advocating for diverse perspectives is a core aspect of our scholarship and a guiding principle for professional and personal action. In our ongoing conversations about and inquiry into diversity and equity in education, we noted that adoption was rarely mentioned as an aspect of diversity. When we researched in classrooms, adoption was not part of the community conversation. In discussions with practicing educators and teacher candidates, we were almost always the ones to broach the topic. Other aspects of diversity made their way readily if not easily to the forefront of the conversation, but adoption, though richly relevant in the lives of many children and families, seemed shadowed at best—perhaps even avoided. We observed that adoption, while
significant in the lives of children and families, was a silent diversity in these crucial contexts.
This study began when Suzii (Sue), observing in a public school, took a moment to search the library catalog for books featuring adoption. Of the few books available, each description suggested a character struggling with a problem related to having been adopted. Struck by both the limited choices and the consistency of a problem-based message, she wondered, “If a reader read just these books, what images and understandings about adoption might he or she construct?” This question expanded into a conversation that turned into an extended exploration. We wondered, “How might the ways authors write about adoption position various readers in relation to their experiences and their understandings of others?” “What else is out there?” These early musings solidified into the research question guiding this work:
We acknowledge that there is a gender spectrum and that many pronouns exist that we can use when referring to individuals our writing. Throughout article, we used gendered pronouns only when the gender of the individual was clear and specific to that person; for instance, when the character in the book was clearly
gendered in a particular way. Otherwise, we used gender inclusive language, including using the pronoun “they” as singular to refer to multiple possible gender identities.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 How are adoption, adoptive families, and participation in the adoption process depicted in contemporary realistic fiction for young adults?
Despite its prevalence, adoption is often unrecognized as an aspect of identity, yet it is significant in the lives of youth and their families. Considering Bishop’s (1999) insights about the In this article, we articulate our critical content importance of literature serving as mirrors, in which analysis of depictions of adoption and adoptive readers see their lives and experiences reflected, and families in contemporary realistic young adult (YA) as windows, revealing possibilities they had not yet fiction books. Through our literature review, we experienced, we considered how adolescents might discuss social and historical contexts regarding see adoption depicted in relation to their own lives adoption as well as frequent themes about adoption, and the lives of others. Indeed, adoption is an often negative and stereotypical, commonly intriguingly complex aspect of diversity, expressed in various media. Following the literature encompassing international, transracial, single review, we explore critical literacy as the theoretical mother and father, older parent, LGBTQ parent, frame through which we conducted our content foster, and kinship adoption—all related to themes analysis. We explain how we found and selected the of gender, race, class and privilege, religion, and books used in this study then go on to address our social contexts specifically noted as important to process of content analysis. We describe content consider in literature for young analysis as method in general adults (Young Adult Library “Despite its prevalence, then directly articulate the Services Association, 2011). In specific ways our research team adoption is often this article, we explore how engaged in critical content adoption and adoptive families unrecognized as an aspect of analysis to reveal our findings. are represented in YA literature, identity, yet it is significant Following articulation and examining recurrent themes in the lives of youth and discussion of our findings, we across texts and highlighting provide guidelines for selecting their families.” embedded and cumulative books with authentic and perspectives. respectful portrayals of adoption that may engage readers in critical conversations about adoption as a Adoption in Literature and Other Media significant aspect of social diversity. Much scholarly work on how adoption is Adoption is a part of family experience for many represented in literature focuses on classic works youth. According to the 2010 census (Kreider & (Novy, 2005; Reimer, 2011), historical perspectives Lofquist, 2014), there are 2.1 million adopted (Matthews, 2010; Novy, 2005; Wesseling, 2009), or children in the U.S. alone. The 2002 National topical bibliographies (e.g. Miles, 1991). The few Adoption Attitudes Survey (Harris Interactive Inc., studies that have been conducted focus primarily on 2002) indicates that about 65% of Americans have a how adoption is represented in literature for very personal connection to adoption, as do three of the young readers. Kokkola's (2011) analysis of Allen four researchers on this study. Two researchers are Say's work revealed both complex visual allusions to adoptive parents—one adopting at birth and the the complexities of cross-cultural adoption and other from the foster system; another’s spouse was troubling oversimplifications. Bordo (2002) and adopted, and a fourth has no personal connection. Ayers (2004) both noted that while portrayals of adoption in current children’s books and media offer more realistic images than earlier stories, depictions 72
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 are still slanted toward outdated tropes related to gender, ethnicity, and the nature of kinship/motherhood, especially in relation to birth parents and adoption circumstances. Jerome and Sweeney (2014) looked specifically at portrayals of birth parents in books for young children, noting that birth parents are usually depicted as inadequate. Further, inclusion of birth parent stories varied according to ethnicity, with Latino and African American birth parents largely absent from the literature altogether. Inaccurate, oversimplified, and/or biased representations are particularly problematic given that families seek out literature to help children understand adoption (Bergquist, 2007; Mattix & Crawford, 2011).
scholars. Pertman (2011, 2012) asserted that inaccurate, sensationalized, and unbalanced broadcast and print portrayals of adoption in entertainment and informational media perpetuate problem-based views. Adoptive Families magazine features a regular column that addresses positive and problematic treatments of adoption in the media and marketplace. Concerns often focus on adoption punch lines or taunting scenes that suggest adoption as problematic, imply that adoption is a financial transaction in which children are bought and sold, or implicate adoption as a lower form of family membership. Again, such portrayals are significant because, without careful interrogation, all forms of media can affect how we view ourselves and others (Cortés, 2000).
Related YA studies largely address teen pregnancy. Davis and MacGillivray (2001) noted eight common messages related to sex and experiences of teen pregnancy as depicted in YA novels, concluding that the narratives were “silent” on important topics such as race and class, prenatal care, and birth control. Each of these topics, however, play a role in adoption decisions and are related to historical and social contexts of adoption, such as gender rights and roles, wealth and privilege, and race and culture. Nichols (2007) compared portrayals of teen pregnancy in YA books to the actual experiences reflected in data, noting mismatched portrayals of teens who choose abortion (40% of actual vs. 1% in books) or adoption (3% of actual vs. 35% in books). Emge (2006), on the other hand, found that while YA books addressing teen pregnancy have begun to acknowledge agency and choice, protagonists rarely viewed adoption as a good option. Portrayals of adoption in television, movies, and documentaries have increased significantly in recent years. Gailey's (2006) research on adoption in film revealed iconic images and reiterated story lines that represent, shape, and perpetuate widespread stereotypes. Such messages are the frequent subject of written commentary by adoption advocates and
Readers and viewers develop understanding of their own lives and the world around them through the stories with which they engage. YA literature, specifically, has been shown to influence readers’ empathy and understandings of themselves and others (Gardner, 2008; Kidd & Costano, 2013; Jacobs, 2006; Meixner, 2006; Sherr & Beise, 2015). In YA, as in all forms of media, active and accurate inclusion and critical analysis of texts depicting diverse life experiences are power and equity issues (HermannWilmarth, 2007; Kellner & Share, 2005). Depictions of adoption matter because unexamined assumptions can permeate discourse and weaken healthy development of adopted individuals and adoptive families (Smith, Surrey, & Watkins, 2006). Theoretical Framework We approached our reading and analysis from a critical literacy perspective in which literacy is conceptualized as a practice with significant social implications. In this view, texts are created, embedded in, and reflective of particular social and historical contexts. Reflecting those contexts, texts of all types position and influence readers. Rudine Sims Bishop’s (1990) work offered metaphors
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 embraced by the researchers for considering representation in texts. Books are mirrors that offer an opportunity to see one’s self reflected back in the literature; for those with a personal connection to adoption, a text can serve as that mirror through which one sees one’s self reflected. However, it is vital that the literature offers a number of diverse, realistic, and relevant mirrors for readers. A funhouse reflection that distorts or misrepresents identity or experience can be highly problematic, particularly when this distortion is repeated across multiple texts. The most grotesque distortion of all, as Jones (2008) noted, is the absence of any reflection of a significant component of a reader’s identity in a body of literature that purports to represent young adult experiences. Misrepresentation is problematic; invisibility is a different but also potent form of disrespect.
justice, such race, religion, gender, class, sexual orientation, and education, that privilege or diminish access and voice for individuals and communities (Edelsky, 1999; Rogers, MalancharuvilBerkes, Mosley, Hui, & O’Garro, 2005). Viewing and engaging with texts through a critical lens is at once an act of hope and focused intent; we illuminate and resist stereotypes in an effort to advocate for inclusiveness and respect. As Fowler (2006) reminded, “Stories have power but I want to make a distinction between a story and a narrative. A narrative includes not only the story, but also the teller, the told, the context and conditions of the story telling, and the reasons and intentions for narrating” (p. 9). Rather than ignoring our identities, they are an integral part of the analysis. We work as a team to recognize, articulate, and examine our potential biases and/or blind spots, while also “[valuing our] own perspectives which can lead to Conversely, when an array of insights derived from a realistically drawn characters “Texts, print or non-print, are particular way of seeing” (not perfect but portraying a (Kramp, 2004, p. 115), working never neutral…” positive image overall) is to heed Fowler’s (1990) plea “to reflected back, it can be a attend to the hidden truths in valuable opportunity for a reader with a personal ourselves” (p. 78). As Johnson-Bailey (2004) noted, connection to adoption to explore their identity. “It is well to remember that the exotic, entertaining, Bishop (1990) went on to discuss books as windows and harmless ‘Other’ can only exist in contrast to and sliding glass doors through which, in this case, the uninteresting, observing, and authoritative those outside the adoption triad (a term commonly norm. Therefore, the essentialized average or used in adoption literature to describe the representative culture occupies a place that is interdependent relationship in the adoption process replete with power” (pp. 128-129). Thus, we between birth parent, adopted child, and adoptive considered our respective positionalities and the parents) can glimpse or even step into the world of ways these texts position readers, ourselves an adoption-created family. included. Texts, print or non-print, are never neutral; they privilege and legitimize particular ways of being and knowing and have the power to shape our perspectives on ourselves and the world around us (Cortés, 2005; Edelsky, 1999). They foster some points of view and marginalize others (Leland & Harste, 2000). Critical literacy is directly concerned with exploring and exposing systems of privilege and
We offer our work not only as one application of critical literacy but also to purposefully position adoption as an aspect of diversity that warrants our attention and reflection. YA novels, in this case, are indeed narratives: the reader as the “told” and the author as the “teller.” With this in mind, we work to anticipate through our analysis what readers with
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 little to no personal experience with adoption (as is so for author two) are potentially being shown through what Bishop (1990) called the mirrors and sliding glass doors of the text. We have established that while adoption-formed families are common, meaningful opportunities to explore what that means for individuals and families may be much more limited; alternately, as is often so in TV and film, it is both abundant and stereotypical. Indeed, the reasons and intentions behind the narrative may be conscious or unconscious, making our task all the more urgent as we carry out our own work with adoption as an aspect of identity that must be considered in conversations around diversity, representation, and the meanings we each make through story.
individuals as the other in a biocentric paradigm. Instead, she suggested a sociocultural stance that considers how adoption experiences are framed within historical and social contexts, acknowledges the complexity and diversity of adoption experiences, and focuses on agency—an approach we take here. Viewed from the broader context of critical theory (McLaren, 1992), “literacy may link hope to possibility through developing various means of resisting oppression so that a better world can be summoned, struggled for, and eventually grasped” (p. 10). Method Data Collection We began searching the Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database (http://www.clcd.com) using the terms “adoption,” “adoptive families,” and birth parent,” narrowing the search for books published after 1990 ranging from early childhood to young adult levels. We also did basic Internet searches (Google, Amazon), but the books we found were included in the results from CLCD. This initial search yielded 383 books. We decided to narrow our focus to contemporary realistic fiction (books portraying experiences realistically representative of current sociocultural contexts) because of the power it holds for readers who are seeking to understand their own journeys. We further narrowed our scope to YA literature in response to our recognition that these books could bring forth some particularly interesting conflations of adolescence and adoption.
To engage with a text from a critical literacy perspective, a reader must be actively aware of social tensions related to power and justice. Leland and Harste (2000) reminded us that every story is told from “a particular point of view” and is “undeniably colored by this perspective” (p. 3). The reading act goes well beyond comprehending what a text “says” to considering the ideological stances and interests being served (Janks, 2009; Luke & Freebody, 1997), noting what perspectives are privileged, questioning what voices are missing (Edelsky, 1999), and considering the resulting social and educational implications. Engaging as readers in critical examinations of social representations and inequities in texts is vital if we are to develop a language to speak for inclusion and respect (McLeod, 2008). As adoption is seldom viewed as an aspect of diversity, the existing power dynamics are very often ignored, overlooked, essentialized, and/or underestimated. Similarly, Wegar (2006) explained that the pervasive discourse surrounding adoption has taken a “noncontextual psychopathological bias” (p. 3) that situates adoption as inherently problematic and adoptive families and adopted
Since we were interested in the portrayals young readers would encounter in their personal reading, we searched school and public libraries in three nearby cities and popular online and brick-andmortar bookstores to determine which of the books on our list were readily available. Any book that required extensive effort to find was removed from the list. We decided to focus on books published
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 after 2000 as the most relevant selections to our audience. We did include one 1998 publication that was a partner to another book by the same author. After this narrowing process, we ended up with 37 recently published, contemporary realistic fiction books that were likely to be readily available to teen readers, thirty addressing adoption from the adoptee perspective, five stories of expectant parents, one from the perspectives of both adoptee and birth parent, and one from the perspective of the biological child of a parent who had placed another child for adoption.
note and code aspects relative to adoption. Our analysis process was reflexive and cumulative; we read and analyzed individually an agreed upon set of books then met to discuss our analyses and come to shared understandings. Early meetings resulted largely in identification and explication of categories from shared insights. With these categories in hand, we returned to our reading, applying categories to new books to find supporting data and also identifying new, emerging categories. Coming together again, we entered new data from the texts that supported and/or refined existing categories and added categories that emerged from our readings of new books. We continued this recursive process through the reading of all 37 books, resulting in 23 data categories and supporting text data for each (See Table 1 for categories).
Data Analysis We explored our question through qualitative content analysis, an approach through which researchers analyze and interpret texts “in the contexts of their uses” (Krippendorff, 2013, p. xii). Content analysis may be approached in a variety of ways, depending on the nature of the text, the focus of the research, and the theoretical stance of the researcher (Weber, 1990). Hseih and Shannon (2005) explained that what binds the various applications is “the subjective interpretation of the content of text data through the systematic classification process of coding and identifying themes or patterns” (p. 2). It is an approach that is particularly well-suited to making, applying, and considering inferences across multiple contexts; in this case, multiple texts and multiple researchers. Krippendorff (2013) noted that qualitative content analysis is rooted in traditions of literary analysis, social science, and critical scholarship, and involves close reading of text for the purpose of interpreting with awareness of the researchers' own socially constructed understandings. In this case, our critical literacy framing brought us to interrogate socially constructed assumptions about adoption as represented in these texts.
Inferences about how adoption and adoptive families were depicted in the literature developed as we refined categories and reflected collaboratively on data recorded under each, looking for emerging patterns and themes. We kept extended memos of developing insights, adjusting and refining as each new book added angles or solidified developing understandings. We not only considered the various literary interpretations but also referenced our experiences as teachers and family members and sought additional insights from reading/viewing adoption-related scholarship, media, websites, and blogs. Our assertions stem from distillation and analysis of data across texts, categorized, collected, and interpreted through this process. Findings and Discussion Analysis revealed a variety of themes that illuminate particular perspectives on adoption while obscuring others. While these stories offer potentially valuable contexts for dialogue about social and cultural expectations of family, analyzed cross-textually, they also reveal perspectives that may privilege and
Multiple authors read each selection twice independently: first for a general overview then to
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 legitimize limiting and stereotypical views of adoption.
scenarios, suggesting that we share a collective unconscious that shapes the way we conceptualize and play out our lives. Jung called these recurrent motifs archetypes.
Throughout this discussion, we use terms generally accepted as positive adoption language (Borchers, 2003) but with some thoughtful adjustment. Since Campbell (1973) applied the concept of archetype to we are discussing and at times comparing depictions his study of mythology, illuminating consistent and of the parents in the triad, we clarify those roles as pervasive archetypal themes and structures across “adoptive parent” and “birth parent.” We do not, cultures. In particular, Campbell’s work focused on however, refer to the woman who is pregnant and The Hero’s Journey, an overarching narrative considering adoption as a “birth parent” but rather archetype in which the hero, confronted with a as the “expectant parent,” since no adoption action danger to home and heart, sets out on a journey has taken place. Additionally, while a child in a during which he must overcome great challenges, family is just a child—there is generally no need to but is also supported by guides and mentors, before differentiate according to how the child joined the returning home a changed being with solution and family—we do use the term “adopted child” as insight (See Vogler, 2007, pp. 8-9 for a helpful needed for clarification. For graphic overview of the Hero’s clarity, we refer to adoption Journey archetype.) Pearson’s “Although archetypal books by title rather than just work (1986, 1991) further literary analysis was not a author. After the initial listing, detailed the archetypical goal of this study, we quickly titles are abbreviated to concept, articulating twelve conserve space. Our findings, common archetypes subsumed became aware of addressed and discussed below, under the journey archetype, archetypical structures reveal reiterated themes and suggesting that by recognizing present in these depictions images across texts that these shared human narratives of adoption.” together construct a narrative we can better understand and about adoption that reveals influence our own personal some troubling assumptions but also open the door journeys. Also, addressing the relevance of archetype to important discussions about cultural and social to contemporary life, Vogler (2007) contended that identities, power and choice, and how adolescents writers who intentionally use archetypical narratives are positioned and viewed. in crafting stories tap into the human psyche and, thus, tell stories that connect to and resound Archetypal Structures powerfully with an audience. Readers can instantly recognize and connect with archetypal patterns in Although archetypal literary analysis was not a goal stories. In essence, familiar archetypes serve as of this study, we quickly became aware of capsules for complex meanings that readers may archetypical structures present in these depictions take in with little effort or even overt awareness of adoption. The concept of literary archetype stems because they are so culturally familiar: “They reside from the work of psychologist Carl Jung (1968) who in the heritage of imagination that is ours as humans noted that human beings tell varied versions of and they carry meanings for us that arrive in our essentially the same stories again and again across conscious imagination in holistic thematic time and place. Jung observed that human beings apprehensions” (Proukou, 2005, p. 62). universally recognize certain character types and
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 Journeys. As noted above, the Journey is an overarching archetype in which the hero of the story is confronted with a problem and sets out from his or her every day existence to seek an answer to a problem, eventually returning home with the means to address that problem successfully. It subsumes other archetypes including, most relevantly here, the Orphan and Seeker archetypes as addressed below. Journeys feature prominently among these adoption stories (approximately 70% of our books), undertaken to find the adoptee’s origins or, especially in birth mother stories, to seek physical and/or emotional safe haven. These journeys range from epic treks, potentially fraught with danger, (e.g. Finding Miracles [Alvarez, 2004]; Carpe Diem [Cornwell, 2009]; The Wanderer [Creech, 2000]; Saffy’s Angel [McKay, 2002]; Small Damages [Kephart, 2012]) to briefer journeys closer to home (e.g. A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life [Reinhardt, 2007]; Bull’s Eye [Harvey, 2007]; Ellen’s Book of Life [Givner, 2008]; Get Real [Hicks, 2006]; Three Black Swans [Cooney, 2010]; Dillon Dillon [Banks, 2002]), but all serve to help connect the adopted child or birth parent to truths, understandings, resolution, and/or acceptance about origins or situation. Not surprisingly, the Orphan and Seeker archetypes played out significantly in these books, and this strong presence has critical implications. The Orphan archetype deals with abandonment and learning to go through life alone without the parent figure. The hurting Orphan does not bond easily yet yearns to be cared for. In the journey toward such care, the Orphans may discover their own gifts. The Seeker may not have such a wrenching launch but sets forth into the world looking for a better world—a fuller existence. Seekers yearn, and this yearning is fulfilled when we “become real and give birth to our true selves” (Pearson, 1991, p. 124).
subtext to adoption—the notion that the adopted child was abandoned by the biological mother and is, thus, wounded (Wegar, 2006)—but in a layered, rather “piled on” fashion. Adopted teens wrestle with the death and/or potentially terminal illness of an adoptive parent (Ellen’s Book of Life [Givner, 2008]; The Girl in the Mirror [Kearney, 2012]; The Midnight Diary of Zoya Blume [Cunningham, 2005]; The Secret of Me [Kearney, 2005]; Slant [Williams, 2008]; Small Damages [Kephart, 2012]; Whale Talk [Crutcher, 2001]). A death in the immediate family launches the search for a birth parent (Bull’s Eye [Harvey, 2007]; Ellen’s Book of Life [Givner, 2008]). A woman is spurred by her husband’s death to make an unorthodox arrangement to adopt the child of a pregnant teen (How to Save a Life [Zarr, 2011]). Adopted individuals learn about or connect with birth parents only to find the birth parents are dead (Bull’s Eye [Harvey, 2007]) or dying (A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life [Reinhardt, 2007]). Pregnant teens are abandoned or sent away by parents (Pregnant Pause [Nolan, 2011]; Small Damages [Kephart, 2012]), and friends and lovers take leave in the wake of pregnancy and birth (Dancing Naked [Hrdlitschka, 2002]; Small Damages [Kephart, 2012]; Pregnant Pause [Nolan, 2011]). Wrenching abandonment scenes are offered as the backstory to two of the international adoption stories: The Midnight Diary of Zoya Blume (Cunningham, 2005) and Red Thread Sisters (Peacock, 2012). Adoptive parents abandon their children as well: The mother in Niner (Golding, 2008) abruptly leaves and never returns, leaving the child to wonder if it was because she, the adopted child, wasn’t good enough. A divorce in When the Black Girl Sings (Wright, 2008) relegates the father to an absentee parent. In this body of work, abandonment resounds powerfully as a circumstance of the adopted child and thus as a central, ongoing, even defining theme of the adoption experience as depicted.
Abandoned and damaged. Abandonment plays out here not just as an assumed psychological
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 The orphan’s journey. True to the progression of the Orphan archetype, the wounded character may run from rejection to seek and claim freedom from dependence upon the rejecter and a new wholeness. This task is not accomplished, however, alone but rather in collective action. The Orphan finds others, themselves wounded and betrayed in some way, and through being cared for and learning to care, finds their own identity. For example, Mandy in How to Save a Life (Zarr, 2011), pregnant from a one-time sexual experience with a kind stranger, responds to a post on a “seeking to adopt” discussion board and boards a train, running from an abusive home to seek safe haven with a potential adoptive parent for her unborn child. She is taken in by a widow and her teen daughter; while the widow and her daughter are both struggling with grief, the widow hopes to find healing in starting anew while parenting another child. In an unconventional ending, strongly reflective of the Orphan tale, Mandy ends up being adopted herself and is able to parent her child in the arms of a healing family. It is interesting to note that this abandonment theme was rife through the birth parent stories on the list, and also strongly realized in the international adoption stories listed above, as vivid abandonment scenes underscored the state of woundedness in the protagonists.
about their origins and, therefore, to know themselves. Like the Orphans, they find their way in consort with others, but this community is likely to include family and/or friends who accompany them. The search is launched not from rejection but from discovery, a hidden adoption (a betrayal, but not abandonment) or an event that sparks curiosity in origins. True to the archetype, the Seeker in these stories struggles with the decision to set out on the journey, fearing that doing so may compromise their already comfortable family community. In these stories, the search does change the known—the adopted child and the adoptive family—but in most cases, the depiction is that they are richer and stronger for the Seeker’s courage. While these stories may well perpetuate the common psychological view that individuals who were adopted are inherently incomplete, they also were more likely to present what we see as a more realistic portrayal of a natural and healthy curiosity to know one’s entire story and of the adoptive family as not in danger of being torn apart but rather even potentially enriched by seeking out and connecting with origins. However, some Seekers’ journeys lead the character – and the reader – into a dramatic labyrinth of absurdity that paints a picture of adoption as outrageous, dangerous, even absurd (See Table 2 for examples of books that feature Orphans and Seekers).
The orphaned protagonists are depicted as determined, even brave; their journeys suggesting agency. However, they also tend to perpetuate a negative view of birth mothers as flawed and lacking agency, birth fathers as uncaring and uninvolved, the adoption process as shady, and adoption as a secret to be protected—all significant themes that arose in our analysis and that will be articulated more fully in this article. Seeking true self. Seekers, too, set forth in search, but their launch is more due to yearning than reeling from painful rejection. We noted that Seekers often launch from loving contexts. They are cared for, but they feel a call (Pearson, 1991) to know
Thematic depictions of adoption Overall, though, the strong sense of loss that permeates these books, even the more positive and plausible seeker pieces, suggests overall that adoption is essentially loss. Examined through a critical lens, these journeys may suggest agency on the part of the individual—a determination to explore one’s own questions about origin, self, and society (e.g. A Brief Chapter in my Impossible Life [Reinhardt, 2007]; Ellen’s Book of Life [Givner, 2008]; Finding Miracles [Alvarez, 2004]; The Wanderer [Creech, 2000]). Often, though, individuals in these
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 [Eherenhaft, 2010]) parents tell her on her 12th birthday, and 11-year-old Verbena (As Simple as it Seems [Weeks, 2010]) learns of her adoption when she discovers a card her mother is sending to her birth mother. In The King of Slippery Falls (Hite, 2004), 15-year-old Lewis is told by his birth parents that they adopted him after a mysterious woman with a thick accent handed them a baby in a basket then disappeared. High school junior Nick in The Lucky Kind (Sheinmel, 2011) discovers that his father placed a child for adoption years ago. In Heaven (Johnson, 1998), 14-year-old Marley learns that the couple she knows as mother and father are, biologically, her aunt and uncle. Nineteen-year-old Sarah in Somebody’s daughter: A novel (Myung, 2009) has always known she was adopted from Korea, but adoption serves she learns the story she had essentially as a literary been told all her life, that her Adoption as problematic device—the central source parents died in a car accident, and/or corrupt. Common was untrue, so she launches a of dramatic tension in a stereotypes that frame adoption search for her birth mother. narrative that may be strictly as inherently problematic, Discoveries like these seem potentially corrupt, and even possible but is far from enigmatic in the current dangerous are liberally present in social environment where plausible or authentic.” these books. Often the plot adoption has become depends heavily upon adoption as increasingly open, with birth and adoptive families a problem experienced by the protagonist that must more likely to interact (Pertman, 2011). Although the be solved. While societal attitudes about secrecy in characters ultimately affirm their places in their adoption are rapidly changing—statistics indicate adoptive families, this particular plot perpetuates that 97% of adopted children know of their adoption stigmatic views of adoption as a shameful secret. at an early age (Harris Interactive Inc., 2002)—in eleven of the 30 books written from a child’s At times, adoption serves essentially as a literary perspective, the main character suddenly becomes device—the central source of dramatic tension in a aware of their adoption or discovers some other narrative that may be strictly possible but is far from hidden way that adoption has been part of the plausible or authentic. Hidden adoptions lead to family experience. That startling revelation launches shocking revelations; adoptive systems, processes, an emotional journey to discovering the truth. For and even laws are circumnavigated. Twin boys, example, preteen Dillon in Dillon Dillon (Banks, secretly separated at birth, discover each other by 2002) is shocked to discover that his birth parents chance and switch lives in Pinch Hit (Green, 2012). were his adoptive father’s deceased sister and Samara Brooks (Ehrenhaft, 2010) discovers through a brother-in-law. Samara’s (That’s Life, Samara Brooks DNA test at school that her father is a mad scientist. stories are depicted as incomplete, struggling, or caught up in drama precipitated by the circumstances of their adoption (e.g. Carpe Diem [Cornwell, 2009]; Get Real [Hicks, 2006]; Three Black Swans [Cooney, 2010]; Bull’s Eye [Harvey, 2007]). Wegar (2006) noted that this deficit view is common in adoption discourse and warrants disruption. Because archetypical conceptualizations factor heavily into the psychological perspectives that undergird much of the prevalent psychological framing of adoption (Wegar, 2006), and because they are so easily, and thus potentially uncritically, ingested by readers, the messages they carry are likely to be readily accepted. Without critical awareness, the traditional themes associated with these familiar structures can easily become fossilized into “At times, stereotypes as addressed below.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 In Three Black Swans (Cooney, 2010), the attending physician makes secret and illegal placements for two unwanted triplets with sisters who hide the adoption and raise the girls as cousins, while the third is sent home with the birth parents. The birth mother in Carpe Diem (Cornwell, 2009), who is also the mother of the adoptive father, blackmails the adoptive parents into allowing a meeting. They consent to send the child on a dangerous journey with the birth mother in exchange for her keeping the secret. Repeatedly in these stories, parents knowingly and actively lie and scheme to maintain secrecy, seemingly to protect a family structure portrayed as fragile because of adoption. While these stories may grip the reader, the misrepresentation of adoption borders on exploitive.
Midnight Diary of Zoya Blume (Cunningham, 2005), Zoya recalls begging her mother to take her home with her only to be tricked , then forced, in an effort to get her in the door of the orphanage. “You take her. I can’t anymore,” states the desperate birth mother. In Finding Miracles (Alvarez, 2004), Millie finds that she was left in an orphanage in the middle of a civil war by young parents caught up in the struggle. Joseph, in Kimchi and Calamari (Kent, 2007), searches for his birth mother among tales of women who leave their babies in public places to be found and cared for. This uninterrupted depiction of birth mother as victim to circumstance does not afford a window into the complexity of either person or situation. We see this cumulative portrayal as particularly problematic as international women, already framed as “other” in the United States, are portrayed as lacking agency over their own circumstances.
Images of the adoption triad. Thirty of the books in this study are written from the perspective of the adopted child and adoptive family; the other seven focus on birth parent or expectant parent experiences. Analysis of how birth parents and adoptive families are portrayed reveals issues of agency and access related to social positioning and power, including some troubling assumptions. Birth parents and expectant parents. In general, birth parents were not represented favorably; rather, characterizations tended to support stereotypes about expectant parents being unable or unfit to parent, a finding in line with Jerome and Sweeney’s (2014) study of adoption books aimed at young readers. In the eight books portraying international adoptions, birth fathers are largely relegated to little more than an assumption and birth mothers are presented sympathetically but uncritically. Whether through supposition or a glimpse of the story, they are depicted as doing the best they can in circumstances beyond their control. In Red Thread Sisters (Peacock, 2012), there is a wrenching scene in which the birth mother, who has just given birth to a son, tearfully abandons her five-year-old daughter on the steps of an orphanage. Similarly, in The
Domestic birth parents, on the other hand, tend to be portrayed in a less than sympathetic light. The 24 domestic adoptions depicted varied in circumstance, yet over half portrayed or actively implied that the birth parents were either wildly irresponsible, addicted, and/or mentally ill. Thus, the birth parent who is available for potential contact ostensibly presents a tangible danger for child and family. In two cases, Carpe Diem (Cornwell, 2009) and Get Real (Hicks, 2006), the danger plays out directly in the plot as the birth parent actively overrides the wishes of the adoptive parents and places the child in danger. The birth mother in Three Black Swans (Cooney, 2010) is the most stereotypically negative. Cold, evil, conniving, villainous, even criminal (the birth father is the bumbling accomplice), she is a nightmare of fairy tale proportions. These portrayals actively perpetuate one of the most widely held unsubstantiated stereotypes about adoption: birth parents are a danger to the adoptive family (Harris Interactive Inc., 2002).
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 Expectant parents, all female with the exception of Bobby in The First Part Last (Johnson, 2004) and Nick’s father in The Lucky Kind (Sheinmel, 2011), are young and grappling with difficult contexts beyond the unplanned pregnancy. These young women are pushed out by their parents, literally (Small Damages [Kephart, 2012]; Pregnant Pause [Nolan, 2011]) or emotionally (Dancing Naked [Hrdlitschka, 2002]; Invisible Threads [Dalton & Dalton, 2006]), or are escaping abuse (How to Save a Life [Zarr, 2011]). Kenzie in Small Damages (Kephart, 2012) is mourning the recent death of her father. In four of the seven stories, the expectant parent chooses to parent rather than place for adoption. Both the young woman who placed her child for adoption and the one for whom the placement is inferred in the text are shown grappling with the consequences but also finding a clearer view of who they are and the possibilities ahead. When a decision to parent is made, only fleeting glimpses of the teen as a parent are offered (again, with the exception of Bobby). In general, expectant parents are shown as seeking solutions but also clearly victimized by deserting and/or abusive partners and, often, cruelly judgmental adults. We are given only speculative glances of the road ahead, but the message that the world is a dangerous, disparaging place for pregnant teens resounds clearly. Bobby’s story is an outlier. Though initially considering adoption, when Bobby’s partner dies, he decides to parent his daughter instead. Bobby struggles to shoulder the responsibility but also receives support from his family. The First Part Last (Johnson, 2004) offers a complex, but not idealized, picture of singleparenthood and a disruption to the pattern of representation of expectant parents.
children are of a different race than their parents— 85% of those due to international adoption. When ethnicity is mentioned, the adoptive parents in these books are white and eight of nine cross-race adoptions are international. Families consist mostly of two committed partners, all of whom are married except for one same-sex partnership. One book shows an adoptive mother recently made single through divorce; another depicts a mother parenting alone because her husband is in jail. In How to Save a Life (Zarr, 2011), the woman considering adoption is widowed and a single parent of a teenage daughter. The variation in the socioeconomic status of the families, ranging from “money is not a problem in this family” (Zarr, 2006) to middle class, also seems in line with data suggesting families adopting privately have higher incomes than families adopting out of foster care. Families adopting internationally were more likely to be firmly middle class or to struggle financially than families adopting domestically. While these depictions do not seem to perpetuate negative stereotypes of adoptive families, they do potentially perpetuate social norms regarding who gets to adopt (Miall & March, 2006). More diverse depictions could serve to broaden the view of possibilities in this realm. Thematic portrayals of adoptive family dynamics also reveal some interesting trends and suggestions about the nature of adoption. In families with siblings, the siblings are biological offspring of the adoptive parents. This configuration seems to allow the author to provide insight into the role that adoption plays in the family and may serve to provide background commentary on the strength and quality of the relationship between the parents and the adopted child. Sibling relationships are depicted as being positive and strong, but often the adopted child’s search for a birth parent disrupts and challenges the sibling’s sense of a safe and whole family. Sibling relationships often need to be
Adoptive families. Adoptive families in these books generally reflect statistics from the 2007 National Survey of Adoptive Parents in which 73% of adoptive families identify as white, two-thirds of adopted children live in two-parent families, and 40% of
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 reestablished after the search journey as the family these books. Not surprisingly, and with one dynamic has been changed. Grandparents are often exception (The First Part Last, Johnson ), cast as foils: cold and critical balancing the warm, expectant parent stories focused on the pregnant accepting parents (e.g. Finding Miracles [Alvarez, woman, but the side relationships also lean the 2004]; The Midnight Diary of Zoya Blume focus heavily toward the feminine. Expectant fathers [Cunningham, 2005]), solid and wise when the are usually drawn as unsupportive and distant; emotional context is chaotic (e.g. Truth With A interestingly, the two one-night-stands are among Capital T [Hegedus, 2010]; The Wanderer [Creech, the most appealingly drawn of these characters. 2000]; , the grandparent figure in Small Damages Pregnant young women tend to have tumultuous [Kephart, 2012]), or in one case of horrid parents relationships with their own mothers who are (the couple in The Black Swans [Cooney, 2010]), portrayed as judgmental or too distracted by their heroically nurturing. Adjusting and refining to own interests and/or problems to actively support embrace adoption as a family affair often plays out their daughters. Their fathers are either absent in a metaphorical sense through the journey, (dead or long deserted) or deferential to the resulting in expanding family borders (e.g. A Brief mothers. The expectant mothers are then left to Chapter in my Impossible Life [Reinhardt, 2007]; negotiate the pregnancy with the help of others. Finding Miracles [Alvarez, Birth parents are female here, 2004]; When the Black Girl “Despite often otherwise too. When a birth father is Sings [Wright, 2008]) or considered, it is usually through troubling framing, a solidifying existing familial an imagined lens, often a brief common theme is that the bonds (e.g. Bull’s Eye [Harvey, and passing wondering. Birth 2007]; Trophy Kid or How I was love of the family is strong parents who are fully known to Adopted by the Rich and Famous enough to expand and and/or engage with the [Atinsky, 2008]; That’s Life, adoptive family are almost embrace origins.” Samara Brooks [Ehrenhaft, entirely female and often 2010]). Despite often otherwise presented as flawed, from troubling framing, a common theme is that the love mentally ill (e.g. Lola and the Boy Next Door of the family is strong enough to expand and [Perkins, 2010]; My Road Trip to the Pretty Girls embrace origins. While this is a positive theme for Capitol of the World [Yansky, 2003]) to reckless and all individuals joined through adoption, the message insensitive (e.g. Carpe Diem [Cornwell, 2009]; Three is impoverished by a negative, marginalizing Black Swans [Cooney, 2010]; Get Real [Hicks, 2006]). portrayal of birth parents. Present birth fathers do not fare well in the stability Gender Perspectives factor, either, as each of the three depicted (That’s Life, Samara Brooks [Ehrenhaft, 2010]; My Road Trip Adoption in these texts is largely a female story to the Pretty Girl Capitol of the World [Yansky, 2003]; focused in many ways on mothering, a finding in Bull’s Eye [Harvey, 2007]) are shown as morally line with Hinojosa, Sberna, and Marsiglio’s (2006) compromised. Notable exceptions can be found in A assertions about the dominance of feminine Brief Chapter in my Impossible Life (Reinhardt, 2007) imagery—and resulting marginalization of and Ellen’s Book of Life (Givner, 2008) in which fatherhood—in cultural scripts of adoption. adoptive families and birth parents develop positive Mothers—expectant, birth, and adoptive—are by far relationships. the most developed and scrutinized characters in 83
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 Within the adoptive family, the emotional action tends to lean toward the feminine as well. Mothers are generally strong and capable; most either holding relatively high status jobs and/or serving as the primary wage earner. Fathers, when developed as characters, are often portrayed against common gender norms—the nurturing family cook or the approachable, easy to confide in parent. Intimate conflict in the family is most often between the mother (or grandmother) and the child. When women are single, they tend to parent daughters; The First Part Last (Johnson, 2004) and Zen and the Art of Faking It (Sonnenblick, 2010) are exceptions. Even in Niner (Golding, 2008), where the children live with their father, the emotional focus of the story is on the missing mother, with the adoptee struggling with what is presented as a dual abandonment—first her birth mother and then her mother, both for unknown reasons. Furthermore, 70% of the adoptees in this collection are female, and interestingly, stories featuring male adoptees seem to be told with a lighter, more humorous or even irreverent tone than their female-focused counterparts.
and the Art of Faking It (Sonnenblick, 2010) invites readers to explore the struggle to embrace complex identities. The cross-cultural adoption in A Brief Chapter in my Impossible Life (Reinhardt, 2007) allows for exploration of religious and cultural differences. In Lola and the Boy Next Door (Perkins, 2010), the focus is on the teen romance but the loving relationship between her two gay fathers is also central. Laura’s desire to alter her eye-shape surgically to escape bullying in Slant (Williams, 2008) opens the door to discussion about racism, bullying, and socially defined beauty norms. While we found these books to be particularly well-written and thought provoking, we also noted that this use of adoption as a vehicle for exploration of another social issue has the potential to sideline significant discussion about how adoption is, in and of itself, a complex and meaningful component of diversity. Conclusions Adoption narrative exposes the human condition-our hopes, relationships, vulnerabilities, and strengths—and raises significant questions about what family structures and contexts are valued, who has power and choice in relationships and how adolescents are positioned and viewed. Since adoptive families inhabit a small portion of the books readily available to teen readers, each has the potential for providing “the” take on adoption that a particular reader may get. The power of the representations in one book may be counterbalanced by alternate representations in other texts; however, repeated images, collectively, speak with a power beyond the individual circumstance. As Cortés (2005) noted, “The constant reiteration of certain themes, when dealing with that subject (combined with the omission of other themes) can create, disseminate, and/or maybe inculcate a distorted public image” (p. 57).
Adoption as a Social Context Adoption challenges dominant notions of family and opens the door to conversations about culture and social identities, including race, religion, gender, sexual identity and social class (Wegar, 2006). Interestingly, some of the books in this study that offered the most intriguing sociological perspectives were also books that used adoption more as a context than a focus. Unlike books that set up adoption as a problem to be solved, in these the family has been open about adoption from the beginning, and the family relationships are depicted as generally healthy and thriving. In this case, rather, the adoption sets the stage for a socially significant issue to rise for discussion. A cross-race adoption in Whale Talk (Crutcher, 2001) sets the scene for exploration of racism while another in Zen
Leland and Harste (2002) noted the importance of engaging readers with books that make difference
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 visible, particularly those differences that make a difference in people’s lives. Adoption being such a difference, our analysis suggests that the complexity of adoption is not fully represented in the literature readily available to young adult readers. Negative, oversimplified, or unexamined depictions have ramifications not only for how adopted teens and teen birth parents view themselves and their families but also for how those conceptualizing adoption from the outside view others. Too often accuracy and authenticity are lost in pursuit of a gripping tale. The broader picture of what adoption looks like and means to those involved needs to be more fully explored and extended.
return of the birth parent; absentee or even cruel birth fathers; high-income, white adoptive parents; adopted children framed as being “incomplete”), especially when the narrative turns on that stereotype. * Look critically at the role adoption plays in the adopted character’s life. Is it one aspect of the experience of a well-developed character, even if the storyline revolves around questioning and seeking? Consider that coming to understand one’s identity is a core experience of adolescence, and that while adoption is a significant aspect of identity, it is not all-defining. Rather, identity is layered and varying for individuals at different points in life.
* Is the family dynamic, especially difficult aspects, centered solely around the act of adoption or is adoption one (although significant) aspect? Do families operate as families, with all the flaws and wonders, or is the family story seemingly just a vessel for the drama of adoption? Are characters complex, or is adoption the main focus of their development, especially for the adopted child and his/her relationships with other characters?
As we offer these insights, we encourage those who guide and work with young adult readers to consider portrayals of adoption in selecting materials, intentionally including books about adoption with a critical eye toward balanced and accurate portrayals. Further, we urge critical dialogue about such books, encouraging readers to question portrayals and entertain possibilities. While many books noted in this study provide opportunities for critical discussion, we particularly recommend the books listed in Table 3 for adoption perspectives and opportunities for dialogue. The following considerations will be useful in guiding book selection overall:
* Examine the book for secrecy, as a need to hide adoption points to “a dirty secret.” * Are adopted characters portrayed as either wildly over-achieving (as if the value must be proven) or dysfunctional/damaged (as if the state of being adopted makes one more likely to have problems)?
* Be intentional about selecting books that reflect adoption and adoptive families for inclusion in classroom and library collections. Select books that explore adoption, rather than exploiting it as a dramatic context, and that offer multiple perspectives to open the window of possibility of how and why families are formed and who can be part of a family. * Avoid common adoption stereotypes (e.g., irresponsible, young birth parents; the “dangerous”
* Are birth parents and/or expectant mothers portrayed as dysfunctional, passive and blasé, or inherently incapable? For birth parents, are they portrayed as a potential danger to the adopted child and adoptive family? If the birth parent does struggle with circumstances that might make parenting difficult, is the character fleshed out beyond that circumstance? Look particularly at father and mother roles (birth and adoptive): Are father characters present, active, and fully realized,
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 rather than caricatured fly-by-night bad guys? Are mothers developed in complex and balanced ways?
* Whatever your selections may be, it is important to engage readers in critical conversations about texts.
* Is the context developed, including circumstances and reasons that may lead to adoption as a choice, without demonizing the choosers?
We also encourage authors and publishers to explore adoption in their work, again with an eye toward expanding representation while avoiding stereotypes or exploiting family in service of drama. It is important that this landscape viewed or “experienced” by the reader is a thoughtfully rendered representation, particularly if the author is not personally connected to adoption. We would also urge those who do have personal connections to adoption to avoid inadvertently essentializing their own points of view.
* Are literature collections inclusive of various ethnicities, socioeconomic situations, genders and sexualities, religions, and family structures? * Are characters depicted with agency and positive intent, especially relative to adoption? * Consider the view of adoption and adoptive families a reader might take away from reading just this book or multiple books in the collection.
To researchers, we issue an invitation. Individual strands that emerged as a result of our work (e.g. gender identity and expectations, trauma and abandonment, interfamily relationships, race and culture representations, etc.) may be useful as lenses for more narrowly focused work. Viewing adoption as a multifaceted, norm-challenging, and significant aspect of social diversity, we invite research colleagues to further explore adoption in literature, its representations, and the potential implications for teens, families, and those who serve them.
* Consider the language used in relation to adoption. Does word choice suggest less-than positive or overtly negative attitudes or that families formed by adoption are not “real” or “natural”? * Consider the importance of counteracting common stereotypes, including those that may be historically accurate but less so today, when adding to your collection. While an individual situation may actually “match” a stereotype, large numbers of alternative exposures are needed to counteract it in the broader public arena. Go for the positive and reflective rather than the dramatic problem.
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Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 Givner, J. (2008). Ellen’s book of life. Toronto, ON, CAN: Groundwood Books. Golding, T. (2008). Niner. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills Press. Green, T. (2012). Pinch hit. New York: NY: Harper Collins. HarperCollins. Harvey, S. N. (2007). Bull’s eye. Victoria, BC, CAN: Orca Book Publishers. Hegedus, B. (2010). Truth with a capital T. New York, NY: Delacourte Books for Young Readers. Hicks, B. (2006). Get real. New Milford, CT: Roaring Book Press. Hite, S. (2004). The king of slippery falls. New York, NY: Scholastic Press. Hrdlitschka, S. (2002). Dancing Naked. Victoria, BC, CAN: Orca Book Publishers. Johnson, A. (1998). Heaven. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. Johnson, A. (2004). The first part last. New York, NY: Simon Pulse. Kearney, M. (2005). The secret of me: A novel in verse. New York, NY: Persea Books. Kearney, M. (2012). The Girl in the mirror. New York, NY: Persea Books. Kent, R. (2007). Kimchi & calamari. New York, NY: HarperCollins. Kephart, B. (2012). Small damages. New York: NY: Philomel Books. Lamb Books. McKay, H. (2002). Saffy’s angel. New York, NY: Margaret K. McElderry Books. Myung, O. L. (2009). Somebody’s daughter: A novel. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. Nolan, H. (2011). Pregnant pause. New York, NY: Harcourt Books for Children. Peacock, C. A. (2012). Red thread sisters. New York, NY: Penguin Group. Perkins, S. (2010). Lola and the boy next door. New York, NY: Speak. Reinhardt, D. (2007). A brief chapter in my impossible life. New York, NY: Wendy Sheinmel, A. B. (2011). The lucky kind. New York, NY: Ember. Sonnenblick, J. (2010). Zen and the art of faking it. New York, NY: Scholastic. Weeks, S. (2010). As simple as it seems. New York, NY: HarperCollins. Williams, L. (2008). Slant. Minneapolis, MN: Milkweed Editions. Wright, B. (2008). When the black girl sings. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. Yansky, B. (2003). My trip to the pretty girl capital of the world. Peterborough, NH: Cricket Books.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1â€”Spring 2017 Zarr, S. (2011). How to save a life. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017
Power and Agency in a High Poverty Elementary School: How Teachers Experienced a Scripted Reading Program Rebecca Powell, Susan Chambers Cantrell, & Pamela Correll Abstract: This phenomenological investigation was designed to answer the following question: In this school, what were teachers’ experiences with a scripted reading program? Seventeen teachers were interviewed at the end of the first year of implementing a scripted program. Four themes emerged from this analysis: (1) The program supported teachers’ work with the most struggling students; (2) Teachers’ forced enactment of the program led to negative outcomes for students; (3) The program had a negative impact on teachers’ psychological well-being; and (4) Teachers are impacted by a hierarchical system that dictates who has the power to make decisions within the institution. Teachers’ statements indicated that they demonstrated agency by occasionally diverging from the script or supplementing it in various ways. Still others chose to resist by leaving the school. Using post-intentional phenomenology as a theoretical framework, results are discussed through a sociopolitical lens and suggest that a market ideology can have considerable impact on how literacy instruction is realized in schools. Keywords: Scripted Reading Program; Phenomenology; Culturally Responsive Literacy Instruction; Sociopolitical Context
Rebecca Powell, Ed.D., directs the Center for Culturally Relevant Pedagogy at Georgetown College. She has authored numerous books and articles on culturally responsive literacy teaching, including her latest book titled Literacy for All Students: An Instructional Framework for Closing the Gap. For the past five years she has directed a national teacher professional development grant and works in elementary classrooms to help teachers implement the Culturally Responsive Instruction Observation Protocol (CRIOP) model. Susan Chambers Cantrell, Ed.D., is an Associate Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Kentucky where she teaches courses in language arts and literacy education. She conducts research focused on teachers’ efficacy beliefs and the ways in which classroom instruction influences literacy engagement and learning. She is especially interested in how teachers create contexts that engage students who have been underserved in schools, historically. Pamela Knuckles Correll, Ed.D., is an Assistant Professor of Literacy at Missouri State University. She teaches undergraduate and graduate level courses in literacy education and conducts research related to culturally responsive instruction and English language learners. Her research interests include pre-service teacher preparation and instruction for linguistically diverse students.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017
cripted reading programs became popular after the publication of the Report of the National Reading Panel (NICHD, 2000), which presented a comprehensive review of experimental and quasi-experimental research on reading instruction.1 The findings of this research were codified in the Reading First program, which provided federal funds to support reading improvement in schools. Reading First required states to provide evidence that their instructional practices would be “research-based,” and districts were encouraged to adopt programs that were designed using “scientific evidence.”
associated with working in a high poverty environment. The focus question for our research was this: In this school, what were teachers’ experiences with a scripted reading program? In this article, we first examine the relevant literature and the sociocultural context for the study. We then discuss post-intentional phenomenology as a philosophical stance and present the specific methods used in our investigation. These sections are followed by the results of our data analysis and a critical exploration and interpretation of those data.
Many scholars—including one member of the National Reading Panel--have criticized the NRP for ignoring research that examined the sociocultural dimensions of literacy and for promoting structured phonics and phonemic awareness over more balanced literacy approaches (Camilli, Vargas & Yurecko, 2003; Coles, 2000, 2007; Garan, 2004; Yatvin, 2000). Publishing companies, however, were quick to respond by developing curricula that fit the criteria mandated by Reading First. Many of these programs went beyond traditional basal reading programs in that they were “scripted”; that is, they specified the exact words and gestures that teachers and students were to use in reading instruction. Hence, they were designed to be “teacher-proof”: Anyone could implement the program once they learned how to carry out the script.
While numerous articles have been published warning of the potential problems with scripted reading programs and discussing their effects on students (e.g., Commeyras, 2007; Demko and Hedrick, 2010; Ede, 2006; Milosovic, 2007; Powell, McIntyre & Rightmyer, 2006), few have actually documented their effects on teachers. Those studies are briefly examined here. Dresser (2012) presents an action research study in which she worked with teachers to embed Reciprocal Teaching and Narrow Reading into the scripted reading program. An unintended finding of this project was that teachers expressed reluctance toward teacher-designed instruction, even though they felt the interventions were beneficial for their students. Shelton (2010) examined the impact of fidelity to a scripted program, Reading Mastery, in two third grade classrooms and concluded that the program provided limited instruction with no opportunities to connect literacy to students’ lives. This study analyzed lesson implementation but did not address the impact of the program on teachers.
This phenomenological study investigates the impact of a scripted program in an urban, culturally and linguistically diverse, low socioeconomic elementary school. Our intent was to explore how teachers within this context experienced a scripted reading program while also facing the challenges
Parks and Bridges-Rhoads (2012) investigated the ways in which a highly scripted literacy curriculum
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 the gender-neutral pronoun “they” in an
effort to recognize the fluid nature of identity and to avoid making assumptions about the ways individuals identify or refer to themselves.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 shaped a preschool teacher’s instructional practices in mathematics instruction. Findings indicated that the teacher used conversational patterns resembling the scripted curriculum (i.e., prompts) when teaching math, and there was a focus on correct answers versus reasoning or problem solving. Further, the researchers concluded that the scripted program discouraged teacher professional development in that the teacher and paraprofessional “had little support for learning instructional practices that drew out or built upon children’s mathematical knowledge and reasoning” (p. 318).
student independent reading. The four teachers who participated in the study perceived themselves as professionals and were able to articulate clearly their beliefs about how children learn. These teachers reported a range of negative emotions from their experiences with a scripted program, and were frustrated and even insulted by the mandate to use a “teacher-proof” curriculum. Griffith reports that “Three of the four teachers talked of ways to flee the situation either by leaving the school, leaving the district, or leaving the teaching profession altogether” (p. 129). MacGillivray, Ardell, Curwen, and Palma (2004) suggest that requiring teachers to implement a scripted reading curriculum is a form of colonization. Applying ideas from neocolonial theory, they argue that power structures within schools serve to control teachers’ work. This control is manifested through a process of socialization, where teachers’ identities are redefined as “the other,” and by limiting their professional autonomy. The authors assert that the power of the colonizer (“the district”) is maintained through surveillance:
Two qualitative studies addressed the experiences of classroom teachers with scripted programs. Duncan Owens (2010) shared the results of interviews with 12 demonstration teachers who used the scripted program Read Well. She found that throughout the year, teachers’ initially positive perceptions shifted as they became more frustrated with the program, and in January they began to alter their instruction to better meet the needs of their students. Teachers in her study expressed concern with the scant attention to reading comprehension, the restrictions on student advancement to higher groups, and the prevalence of decodable text versus more authentic literature. Owens also found that implementation of Read Well caused a shift in the ways teachers talked about their students, from discussing their individual needs to perceiving their progress in terms of the program. The author concluded that the program had a negative impact on teachers, stating that “the use of scripted programmes has the potential to diminish [their] professional competence, confidence and effectiveness” (p. 117). Griffith (2008) conducted a phenomenological investigation that examined how the use of Voyager impacted teachers’ “professional spirits.” Prior to implementing Voyager, teachers had used a balanced literacy program that included shared reading, guided reading and many opportunities for
Initially, surveillance is framed as helpfulness. . . However, in and of itself, surveillance does not necessarily negate dissent, nor does it relegate the colonized to an officially passive stance. Indeed, any level of resistance from the colonized justifies ongoing monitoring. (pp. 134-135) By examining the phenomenon of a scripted reading program in a high poverty elementary school, the current study seeks to identify the ways in which the hegemonic structure in schools influences the ways in which teachers experience their work. We found the notion of colonization to be helpful as we examined the data, and will return to these ideas in our concluding thoughts. Context and Purpose of the Study
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 We begin to frame this investigation by presenting Similarly, students are empowered to use literacy for culturally responsive literacy instruction (CRLI) as a real purposes and audiences, e.g., to communicate contrasting backdrop to the scripted reading their points of view, to take a stand, to engage in instruction that occurred in this study. In CRLI, solving real world issues and problems. Thus, teachers build bridges between school and home, students learn the conventions of written and oral using students’ language and cultural knowledge to language through engagement in meaningful make important conceptual links (González, Moll & reading, writing, and dialogue. Amanti, 2005; Gutiérrez, 2008; Pacheco & Gutiérrez, The first author of this paper serves as an 2009; Souto-Manning & Martell, 2016). A growing instructional coach in elementary schools, working body of research suggests that literacy instruction side-by-side with teachers to assist them in that is culturally responsive can enhance the implementing CRLI. Two years ago, she worked at a achievement of underrepresented students (Aronson high poverty, diverse elementary school in a & Laughter, 2016; Cammarota & Romero, 2009; medium-sized Midwestern city that served grades 3Duncan-Andrade, 2007; Lee, 1995, 2001; Powell, 5. The community surrounding Cantrell, Malo-Juvera & Correll, the school had experienced a 2016; Rickford, 2001). “Thus, students learn the great deal of violence, and conventions of written and Another important element of police were collaborating with CRLI is developing sociopolitical local churches and schools to oral language through consciousness, where students wage an anti-violence engagement in meaningful and teachers use literacy for campaign. Powell worked with reading, writing, and social and economic fifth grade teachers and dialogue.” transformation (Ladson-Billings, students on several initiatives 1995; Lewison, Leland, & Harste, designed to empower students 2008; Powell, 1999; Wallowitz, 2008). Culturally to join this campaign. For instance, students wrote responsive literacy instruction is also committed to anti-violence essays and raps and several presented sustaining families’ languages and cultures (Paris, their ideas and performed at a “Take Action Day,” 2012) and to creating an equitable classroom which was attended by local dignitaries and environment that conveys high expectations and members of the community. They also wrote essays that supports and affirms students’ linguistic and on how to improve the local park, and several cultural knowledge (Gay, 2000; Villegas & Lucas, students read their essays to members of the city 2007). council. Through all of these projects, students were involved in meaningful writing and were guided in One critical element of CRLI is agency. That is, how to craft an argument for a real audience. That teachers must have autonomy to take risks and to same year, fourth grade students wrote letters to the make changes to their instructional practices based editor on a national pipeline project that was slated upon their knowledge of the students and families to be built through our state. This project was highly they serve. Hence, at its core, culturally responsive controversial, and students heard from opponents literacy instruction is empowering for both teachers and proponents before writing their letters, several and students. Often, this requires “teaching against of which were published in local newspapers. the grain” (Simon, 1992)—tossing out conventional instructional materials or using them sparingly so In addition to authentic writing projects, teachers at that students’ lives are at the center of instruction. the school were committed to exposing their 96
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 students to authentic children and young adult literature. Fifth grade teachers read texts such as Chains (Anderson, 2010) and Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (Douglass, 1999) with their students to enhance their social studies units. Third and fourth grade teachers were also committed to reading young adult texts, including multicultural literature, and guiding students’ understanding of these texts.
authentic literacy instruction had been encouraged. In the prior year, K – 2 students had written class newspapers, letters and personal narratives and were reading children’s literature and even short novels. Thus, teachers went from a situation where they were encouraged to implement authentic literacy instruction, to one in which they were told to follow a script. As teachers began implementing the scripted program, it was clear that many had strong feelings about it. While some saw its benefits, many resented the fact that, in their view, they could no longer practice and grow in their craft as literacy instructors. It is important to state up front that Powell was not a detached “participant observer” in these dynamics, but rather remained clearly partial to more authentic and meaningful literacy instruction. Her role during that year became one of aiding teachers in overcoming the barriers they felt with the program, helping them determine ways of guiding students’ literacy development in more authentic ways during the few minutes they had carved out during the week for additional instruction.
We provide a brief summary of the literacy instruction leading up to this study because, in October of the study year, everything changed. When the scripted reading materials finally arrived, teachers were required to abandon their literacy instructional practices and to read and write authentic texts at odd times during the week— whenever they could manage to fit it in. Following the advice of district administrators, the school had made the decision to purchase a phonics-based scripted curriculum, and student assessment determined that most of the students in the school should be placed in a targeted reading intervention program referred to as “corrective.” Students were divided into small groups for “corrective reading” each day, with the most struggling readers meeting with reading specialists for their reading instruction.
As the year progressed, many teachers were becoming more frustrated with the mandate to implement the program with fidelity, and they perceived that it was not meeting all of their students’ needs. Although some teachers were satisfied with some aspects of the program, others felt the program served some students well but not others. Thus, the aim of our research was to capture teachers’ experiences with a scripted reading program as it was implemented in a high poverty, diverse elementary school.
Purchase of the program also included a coaching component. A company coach observed in classrooms several times during the year and gave feedback to teachers on the degree to which they were implementing the program with fidelity. Lessons consisted of exact scripts that teachers and students were required to repeat along with specific accompanying gestures. Teachers were trained on signaling and other elements of the program and were told not to diverge from the manual.
It should be noted that the primary school also began implementing the same scripted program. The first author had served as a culturally responsive literacy coach there the previous year, during which
Given the purpose and nature of the study, we selected Phenomenology as our method of inquiry. Phenomenological research “describes the meaning
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 for several individuals of their lived experiences of a concept or a phenomenon” (Creswell, 2007, p. 57). A central idea in phenomenology is the notion of intentionality, which implies an inseparable connectedness between humans (subjects) and the world (objects). That is, humans are in the world, not separate from it. Vagle (2014) writes that “When one studies something phenomenologically . . . [o]ne is studying how people are connected meaningfully with the things of the world” (p. 27).
this was identified as a problem early in our research investigation, as the scripted reading program severely limited the ability of the CRLI coach (the first author) to assist teachers in implementing culturally relevant literacy practices. At the same time, Finlay suggests that [o]ne possible way of avoiding this trap is to embrace the intersubjective relationship between researcher and researched. . . If this more explicitly relational approach to phenomenological research is adopted, data is seen to emerge out of the researchercoresearcher relationship, and is understood to be co-created in the embodied dialogical encounter. (p. 13)
Phenomenology acknowledges that researchers, too, come with their own experiences from being in the “lifeworld,” e.g., the historical, sociocultural and political environment in which we engage and interact and which is at the heart of our intersubjective experience (Husserl, 1954/1970). Therefore when examining a particular phenomenon, researchers can never assume a “neutral” or “objective” stance. Thus, doing phenomenological research requires researchers to give voice to their own experiences with the phenomenon and to “bracket” or “bridle” their preunderstandings and assumptions. Bracketing implies an explicit process of becoming aware of and “setting aside” one’s assumptions about the phenomenon being investigated so they do not influence one’s understanding of how participants (e.g., “co-researchers”) experience that phenomenon. Similarly, bridling is a process of interrogating one’s assumptions throughout the investigation so that the researcher remains open to any meanings that might emerge. Finlay (2009) suggests that “[r]esearchers’ subjectivity should . . . be placed in the foreground so as to begin the process of separating out what belongs to the researcher rather than the researched” (p. 12). Finlay (2009) further writes that “[t]he researcher needs to avoid preoccupation with their own emotions and experience if the research is not to be pulled in unfortunate directions which privilege the researcher over the participant” (p. 13). Admittedly,
Indeed, the relationship between researcher and participants and their emotional connection to the phenomenon became an advantage in that it led to rich conversations that allowed us to uncover a depth of meaning that might otherwise not have been possible. At the same time, it often became apparent that we had to honor the teachers’ voices and “bridle” our own assumptions, both as we engaged in those conversations and as we analyzed the data. Through the process of bridling and continuous reflection throughout the research process, it became clear to us that we needed to frame our emerging understanding through a poststructuralist lens. That is, we wanted to do more than simply describe the “essence” of the phenomenon; rather, we felt the teachers—through the very act of agreeing to communicate with us— were taking a political stance against hegemonic forces that controlled their daily work. Similarly, comments in several of the interviews implied a form of resistance to this control and a frustration over their lack of autonomy. Thus, we found Vagle’s (2014) notion of “post-intentional phenomenology” to be highly appealing.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 Vagle (2014) describes post-intentional phenomenology as the basis for a political philosophy where “phenomenology [is put] into play, or interplay, with more disruptive theories/methodologies” (p. 115). In gathering our data and conducting our analysis, we attempted to capture the “lifeworlds” of the teachers—to give them a space where their voices mattered, where they could freely express their understandings, assumptions and emotions about the phenomenon. This act in itself we viewed as political, for these participant co-researchers were taking risks within an environment where criticism was discouraged and where they experienced sanctions for making their opinions known.
intentional phenomenologists, “we are encouraged to make every effort to identify and boldly follow possible lines of flight toward something either notyet-discovered or unknown” (p. 119).
From our perspective, such lines of flight can move us into the political as we explore participants’ inthe-world experiences within the educational institution, an institution that we argue is influenced by sociopolitical forces beyond its walls. Hence, post-intentional phenomenology challenges Cartesian ideology by elevating the voices of those who are marginalized as they reflect upon their experiences—experiences that are always confined within and shaped by larger social structures. In other “From our perspective, such words, it allows us not only to lines of flight can move us examine the relationships into the political as we between subjects (humans) and objects (other humans and explore participants’ in-thethings in the world), but also world experiences within the ways in which hegemony the educational institution, defines and influences those an institution that we argue relationships.
In his conceptualization of post-intentional phenomenology, Vagle (2014) examines three poststructuralist aspects. First, poststructuralism assumes that “all things are connected and interconnected in all sorts of unstable, changing, partial, is influenced by In the pages that follow, we fleeting ways” (p. 118). In our sociopolitical forces beyond provide details on the own work as critical theorists, methodology used in this its walls.” we take this to mean that research project along with a humankind is connected to a detailed examination of the process used in data web of larger cultural, social and political analysis. We then present our findings and examine structures—structures that are grounded in those findings through a critical lens. hegemonic forces within our society that both divide and oppress. Second, post-structuralism allows us to Method move beyond the rigid, “stable essences” of previous There are many variations of methodological phenomenological work and to seek “lines of approaches that have been described in the flight”—those ways of exploring phenomenon that literature, all claiming to use Phenomenology as “explode” our thinking. Vagle writes that “[t]he their investigative method. One of the pioneers in concept of lines of flight can help us think psychological phenomenology, Amedeo Giorgi, differently in phenomenology about lived asserts that there are three basic and interlocking experiences and knowledge. It assumes that steps in the phenomenological method: (1) knowledge takes ‘off’ in ways that we may not be phenomenological reduction, (2), description, and able to anticipate” (p. 119). Finally, as post
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 (3) search for essences (Giorgi, 1997; as cited in Finlay, 2009, p. 7). Others take a more creative approach in analyzing the data, preferring less mechanistic procedures (e.g., Koonce, 2012; Vagle, 2014; van Manen, 1990). All phenomenological investigations, however, move from looking at the whole (a holistic reading of the text), to examining the parts (studying the details), and then moving back to the whole. The movement from whole to part throughout the analytic process is not necessarily done sequentially but rather dynamically, as one explores and reflects upon the meanings that are revealed in each protocol. We elected to use Giorgi’s six steps (as described in Valle & Halling, 1989) to analyze the data in order to uncover essential meanings in the interview protocols. In this section, we outline the details of how we conceptualized and conducted the investigation and the steps we used to transform the data using Giorgio’s stages of psychological reflection.
Seventeen elementary teachers were interviewed for this study. To get a range of perspectives, teachers were intentionally selected who taught at different grade levels and who held various areas of expertise. The fact that the first author knew all of the participants personally greatly facilitated the recruitment process. She began by recruiting teachers who had expressed opinions about the program and seemed eager to share their experiences. Other teachers (e.g., special educator, reading interventionists and ESL teachers) were recruited in order to get a broader perspective on the phenomenon of a scripted program across different student populations. All of these teachers were very willing to participate in the study. Finally, four of the primary teachers who taught in another building were recruited. One of these teachers served on a district-wide committee with the interviewer and had expressed strong concerns about the program publicly; the other three agreed to take part during a chance encounter with the first author. The fifth primary teacher was recruited in order to balance the investigation by including a teacher from every grade. All participants were required to sign a consent form as part of the Institutional Review Board approval process. Appendix A provides information on each participant.
Selection of Participants Because the purpose of Phenomenology is to clarify the nature of a particular phenomenon, it is typically recommended that at least three participants be interviewed (Englander, 2012). If the aim of the research is for greater generalization, then a wider sample, representing different understandings and interpretations, is required. Studying the nature of a phenomenon, however, “involves studying a small number of subjects through extensive and prolonged engagement to develop patterns and relationships of meaning” (King, 2014, p. 170). Thus, the number of subjects recommended for a phenomenological investigation is typically small. Further, unlike other forms of research, participants are not selected randomly; rather, purposive sampling is used in order to elicit data relevant to the phenomenon under investigation.
The Interviews King (2014) suggests that the phenomenological interview should be considered to be more of an “inter-view,” e.g., an “interchange of views between people on a topic of shared interest” (p. 172). While interviews are socially contrived events versus natural encounters, they nevertheless provide the opportunity to exchange ideas and explore complex issues. In the current research project, the researcher had served as a mentor and coach to most of the participants and, as noted previously, was also emotionally connected to the phenomenon under investigation. Thus, it was essential that she
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 “bridle” her own assumptions throughout the interview and data analysis process.
a sense of the whole, to examining details of each protocol to extract meaning, to then applying those details to the central question (returning to the whole). Each interview was transcribed, and the first author transcribed a second time so that teachers’ exact wordings could be captured. This process allowed her to delve deeply into each oral protocol to the point where it was possible to reconstruct voice inflections upon subsequent readings of the written text, e.g., to reconstruct not only what was said, but how it was said. We believe that this is an essential component of phenomenological research. Researchers must be able to delve deeply into the emotional meanings for participants in order to extract deeper and hidden meanings. For four out of eight of the protocols, three individuals subsequently read each written transcript to “get a sense of the whole” and then parsed them into meaning units. A new meaning unit was demarcated whenever there was a change in subject matter or activities being described.
During each interview session, bridling was accomplished in several ways. First, interviews were intentionally conducted in pairs or small groups. This allowed for more productive conversations where participants engaged in back-and-forth interchanges around common topics, and these topics often diverged into other topics and ideas not anticipated by the researcher. Participants were paired with members of their instructional team and/or friendship circle in an effort to promote rich and natural conversations. Second, the researcher took on a stance of engaged listener, assuming a “phenomenological attitude” by consciously refraining from interrupting the flow of conversation and redirecting only when necessary. Third, the very nature of the relationship between researcher and co-researchers allowed participants to redirect the researcher—a process, as Walford (2001) suggests, where “interviewers and interviewees co-construct the interview” (cited in King, 2014, p. 172). Such moments within the interview itself provided opportunities for the researcher to interrogate her own assumptions about and interpretations of the phenomenon.
Next, we stated in a concise way and in our own language the meaning that dominated each unit. This is what Giorgi (1975a, 1975b) describes as the first transformation. We developed statements that depicted the essence of the meaning unit, “the meaning that dominates the natural unit” (Valle & Halling, 1989, p. 54). These statements were written in third person (i.e., The teachers express… The teachers believe…). In this first transformation, we tried to denote the substance of what the participants were saying and to retain the psychological character of the teachers’ own words. We found this first transformation to be quite tedious as we often had multiple conversations about the meanings being conveyed by participants’ statements in an effort to be precise in our interpretations. Indeed, this process served as another layer of “bridling” as these conversations helped us to name our own assumptions about the data. The first author completed these three steps
The interviews, then, became opportunities to explore the “lifeworlds” of the teachers as they experienced the scripted reading program. An interview guide was used and served as a reminder during each interview to pursue particular topics (see Appendix). The interviews themselves, however, were unstructured as participants coconstructed meaning, building on the thoughts of one another to arrive at a deeper understanding of the phenomenon. Data Analysis Consistent with phenomenological methodology, data analysis went from reading each protocol to get
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 with the remaining four protocols, referring back to meaning unit statements already established and creating new statements when necessary. The second author then reviewed these protocols and any discrepancies were discussed until consensus could be reached.
The first theme was not the most prominent, but is noteworthy nonetheless: most of the teachers we interviewed expressed that the program was supportive for their very lowest readers. They noted that it provided a great deal of structure and reinforced phonics skills that some of their struggling readers lacked. Some also mentioned that they liked some of the components of the program. The following statements were typical:
The second transformation consisted of considering each meaning unit in relation to our central question: What were teachers’ experiences with a scripted reading program? In this stage, the first two authors worked together to describe each meaning unit in relation to the larger research question. We also eliminated those transformations that were unrelated to the question. The third transformation consisted of a general structural description that was trans-situational; that is, we attempted to go beyond the specific situation described within specific protocols and to capture how the meaning units were related to each other and to the whole protocol. These structural transformations were used to identify the constituents or themes that emerged from the descriptions. Examples of the first three transformations can be found in Appendix B.
Excerpt One: James: [K]ids that were having major problems with decoding, that’s what was holding them back, I’ve seen major gains because comprehension wasn’t the issue for them. It was decoding. Excerpt Two: Kendra: I wanted them to feel successful. And so on some level they enjoyed it because they could do it. They could understand it, it wasn’t so hard for them that they felt embarrassed to read out loud or anything like that. These comments reveal that teachers found some benefits to the program, particularly for students who were appropriately identified and for students who needed targeted instruction in phonological skills.
Findings The third transformation resulted in seven transsituational statements. By combining and subsuming some of the statements, they were reduced to a total of four higher-order themes: (1) The program supported teachers’ work with the most struggling students; (2) Teachers’ forced enactment of the program led to negative outcomes for students; (3) The program had a negative impact on teachers’ psychological well-being; and (4) Teachers are impacted by a hierarchical system that dictates who has the power to make decisions within the institution. Each of these themes will be discussed in turn.
Forced Enactment Led to Negative Outcomes for Students A more pronounced theme, however, was a consistent belief expressed in the interviews that the program was damaging for many of the students. This belief was communicated in a variety of ways and tended to dominate teachers’ conversations. Teachers said the scripted program emphasized accuracy over higher-level thinking. Further, most of the students in the intermediate grades were placed in “corrective reading,” which was phonics-based
Support for the Most Struggling Students
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 using contrived texts. There were many statements throughout the interviews in which teachers expressed frustration over the way the program defined reading, resulting in many students being placed below their actual reading levels. Further, teachers had no say in students’ placements; rather, they were determined by a single test that accompanied the program. The following statements are typical of teachers’ frustration over the placement process.
Yeah. So she’s there because of omitting words, fluency, self-corrections. Lacey: She’s in there because the program has failed her. Nicole: The program has failed her. Lacey: Yeah. And she’s not the only one. Excerpt Two: Erica: Well then I think they also took students who were ELLs, that didn’t speak any English over the summer. And the second day of school, I’m talking about Martinique [pseudonym]. I’m not saying that she is on level. I’m not saying that she is a third grade reader; but she is not a first grade reader.
Excerpt One: Lacey: I had kids who scored above the 70th percentile who were put in the intervention program…which starts on the third grade level. Interviewer: They scored on the MAP test? Lacey: On the MAP test and on the state test they scored distinguished and proficient. And they were…One of them was the 85th percentile on MAP and she was in a third grade intervention program.
Hannah: I feel like we are wasting their time. Erica: She had spoken Spanish all summer long. She comes back to school, and she’s asked to read a, a – fluency. And one of her things is she re-reads a lot, and those are errors. So I haven’t seen her test, but I guarantee that her re-reads are probably what made her have too many errors and [she] had to stay in first grade. But she re-reads because she says that, um… she even asked me why it’s an error. She said, “I’m re-reading because I want to make sure I understand the sentence.” She even told me that. And I had to explain to her why a re-read is an error. Why is a re-read an error?
Interviewer: And that was due to… Lacey: The program where they were tested at the beginning said she belonged in this third grade group. Nicole: And the reason why is. . . Here’s some reasons why. She could have self-corrected herself. Lacey: She did. And self-corrections are errors.
Hannah: Because we are testing word-calling, not comprehension.
Nicole: Self-corrections are errors. She could also have skipped articles, pronouns…in this program those are errors. So this child who is scoring so well, but understands that she doesn’t need the words “of,” “the,” “it,” and “they” and omits them, and now she’s being punished because she understands she doesn’t need them?
Several teachers were concerned that the program did not promote higher level thinking, which was particularly problematic given the need to address the new, more rigorous common core English language arts standards. Many teachers used the term “robotic” to describe teachers’ and students’
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 actions, and some shared that this low-level thinking even transferred to math in that students were not prepared to think critically. Interestingly, some teachers described how their students knew the work they were being given was not intellectually challenging.
Excerpt One: Carol: And they were like, “oh God, here are those actions again Ms. T.” I mean I had kids literally… one child raised his hand and he goes, like he would have an attitude every day at this time. So one day I pulled him aside and I said, “okay. I have to be honest. I don’t like this part of the day either, but the better we do it the first time around the less time it takes for us to get through this. How about we just do this together. If I do it quick, and you do it quick, we’ll be done with it quicker.” And he was like all right let’s do this. And he was like “Let’s roll.” …And I would look at him every day and [say] “We got this?” “Yeah. We got this.” ... That’s kindergarten telling you “I don’t like this part of the day Ms. T.”
Excerpt One: Carmen: So then when the last week of school [got here] we were writing about the Lorax. What would you do if you found the last tree? And my students said, “How do we start?” And I literally wanted to take a fork and pull my eyeballs out. I said “Start it however you want.” They said, “Okay, but how do we start it?” Georgiana: They didn’t know how to think, because they weren’t taught how to think. Mary: Right. That’s really sad. Excerpt Two:
“They didn’t know how to think, because they weren’t taught how to think.”
Jennifer: I mean we had kids before this program came, we were reading books about the Underground Railroad. And they really loved that. So then I did another book on Harriett Tubman, and then we went from Harriett Tubman to George Washington Carver because they just loved it and they just kept asking questions and wanted more information. So then that happened, the program, we adopted the program and I literally, I felt like they looked at me like I was crazy, because they go from reading a book, they literally go from reading a book and writing to listening to letter sounds in isolation and copying those down.
Carmen: We would shut down [the program] and then expect to do math and we would be like all right, now we can work in groups, we can do stuff. And they couldn’t do math. They would not think for themselves in math because all morning long I would say “No, the answer is dog. What’s the answer? Dog.” Georgiana: And so they’d come up and they’d expect you to give them the answer and that was frustrating. And it was just… it was just frustrating to them because they didn’t understand. Carmen: They shut their brains down.
We believe it is important to mention a sub-theme that appeared in one of the protocols that was woven throughout the teachers’ conversation, the concern that they were not able to develop students’ social skills. Here is an excerpt from that protocol.
Another sub-theme that emerged from the protocols was a lack of student motivation resulting from the program. The following comments are typical.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 Mary: And they don’t cooperate. You know from our goal at the beginning of the year, and my hopes, our hope was by the end of the year that we would have communities. We made communities where they worked together, they’re kind to each other.
Excerpt Two: Amy: And I feel like we’re forgetting comprehension. And my fifth graders are going to middle school and they’re gonna be wordcallers and speed readers but they don’t comprehend, and that’s not okay.
Mary: Um, and we just kind of obliterated that by controlling over half of their day, and telling them what to say, when to say it, how to say it. …And so I think whoever made that decision, I mean they didn’t have the information to see long term what the consequences were gonna be.
Carmen: It was hard, too, for some of my ESL low students when they would give you words. And some of the words in the story that were so similar, they would do like “dog” and “bog” in like the same story, and my students couldn’t understand that story because “dog,” like why are you putting “dog” and bog,” like it was forced phonics that they couldn’t comprehend because they’re trying to figure it out. …They were just trying… is that a “d” or a “b”? Holy crap! Why are they putting so many d’s and b’s in the same story? That they would get so frustrated.
Georgiana: They do not get positive social interactions [at home], a lot of our students, and now they’re not getting it in school either. And so it’s really hard as a teacher knowing that they’re not getting these positive interactions at home and now they’re not getting positive interactions here. And they have no idea how to work with one another at all. And it is so sad.
The teachers’ statements above are representative of the many concerns they had about the negative ways in which the program impacted students. Teachers believed that not only was students’ reading progress hindered through the program’s narrow conceptualization of reading that emphasized wordcalling over comprehension, but students’ psychological and social well-being was also affected. Their students came from impoverished environments and were behind their grade-level peers in reading achievement, yet the program’s placement process coupled with an emphasis on low-level thinking frustrated teachers’ attempts to close the gap. Further, the robotic nature of the program negatively influenced student motivation and also hindered social interactions in the classroom—interactions they believed were particularly important for their students who lacked the conventions of classroom discourse. Thus, they felt the program had many damaging consequences
Finally, teachers were concerned that the program would hinder their students’ progress in literacy. Many teachers compared their students’ literacy achievement to previous years, when they had more flexibility and autonomy in making instructional decisions. Many were also concerned about the progress of their English learners because the program prohibited the use of authentic texts. Excerpt One: Anna: So I could see their interest waning and my frustration rising because I knew I was going to send them forward nowhere near prepared to enter third grade at the level they needed to…that I knew if I had the freedom to teach correctly that I could send the majority of those students darn close to grade level, if not above.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 for their students who were still discerning the significance of literacy for their lives and who needed to acquire skills for working productively with peers.
personality is gone. My expertise as a reading teacher is gone.
Impact on Teachers’ Psychological Well-being
Nicole: The excitement, the love.
A third theme that emerged from the interview protocols was the negative impact on teachers’ psychological well-being as they experienced the implementation of the scripted reading program over the course of the year. As we read and re-read each protocol, we continued to be struck by the level of emotion that was evident, both in what teachers said, and how they said it. Teachers were clearly angry and resentful that they lacked the professional autonomy to make instructional decisions for their students. Some expressed frustration that they were unable to practice their craft; others experienced guilt and even pain. In the pages that follow, we provide salient examples of this particular theme that show the psychological impact the program had on teachers who were forced to implement it to fidelity, feeling that it was often harmful to their students.
Lacey: Yeah. Love.
Lacey: The excitement’s gone.
Nicole: The passion. Lacey: It’s where love went to die. Nicole: Yes. We are in reading hell. This is that purgatory level that reading teachers go to [when] they don’t get to do what they want to do. This is what it is. Lacey: This is it. Excerpt Two: Carol: I mean last year with my students last year I could do that [encourage reading books from book baskets] from day one, and so their engagement began on day one and only grew toward the end of the school year. This all of a sudden happened and I felt guilty, and I’m like I had these books on my shelf, I have left them on the shelf the entire year. I felt like an awful teacher.
Excerpt One: Nicole: So for the first time in my—and I’ve taught 13 years—for the first time in my 13 years, I am not going to the bookstores to buy clearance books; I am not collecting a class set of books; I am not reading on my own so that I can prepare the kids for the next book coming; I am not investigating different texts so that I can bring them all together and show how they wind themselves together to make good literature. I’m not doing any of that anymore. I show up, I read a blue script, and that is it. I have read so many books about what great reading looks like, and I get excited. I am one of those people that I believe that if you’re in my classroom, you will be excited about reading. That’s my goal…My
Excerpt Three: Mary: You can walk into my classroom when I’m teaching [the program] and you would think that I loved it. Because to my kids, you know, I was trying to be as enthusiastic as I could be. “Here’s another story about the bragging rats. Let’s see what they’re going to do today!” You know and just trying as hard as I could when it was so painful. I mean the whole thing was just painful and sad the entire year. In some cases, teachers’ motivation for teaching was seriously affected. The following example is from a
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 conversation between a veteran teacher and two teammates who were in their first and second years of teaching.
program was not meeting their students’ needs, yet they felt powerless to change the situation. The outrage at being treated as unskilled workers, the lack of autonomy, and the sheer tediousness of implementing a robotic script led to psychological stress that was expressed throughout the protocols.
Mary: Seeing her coming in those first couple of months of school and even the very beginning so excited, [having] all of these wonderful ideas, and then [the program] came along for both of ‘em and it’s just… it was a very sad…
Who Has Instructional Decision-Making Power? A fourth theme that emerged from teachers’ interviews about their experiences with the program was consistent evidence that teachers are impacted by a hierarchical system that dictates who has the power to make decisions within the institution. Many of the teachers’ comments in the interviews communicated their frustration over administrative decisions relating to the program. They expressed frustration about the mandate to follow the script precisely, inflexibility in student placements, a lack of materials, administrators’ choice on which components of the program to purchase, and inconsistency in program implementation. Here are some typical comments:
Georgiana: Squelched my passion. Mary: …just very, very sad to see that happening to them. Georgiana: So this year, this school, this program has completely ruined my hopes of ever teaching again. I have quit. I have no intent of ever going back and becoming a teacher. It has ruined me. Mary: But she will. She will. I keep telling her she will. She’ll be a teacher again. It’s gonna take a while to heal because it’s just crushed your spirit.
Excerpt One: Georgiana: No. I mean, my spirit is crushed.
Whitney: …But the person who tested her must not have been able to understand what she was saying, ‘cause, like I said, she kind of has a lisp. So I’m wondering if that’s what it was because she had to have a lot of errors to test into Corrective A. So I voiced that in the beginning, another teacher voiced that, and nothing was done. And so honestly, I feel like we’ve wasted her year. Honestly I do.
Carmen: It’s just that it’s given me no hope in the education system. This is what we think works? This is what our leaders and our educators that are supposed to look out for children are doing? No one is looking out for the children. No one is listening to the teachers. I went to college and spent about 80 some thousand dollars to be treated like a robot and for my opinion not to matter.
Amy: And I think that’s a lot of the part of sticking rigidly to a scripted program, because we have data, the program says to do this. So we did this.
As researchers, we were struck by the emotion that came through in several teachers’ comments. Many of the teachers we interviewed chose to work in a diverse, high-poverty school, yet they were forced to comply with the program’s script, which made it virtually impossible for them to practice their craft. As professionals, they were keenly aware that the
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 Kayla: When my kids were going into the new program, there were not books. So for a program that is promoted to push kids, you must not have thought these kids were gonna be pushed ‘cause you didn’t order the books for it.
At the same time, the teachers we interviewed were not willing to remain completely powerless; rather, they practiced agency by supplementing the program in various ways. Some diverged from the script periodically when they knew their children were unable to comprehend the text. Others provided additional literacy experiences for their students. Still, teachers were discouraged from deviating from the script—reinforced by periodic observations by the program’s coach—and with only a couple of exceptions, students’ placements remained “fixed.” The following examples are representative.
Some teachers also felt school administrators were “victims” in that central office administrators encouraged them to purchase the program, and once purchased, they did not have the freedom or the power to abandon it. Thus, a hierarchy of power relations was revealed in the protocols, with teachers being at the bottom of the hierarchy, school administrators being in the middle, and central office administrators being the ultimate decision makers—while all conforming to the procedures mandated by the published materials. The following statements are representative:
Excerpt One: Lacey: Fifth grade has been sneaking and reading chapter books in secretive ways. And that’s sad when you have to sneak and read a novel. So that’s how we’ve changed, is that, we’ve seen where this program is failing our students, and have tried to make up for it in other times of the day.
Excerpt One: Nicole: And that was another thing that was said. “Oh, the district’s buying this for us. The district wants us to have this.” And then we find out that we spent $110,000 on a program that none of us wanted.
Excerpt Two: Kayla: We were reading about a famous baseball player… And the kids wanted to know was it a real person. I said “I don’t know. Let’s look it up.” Would I have gotten, I won’t say in trouble, but would they have said something about it? Yeah, they would have. But the kids wanted to know that. …Unannounced they come in and they have a sheet of what your book looks like and they can follow to see if you’re on script or off script. And it was noted that I may not have done this or… Like they want… If a kid missed one word, you’re supposed to have them go back and reread. To me that messes up the story.
Excerpt Two: Kendra: But I’m wondering if our school and our coaches might be in a situation where they, you know, once this decision was made to go forward with this program and the funds were being spent on it, were they not really in a position to tell us, “Okay, you don’t have to do that.” Jennifer: I don’t think they were in a position to.
Kendra: So we were all I think feeling really stuck.
Jennifer: I think the administration felt probably just as stuck as we did.
Lacey: And I had sent out an email and said, and I said, “Sometimes I ask questions connected to
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 skills from common core. Is that okay?” And I was told, “Not if it takes away from the program.”
teachers are no longer in the classroom, while two are teaching at other schools.
Ultimately, however, it was the publishing company Still other teachers actively resisted by refusing to that had sovereignty in the hierarchical power follow the script with fidelity and/or by leaving the structure. Viewing each protocol both individually school. In fact, some teachers were told that if they and collectively, we were struck by the power of the could not support the program, they should find market to determine what occurred in these another position. classrooms. Company coaches were free to snatch the manual from teachers during observations in Excerpt One: order to demonstrate “proper” implementation of the script, thereby undermining the teacher’s Carol: And so what was told to our staff in one authority. The school district trusted the company of our planning meetings, and I heard it was at completely, believing that if the program was first grade so I’m assuming it was at second implemented with fidelity, literacy scores would grade as well, was if you don’t feel that this is improve. In the discussion that where you need to be follows, we explore this because of this program, “In our investigation of phenomenon more closely, then next year you probably teachers’ experiences with a drawing on teachers’ comments need to move on. scripted reading program, and examining them through a Anna: Yep. You’re exactly critical lens. teachers expressed that right. while the program benefited Discussion Excerpt Two: some students positively, it Unlike non-scripted reading led to negative outcomes for Carmen: Towards the end programs, where skills and of the year when I was really content are pre-determined yet most students.” seeing that this was not teachers have some flexibility in working with my students, I how to guide student learning, would do silent vote. Do you want to do scripted programs dictate precisely what teachers language? Do you not? Give me thumbs up, give (and their students) are to say and do. In our me thumbs down. They would all give me a investigation of teachers’ experiences with a scripted thumbs down, because none of my children reading program, teachers expressed that while the enjoyed the program. So we would instead do, I program benefited some students positively, it led to would teach language in a different way on the negative outcomes for most students. Teachers smart board; hence why I quit working at the experienced a wide range of reactions, e.g., guilt, school. anger, pain--and were frustrated by their inability to meet students’ academic and emotional needs. It We believe it is significant that six of the 17 teachers was evident from teachers’ comments that they felt interviewed left the school that year. The three caught in a hierarchical web that left them relatively tenured teachers left voluntarily; it is unknown and powerless and that marginalized and even dismissed beyond the scope of this study as to why the others their professional knowledge. did not renew their contracts. Four of the six
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 Teachers’ work does not exist in a vacuum, but rather occurs within a larger sociopolitical context that can have a profound effect on their lived experiences within the educational institution. It is important to acknowledge that schools are expected to promote dominant knowledge, which often results in restricting and even rejecting the cultural knowledge of historically underrepresented groups. Hence, educational institutions are not neutral sites (Apple, 1993; Freire, 1970/1993; Kincheloe, 1993; Lankshear & Lawler, 1987). Giroux (1988) writes that “[f]ar from being neutral, the dominant culture in the school is characterized by a selective ordering and legitimating of privileged language forms, modes of reasoning, social relations, and lived experiences” (p. xxx).
“objective” while eradicating students’ and teachers’ voices. The socially and culturally embedded uses of literacy found in students’ homes and communities are deemed irrelevant; rather, literacy is reduced to mastering a series of decontextualized skills and recalling discrete bits of information. Such managed curricula ultimately deskills teachers by eroding their decision-making authority. Because the scripted program had such a negative impact on teachers, we believe it is important to interrogate the sociopolitical context within which teachers work so as to expose and critique the forces that serve to diminish teacher agency. It is interesting that some teachers were aware of the ideological forces that affected their practice. For instance, when asked why so many students were placed in “corrective reading,” Kayla replied, “somebody needed to sell some books.” Similarly, after seeing the corporate reading coach selling math curriculum at a mathematics conference, Hannah remarked that she clearly was not a reading specialist: “She’s a salesperson; probably their top salesperson. Because she sold you all, a whole school... She sold a primary school first, second, third, fourth, fifth. That is a coup.”
A dominant ideology also defines how literacy—and hence, literacy instruction—is conceptualized (Freire & Macedo, 1987; Knoblauch & Brannon, 1993; Lankshear & McLaren, 1993: Perry, 2012; Powell, 1999). In his work with New Literacy Studies, Street (1995) differentiates between “autonomous” and “ideological” models of literacy. The autonomous definition, which has been embraced by schools and publishing companies, suggests that literacy is a neutral tool that consists of a series of discrete skills that can be atomized, packaged, and delivered to students. In contrast, an ideological perspective views literacy as social practice that is grounded in specific contexts. Hence, as Freire and Macedo (1987) have suggested, “Literacy and education in general are cultural expressions. You cannot conduct literacy work outside the world of culture because education in itself is a dimension of culture” (p. 53). Within the cultural world of school, dominant conceptualizations of literacy and literacy instruction are manifested daily through the realities of classroom life. It could be argued that scripted reading programs are an extreme representation of an “autonomous” model of literacy in that they appear to be
Teachers also acknowledged that such programs are viewed as antidotes to teacher incompetence, and are particularly popular in high-poverty schools, where student achievement tends to be lower. Anna remarked: Well, but I mean it’s been said enough. I’m not sure it’s been said in your team meetings that we obviously do not know how to teach reading because our students are at the level that they are. So they feel that this program, as scripted as it is, provides the structure for our teachers to enable them to become good reading teachers. And um, you know, and that was said.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 A number of scholars have examined the political ties between business and education, suggesting that the demand for published literacy curricula— which has become a highly lucrative enterprise--may be economically motivated (e.g., Allington, 2005; Apple, 1993; Coles, 2000, 2003, 2007; Edelsky & Bomer, 2005; Garan, 2004; Goodman, 2014; Metcalf, 2002; Osborn, 2007). Berliner and Glass (2014) note that “News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch has called public education a ‘$500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed’” (p. 6). Hence, literacy has been redefined from a sociocultural process that elicits collaborative inquiry, emotional response, critique, and even transformation, to a mechanistic practice that can be readily commodified into a series of measurable skills (Edelsky & Bomer, 2005; Irvine & Larson, 2007; Powell, 1999; Spears-Bunton & Powell, 2009). Corporate authority is justified through the perpetuation of a false notion that public education in the United States has largely failed (Berliner & Glass, 2014). Goodman (2014) puts it this way: “[T]he attack has aimed to paint universal public education as a failed institution: It cannot even teach children how to read” (p. 24).
for students, trumping several teachers who held advanced degrees and even a college professor. Indeed, administrators were so convinced that the program would eventually “work” that they were willing to accept lower test scores in the interim: Mary: And [our principal] kept saying “But, you know what, [the program] is going to take a while. They said our scores might go down before they will get better.” And I don’t know what they are expecting because I don’t think the scores are ever going to get better unless we change the way we’re teaching. Teachers, then, were caught within a hegemonic system that gave an inordinate amount of power to the publishing company. Central school administrators trusted the corporation to deliver, believing that a program that claimed to be research-based would lead to higher test scores. School administrators, in turn, while they had some decision-making authority, felt obliged to use the scripted program that had been purchased for their schools and to assure that it was implemented with fidelity. On the bottom of the hierarchy were the teachers, who essentially had been stripped of their professional autonomy.
In our study, the influence of the market was palpable. We were struck by the dominance of a market ideology that was manifested in a blind trust in the program to promote student literacy achievement. Interestingly, the trust in the script was so pervasive that before the program arrived in the fall, teachers reported that they were even told to apply its linguistic structures and gestures to an older reading series they were using. One teacher (Hannah) complained, “I’m not a book writer. I can’t take their book and . . .follow the structure of this scripted program. But that’s what we were made to do.” The corporate coach had the ultimate voice in terms of how literacy instruction was carried out in classrooms. Thus, the corporation became the “professional authority” in terms of what was best
Others have written about the irony of the educational structure, where teachers are expected to be professional experts yet are systematically deskilled and controlled (e.g., Giroux, 1988; Kincheloe 1991; Luke, 1988). Giroux (1988) writes that school life is organized “around curricular, instructional, and evaluation experts who do the thinking while teachers are reduced to doing the implementing” (p. 124). While a hegemonic order has always existed in schools, corporate America has become increasingly influential in crafting educational policy. What is often missing in discussions of reading failure is a deliberate misrepresentation of what
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 many have identified as the real culprit underlying student underachievement—persistent poverty (Berliner, 2009; Duncan Owens, 2010; Portes & Salas, 2009; Shannon, 2014). Hence, one could argue that poor literacy achievement among marginalized populations is not an educational issue, but rather a social one. Such problems require collective agency to solve, including a commitment to educational parity in funding and resources (Ladson-Billings, 2006; Luke, 2003). We argue that improving literacy outcomes for historically marginalized students also necessitates implementing more culturally appropriate and critical literacies where teachers and students use written and spoken language to engage in higher order thinking and to grapple with real-world problems and solutions (Powell, 1999; Shannon, 2014). Such literacy instructional practices would value students’ cultural knowledge and lessen the gap between literacies inside and outside of school (McLean, Boling, & Rowsell, 2009; SoutoManning & Martell, 2016). Perpetuating the myth that the “reading problem” can be solved through the market, however, increases profits while simultaneously diminishing the power of teachers to use literacy in transformative ways.
recognize that our analysis takes a decidedly critical stance. At the same time, we argue that this analysis is very much grounded in teachers’ statements, and in fact, ignoring the teachers’ perceptions of the political nature of their work would be a misrepresentation of their statements. Finally, while we took measures to bridle our own experiences and perspectives, it is possible that they nevertheless affected our interpretations and/or our conversations with teachers in ways in which we were unaware. We suggest, however, that research can never be completely objective, for our perspectives determine the very questions we ask and how we seek answers to those questions. Such is the nature of research in general, and phenomenological research in particular. Conclusion This article presents a phenomenological study that addresses how teachers in an urban, high-poverty elementary school experienced a scripted reading program. While teachers found the program had some benefits for their struggling readers, their overwhelming perception of the program was negative. The overarching theme of the study was that there existed a hierarchical system that determined who had the power to make decisions within the institution, including what components of the program to purchase and how it was to be implemented in classrooms.
Limitations Phenomenological studies are designed to capture the meaning of the lived experiences of those being interviewed. As noted previously, phenomenology involves purposive versus random sampling in participant selection, and therefore data are limited to the experiences of the selected participants. Further, the number of subjects is typically quite small. Thus, it is important to acknowledge that other teachers who were not interviewed might have had very different experiences with the program.
We have argued that the dominant force within this hegemonic system was the corporation. Administrators were convinced that the scripted program would be a panacea for raising literacy scores, and subsequently, teachers were required to implement it with fidelity or risk being sanctioned. The placement test that accompanied the program took precedence over data from other reading tests, resulting in many students being placed below their actual reading levels.
In addition, some researchers might argue that in utilizing Vagle’s (2014) notions of post-intentional phenomenology, the “lines of flight” we pursue in our interpretations go beyond the data itself. We
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 We have argued that implementation of a scripted interjecting common core reading skill based reading program epitomizes the power of the questions, at the end of the year when they market in that it provides an extreme yet tangible look at MAP growth they’ll say, example of how corporations can exert control over “Congratulations. That program worked.” schools. Not only were teachers and students When teachers are stripped of their professional constrained through the language of the script itself, identities, they have three choices: They can but they were also continuously monitored to assure acquiesce, they can subtly oppose, or they can exact implementation. Corporate coaches actively resist. Most of the teachers in our study periodically appeared on site, sometimes even tended to subtly oppose by supplementing the taking books out of the hands of teachers when they program in various ways in an attempt to meet the did not implement the script precisely. The layers of needs of their students. Teachers’ comments also control became highly visible: the corporation made suggested that some of their colleagues acquiesced the decisions, school administrators required by following the program precisely and accepting teachers to comply, and teachers feared reprisal if the loss of their professional authority. In reflecting they did not follow the rules. Thus, like on responses of her colleagues, one teacher noted, MacGillivray, Ardell, Curwen, and Parma (2004), we “Like I don’t have to think about it. I can just know concur that such control that tomorrow I can walk in, represents a form of “Most of the teachers in our have my copies already made colonization, as teachers are ‘cause I’ve already done it for study tended to subtly “redefined as unskilled” (p. 137) the full week and be done with and forced to endure oppose by supplementing it.” continuous surveillance. In the program in various ways examining this phenomenon of A few, however, actively in an attempt to meet the teachers’ experiences with a resisted by leaving the needs of their students.” scripted reading curriculum, we classroom altogether. Although can make visible the often teacher turnover is a significant obscure ways in which hegemony works in schools problem in U.S. schools in general, retaining to disempower teachers and deny agency. teachers in high-poverty schools is especially difficult. Almost half of the nation’s teachers leave the profession within 5 years, and in high poverty schools, teachers are 50% more likely to leave than in low-poverty schools (Ingersoll, 2003). Contrary to perceptions that teachers leave high-poverty schools due to frustrations with difficult-to-teach students, research suggests it is the social conditions under which teachers work—such as school climate, principal leadership, and collegial relationships— that are most important in determining teacher turnover, not student demographic variables (Johnson, Kraft, & Papay, 2012; Simon & Johnson, 2015).
Yet it is important to note that reading programs and the corporations that manufacture them are rarely held accountable for student failure; rather, when test scores do not improve, teacher incompetence is generally implicated. What is interesting is that this occurs even with highly scripted programs. Alternately, achievement gains are generally attributed to the program rather than to teacher effectiveness. The teachers in our study were keenly aware of this dilemma. Lacey told us: When my scores come back, even though fifth grade has been sneaking and reading chapter books, and even though I’ve been
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 Much has been written about literacy as a sociocultural process, a view that acknowledges that reading and writing are human activities composed and used within authentic social contexts (Compton-Lilly, 2009; Cook-Gumperz, 2006; Gee, 2001; Gutiérrez, 2007; Heath, 1983; Hourigan, 1994; Street, 1995). The marketing of literacy, however, has reduced it to a mechanistic process that can be easily commodified and consumed. Such decontextualized curricula ignore the cultural and linguistic practices of students and families and marginalizes teachers’ professional knowledge. Even more problematic, trusting the corporation to solve what are in reality complex socioeconomic problems can result in the colonization of teachers and an erosion of their professional autonomy. The psychological impact of highly scripted programs can be the ultimate determinant for some teachers as to whether they want to remain in a field that devalues their knowledge and expertise, ultimately compelling them to face the frustration and humiliation associated with corporate control.
Thus, we concur with Moje and Lewis (2009) in arguing for a sociocultural perspective in literacy research. Literacy instruction is not neutral, but rather is inherently political. This study shows that we cannot ignore larger sociopolitical forces, for even the best instructional practices can be undermined by a hegemonic system that trusts the power of the market over teachers’ personal and professional wisdom. At the same time, it is important that educators recognize that even within this system, they can find spaces to practice agency, as many of the teachers in our study were able to do. It is also important to recognize that our educational institutions are not simply preparatory schools for the workplace, but rather are sites for educating a citizenry in “civic courage,” (Giroux, 1988, p. xxxii), where teachers are free to practice their craft and students are encouraged to question, challenge, and engage in transformative action.
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Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1â€”Spring 2017 Demko, M., & Hedrick, W. (2010). Teachers become zombies: The ugly side of scripted reading curriculum. Voices from the Middle, 17(3), 62-64. Douglass, F. (1999). Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass: An American slave. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. Dresser, R. (2012). The impact of scripted literacy instruction on teachers and students. Issues in Teacher Education, 21(1), 71-87. Duncan-Andrade, J. (2007). Gangstas, wankstas, and ridas: Defining, developing, and supporting effective teachers in urban schools. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 20(6), 617-638. Duncan Owens, D. (2010). Commercial reading programmes as the solution for children living in poverty. Literacy, 44, 112-121. Ede, A. (2006). Scripted curriculum: Is it a prescription for success? Childhood Education, 83(1), 29-32. Edelsky, C., & Bomer, R. (2005). Heads they win; tails we lose. In B. Altwerger (Ed.), Reading for profit: How the bottom line leaves kids behind (pp. 11-20). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Englander, M. (2012). The interview: Data collection in descriptive phenomenological human scientific research. Journal of Phenomenological Psychology, 43, 13-35. Finlay, L. (2009). Debating phenomenological research methods. Phenomenology and Practice, 3(1), 6-25. Freire, P. (1970/1993). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York, NY: Continuum. Freire, P., & Macedo, D. (1987). Literacy: Reading the word and the world. South Hadley, MA: Bergin and Garvey. Garan, E. (2004). In defense of our children: When politics, profit, and education collide. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Gay, G. (2000). Culturally responsive teaching. New York, NY: Teachers College Press. Gee, J. P. (2001). Literacy, discourse, and linguistics: Introduction and What is literacy? In E. Cushman, E. R. Kintgen, B. M. Kroll, & M. Rose (Eds.), Literacy: A critical sourcebook (pp. 525-544). Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martinâ€™s. Giorgi, A. (1975a). Convergence and divergence of qualitative and quantitative methods in psychology. In A. Giorgi, C. T. Fischer, & E. L. Murray (Eds.), Duquesne studies in phenomenological psychology: Vol. 2 (pp. 72-79). Pittsburgh, PA: Duquesne University Press. Giorgi, A. (1975b). An application of phenomenological method in psychology. In A. Giorgi, C. T. Fischer, & E. L. Murray (Eds.), Duquesne studies in phenomenological psychology: Vol. 2 (pp. 82-103). Pittsburgh, PA: Duquesne University Press. Giorgi, A. (1997). The theory, practice, and evaluation of the phenomenological method as a qualitative research procedure. Journal of Phenomenological Psychology, 28(2), 235-260. 116
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 Giroux, H. A. (1988). Teachers as intellectuals: Toward a critical pedagogy of learning. Granby, MA: Bergin & Garvey. González, N., Moll, L., & Amanti, C. (Eds.). (2005). Funds of knowledge: Theorizing practices in households, communities, and classrooms. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Goodman, K. S. (2014). Whose knowledge counts? The pedagogy of the absurd. In K. S. Goodman, R. C. Calfee, & Y. M. Goodman (Eds.), Whose knowledge counts in government literacy policies? Why expertise matters (pp. 21-36). New York, NY: Routledge. Griffith, R. (2008). The impact of a scripted reading program on teachers’ professional spirits. Teaching & Learning, 22(3), 121-133. Gutiérrez, K. D. (2007). “Sameness as fairness”: The new tonic of equality and opportunity. In J. Larson (Ed.), Literacy as snake oil: Beyond the quick fix (pp. 109-122). New York, NY: Peter Lang. Gutiérrez, K. (2008). Developing a sociocritical literacy in the third space. Reading Research Quarterly, 43(2), 148164. Heath, S. B. (1983). Ways with words: Language, life, and work in communities and classrooms. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Hourigan, M. M. (1994). Literacy as social exchange: Intersections of class, gender, and culture. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. Husserl, E. (1954/1970). The crisis of European sciences and transcendental phenomenology. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press. Ingersoll, R. (2003). Is there really a teacher shortage? Washington, D.C. Consortium for Policy Research in Education. Retrieved from http://depts.washington.edu/ctpmail/PDFs/Shortage-RI-09-2003.pdf Irvine, P. D., & Larson, J. (2007). Literacy packages in practice: Constructing academic disadvantage. In J. Larson (Ed.), Literacy as snake oil: Beyond the quick fix (pp. 49-72). New York, NY: Peter Lang. Johnson, S. M., Kraft, M. A., & Papay, J. P. (2012). How context matters in high-need schools: The effects of teachers’ working conditions on their professional satisfaction and their students’ achievement. Teachers College Record, 114(10), 1-39. Kincheloe, J. L. (1991). Teachers as researchers: Qualitative inquiry as a path to empowerment. New York, NY: Falmer Press. Kincheloe, J. L. (1993). Toward a critical politics of teacher thinking: Mapping the postmodern. Westport, CT: Bergin and Garvey. King, D. (2014). Deep swimming and murky waters: Phenomenological interviewing—reflections from the field. Education Journal 3(3), 170-178.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 Knoblauch, C. H., & Brannon, L. (1993). Critical teaching and the idea of literacy. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Koonce, J. B. (2012). “Oh, those loud Black girls!”: A phenomenological study of Black girls talking with an attitude. Journal of Language and Literacy Education, 8(2), 26-46. Retrieved from http://jolle/coe.uga. edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Loud-Black-Girls.pdf Ladson-Billings, G. (1995). Toward a theory of culturally relevant pedagogy. American Educational Research Journal, 2, 465-491. Ladson-Billings, G. (2006). From the achievement gap to the education debt: Understanding achievement in US schools. Educational Researcher, 35(7), 3-12. Lankshear, C., & Lawler, M. (1987). Literacy, schooling and revolution. Philadelphia, PA: Falmer Press. Lankshear, C., & McLaren, P. (Eds.). (1993). Critical literacy: Politics, praxis, and the postmodern. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. Lee, C. D. (1995). A culturally based cognitive apprenticeship: Teaching African American high school students skills in literary interpretation. Reading Research Quarterly, 30(4), 608-630. Lee, C. D. (2001). Is October Brown Chinese? A cultural modeling activity system for underachieving students. American Educational Research Journal, 38(1), 97-142. Lewison, M., Leland, C., & Harste, J. C. (2008). Creating critical classrooms: K-8 reading and writing with an edge. New York, NY: Lawrence Erlbaum. Luke, A. (1988). Literacy, textbooks, and ideology: Postwar literacy instruction and the mythology of Dick and Jane. New York, NY: Falmer Press. Luke, A. (2003). After the marketplace: Evidence, social science and educational research. The Australian Educational Researcher, 30(2), 87-108. MacGillivray, L., Ardell, A. L., Curwen, M. S., & Palma, J. (2004). Colonized teachers: Examining the implementation of a scripted reading program. Teaching Education, 15(2), 131-144. McLean, C. A., Boling, E. C., & Rowsell, J. (2009). Engaging diverse students in multiple literacies in and out of school. In L. M. Morrow, R. Rueda, & D. Lapp (Eds.), Handbook of research on literacy and diversity (pp. 158-172). New York, NY: Guilford Press. Metcalf, S. (2002). Reading between the lines. In A. Kohn & P. Shannon (Eds.), Education, Inc.: Turning learning into a business (pp. 49-57). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Milosovic, S. (2007). Building a case against scripted reading programs. The Education Digest, 73(1), 27-30. Moje, E.B., & Lewis, C. (2009). Examining opportunities to learn literacy: The role of critical sociocultural literacy research. In C. Lewis, P. Enciso, & E. Moje (Eds.), Reframing sociocultural research on literacy (pp. 15-47). New York, NY: Routledge.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 NICHD (2000). Report of the National Reading Panel. Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction. (NIH Publication 00-4754). Washington, DC: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Osborn, D. (2007). Digging up the family tree: America’s forced choice. In J. Larson (Ed.), Literacy as snake oil: Beyond the quick fix (pp. 171-188). New York, NY: Peter Lang. Pacheco, M., & Gutiérrez, K. (2009). Cultural-historical approaches to teaching and learning. In C. ComptonLilly (Ed.), Breaking the silence: Recognizing the social and cultural resources students bring to the classroom. Newark, DE: International Reading Association. Paris, D. (2012). Culturally sustaining pedagogy: A needed change in stance, terminology, and practice. Educational Researcher, 41(3), 93-97. Parks, A. N, & Bridges-Rhoads, S. (2012). Overly scripted: Exploring the impact of a scripted literacy curriculum on a preschool teacher’s instructional practices in mathematics. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 26, 308-324. Perry, K. (2012). What is literacy? A critical overview of sociocultural perspectives. Journal of Language and Literacy Education, 8(1), 50-71. Retrieved from http://jolle.coe.uga.edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/ What-is-Literacy_KPerry.pdf Portes, P., & Salas, S. (2009). Poverty and its relation to development and literacy. In L. M. Morrow, R. Rueda, & D. Lapp (Eds.), Handbook of research on literacy and diversity (pp. 97-113). New York, NY: Guilford Press. Powell, R. (1999). Literacy as a moral imperative: Facing the challenges of a pluralistic society. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield. Powell, R., Cantrell, S. C., Malo-Juvera, V., & Correll, P. (2016). Operationalizing culturally responsive instruction: Preliminary findings of CRIOP research. Teachers College Record, 188 (1). Retrieved from http://www. tcrecord.org. ID Number: 18224. Powell, R., McIntyre, E., & Rightmyer, E. (2006). Johnny won’t read, and Susie won’t either: Reading instruction and student resistance. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 6(1), 5-31. Rickford, A. (2001). The effect of cultural congruence and higher order questioning on the reading enjoyment and comprehension of ethnic minority students. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk 6(4), 357-387. Shannon, P. (2014). Reading poverty in America. New York, NY: Routledge. Shelton, N. R. (2010). Program fidelity in two Reading Mastery classrooms: A view from the inside. Literacy Research and Instruction, 49, 315-333. Simon, R. (Ed.). (1992). Teaching against the grain: Texts for a pedagogy of possibility. New York, NY: Bergin & Garvey.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1â€”Spring 2017 Simon, N. S., & Johnson, S. M. (2015). Teacher turnover in high-poverty schools: What we know and can do. Teachers College Record, 117(3), 1-36. Souto-Manning, M., & Martell, J. (2016). Reading, writing, and talk: Inclusive teaching strategies for diverse learners, K-2. New York, NY: Teachers College. Spears-Bunton, L.A., & Powell, R. (Eds.). (2009). Toward a literacy of promise: Joining the African American struggle. New York, NY: Routledge. Street, B. (1995). Social literacies: Critical approaches to literacy in development, ethnography, and education. London, UK: Longman. Vagle, M. (2014). Crafting phenomenological research. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press. Valle, R. S., & Halling, S. (Eds.). (1989). Existential-phenomenological perspectives in psychology: Exploring the breadth of human experience. New York, NY: Plenum. Van Manen, M. (1990). Researching lived experience: Human science for an action sensitive pedagogy. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. Villegas, A. M., & Lucas, T. (2007). The culturally responsive teacher. Educational Leadership, 64(6), 28-33. Walford, G. (2001). Doing qualitative educational research: A personal guide to the research process. London, UK: Continuum. Wallowitz, L. (2008). Critical literacy as resistance. New York, NY: Peter Lang. Yatvin, J. (2000). Minority view. Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction. NIH Publication No. 00-4769. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1â€”Spring 2017 Appendix A Participant Information Name (pseudonyms)
Highest Degree Attained
Years of Teaching Experience
Grade Level/Teaching Area
BA Elem. Ed.
First year teacher
BA Elem. Ed.
Doctorate, Early Childhood and Elem. Ed.
24 (18 in elementary classrooms)
MA Information Systems Tech.; M. Ed.
MA Instructional Leadership
MA Teacher Leader
MA Teacher Leader
MA Counseling; trained as Reading First Coach
BA Elem. Ed.
First year teacher
MA Reading and Writing
Rank I (equivalent to Ed. Spec.) Elem. Ed.
MA Ed. Technology; MA Educ. Leadership
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 James
BA Special Ed. and Soc. Sts. 5-9
MA Tchg. English as a Second Lang.
MA Teacher Leader with ESL endorsement
Appendix B Examples of Data Transformation Statements from Teacher Interviews
Nicole: The kids who grew the most are those kids that are at that decoding stage. Why did they score the greater points, is because now they’re actually able to read the text, some of the text. They’re able to use those decoding skills to read. And guess what? Even if they read a paragraph, that’s more than they read coming in when they’re only at first grade level. So that’s why those kids grew. Kayla: When she was across the street, when she was in first grade,
Second Transformation (Interrogation: What were teachers’ experiences with a scripted reading program?)
Third Transformation: General structural description (transsituational; beyond the specific situation)
Teachers believe students with decoding problems benefited from the program.
Teachers felt the program benefited low achieving students.
The program supported teachers’ work with the most struggling students.
Teachers feel the way the program conceptualizes reading results in
Teachers were upset that many of their students were misplaced and were
Teachers’ forced enactment of the program
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 second grade, when she was in first grade, she used to go to second grade just because they didn’t have a group high enough for her. They just had to. . . She had like maybe 4 or 5 kids that were way up above fourth grade reading, including some of the kids that were in my classroom this year that they put in corrective reading. They didn’t need to be in corrective reading. I have two kids who were in gifted. . .
students being placed below their actual reading level.
forced to use instructional materials below their actual reading levels.
led to negative outcomes for students.
Teachers report feeling guilty teaching the program because they believe it is setting up their students for failure.
Teachers were regretful that they were not able to help their students grow as readers.
The program had a negative impact on teachers’ psychological well-being.
Natalie: She was in Corrective Reading A. Kayla: Yes. Yes. I have three kids who are in the gifted program that were in corrective reading. Interviewer: So how did it make you feel as a teacher? Carol: Inadequate. I felt that I would walk in that morning and I was setting my students up for failure. I did not feel that I was coming in and preparing them to be great learners. I felt like I was not providing them what they deserved. I felt guilty a lot of times. Like I said, I broke down several times reading in this
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 program, because I would be behind a book. I’m not a “behind the book” teacher. Natalie: But see, I couldn’t say anything. This was my first year of teaching.
Teachers express a reluctance to resist because of fear of reprisals.
Teachers felt threatened if they did not adhere to the script.
Kayla: No, she didn’t. I did. Natalie: Yes. We had to use her voice as our voice, ‘cause I mean. . . Kayla: It doesn’t make sense. Natalie: And I’m the type that, I do what I’m told. That’s just how I am. Kayla: I understand that, ‘cause we need a job. Natalie: Yes.
Teachers are impacted by a hierarchical system that dictates who has the power to make decisions within the institution.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1â€”Spring 2017
Review of WHAM! Teaching with Graphic Novels Across the Curriculum Reviewers: Chyllis E. Scott, Ph.D.; Cadence Taylor, M.Ed.; Bridgette Buhlman, M.Ed.; Ana Dunne, M.Ed.; Chelsea Garmon, M.Ed.; Nerissa Lopez, B.A.; Alexandria Miles, M.Ed. University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Brozo, W. G., Moorman, G., & Meyer, C. (2014). WHAM! Teaching with Graphic Novels Across the Curriculum. New York, NY: Teachers College Press. ISBN: 978-0-8077-5495-5
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 Graphic Novels: English Language Arts and Beyond
same program, and even though they teach various disciplines and grade levels, the class was able to use WHAM! as a handbook to guide them through each graphic novel selection. WHAM! led to extended conversations throughout the semester, both in class and online.
In the 21st-century classroom, teachers are searching for ways to integrate literacy instruction across and within all content areas. Through a multimodal approach for literacy enhancement and integration, students gain knowledge, skills, and various tools for literacy from multiple perspectives and viewpoints, and the use of graphic novels provides access to diverse texts within multiple grade levels and all content areas. In WHAM! Teaching with Graphic Novels Across the Curriculum, authors William G. Brozo, Gary Moorman, and Carla K. Meyer (2014) provide various techniques for implementing graphic novels across disciplines. WHAM! makes the case that graphic novels hold an invaluable place in portraying rich content, which is essential for students’ understanding of ideas and concepts relative to reaching an apex of synthesis needed for student mastery.
The authors of WHAM! present practical, yet valuable, vignettes and scenarios geared primarily towards adolescent learners, and more than twothirds of the book contains chapters devoted to specific disciplines: English language arts, history, science, and mathematics. Each chapter presents a lesson detailing “essential information” that assists educators with integrating graphic novels in their content-area instruction (p. ix) and with “meeting the needs of diverse learners and achieving the goals of the Common Core State Standards” (p. forth cover). WHAM! is comprised of seven chapters, three of which include standards-based, precisely detailed lessons that incorporate graphic novels, such as the lesson based on using Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb by Jonathan FetterVorm in a science classroom.
Through this text, Brozo, Moorman, and Meyer provide applicable relevant examples and opportunities for educators to broaden their knowledge and expertise of literacy instruction in a variety of content-area classrooms. These opportunities address two foci: (a) to further develop a reader’s understanding of how and why graphic novels should be used and (b) to encourage the reader to move beyond the traditional English language arts (ELA) curriculum through the use of graphic novels.
Throughout the specific content-area chapters, readers gain not only ideas for graphic novel selection but also discover a means of delivering each novel in a meaningful and effective manner. The concluding chapter provides the authors’ final thoughts and the following helpful tips for incorporating graphic novels into one’s instruction: (a) Read graphic novels for your own enjoyment; (b) Read graphic novels you think your students would like and will fit into your curriculum; (c) Talk to the school and local librarians; (d) Talk to students about graphic novels they are reading; (e) Discuss the use of graphic novels with colleagues in your department; (f) Start a graphic novel book club; (g) Review the graphic novel selection at local bookstores; (h) In the era of mandated curriculum and scripted lesson, get your principal and other administrators on board; (i) Talk with parents about using graphic novels; (j) Seek out funding; and, (k) Attend state, national, and international conferences (pp. 120-121).
A Highly Recommended Read for All Teachers This review is written and prepared collaboratively by members of a graduate-level, content-area literacy course: six K-12 teachers (grade levels included: Kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, and secondary ELA) along with the course instructor. WHAM! was selected by the instructor upon recommendation of a colleague and was used to assist with the course content, discussions, strategies, instruction, and as an accompaniment to seven graphic novels read over the course of a semester. These teachers are studying within the
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 Additionally, WHAM! includes three detailed appendices: “Graphic Novels by Discipline” (pp. 123125), “Graphic Novel Resources” (pp. 126-130), and “Graphic Lessons Tied to the CCSS” (pp. 131-135). These appendices provide enhancements that can be easily accessed for varied lessons or content adaptations. This class collaboration includes shared thoughts regarding the strengths and weaknesses of WHAM! and suggestions for how K-12 teachers are able to connect this text to daily instruction.
Chapter 2: Guidelines for Using Graphic Novels in the Content Classroom A comprehensive discussion about the specific logistics of bringing graphic novels into the classroom is presented in Chapter 2. The authors provide detailed descriptions of a plethora of graphic novels, an inclusion that helps scaffold a teacher’s search for materials suitable for nearly any discipline. Brozo and colleagues advocate for the integration of graphic novels as a “powerful medium” (p. 21) that can “enrich teaching and learning in the content classroom” (p. 21). Acknowledging that “in the era of [CCSS], traditional school textbooks are no longer considered the ideal, singular source material for teaching students how to read complex prose” (p. 21), allows the authors to emphasize the importance of selecting and implementing graphic novels for effective disciplinary instruction.
Chapter 1: What is WHAM! Teaching with Graphic Novels Across the Curriculum? Navigating how to implement the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) or other state-adopted standards into everyday classroom practices plays an immense role in the lives of educational stakeholders. Chapter 1 focuses on the impact that graphic novels can have on bringing updated practices into the learning environment across various disciplines. The main discussion throughout this chapter is centered around the use of graphic novels to impact students’ fluency of concepts and ideas and the diversification of literacy practices throughout various subject areas. The authors posit that the integration of multiple literacies is conducive to accessing students existing schema. By integrating graphic novels, teachers can enhance an existing curriculum and build on students’ multimodal schemas. WHAM! suggests that the integration of graphic novels will help educators build an environment rich in diverse content, thus providing access to a wealth of knowledge while also producing an enjoyable learning experience for both teacher and student. In addition, Brozo and colleagues highlight the differences between comic books and graphic novels and describe the overall nature of graphic novels. An argument is made that “human beings are naturally visual learners” (p. 5) and that the use of “words, speech bubbles, pictures, format, color, and other graphic features” (p. 14) can assist educators in capitalizing on innate processes. The multimodality of graphic novels creates a scenario in which diverse information and stories are accessible to students of all levels.
By using graphic novels, an educator can reach much further than a single source, such as a textbook. When pairing a graphic novel with a textbook or foundational documents, educators can assist in unlocking a deeper understanding of our world as well as the universal themes that have overwhelmingly commanded mankind. Graphic novels are not written in a dry manner; rather, they are crafted in an engaging form that typically contains dialogue, illustrations, and different print features, which allows students to enjoy the learning process. The integration of graphic novels helps to expand students’ thinking, creativity, and reflexivity. Additionally, it provides the tools for academic and real-world survival beyond the constructs of education. Chapter 3: Using Graphic Novels to Teach English and the Language Arts In this chapter, the first of four that focuses on the use of graphic novels in specific disciplines, the detailed examples provided can be used by ELA teachers of all grade levels. The teacher in the vignette pairs a graphic-novel version of Romeo and Juliet in conjunction with the original play, a
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 combination that supported students’ comprehension of the text. Similarly, primary teachers strive to develop students’ passion for reading while creating a memorable experience. WHAM! shows teachers how to do just that by using graphic novels to provide concrete examples and to guide personal narratives.
conducive to enhancing students’ curiosity for our shared history. Chapter 5: Using Graphic Novels to Teach to Science In all areas of content-specific instruction, there is a continued need for advanced literacy instruction, a condition that is particularly critical in science instruction. According to Shanahan and Shanahan (2012), students need “specialized knowledge and [the ability] … [to] create, communicate, and use knowledge within each of the disciplines” (p. 7). Chapter 5 answers this call and focuses on how graphic novels are used by teachers to engage and provide students with access to science.
Chapter 4: Using Graphic Novels to Teach History WHAM! proceeds to describe how graphic novels can be used within the content area of history. All too often, textbooks in history and other content areas may lack the ability to hold the interest of the reader, partly due to the density of the content (Shanahan & Shanahan, 2008). Throughout this chapter, Brozo and colleagues address problems with history textbooks, as they are generally written in an omniscient manner with an invisible narrator and present facts that are to be read as the sole truth. The authors describe the need for students to research multiple interpretations of historical events, foundational documents, and past perspectives and their importance to our existence, cultures, and relationships. WHAM! successfully emphasizes the need for the use of graphic novels in order to engage and motivate students to think historically and read critically while learning about history. According to the authors, “Many in education believe that teachers can use graphic novels and comics to scaffold students’ abilities to read critically and think historically while motivating and engaging the students in the process” (p. 57). This chapter not only makes the need for graphic novels apparent, but also it describes the different ways they can be integrated into the history curriculum. It includes helpful stepby-step lessons, methods for Socratic seminars to generate class dialogue, the rationale for taking two column notes, and the steps for forming a graphic novel book club, with a complete list of the graphic novels used. Overall, Brozo and colleagues advocate throughout chapter 4 that by integrating graphic novels and facilitating cognitively stimulating activities, an instructor can create an environment
In this chapter, the authors work to broaden the reader's options or even challenge the reader’s skepticism about how to incorporate graphic novels into science classrooms. The authors describe using read-alouds for biology with Genome: The Graphic Novel, written by Andrew Glasgow and illustrated by J. M. Schichtel (n.d.). According to Brozo (2015), this graphic novel provides teachers with another text option for teaching units on DNA. In this example, the classroom teacher Brozo (2015) observed had trouble engaging the students in the book and topic. It was through this text and the DNA unit that the teacher was able to involve the students in a writing strategy (“SPAWN: Special powers, Problem solving, Alternative viewpoints, What if, and Next”; Brozo, 2015, p. 20; Brozo et al., 2014, p. 80) that prompted them to write whether the story in the book could become a reality. Another lesson example included the book T-Minus: The Race to the Moon, written by Jim Ottaviani and illustrated by Zander Cannon and Kevin Cannon (2009). This selection details the rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union and the ultimate journey of landing on the moon. One particular advantage of this graphic novel is the focus on both science and history and how content-area instruction could be served by more than one discipline with this text. It is through such examples
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 that Chapter 5 prompts readers to expand upon their knowledge of using alternative texts, readalouds, and writing strategies in disciplinary courses.
professionals, from pre-service teachers to practicing classroom teachers to university professors. WHAM! provides the reader with an array of information and ready-to-use lessons. First, the anticipation guides at the beginning of each chapter provide adult learners a scaffold for their own learning. Next, the authors provided in-depth vignettes to demonstrate the planning for graphic novel integration. Even though the books sampled and used in the vignettes are not quite appropriate for early elementary students, the detailed appendix offers suggestions and additional sources that are suitable. These examples revealed the possibilities of using graphic novels in multiple instructional settings. Often, the discussion and the juxtaposition of the examples used in the chapters helped the reader to see the use and integration for varied contents, learners, and grade levels. Overall, WHAM! Teaching with Graphic Novels Across the Curriculum is a valuable tool for expanding teacher’s perspectives for using graphic novels and building upon the interests and needs of all students.
Chapter 6: Using Graphic Novels to Teach to Math Chapter 6 encourages a refreshing critical analysis of the hybrid marriage of math and literacy intersectionality. The chapter examines the need for educators to push through the barrier and foster literacy without sacrificing the curriculum, high stakes testing, or time constraints. The vignette lessons presented implement an array of tools with a fundamental approach of scaffolding to promote efficiency for all learners. For example, a geometry lesson used several types of graphic novels to assist students in comprehension. Multiple strategies were implemented to increase engagement with those concepts (e.g., gallery walk, discussions and brainstorms, discussion sheet quadrants [Fisher, Zike, & Frey, 2007]). This chapter also describes how graphic novels aid in inquiry and problem-solving applications through visual and spatial aspects and connections to real world scenarios, all of which combine to dramatically increase student engagement. Math instruction is then moved from rote memorization to new dynamics of incorporating multiple intelligences and differentiated instruction which utilizes “reading, writing, and real-life parallels” to support higher order thinking and “inquiryoriented” learning while increasing student engagement and participation (Brozo et al., 2014, p. 101). Conclusion From the beginning of WHAM!, readers are prompted to make predictions in an anticipation guide coupled with an after-reading self-assessment tool. The authors creatively support the reader through examples, vignettes, and lessons that are realistic and practical for the teachers of the 21st century. This structure benefits a range of education
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References Brozo, W. G. (2015). Would you mortgage your DNA? Prompting meaningful reading and writing in Science with Genome. Voices from the Middle, 22(2), 19-23. Brozo, W. G., Moorman, G., & Meyer, C. K. (2014). WHAM! Teaching with graphic novels across the curriculum. New York, NY: Teachers College Press. Fetter-Vorm, J. (2012). Trinity: A graphic history of the first atomic bomb. New York, NY: Hill and Wang. Fisher, D., Zike, D., & Frey, N. (2007). Foldables: Improving learning with 3-D interactive graphic organizers. Classroom Notes Plus, 25(1), 1-14. Glasgow, A. & Schictel, J. M (Illustrator). (n.d.). Genome: The Graphic Novel. Seattle, WA: Amazon. Ottaviani , J., Cannon, Z. (Illustrator), & Cannon, K. (Illustrator). (2009). T-Minus: The race to the moon. New York, NY: Alladin. Shanahan, T., & Shanahan, C. (2008). Teaching disciplinary literacy to adolescents: Rethinking contentarea literacy. Harvard Educational Review, 78(1), 40-59. Shanahan, T. & Shanahan, C. (2012). What is disciplinary literacy and why does it matter? Topics in Language Disorders, 32(1), 7-18.
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Review of Reaching and Teaching Students in Poverty: Strategies for Erasing the Opportunity Gap Reviewer: Matthew J. Moulton The University of Georgia, Athens, GA
Gorski, P. (2013). Reaching and teaching students in poverty: Strategies for erasing the opportunity gap. New York, NY: Teachers College Press. ISBN: 978-0-8077-5457-3
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Table of Contents Introduction An Opening Letter…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..……133 Brief summary of the text, target audience, praise and critique, explanation of multigenre projects, guidance regarding how each genre fits into the larger project.
Part One: Equity Literacy: Why and Where? 1.1 Equity Literacy in the Wild……………………………………………………………………….………………….………..…………………..……136 Introduction of Four Abilities of Equity Literate Educators and a fictional application.
1.2 Visual Representations of the Unequal Distribution of Poverty…………………………..…………………………………....……138 Visual representations, some personally created and others found, of concepts discussed by Gorski.
Part Two: Myths and Redressings 2.1 More than Meets the Eye………………………………………………………………………………….………….………….……..…………….…140 An art creation influenced by Gorski’s thoughts on meritocracy and the American Dream.
2.2 Bro, Do You Even Gorski?……………………………………………………..…………………………………………………...…...………..……141 Memes and explanations that summarize portions of Reaching and Teaching, specifically a critique of Ruby Payne’s culture of poverty.
Part Three: We’re sorry. The quick fix you wanted doesn’t work. Please try another option. 3.1 Which came first, the answer or the problem?……………………………………………….……………………..….…………….………142 A flow chart created to demonstrate the absurd cycle of blaming teachers for problems and then expecting them to solve them.
3.2 Summer Reading List for Educators………………………………...………………………….………………………………...……..……..…143 A collection of readings and videos that support Gorski’s claims and can help educators in their pursuit of equity in classrooms. Part Four: Where the rubber meets the road
4.1 It’s not just about the unboxing……………………………………………………………………………..……..…………………………..……144 A YouTube unboxing video of strategies from Reaching and Teaching.
4.2 With not on…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………...…….….145 A simple chart that takes up Gorski’s call to work with students and families experiencing poverty and not to work on students and families experiencing poverty.
4.3 Intentionally seeking opportunities to expand spheres of influence…………………………………………………….…..……146 Visual notes created while reading the chapter that present initiatives that educators can implement in their classrooms and schools to support students experiencing poverty.
Conclusion So, where does Reaching and Teaching fit?………………………………………………….………………………………………..………..……147 A diary entry that summarizes the text and further describes who the text is for.
References The stuff…………………………………………………………..…………….…………………………………………….……………………………..……….148
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Introduction An Opening Letter To the readers of JoLLE: Crafting this multigenre1 book review has been such an interesting journey. When I first began reading Paul Gorski’s (2013) Reaching and Teaching Students in Poverty: Strategies for Erasing the Opportunity Gap (Reaching and Teaching), it was not my intention to embark on a multigenre project; I simply wanted to read the book and work on internalizing some of its messages. What ended up happening was an engagement with the text across multiple mediums and what evolved out of my reading morphed into this multigenre book review and an adaptation of the curriculum I teach in my classes. Possibilities are endless when working with and through multiple genres. Hughes (2009) described multigenre as an amalgamation of many types of writing with an interwoven thread of connection that unites the entirety of the project. Multigenre defies standardization, encourages choice, incorporates the arts, and encourages literacy enjoyment. It just might be the embodiment of equity literacy (Gorski, 2013). Hughes (2009), describing Allen’s (2001) suggestions, stated, “Each piece in a multigenre paper represents diverse genres, divulges different aspects of the topic, and creates a patchwork of writing and creative expression with an overlying theme that is inviting, while at the same time informing” (p. 35). It was with this in mind that I embarked on the journey of a multigenre book review. Reaching and Teaching, from the beginning, lines itself up in opposition of deficit perspective2 texts which place the source of inequity squarely on the shoulders of those who experience it. Where Gorski differs from those texts is in the way that he compels readers to expand their view of poverty from a micro-location residing with individuals to a larger system within which we, whether we acknowledge it or not, are #alwaysalready3 participating. In the pages of Reaching and Teaching, poverty is never presented as something that relegates those experiencing it as deserving of societal injustice. This is markedly different from other popular texts which claim to seek reprieve for those experiencing poverty by attributing their plight as part of the culture of poverty (Payne, 2003). Gorski persistently reminds the reader that nothing from his text can be immediately put to work in classrooms, schools, and communities without adaptation for personal context. Implementation without adaptation furthers the marginalizing power of a culture of poverty by assuming that folks experiencing poverty in inner city Milwaukee4 are similar to folks experiencing poverty outside Houston5 are similar to folks experiencing poverty in Appalachia6 are similar to folks experiencing poverty in...are similar to folks experiencing poverty in...are similar to folks experiencing poverty in… This strength is simultaneously, for lack of a better word, a weakness in that in times of media saturation, instant gratification, standardization, and commodification, schools are looking for immediate practices that can be employed in a business-like way to 1
Shout out to Dr. Hilary Hughes at The University of Georgia for her support, mentorship, and belief that knowledge doesn’t always need to be crafted in unaccessible scholarly text. 2 A deficit perspective involves “approaching students based upon our perception of their weaknesses rather than their strengths” (Gorski, 2011, p. 152). 3 In a class that Dr. Hilary Hughes, Dr. Gayle Andrews, and I designed (EDMS4000/6000 - Community Contexts in Middle Grades Education), we use the hashtag #alwaysalready to symbolize everyone’s impact on and participation in societal systems whether that impact and participation is acknowledged or not. 4 Shout out to Dr. Matthew Desmond at Harvard University for his book Evicted (2016), which also influenced my mindset. 5 Shout out to all my students from Channelview who showed me what it meant to be truly engaged with your students. 6 Shout out to Dr. Stephanie Jones at The University of Georgia and her book Girls, Social Class, and Literacy (2006), which changed the way I think about power, perspective, and positioning.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 boost profits (student test scores) and minimize expenditures (expenditures). This text, and the mindset of equity literacy, will not do the work for those educators. This text is not a guide for scaling up. To me, that is refreshing. Gorski’s Reaching and Teaching is a book for all stakeholders concerned with equity and justice for the students in our schools. Regardless of an individual’s position in a school’s community, their work influences the lived experiences of the children in classrooms. Preservice and practicing teachers could pull inspiration from the way that Gorski skillfully presents how this work relates to the day-to-day interactions of classroom communities. School level administrators are charged with building-wide policies that target structural inequities and seek to sustainably challenge them in the long run. Community leaders and district level administrators are provided data that combats dominant narratives surrounding poverty and the students and families who experience it. This breadth of influence could also be viewed by some as a downfall of the text. Poverty is an overwhelmingly complex concept to begin to address, and Gorski admits that this book is not about quick fixes. If someone seeks to open the pages of this book and solve the issues of poverty that impact their school community, they will be greatly disappointed. This text is about changing the way readers approach and think about poverty. I feel that it accomplishes just such a task. This multigenre book review is divided into four parts: Equity Literacy Why and Where?; Myths and Redressings;, We’re sorry. The quick fix you wanted doesn’t work. Please try another option; and Where the Rubber Meets the Road. A summary of Reaching and Teaching, in addition to the previous paragraph, is embedded within each genre. Genres used to relay thoughts and grapplings are depicted in Table 1. The contents of this review are wide and in different degrees of refinement. Some were crafted in short amounts of time, yet others were the result of continued engagement with the text over the course of many days, weeks, or even months. It is safe to assume that this review will continue to grow across time with new connections to pop culture or daily interactions. Engaging with a text in this way has helped7 me internalize the purpose and intention of the text while attempting to, in a paraphrase of Gorski, adapt it to my personal context. Throughout the text I will continue to include footnotes as a means of holding a side conversation with the reader--to both infuse some internal humor and provide some insight into my thoughts as I created the project. I hope you enjoy what you find and feel encouraged to engage with the concepts contained within the pages of Reaching and Teaching or with a text aligned with your interests and passions. Sincerely,
Matthew J. Moulton Ph.D. Student in Educational Theory & Practice Middle Grades Education Graduate Assistant The University of Georgia Table 1 Contents of This Multigenre Book Review
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 Genre
Transcript from a fictional nature television show
Presents the four abilities of equity literate educators (Gorski, 2013), which guide much of the text.
Using a transcript from a show with an outside-of-the-action narrator allows me to present thought processes and analysis of the action alongside what is happening.
Multiple visual representations of data
Four visual representations of data that contain hyperlinks to resources where the data was obtained.
To relay the need for equity literacy and the work presented by Gorski.
An eye chart that displays the inequity present in systems which govern society.
To portray an example of how the aspects of Gorski’s equity literacy are able to be employed by all, with some corrective help, just as all parts of an eye chart are able to be viewed with the naked eye for some and with the assistance of glasses for others.
A collection of memes
Four memes of Gorski with supporting text.
Memes can bring humor to subjects and point to areas of irony. These memes are used to summarize key points from the Reaching and Teaching text.
Infographic with supporting text
Visual depiction of the paradox teachers exist within as both a solution and cause of many of society’s issues.
To stress just how important the concepts of Reaching and Teaching are for practicing and future teachers to develop so that they can begin to confront and change the societal view of their purpose and profession.
List of outside resources
Resources that relate to the concepts presented in Reaching and Teaching.
To pick up Gorski’s call to implement equity literacy through all means and in all spaces and places.
An unboxing of strategies described by Gorski. “Unboxing videos” typically portray an individual (visible or not) opening up toys, electronics, or other items with the central focus resting on the item itself.
To present an analogy to demonstrate the wide array of strategies which hold the common trait of needing to be adapted for context.
A table depicting the intention of Gorski’s text to work with folks experiencing poverty and not on them.
To mimic classroom key concept posters. It should not be a difficult concept to internalize but it is of vital importance to cement into thought processes. This is one location where other popular texts about working with students in poverty differ from Reaching and Teaching. Gorski always focuses readers outward towards society rather than toward the individual experiencing poverty.
Notes developed while reading the text.
To better internalize the initiatives suggested by Gorski. Visual notes help note takers draw (literally) connections between key concepts and their verbal and visual cues.
Conclusion diary entry
A summary of the text and the journey undertaken to construct this review; modeled after an online blog post.
To serve as the conclusion to the project and describes how and where Reaching and Teaching fits into classrooms and teacher education.
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Part One: Equity Literacy Why and Where? 1.1 Equity Literacy in the Wild The Four Abilities of Equity Literacy 1. The ability to Recognize both subtle and not-so-subtle biases and inequities in classroom dynamics; school cultures and policies; and the broader society, and how these biases and inequities affect students and their families 2. The ability to Respond to biases and inequities in the immediate term, as they crop up in classrooms and schools 3. The ability to Redress biases and inequities in the longer term, so that they do not continue to crop up in classrooms and schools 4. The ability to Create and Sustain a bias-free and equitable learning environment for all students (Gorski, 2013, p. 21) Transcript from a nature show is a scene where the reader stumbles upon a Southeastern United States middle grades teacher education classroom in the wild. I use the safari guide’s voice as a means of describing what was happening in my head during the class sessions that inspired this transcript. Even though there were multiple issues popping up in the class, I was attempting to call upon Gorksi’s work to help me confront those issues when they came up. The safari guide peers in the window of the teacher education classroom. Safari Guide (SG): Oh this is just amazing. We have stumbled upon a budding equity literate teacher educator. It appears that the instructor is primed and on edge. The class must be discussing controversial topics. Let’s have a listen. Teacher Educator (TE): Why do you think we had you read this book in this class? SG: Oh, oh, oh, the TE led with an open-ended question putting the onus on to the students. What a tricky move! Their discussion looks to be robust and engaging. Many of the brand-new teacher candidates seem to be nodding their heads in agreement. Oh my, it seems like a teacher candidate (TC) who is more oriented toward a deficit mindset is attempting to assert his dominance. Pat (P): I’m just trying to play devil’s advocate. SG: What a stunningly passive-aggressive move employed to deflect attention away from his deficit views! What is in store for this class?!?! TE: Sure. P: Removing the option of field trips for all students because a few cannot partake is not fair either. TE: Right P: But that’s what equity literacy is calling for. Punish those who made good choices and were able to afford these experiences. SG: Oh, this student has introduced a challenge to equity literacy, holding tightly to the privilege that access to financial resources provides. Little does he know that Gorski (2013) says that equity literate educators have “the ability to Recognize both subtle and not-so-subtle biases and inequities in classroom dynamics, school cultures and policies, and the broader society, and how these biases and inequities affect students and their families” (p. 21). Let’s see if the TE recognizes the subtle bias.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 TE: No. If that is what you heard or got out of this article, let’s revisit the text see what it is we are missing. This is a great opportunity for us to dive deeper into what equity literate educators are able to do. Let’s take this field trip example. I feel like we are all coming from a place where we imagine that we are at school the morning of the field trip and one or two kids don’t have the money to participate. But, we need to rewind, because if we start employing equity literacy at this point, it is too late to truly address one of the sources of inequity in schools. SG: Skillfully executed. Return to the text. The TE recognized and responded to. Now the TC appears to be reading through the four abilities of an equity literate educator. Will the TE work towards redressing the bias so that it does not crop up again in the future? P: Why, what do you mean? TE: Actions taken now will do little to help a system that is founded on inequitable practices. If students are saved from field trip ridicule the morning of over and over and over, what has been done to remedy the true cause of the inequity? SG: Like a lion lying in wait for its prey, the TE pounces at the opportunity to change the conversation to the long-term. Solving a current problem with a bandaid will do nothing to redress the inequity that festers in the system. How is our TC doing with this information. Oh his face appears to be turning red. TE: If we approach these issues of inequity and bias from a place where we are putting all of the responsibility on individuals rather than on societal systems that contribute to the inequity, we are not doing our job to the best of our ability. So, what is something that we could do to address this field trip dilemma earlier in the process of planning? Maybe at the school level? Adrianne (A): Having personally experienced what it is like to be told to go to in school suspension for the day while my classmates were on a field trip, I think that finding outside sources to fund trips like this is of paramount importance. There are loads of grants that are available to schools for just such trips. Maybe even find sponsors from the community! SG: Wow. What a brave and vulnerable soul. This teacher candidate just outed themselves as having experienced economic hardship and provided a first-hand account of what inequitable practices do to those who they target, intentionally or not. Cheers to the teacher candidate and cheers to the TE for their part in working to create a bias-free learning environment where a student could feel free to express themselves so freely and honestly. It appears that this group of TCs under the guidance of their TE may be on the road towards practicing equity literacy in their future classrooms. Hopefully conversations like this continue.
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1.2 Visual Representations of The Unequal Distribution of Poverty
AND African-American women (63¢), Native Hawaiian women (60¢), American Indian women (58¢), and Hispanic women (54¢) have an even wider gap to navigate.8
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The juxtaposition of including white Rich Uncle Pennybags (the Monopoly man) next to inequalities about race serves as a cultural critique. Even though there are white folks experiencing poverty, the median wealth still holds true to the statistics presented above.
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Nestled within a chapter whose intention is to dispel rumors and lay a common foundation for readers about poverty, Gorski punctuated the importance of working within a framework of equity literacy. Statistical facts, such as the ones described above, “help us see concepts like meritocracy and equal opportunity from new angles” (p. 50), including the intersectionality which compounds these gaps in the distribution of poverty. It must be stated that ambitious books that seek to illuminate and subsequently dismantle systemic injustices can lose appeal to educators who look, simply, for quick fixes and hacks that can be implemented in their classrooms. In order to adequately relay the message he seeks to send, Gorski must undo so much bad teaching that has been woven into the fabric of education--bad teaching influenced by bias, prejudice, and short-cuts towards quick solutions. The next section of this review will focus on these toxic threads.
Map below adapted from: Housing Assistance Council (2010)
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Part Two: Myths and Redressings 2.1 More than Meets the Eye
IT O C
R A C Y
to have/hoard/consume THINGS while ignoring those going without. . . . . . . . .
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2.2 Bro, Do You Even Gorski?11 A consistent theme in Gorski’s work is the deconstruction (and in some cases outright demolition) of supporters of the Culture of Poverty framework, specifically Ruby Payne. In Reaching and Teaching Students in Poverty, Gorski (2013) continued this work by tracing the term culture of poverty to its inception while repeatedly stressing that “the danger with these approaches or, more specifically, with how they often are implemented is that they conflate ‘culture’ with race, gender, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, and other identities, thereby suggesting that disparities or conflicts result from cultural misunderstandings rather than biases and inequities” (p. 54-55, emphasis in original). This move by Gorski helps readers discern the difference between Gorski’s and Payne’s brands of educating teachers for work with students in poverty. Gorski’s is built on locating the source of inequity outside of the individual, while Payne locates the inequity within the individuals themselves as part of a unifying culture. Gorski stated, “There simply is no evidence, beyond differences in on-site involvement, that attitudes about the value of education in poor communities differ in any substantial way from those in wealthier communities” (p. 60). Lack of on-site involvement could be the result of a myriad of things, including lack of paid leave from low-paying hourly wage jobs, no childcare available (even if the school provides this amenity, a parent being unwilling to leave their child with a stranger is completely understandable), and lack of consistent and timely transportation. Writing off a parent or guardian’s lack of involvement as an indication of their lack of value placed on education is irresponsible and short-sighted. Some educators may wish to refrain from participating in acts such as equity literacy, citing that doing so would become a political move. Teaching is a political act, and Gorski stated that deciding to implement equity literacy is a political move but no more so than actively choosing to not implement equity literacy in classrooms. Reaching and Teaching Students in Poverty does a fantastic job of describing what is at stake if educators do not employ such practices.
are a way to interject some humor in situations. They are deployed to draw attention to the irony of situations. Some meme characters take on a life of their own like Philosoraptor (n.d.) and Success Kid (n.d.). If you want to make your own Gorski meme, click here.
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Part Three: We’re sorry. The quick fix you wanted doesn’t work. Please try another option. 3.1 Which came first, the answer or the problem?
One thing that very large and nearly unanimous majority of folks in the United States have in common is that we have all gone through some sort of schooling. But, just because you sat in a classroom for so many years does not mean that you know the most effective ways to work with students from diverse populations. Knowledge and receiving good grades in subjects ranging from world history to organic chemistry does not qualify someone to teach in classrooms. Teaching is a skillful act that must be approached diligently and with purpose. Skillful teachers understand that the content that they teach may not always be the most important thing for students to learn on a given day. Gorski illuminates the silliness of the media and politicians (who have never set foot in a classroom) attacking teachers with assumptions of their fitness to perform in classrooms. Folks who have no business (or expertise) interpreting and relaying statistical data about teachers and students do little but further a market model of education which thrives on merit and neoliberal12 choice. The flow chart above represents the narrative in society that persistently paints teaching and teachers in a negative light, yet at the same time continues to pile more and more societal issues onto the already hunched shoulders of educators. Obviously, this chart could be larger to include more hits against teachers (the bottom half) and pilings-on (the top half), but for sake of the reader’s sanity and confidence to enter into classrooms soon, the flow chart will remain conservative.
Neoliberalism is, in a crude and limited definition, the push to dismantle the public sector and put it in the hands of private corporations driven by market principles of choice. For more info on neoliberalism read Giroux’s (2012) Disposable Youth or watch this nifty YouTube video: Neoliberalism-Three Minute Theory (Kerr, 2015).
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 3.2 Summer Reading List for Educators In chapter seven, Gorski describes how some of the most popular solutions to inequity and injustice in school classrooms are ineffective. His “small sample” (p. 112) includes direct instruction and other low-order pedagogies, tracking and ability grouping, and charter schools. The following texts, in my opinion, supplement Gorski’s suggestions from chapter seven. Charter Schools Frankenberg, E., Siegel-Hawley, G., & Wang, J. (2010). Choice without equity: Charter school segregation and the need for civil rights standards. Retrieved from https://civilrightsproject.ucla.edu/research/k-12-education/integration-anddiversity/choice-without-equity-2009-report Losen, D. J., Keith, M. A., Hodson, C. L., & Martinez, T. E. (2016). Charter Schools, civil rights and school discipline: A comprehensive review. Retrieved from https://civilrightsproject.ucla.edu/resources/projects/center-for-civil-rightsremedies/school-to-prison-folder/federal-reports/charter-schools-civil-rights-and-school-discipline-acomprehensive-review Tracking Mathis, W. (2013). Research-based Options for Education Policymaking: Moving beyond tracking. Retrieved from http://nepc.colorado.edu/files/pb-options-10-tracking.pdf Harris, B. (2011, August 3). Tracking derails diversity [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://www.tolerance.org/blog/trackingderails-diversity Direct instruction and other low-order pedagogies Schneider, J. (2014, May 8). Guest: Direct Instruction is a band-aid for education inequity [Opinion Editorial]. Retrieved from http://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/guest-direct-instruction-is-a-band-aid-for-education-inequity/ Books--fiction and nonfiction, education-focused and non-education-focused--help illuminate inequities that exist in and out of educational spaces. But, reading should not only be thought of as paper based. Videos can also provide a vibrant and engaging medium. The following texts are a great way to expand personal experiences and help describe the necessity of learning about/from marginalized populations. Adichie, C. N. (2009). The danger of a single story [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story?language=en Desmond, M. (2016). Evicted: Poverty and profit in the American city. New York, NY: Crown. Emdin, C. (2016). For white folks who teach in the hood... and the rest of y’all too: Reality pedagogy and urban education. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. Jones, S. (2006). Girls, social class, and literacy: What teachers can do to make a difference. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Rose, M. (2004). The mind at work: Valuing the intelligence of the American worker. New York, NY: Penguin. Sherman, A. (2009). The absolutely true diary of a part-time Indian. New York, NY: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. Smooth, J. (2008, July 21). How to tell someone they sound racist [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0Ti-gkJiXc Smooth, J. (2011, November 15). How I learned to stop worrying and love discussing race [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbdxeFcQtaU
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Part Four: Where the rubber meets the road 4.1 It’s not just about the unboxing13
more examples of unboxing videos, check out: Guardians of the Galaxy Funko Pop (TherealIdeal, 2015), Air Jordan 11 Space Jam 2016 (Slade, 2016) and Pocket Chair (Unbox Therapy, 2016).
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 4.2 With not on
People or things you work... ...with
Games Building trusting relationships and finding opportunities for accessible family involvement
Families in poverty
Gorski writes of “committing to working with rather than on families in poverty” (p. 132) as the mother of all strategies. A fitting analogy since true change is birthed from respect. As previously stated, this is not easy, but it will not be easy to deconstruct (demolish) persistent #alwaysalready inequities that have been baked into our subconscious.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1â€”Spring 2017 4.3 Intentionally seeking opportunities to expand spheres of influence14
For more information, check out this video on visual note taking (2012) or Rachel Smithâ€™s TED Talk - Drawing in class.
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Conclusion So, where does Reaching and Teaching fit? -- Diary entry Mood? Wearing? Drinking? Music?
Inquisitive flip flops, black shirt, painting shorts, and a Nationals cap dark roast, no room, black and unforgiving like the circles under my eyes Francis and the Lights featuring Bon Iver and Kanye West - Friends15
Dear Diary, I just finished reading this book, Paul Gorskiâ€™s Reaching and Teaching Students in Poverty: Strategies for Erasing the Opportunity Gap. I am simultaneously intrigued, convicted, and hopeful for what this title discusses. This guy, Gorski, writes like we are having a conversation. A conversation where one person does all the talking and the other person nods their head, chuckles, scowls, and scoffs (all at appropriate times of course). I imagine that were we in the same room, I might be able to be a part of this conversation. Besides, the book is about equity. As a teacher educator, I see this title fitting nicely within the bounds of teacher education/curriculum courses whose desire is to not just celebrate diversity but illuminate inequities and the structural barriers that hold them static. Gorski efficiently, professionally, and emphatically topples dominant narratives surrounding students from families living in poverty and provides different lenses for educators young and old to view these students and families through. Acknowledging that a completely equitable and bias-free system of education is not necessarily possible, Gorski stresses that it is our duty to work towards what is best for our students. Using equity literacy as a foundation in the classes that I teach will hopefully lead to teachers who are better prepared to work with students from diverse populations. With respect to practicing teachers, Gorski helps light the path towards safer learning environments by describing practices that could be revolutionary for schools and classrooms if teachers and administrators adapt them for their contexts. It is intimidating to think that this equity literacy work will require so much more from teachers, but the lived experiences of students are at risk if our classrooms do not strive for what is best for all. Probably the thing that sticks with me the most from this book is that it is a political choice to implement equity literacy in classrooms, and it is an equally political choice to not implement equity literacy in classrooms. We live in a society that believes in a false meritocracy. One that believes that everyone has a fair shot at achieving the ever-elusive American Dream. If those lies that separate and govern are ever going to be busted up, we must make intentional choices to begin that conversation. So, Diary, thanks for listening. You always know exactly what to say. Give Reaching and Teaching a shot; it might just impact the way you interact with the world.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017
References The Stuff… Adichie, C. N. (2009). The danger of a single story [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/chimamanda_adichie_the_danger_of_a_single_story?language=en Allen, C. A. (2001). The multigenre research paper: Voice, passion, and discovery in grades 4–6. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Bibler, K. (2015, July 21). The pay gap is even worse for Black women, and that is everyone’s problem. Retrieved from http://www.aauw.org/2015/07/21/black-women-pay-gap/
Delfin, C. (2012, January 7). Sketcho Frenzy: The Basics of Visual Note-taking [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gY9KdRfNN9w
Desmond, M. (2016). Evicted: Poverty and profit in the American city. New York, NY: Crown.
Francis and the Lights. (2016, July 7). Francis and the Lights - Friends ft. Bon Iver and Kanye West [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wScYn10D2vo
Frankenberg, E., Siegel-Hawley, G., & Wang, J. (2010). Choice without equity: Charter school segregation and the need for civil rights standards. Retrieved from https://civilrightsproject.ucla.edu/research/k-12education/integration-and-diversity/choice-without-equity-2009-report Giroux, H. A. (2012). Disposable Youth: Racialized Memories and the Culture of Cruelty. New York, NY: Routledge.
Gorski, P. (2011). Unlearning deficit ideology and the scornful gaze: Thoughts on authenticating the class discourse in education. Counterpoints, 402, 152-173.
Gorski, P. (2013). Reaching and teaching students in poverty: Strategies for erasing the opportunity gap. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 Harris, B. (2011, August 3). Tracking derails diversity [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://www.tolerance.org/blog/tracking-derails-diversity
Housing Assistance Council. (2010). Poverty in the United States. Retrieved from http://www.ruralhome.org/storage/documents/ts2010/poverty-map-web.pdf
Hughes, H. E. (2009). Multigenre research projects. Middle School Journal, 40(4), 34-43.
Jones, S. R. (2006). Girls, social class, and literacy: What teachers can do to make a difference. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Kerr, S. (2015, January 18). Three minute theory: What is neoliberalism? [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/dzLv3rfnOVw
Kochhar, R., Fry, R., & Taylor, P. (2011, July). Wealth gaps rise to record highs between Whites, Blacks, Hispanics. Retrieved from http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2011/07/26/wealth-gaps-rise-to-recordhighs-between-whites-blacks-hispanics/ Legal Momentum (n.d.). Women and poverty in America. Retrieved from https://www.legalmomentum.org/women-and-poverty-america Losen, D. J., Keith, M. A., Hodson, C. L., & Martinez, T. E. (2016). Charter Schools, civil rights and school discipline: A comprehensive review. Retrieved from https://civilrightsproject.ucla.edu/resources/projects/center-for-civil-rights-remedies/school-toprison-folder/federal-reports/charter-schools-civil-rights-and-school-discipline-a-comprehensivereview Mitra, Sophie and Findley, Patricia A. and Sambamoorthi, Usha, Health Care Expenditures of Living with a Disability: Total Expenditures, Out of Pocket Expenses and Burden, 1996-2004 (September 2008). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2330477
Moulton, M. J. (2016, October 26). It’s not just about the unboxing… [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9YPAA5Q5jG4&feature=youtu.be
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1â€”Spring 2017 Payne, R. K. (2003). A framework for understanding poverty [3rd ed]. Highlands, TX: aha! Process.
Philosoraptor. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.techagesite.com/memes/philosoroptor/funnyphilosoraptor-dinosaur-make-a-mess-meme.jpg
Sahadi, J. (2016, April 12). 6 things you need to know about the gender pay gap. Retrieved from http://money.cnn.com/2016/04/12/pf/gender-pay-gap-equal-pay-day/
Schneider, J. (2014, May 8). Guest: Direct Instruction is a Band-Aid for education inequity [Opinion Editorial]. Retrieved from http://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/guest-direct-instruction-is-a-bandaid-for-education-inequity/ Slade, J. (2016, November 15). UNBOXING: A LIMITED Air Jordan 11 Space Jam 2016 Sneaker Package [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qkuK4a3409o
Smooth, J. (2008, July 21). How to tell someone they sound racist [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0Ti-gkJiXc
Smooth, J. (2011, November 15). How I learned to stop worrying and love discussing race [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbdxeFcQtaU
Success kid. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://s2.quickmeme.com/img/a3/a37f905786bdfe57001631496218cb085eb3a7b170d971bf2d03156512f 0e416.jpg Smith, R. (2012, August 31). Drawing in class: Rachel Smith at TEDxUFM [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3tJPeumHNLY
therealdeal. (2015, December 13). Guardians of the Galaxy Funko Marvel collector corps unboxing [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_r2dq-U4Co
Unbox Therapy. (2016, November 23). The bizarre pocket chair - Does it suck? [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cacDvSiy7xI
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1â€”Spring 2017
Review of Learning from the Federal Market-Based Reforms: Lessons for the Every Student Succeeds Act Reviewer: Patrick Shannon Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA
Mathis, W & Trujillo, T. (Eds.). (2016). Learning from the Federal MarketBased Reforms: Lessons for the Every Student Succeeds Act. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing. ISBN: 9781681235035
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 “…we’re dealing with people, not things, we can’t trust unregulated markets to deliver a decent outcome.” (Krugman, 2016)
and the inability of the United States to compete on international educational assessments or prepare workers to fill the jobs needed by corporations. (Scott, p. 13)
Readers won’t find much specific about language and literacy education in Mathis and Trujillo’s (2016) Learning from the Federal Market-Based Reforms. Contributors do not discuss the National Reading Panel, The Reading First Initiative, or Response To Intervention. A single chapter is devoted to the Common Core Standards. Yet, the 28 chapters and the five section summaries largely fulfill the editors’ promise to provide “the most rigorous research examining the conditions, policies, and reforms that advance equitable, democratic public schooling, as well as those practices that thwart or inhibit the common good” (p. ix). Their purpose is to supply the authors of the reauthorization of the ESEA, the Every Student Succeeds Act, with the best available information. If we are to be agents of equitable, democratic, and effective language and literacy education, then we must be cognizant of these dynamics that surround and infuse our work. SPOILER ALERT! Market-based policies thwart mostly, while ones established to promote participatory parity among all students/citizens advance primarily.
The hypothesis: In a clever interpretation, Kantor and Lowe (2016) detail how the liberal Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965—by making schooling the primary government lever to deliver racial and economic justice in America—invited a neoliberal takeover built around market-based values: “flexibility, competition, and choice” (p. 49). Neoliberals argued that by measuring learning and teaching with standardized tests as if high scores were profits, market forces would hone schooling until only the effective and efficient survive, rewarding those who took the initiative and sanctioning those who chose the status quo. Although these reforms were initially put in place by true believers, Mintrop and Sunderman argue, they are now held in place by the winners in the markets that were created: “those deriving economic benefit from the law (e.g., testing agencies, educational management organizations, segments of the school improvement industry) and those deriving political benefit from the dysfunction of the sanctions: driven approaches (e.g., politicians campaigning on a platform of educational reform)” (p. 79).
In the first three sections, Mathis and Trujillo provide a textbook example of Larry Cuban’s definition of educational policy (2010): “A policy is both a hypothesis and argument that a particular action should be taken to solve a problem. That action, however, has to be politically acceptable and economically feasible” (n.p.). Contributors to Section One comment on and evaluate how the unstated agent of Cuban’s second sentence controlled the negotiations among unstated agents of the first over the last 35 years.
The argument: In Sections Two and Three, contributors test that hypothesis. They do not dispute the accuracy of neoliberal conceptions of the global economy (See Chang, 2010 for that). Little time is spent explaining how these market-based reforms achieve other neoliberal values—cutting public spending for social services; reducing government regulations through charters; positioning students and families as entrepreneurs working to accumulate cultural, social, and informational capital; or privatizing public services (See Saltman, 2012). Few references are made to existing, at best mixed, evidence concerning marketbased reforms in other institutions and countries— think Halliburton and meals for American soldiers in Iraq, Management and Training Corp and Mississippi prisons, or BP and Deepwater Horizon (See Ball, 2014).
The problem: ...conservatives and neoliberals see schools as wasteful, ineffective, and not sufficiently focused on results, thereby contributing to the failed potential of students, the protection of ineffective and overpaid teachers, school and school system leaders,
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 Rather in Section Two, the contributors dig directly into school data in order to evaluate applications of the neoliberal assumption that test scores can be treated as profits from the learner/teacher exchange. Miron and Urshel explore the idea that markets require competition and consumer choice in order to become effective and efficient, concluding that vouchers, charter schools, and virtual schools are poor competitors because they “perform similarly to traditional public schools” (p. 180). The other three chapters of the section investigate the consequences of “corporate take over” tactics for schools with enduring low test scores as recommended in both No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. From transformation to closure, these strategies target school personnel for exchange or replacement and not do not address the social economic context of the schools in question. They conclude that “the existing literature documents a concerning picture of such policies in practice” (Malen & Rice, p. 110), advising policy makers to look past any movement in test scores in order to see “the broader negative consequences that occur” (Kirshner et al., p. 209).
to change from competition, testing, sanctions, and choice to collaboration, participation, public responsibilities, and equity. In separate chapters, Berliner and Rothstein contest the articulation of the official problem, arguing that American schools are not failing, rather the governmental neglect of growing poverty and segregation means that there are two school systems in America—one for the White middle and upper middle classes and one for racial and language minorities and the poor. Other contributors describe progressive interventions to address that problem through just school funding, universal preschool, detracking, reduced class sizes, and community partnerships organizing from schools outward and from neighborhoods inward. In a 12-paged Section Five, the editors summarize and add to the conclusions of the preceding 28 chapters in order to restate the problems facing public schools, and to hypothesize evidence based “solutions” to those problems that take local contexts into consideration. They offer their policy suggestions in hopes to countervail the fact that, “state policymakers are not students of educational improvement; think tank lobbyists, not scientific experts, heavily shape the information they receive” (p. 95). The editors note that many celebrated the reauthorization of the ESEA, replacing NCLB with ESSA. Yet, they point to the fact, “From a teacher’s point of view, the new law continues the basic operations and principles of the previous law: It is fundamentally a test-driven, top-down, remediateand-penalize law. However, the ‘assistance’ and sanctions will depend on the state” (p. 667). They fear that state officials will make the same poor choices as the federal officials, particularly around opportunities for all students to learn. Countervailing requires the application of equal force against. In order to make their recommendations politically acceptable and economically feasible coalitions of citizens will need to follow Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich’s advice:
In Section Three, contributors take up specific propositions often used to justify market-based claims, providing evidence beyond test scores in order to debunk: scaled up miracles from Texas, Chicago, and the Knowledge Is Power Program; value-added statistics; the grassroots of the Common Core Standards; zero tolerance discipline; subcontracts for school services; and high tech/virtual schools. Perhaps with a note of frustration, Mathis and Trujillo conclude, “as shown in other chapters, these interventions have not shown systematic or broad success. Thus we called them ‘The False Promises’” (p. 431). In other words, the market based hypothesized solutions have not worked as planned, and the argument for their continuation is ideological and without an empirical foundation. In Section Four, Mathis and Trujillo turn toward non-market based reforms that feature goals and values outside of the neoliberal frame. “They are focused on the nation’s most important educational shortcoming, the lack of democratic equality of opportunity” (p. 435). In these chapters, terms begin
Nothing good happens in Washington, or for that matter, in state capitals, unless good people outside of Washington and those state capitals make it happen. Unless they
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 push very hard. Unless they’re organized, mobilized, and energized to force the political system to respond. (as quoted in Cook, 2012, p. 36)
outcomes; it produced negative impacts” (Balu, et al., 2015, p. 1). In both cases, scaling up evidencebased practices discounted local context and knowledge and failed to produce promised results.
In that spirit, I borrow a strategy that Ha-Joon Chang (2010) offers in 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism to suggest five alternative pathways through the 28 chapters for progressive coalitions interested in equitable, democratic public schooling.
From different vantage points, Biesta, (2010), Bryk (2015), and Erickson (2014) advocate for practicebased evidence to replace evidence-based practice in the hypotheses and arguments for solutions to the problem of inequalities of educational opportunities. Instead of asking, does this intervention work through randomized field trials, Bryk suggests “how to make various work processes, tools, role relationships, and norms interact more productively under a variety of conditions is the improvementcommunity’s learning goal. The resultant knowledge and associated empirical warrants are practice-based evidence” (p. 473, italics in original). “That means the celebration of local adaptation rather than an attempt to stamp it out by centralized planning and monitoring—policy that provides wiggle room— provides for custom tailoring of practices to fit the particularity of local circumstances” (Erickson, p. 4). Based on their summary of Section Four, Mathis and Trujillo seem like-minded. And Reich points the way to make practice-based evidence politically acceptable and economically feasible.
To ‘feel the Bern,’ read: Chapter 20, 3, 6, 8, 9, 22, 23, 26, and 27. Because Black Lives Matter, read: Chapter 14, 21, 2, 3, 15, 16, 23, 26 and 27. Freak-onomists, read: Chapter 4, 7, 12, and 28. Classroom teachers read: Chapter 1, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 18, 19, and 26. Legislative aides (because members of Congress don’t read), read Chapter 1 and Section 5 and stop listening to “think tank” pundits. To my reading, one thing lacking from Learning from the Federal Market-Based Reforms is caution about the concept of “scaling up.” That’s a lesson language and literacy educators should remember from the quick translation of the National Reading Panel report into the Reading First Initiative of NCLB. As Robert Calfee paraphrased from Gamse et al. (2011), the findings were clear cut but rather discouraging: (1) time spent on the program components increased—teachers did what they were told to do; (2) program impact on reading comprehension was negligible; and (3) there was no trend for comprehension performance to increase over the grades as teachers gained more experience with the program (2014, p. 5). Response to Intervention faces similar concerns because a first grader’s “assignment to receive reading intervention did not improve reading
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 References Ball, M. (2014, April 23). The privatization backlash. The Atlantic. Accessed September 19, 2016. http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/04/citystate-governments-privatization-contracting backlash/361016/ Balu, R., Zhu, P., Doolittle, F., Schiller, E., Jenkins, J., & Gersten, R. (2015). Evaluation of responses to intervention practices for elementary school reading. U.S. Department of Education. Accessed September 19, 2016. http://www.mdrc.org/sites/default/ files/RtI_2015_Full_Report_Rev_21064000.pdf.pdf Biesta, G. (2010). Why ‘what works’ still won’t work: From evidence-based practice to value-based education. Studies in the Philosophy of Education, 29, 491-503. Bryk, A. (2015). Accelerating how we learn to improve. Educational Researcher, 44, 467-477. Calfee, R. (2014). Knowledge, evidence and faith: How the federal government used science to take over public schools. K. Goodman, R. Calfee, & Y. Goodman (Eds.), Whose knowledge counts in government literacy policies?: Why expertise matters.(pp. 1-17). New York, NY: Routledge Chang, H. (2010). 23 Things they don’t tell you about capitalism. New York, NY: Bloomsbury. Cook, C. (2012). The Progressive interview with Robert Reich. The Progressive, 76, 11-36. Cuban, L. (2010). Common core standards: Hardly an evidence-based policy. Accessed September 19, 2016. https://larrycuban.wordpress.com/2010/07/25/common-core-standards-hardly-an-evidence-basedpolicy/ Erickson, F. (2014). Scaling down: A modest proposal for practice-based research in teaching. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 22, February 17 214. Accessed September 19, 2016. http://epaa.asu.edu/ojs/article/view/1473. Gamse, B., Bonlay, B. Fountain, A., Unlu, F. Maree, K., McCall, T. & McCormack, R. (2011). Reading first implementation study 2008-2009. U.S. Department of Education. Accessed September 19, 2016. https://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/eval/other/reading-first-implementation-study/report.pdf Krugman, P. (2016, September 26). Democratic family values. New York Times, A27. Saltman, K. (2012). The failure of corporate school reform. New York, NY: Routledge.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1â€”Spring 2017
The Value of Worthy Witnesses: Examining the Decolonization and Humanization of Research Reviewer: Stephanie Anne Shelton The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL
Paris, D., & Winn, M. T. (Eds.). (2014). Humanizing research: Decolonizing qualitative inquiry with youth and communities. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. ISBN: 978-1452225395
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 I sat in the Qualitative Research Special Interest Group (SIG) meeting at the American Educational Research Association Conference when Django Paris and Maisha T. Winn’s edited volume Humanizing Research: Decolonizing Qualitative Inquiry with Youth and Communities earned the SIG’s 2015 Book Award. Given the talk preceding the award presentation and the brief discussion following, I was certain that the book offered discussions on a range of topics that both were of interest and of import to me as a qualitative researcher. In my current role as an Assistant Professor of Qualitative Research, I approached the book as both a methodology instructor and student; the book spoke to both identities in valuable but ultimately uneven ways.
researchers’ physical presences, but they insist that researchers’ access to various sites and people demands humanization of both their participants and themselves. The editors consider how researchers might cease being merely watchers or recorders of participant data and insist that, in order to “decolonize […and] humanize the research process,” researchers must work to be worthy of the moments to which participants grant them entry. The diversity of chapters makes it clear that there is no one way to be a worthy witness, or to decolonize and humanize research; the chapters consistently do communicate, however, that researchers1 have a constant responsibility to reflect and to work to be truly worthy of those who contribute to their research.
The book’s Epilogue offers a clear descriptor of the overall work: “[T]his volume of scholarship [is] focused on decolonizing research methods,” specifically in relation to each of the authors having “been granted access to the lives of people in various contexts” (p. 250). In terms of how the book works to unify multiple authors’ efforts to decolonize and humanize qualitative empirical research, the Preface offers a prevailing theme, which all chapters incorporate at least implicitly, and which several authors discuss explicitly (e.g., Jocson’s Chapter 6; Kirkland’s Chapter 10). Thematically the text considers the concept of a researcher being a “worthy witness” (p. xiii) and doing the work of “worthy witnessing” (p. xiv), a discussion that extends Winn and Ubiles’ methodological notion of researchers as witnesses (2011). In short, Paris and Winn acknowledge that empirical research requires
The editors organized the book into four parts. The first section examines issues of researcher subjectivity and the role of trust in research; the second section offers chapters that discuss participatory activist research approaches; the third section considers the complexities of researcherparticipant relationships and the power differentials inherent in such interactions; the final section offers new methodological approaches that the authors argue continue the efforts to humanize and decolonize qualitative research. Throughout the four sections, the interdisciplinarity of the authors, their research, and their methodological approaches accentuate the notion that the discussions in this book are valuable to all fields and all researchers. While the majority of the authors situate themselves within educational research, the book offers perspectives from fields such as anthropology,
Paris and Winn’s book, given the title, is focused specifically on qualitative research. However, the chapters work to make individual experiences meaningful to a large body of researchers, which could certainly include quantitative researchers. Therefore, I typically
use the term “researcher” rather than “qualitative researcher” to acknowledge the ways that this book’s points could, and I think should, extend to a wide range of researchers and research methods.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 linguistics, sociology, and psychology, while examining a broad spectrum of social justice issues, including Indigenous populations’ experiences and LGBTQ perspectives (p. xv). The overall effect of a book that attempts to be so far-reaching is that the reader appreciates both the urgency with which the editors and authors discuss their research efforts and the applicability of the chapters to a wide range of disciplines; however, there are moments when the chapters seem to overlap rather than to complement. I had this sense, for example, while considering Diaz-Strong, Luna-Duarte, Gómez, and Meiners’ reflections on researcher subjectivities (Chapter 1) in conjunction with Figueroa’s examination of researchers’ departures from the field (Chapter 7). It was not that these, and other chapters, overlapped too much in content—though both of these chapters did examine undocumented immigrants’ experiences—it was instead that the chapters, at their heart, offered very similar discussions. In this case, both wrestled with the complexities of researchers being too personally invested and close to their research. Certainly such discussions are essential to advancing the quality and ethicality of qualitative research, but the degrees of overlap contained in the same volume at times left me wondering what other topics might have been included, to have made chapters’ discussions as diverse as the researchers’ and participants’ backgrounds.
Paris’ (2011) argument that such openness not only humanizes research, by making vulnerable and accessible those who are both being researched and being researchers, but is also “ethically necessary” and “increases the validity” of qualitative work (p. 1). All three chapters here are personal examinations of the ways that qualitative research requires that researchers and participants put their humanity on the line. Chapter 1 (Diaz-Strong et al.) considers the personal and political implications of shared identities and priorities through youth participants and adult researchers who are undocumented immigrants; both Chapter 2 (Kinlock & San Pedro), through an emphasis on listening to participants of color, and Chapter 3 (Blackburn), with a discussion of LGBTQ youths’ experiences, emphasize dialogue and the thematic notion of “witnessing” as researchers and participants co-construct research knowledge through shared experiences. Part II discusses specific methods that may effect positive social changes and that, due to the methods’ natures, require witnessing and deserve worthy witnessing (pp. 59-62). Chapter 4 (Irizarry & Brown) offers participatory action research (PAR) as a method that has potential to empower participants, in this case secondary urban youth, and to make possible necessary social changes. Chapter 5 (McCarty, Wyman, & Nicholas) and Chapter 6 (Jocson) discuss ethnography’s potential as a humanizing method. Both chapters emphasize the importance of research with rather than on participants, as researchers situate themselves in specific contexts already populated by knowledgeable participants. The section as a whole acknowledges that because PAR and ethnography are methods that demand close and constant contact between researchers and participants, with the lines between the two roles sometimes blurring, such research approaches can become messy and
In terms of the chapters themselves, the editors’ descriptors of the four sections provided a clear book structure, though there were several chapters that might have fit into another of the three sections due to the aforementioned overlaps. Part I works to humanize qualitative research through acknowledgements and discussions of researchers’ and participants’ vulnerabilities during and following the research process. This section adopts
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 complex (e.g., p. 63). Neither PAR nor ethnography offer the seeming safety of researcher detachment; for either to work, researchers must be in the thick of the action, with no clear rulebook on how to engage with the intricacies of human interaction within a research project.
chapters in earlier sections. The chapter clearly advanced the book’s purposes, but it did not advance this section’s goals. Part IV worked to reimagine existing methods and to offer new methodological approaches to conducting humanizing qualitative research as a worthy witness. Like its preceding chapter, Chapter 10 (Kirkland) did not seem to belong in its assigned section. Kirkland discussed ethnography as a means by which researchers might examine issues of race and racial identity in research. Again, a worthwhile topic in keeping with the overall book but not far removed from Chapter 5’s use of ethnography in discussing Indigenous youth in Part II or Chapter 8’s ethnographic approach in examining undocumented parents’ efforts to protect their children in Part III. Chapter 11 (Souto-Manning) discussed a new method, critical narrative analysis (CNA), by combining critical discourse analysis (CDA) and conversational narrative analysis. The method “encompasses the experiences of participants” by offering discourse-focused analysis of interview narratives, intertwining “language and the [participants’ and researchers’] social world” (p. 207). Chapter 12 (Tuck & Yang) was an essential section in this book, as the authors took on tasks that most of the other chapters seemed to actively avoid—acknowledgements of research’s and researchers’ limitations and abuses. Tuck and Yang argue that there are times when, if researchers truly want to humanize and decolonize research, they must necessarily refuse to do research (p. 223). There are times, they point out, when even the bestlaid, most well-intentioned research either further fetishizes participants (such as when researchers focus on oppressed populations’ narratives of pain and loss, thereby maintaining mainstream deficit understandings of those communities as only victimized) or strays into topics that, as the authors
The next three chapters continue considerations on “messy” research. This section contemplates the complexities that arise from working to humanize research. Dispensing with any pretense of researcher objectivity, a common stance adopted by most contemporary qualitative researchers, all of this book’s authors find themselves personally connected to people and topics that they had not foreseen. Part III considers the implications of such relationships. Chapter 7 (Figueroa) offers what I believe is a much-needed and long-overdue discussion on the complexities of researchers exiting their research sites. As Figueroa points out, researchers arrive to various locations to conduct research and then, when finished, typically have the luxury to leave “without attending to the complexities of departure” (p. 143), while participants must stay behind. She examines the damage that such exits deal to both the participants and the researchers, particularly when the research interactions built relationships and trust that the researcher simply discontinues. Chapter 8 (Greene) offers the metaphor of double dutch jump roping as a means by which she considers her researcher positionalities, both as a novice researcher and as a present-day experienced researcher. Chapter 9 (Romero-Little, Sims, & Romero) was an odd inclusion in this section, as its discussion of giftedness in Indigenous Pueblo youth seemed a better fit in Part I than III. Certainly the authors examined their subjectivities and the ways that their understandings and relationships shaped the research and themselves, but no more so than other
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 put it, produce “some forms of knowledge that the academy doesn’t deserve” (p. 232). There are topics which simply should not be made available for public consumption, through publications and conference presentations. Importantly, they point out that researchers’ and participants’ refusals to participate in some research “is not just a ‘no,’ but a redirection” for both a particular project and for qualitative research as a field of knowledge (p. 239).
but less useful to researchers who had no or limited experience with PAR, beyond reading the chapter. In returning to my efforts when reading the book to examine the text as both an instructor and student of qualitative research, I do believe that both identities were ultimately served. Given the complexities of the topics and the inconsistencies of chapters’ placements and reflection questions, I found my instructor self benefitting more, as I imagined both my own students and my former novice student self being at least somewhat confounded by the range of discussions and issues. However, I do believe that the text offers a necessary extension of already-in-motion conversations in qualitative research of the purposes of empirical research and the responsibilities of researchers, both in relation to participants and to knowledge production. Additionally, the breadth of disciplines, research foci, methods, theoretical considerations, and ethical implications offered here are rare and important. Paris and Winn’s point that all empirical researchers are witnesses is an important one, and given the relationships that often spring from qualitative human subject research, I agree with their assertion that all researchers should strive to be worthy witnesses. Researchers are formally only beholden to their institutions’ internal review boards (IRBs), but any research that involves others informally makes researchers responsible for considering the ways that their research matters to their participants, to themselves, and to the larger academic community. This book’s discussions of the ways that researchers might take on those responsibilities as humanizing and worthy of all involved are timely and necessary, making this edited collection a valuable resource for any person learning about or engaging in qualitative research.
The book’s chapters collectively offer important topics for consideration, many with which I continue to struggle as a researcher and with which my students wrestle in their own projects. However, there were inconsistencies in whom the editors seemed to understand the book’s primary audience to be. At the end of each chapter, authors offer reflection questions—arguably a useful tool for both novice and experienced qualitative researchers. The authors, though, did not seem to have a clear notion of who they were targeting with their questions. Chapter 1, for example, asked readers to consider why they were “engaging in this research project? Whose lives will it impact?” (p. 18)—questions that at least assumed research in-progress. Chapter 2, however, asked the question, “What is the dialogic spiral,” a term that the authors had discussed in detail in the chapter, and how “could it [the dialogic spiral] operate in your research?” (p. 41)—questions that required careful reading and at least theoretical application, but without the assumption of inmotion research. Chapter 4 asked readers what “beliefs about and dispositions toward youth must adults have in order to effectively conduct PAR [participatory action research] with K-12 students?” (p. 79)—a question that seemed most useful to experienced researchers whose familiarity with PAR might allow them to examine the power dynamics at work when research involves adults and children,
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 References Paris, D. (2011). “A friend who understand fully”: Notes on humanizing research in a multiethnic youth community. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 24(2), 137-149. Paris, D. & Winn, M. T. (Eds.). (2014). Humanizing Research: Decolonizing Qualitative Inquiry with Youth and Communities. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Winn, M. T. & Ubiles, J. R. (2011). Worthy witnessing: Collaborative research in urban classrooms. In A. Ball & C. Tyson (Eds.), Studying diversity in teacher education. New York, NY: Roman & Littlefield.
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Review of What Connected Educators Do Differently Reviewers: Melissa Adams-Budde, West Chester University, West Chester, PA & Joy Myers, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA
Whitaker, T., Zoul, J., & Casas, J. (2015). What connected educators do differently. New York, NY: Routledge. ISBN: 978-1138832008
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 In What Connected Educators Do Differently, Whitaker, Zoul, and Casas (2015) encourage readers to become connected educators by reaching beyond traditional career connections and entering into the broader educational network made available through social media tools such as Twitter because “there is simply too much to be gained and nothing to lose” (p. xx). In addition, the authors stress that educators should connect because it is relatively simple to engage virtually with people around the world, and being connected shapes our learning and our students’ learning. The authors admit that no amount of online connectivity can replace face-toface connections; however, they believe connecting in new ways allows educators to be more knowledgeable, effective, energized, and efficient as professionals.
The authors begin with Connector 1: “Invest in a Personal and Professional Learning Network” (P2LN), which details how to use digital tools and social media as a means of networking both professionally and personally with other educators. The success of educators’ learning networks depends on the time and effort that each individual is willing to commit to others and themselves. Twitter is the suggested “go to” tool for connectivity and in this chapter, the authors describe how to choose a Twitter name and create a profile. Although the idea of trying something like Twitter may feel uncomfortable, the authors stress that, “the global society in which we live has changed dramatically in the past few decades and we must be prepared to model for our students and for our colleagues a willingness to embrace this change” (p. 9). Becoming connected allows educators to take ownership of their professional learning, which is important because the profession has been “silent and isolated for too long” (p. 13). After reading this chapter, we were excited to begin our connected journey with the tools and ideas highlighted by the authors.
The primary purpose of the book is to showcase what connected educators do differently from those who are not connected and to share tips with others wishing to connect. The book is geared toward a wide audience, including educators in Pre-K to higher education and provides the reader with both instructional suggestions as well as anecdotal stories from Whitaker, Zoul, and Casas’ (2015) own experiences as connected educators. The authors all work in the field of education, hold advanced degrees, and share a passion for using digital and social media tools as a means of professional development.
Connector 2: “Learn What They Want, When They Want, How They Want” reminds educators not to limit their learning to traditional delivery modes like after school workshops. Instead, for example, participating in Twitter chats, online discussions about a specific topic, may be an alternative option and are free for anyone to join. In this chapter, the authors continue to provide more detail about connecting with other educators on Twitter and they explain hashtags, which allow educators to search Twitter by topic. The authors also suggest attending Edcamps, or loosely-organized conferences where educators gather informally to share information and ideas. Whether the learning occurs online or in person, educators need opportunities to connect and build professional relationships. With so many options and so little time, educators must choose wisely what they need to know, when they choose to learn it, and how they go about gaining the learning they need.
As professors of education, we hoped that this book would offer insight for us in terms of professionally connecting with others through social media tools as well as helping our preservice teachers develop an online presence prior to beginning their first job. Each chapter is organized around a key connector, an action that readers can take to connect with others in the field in order to further their professional learning. Each chapter concludes with the following three sections: Follow 5, where readers are encouraged to “follow” five educators from the authors’ professional networks on Twitter who offer insights on the chapter’s connector; Find 5, which links to five resources; and Take 5, which includes five action steps related to each connector.
Connector 3: “Embrace the Three C’s: Communication, Collaboration and Community”
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 focuses on how and why educators decide to become connected. Some do so because they feel isolated, perhaps because of the context of their school or discontentment with their colleagues. These feelings can compound for connected educators because “their own school districts may not see or appreciate the value that a connected educator can bring to the local organization” (p. 30). However, connected educators, as active members of online educational networks, can help cultivate a culture wherein all members of the school community feel comfortable disrupting routines and embracing a connected world. Tools such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, blogs, and podcasts are free and many schools are using social media to showcase the work of their students and staff, which creates a sense of pride. Connected educators “flatten the walls of the school so parents and the community can get a real and immediate glimpse of the countless meaningful activities being experienced by students in school every day” (p. 39). As teacher educators, we see how the suggestions in this chapter provide a way for schools to share everyday accomplishments with the broader community.
expected today to accomplish what might be expected tomorrow. The authors describe how connected educators use their personal and professional networks to connect with educators across the globe that challenge and extend their thinking as well as inspire them to excel. In order to achieve this goal, connected educators must be willing to step outside of their comfort zones in order to take risks and affect change. In addition, they must also keep up to date on current trends in education and beyond to inform their thinking. Connected educators then use this knowledge to inform and reflect on their own practices. The authors provide 16 strategies for making a positive impact on the lives of those with whom educators work most closely; however, only a few of the strategies, such as This Week on Twitter, Local Edcamp, and Televise the Tweets, are related to connectivity. Connector 6 “Know That it is Still About the 3 Rs: Relationships, Relationships, Relationships,” underscores the critical role relationships play in the lives of connected educators. These relationships extend beyond the walls of one’s school and/or district to a learning network that includes people from all over the world in all kinds of roles. This network serves as a means for sharing ideas, stories, questions and solutions. The authors highlight the importance of trust in these relationships and the idea that connected educators expect the best from themselves as well as others. Again, the authors reiterate the fact that connected educators seek out other personal and professional learning network (P2LN) members from diverse backgrounds in order to promote growth in their own thinking as well as that of others. While we agree with the premise of the connector, we found that it did not add any additional insight into our understanding of what connected educators do, since the importance of relationships was stressed throughout the first five connectors.
Connector 4: “Give and Take… and Give Some More” highlights how connected educators prioritize the use of social media for supporting improvements by adopting practices that are working in other schools around the world. The authors admit that for every one educator who commits to the connected journey, there are hundreds who lose interest along the way. The connected community can increase the chances of educators sticking with Twitter or other social media by following them. The authors found that once educators have about 100 followers, they tend to see the benefits of connecting this way. However, many give up before they get to this number. We often associate technology with speed; we expect everything to be fast and instant, but what we learn in this chapter is that building an online network requires time and persistence just as building a face-to-face network does. Connector 5: “Strive to be Tomorrow…Today” underscores how connected educators have a drive for excellence that pushes them beyond what is
Connector 7, “Model the Way,” introduces the idea of connected educators leading by example, pushing themselves and those around them to take risks, strive for their best, and create a collaborative school culture. The authors caution against the “lock
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 and block” approach (p. 100) that many school leaders adopt in response to the misuse of social media tools. Instead, they offer an alternative approach where challenges associated with social media tools are to be expected and embraced. The authors emphasize the importance of creating a culture that trusts students and staff to use social media tools responsibly and as a means to extend their learning and brand their school. When a problem arises, they suggest treating it as a teachable moment. However, while the authors include an example of a school system taking the “lock and block” approach (at Roosevelt High School in Los Angeles Unified School District in 2013, when students figured out how to hack iPad security to access Facebook), they fail to provide a concrete example of how challenges might be addressed in a culture of trust. This lack of specific, usable information surrounding a real problem that schools grapple with on a daily basis is just one example of the how the book does not provide readers with the specific strategies necessary for moving forward in their connected journey.
professional networks and becoming more digitallyconnected. After reading the first few chapters, which provided clear directions for establishing a P2LN via Twitter, we were enthusiastic about setting up our Twitter accounts and seeking out educators to follow and learn from. However, as we read through the remaining chapters, this enthusiasm soon dwindled and turned into frustration at the lack of specific suggestions provided by the authors. For example, the primary tool for connecting promoted in the text was Twitter, but the authors provided little information on other social media tools that could be useful in connecting with educators and students around the globe. This book was written with the intent purpose of identifying “what it is, precisely, that connected educators do differently from those who are not and how we can share these practices with other educators wishing to connect” (p. xxi). While this was the stated purpose, the authors fall short of this goal. Much of the book paints an idealistic, unattainable vision of what it means to be a connected educator. According to the authors, connected educators “give of themselves freely and often” (p. 45), “possess an almost fanatical ‘pay it forward’ mindset” (p. 46), “respond consistently whenever they are called upon (p. 49), “bring their best to their organization every day” (p. 66), “fundamentally believe that together they can change the world” (p. 70), “are able to anticipate the next thing coming at them” (p. 74), and “have high expectations for everyone with whom they interact professionally—and even higher expectations for themselves” (p. 86). The authors create a picture of the connected educator as the epitome of perfection and set up a dichotomy where the disconnected educator sadly is lacking.
Connector 8, “Know When to Unplug,” refers to the fact that connected educators understand the importance of a work-life balance and thus intentionally take time to unplug and spend time with friends, family, and themselves in order to maintain this balance. The authors cite studies showing how spending too much time plugged in can lead to physical, emotional, and mental health problems. While there are many ways for connected educators to unplug, the authors share three common ways many connected educators do so: exercise, reading, and solitude. By unplugging, connected educators allow themselves the opportunity to de-stress, refocus, and relax. By doing so, they position themselves to reconnect and give their all. We agree that a work-life balance is important and that achieving this balance can lead to greater productivity, relationships, and quality of life and feel that this message extends to both connected and disconnected educators alike. As two college professors of education, we eagerly began reading What Connected Educators Do Differently with the hopes of extending our online
In short, What Connected Educators Do Differently encourages readers to embrace the opportunities social media tools, such as Twitter, offer for professional learning and students’ learning. We agree with the authors’ argument that these tools are essential for 21st century teaching and learning. However, beyond suggestions for starting a professional network on Twitter, which are explained in the first few chapters, and the
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1â€”Spring 2017 suggestions at the end of each chapter (Follow 5, Find 5, Take 5), we found the book lacking in terms of substance and concrete steps educators can take in achieving connectivity. In addition, we worry whether this information will quickly become outdated given the ever-changing nature of the internet and social media tools. Despite these shortcomings, we do recognize the value of this book for educators looking to further their own learning and that of their students using digital tools. We live in a global society, and as educators, it is our obligation to prepare students for success. To do this, we also need to extend our learning beyond the walls of our own classroom and school. In addition, social media tools provide learning opportunities that may not be available in our immediate context. Therefore, we recommend this book for educators looking to expand their online presence, as well as those who are just getting started on the pathway to becoming a connected educator.
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Practical Classroom Implementations that Yield Results: A Book Review of Maximizing Motivation for Literacy Learning: Grades K-6 Reviewer: Rebecca Benjamin University at Albany, State University of New York, Albany, NY Schenectady City School District, Schenectady, NY
Marinak, B. A., Gambrell, L. B., & Mazzoni, S. A. (2013). Maximizing motivation for literacy learning: Grades K-6. New York, NY: The Guilford Press. ISBN: 978-14625074511
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 The extraordinary influence of motivation for engaged and accelerated learning has been documented throughout decades of educational research (Deci Deci, Vallerand, Pelletier, & Ryan, 1991; Guthrie et al., 1996; Guthrie & Humenick, 2004; Irvin et al., 2007; Weiner, 1990). Marinak, Gambrell, and Mazzoni have seized the opportunity to present elementary educators with an accessible array of methods that promote literacy motivation, confidence, and value. They situate their ideas within the existing literature, referencing research that has correlated successful literacy learners with students who were motivated to engage in literacy activities, confident that they could succeed in literacy tasks, and able to recognize authentic value in the experiences associated with literacy learning (Deci, 1992; Eccles, 1983; Gambrell, 2011; Guthrie, Hoa, Wigfield, Tonsk, Humenick, & Littles, 2007; Mitzelle, 1997; Schiefele, 1991).
expanding their theoretical knowledge and classroom applications. In the conclusion, the authors return to this initial survey, providing answers and substantiation through references to the literature and practical examples from their text. Maximizing Motivation for Literacy Learning is organized into seven sections, consisting of an introduction, three chapters of lessons (referred to as “methods”), a case study, motivational assessment instruments, and a conclusion. The introduction provides the survey questions and an explanation of the “five general principles of motivation that support literacy motivation” (p. xiii). These principles recommend that teachers: Maximize the motivational context of the classroom library; Maximize opportunities for students to engage in sustained reading;
This book is part of the Teaching Practices That Work series, edited by Lapp and Fisher. This collection is designed to provide school instructors with models of teaching and learning that can successfully be integrated into their own classrooms. They aim to supply teachers with tools they can use amidst the challenges of drastically differing student needs arising from growth in “linguistic, cultural, and socioeconomic diversity” (p. ix) in student populations. Maximizing Motivation for Literacy Learning, like the other books in this series, was written by a team of educators who are experienced and up-to-date in their knowledge of classroom lessons and techniques. The authors are quick to define “motivation to read” (the likelihood of choosing to engage in reading, p. xiii), link motivation to engagement, and interactively engage their readers by providing a “Myths and Truths” survey in the introduction. This inclusion allows readers to evaluate a list of items pertaining to “nurturing intrinsic reading motivation” (p. xi). The activity provides a framework for readers to consider their preconceived notions of motivational literacy strategies as individuals, colleagues, or students, and allows them to use that framework as a scaffold for
Maximize opportunities for students to make choices about what they read and how they engage in and complete literacy tasks; Maximize opportunities for students to socially interact with others about the texts they are reading; Maximize opportunities for students to engage in literacy tasks and activities that are relevant to their lives.” (p. xv) The inclusion of these principles works to educate readers on the potential value and benefits of the classroom methods that will be presented in the latter chapters. The methods are divided into sections that focus on “Motivating Classroom Communities,” “Promoting Self-Concept as a Reader,” and “Promoting the Value of Reading.” All of the methods presented contain teaching models that are well-aligned with current educational standards, can be easily replicated in current classrooms, and are mostly wellsubstantiated in the literature. In addition to a clear explanation describing the activity, each method is
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 also accompanied by information regarding the relationship between the presented activity and acquiring motivation for literacy learning. Explicit steps for classroom implementation are provided for each method in a practical “How It Works” section, which allows teachers to recognize the ease of practical application. Some of the methods are accompanied with opportunities for extension. Marinak, Gambrell, and Mazzoni, through the act of providing classroom-ready plans for school activities, have done the work of moving theoretical motivational research to implementation, allowing teachers to immediately put these methods into practice.
visualizing implementation. The activities described can be applied to a variety of class levels, topics, and reading materials that teachers have available, without requiring educators to adhere to specific programs or curricula. While the methods are presented with strong foundations (and reasoning based on motivational theory and research) for activities, the implementation is left very openended and can be adjusted as any educator determines necessary for their situation. The methods promote intrinsic motivation through engaging literacy tasks, allowing teachers to strive for this desired goal within the context of their local school system demands and resource accessibility.
One method that was described in the “Promoting Self-Concept as a Reader” section clearly portrayed effective instruction by using strategies of engagement and student choice to further literacy motivation. This method presented the notion of allowing students to assume the role of “Expert” and the responsibility of “Teacher,” in a method entitled “Experts Teaching” (p. 41). This method referenced research on applying a jigsaw lesson (Aronson et al., 1978) to a classroom unit or topic. It incorporates strategies to build intrinsic motivation, including processes of allowing students to self-select the specific content they will be reading within that overarching unit, allowing student choice in the groups within which they will work, and providing students with time to collaborate with classmates. The students then work in their groups to build their expertise on their chosen topic and determine how they want to share their newfound knowledge with their other classmates.
Directly after the three chapters of classroom methods, there is a case study example describing a situation where the authors worked as consultants for a public elementary school’s literacy program. As an educator, I found this example refreshingly reassuring. The description portrayed a school facing many challenges; challenges with which countless other teachers are struggling right now. These challenges result from pressure to push students to higher levels, while working to meet current requirements at building, district, and state levels. This case study described teachers as “frustrated by rigid, uniform expectations” (p. 113) and students who were disengaged from literacy learning in general - situations that are disheartening despite their familiarity (Washer & Mojkowski, 2014).
The value and utility of the methods that are developed by Marinak, Gambrell, and Mazzoni in Maximizing Motivation for Literacy Learning are enhanced by their flexible application. The methods have been developed with current research in mind, and the references for the research theory and classroom resources are provided throughout the book. Additionally, these authors draw on their classroom experiences and present methods that have been successful with students, and they provide a case study chapter to assist readers in
Throughout the case study, this common problem of disengagement was addressed through creative repurposing of classroom teachers and support specialists in the construction of a schedule that many schools would be able to replicate with their existing resources. Methods that had been identified earlier in the book were put into action, and the case study described authors and educators using them in the intervention process for this school. References to some of methods that were introduced in prior chapters, within a context where they were supported with research-based evidence and examples of success, validated my confidence in the
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 suggestions that Marinak, Gambrell, and Mazzoni had proposed.
these resources. References to classroom technology and instant polling options could help teachers implement these suggestions without necessitating the devotion of time to preparing hard copies of these teaching tools.
The assessment chapters (which contain The Motivation to Read Profile and The Motivation to Write Scale) examine tools that some of the authors had developed in an earlier project (Gambrell et al., 1996). These tools had been utilized in the case study, and their incorporation allows any educator reading this book access to the same initial assessments that could be used in an analysis of their classroom. These tools can offer assistance as educators work to plan their own literacy value, engagement, and motivation interventions. The assessment tools do contain supporting information that is referenced at other points in this text. However, their inclusion allows these chapters to function as stand-alone texts that could be used specifically for supporting knowledge and administration of these tools.
Practitioners, administrators, and teacher-education students could all benefit from the information provided in Maximizing Motivation for Literacy Learning. College classrooms and professional development sessions alike could benefit from discussion and planning sessions based around the material that Marinak, Gambrell, and Mazzoni have provided. One such method is titled “Promoting the Value of Literacy at Home,” which the literature suggests is a key element necessary for elementary students to improve their literacy exposure (and as a result, their value, confidence, and motivation) (Marinak & Gambrell, 2009). While this book is intended for practitioners and focused on application, the research theory behind motivation and engagement for literacy success is introduced and explained in-depth in the introduction with full citations and references, and these references are then used throughout the book. The methods described are pertinent and accessible, grounded in research, and can easily be worked into a classroom routine while maintaining post-common core expectations and standards.
While the information and suggestions provided throughout Maximizing Motivation for Literacy Learning are extremely valuable, the order of presentation might be enhanced to support reader clarity. Occasionally, the methods that are described allude to other methods that have not yet been explained, and the presentation could be improved through re-ordering methods within a chapter. Additionally, “Promoting the Value of Reading” conveys the importance of an initial goal under which “Motivating Classroom Communities” and “Promoting Self-Concept as a Reader” would fall, which presents some fodder for consideration regarding moving it from the last chapter of methods to the first. Throughout the book, there are a variety of helpful tools in the form of assessments, teaching aids, graphic organizers, and classroom charts that provide teachers with resources that support quick implementation of these lesson and activity suggestions. A reference section in which all of them could be found would be even more useful, and a CD supplement or access to an electronic website source would provide a greater level of convenience to educators attempting to quickly access and use
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References Aronson, E., Blaney, N., Stephan, C., Sikes, J., & Snapp, M. (1978). The jigsaw classroom. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage. Deci, E. L. (1992). The relation of interest to the motivation of behavior: A self-determination theory perspective. In A. Renninger, S. Hidi, & A. Krapp (Eds.), The role of interest in learning and development (pp. 43-70). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. Deci, E. L., Vallerand, R. J., Pelletier, L. G., & Ryan, R. M. (1991). Motivation and education: The self determination perspective. Educational Psychologist, 26, 325-346. Eccles, J. (1983). Expectancies, values, and academic behaviors. In T. Spence (Ed.), Achievement and achievement motives: Psychological and sociological approaches (pp. 75-114). San Francisco: Freeman. Gambrell, L. B. (2011). Motivation in the school reading curriculum. In T. Rasinski (Ed.), Developing reading instruction that works (pp. 41-65). Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press. Gambrell, L. B., Palmer, B. M., Codling, R. M., & Mazzoni, S. A. (1996). Assessing motivation to read. The Reading Teacher, 19(7), 518-533. Guthrie, J. T., Hoa, A. L. W., Wigfield, A., Tonks, S. M., Humenick, N. M., & Littles, E. (2007). Reading motivation and reading comprehension growth in the later elementary years. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 32, 282-313. Guthrie J. T., & Humenick, N. M. (2004). Motivating students to read: Evidence for classroom practices that increase reading motivation and achievement. In P. McCardle & V. Chabra (Eds.), The voice of evidence in reading research (pp. 329-354). Baltimore, MD: Brookes. Guthrie, J., Van Meter, P., McCann, A., Wigfield, A., Bender, L., Poundstone, C., et al. (1996). Growth of literacy engagement: Changes in motivations and strategies during concept-oriented reading instruction. Reading Research Quarterly, 31, 306-325. Irvin, J., Meltzer, J., & Dukes, M. S. (2007). Taking action on adolescent literacy: An implementation guide for school leaders. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Marinak, B., & Gambrell, L. (2009). Rewarding reading?: Perhaps authenticity is the answer. Teachers College Record, 1-6. Retrieved from www.tcrecord.org/content.asp?contentid=15608. Mitzelle, N. B. (1997). Enhancing young adolescents’ motivation for literacy learning. Middle School Journal, 24(2), 5-14. NASBE Study Group on Middle and High School Literacy. (2006). Reading at risk: The state response to the crisis in adolescent literacy (Rev. ed.). Alexandria, VA: National Association of State Boards of Education. Retrieved February 17, 2007, from http://www.carnegie. org/literacy/pdf/Reading_at_Risk_report.pdf. Schiefele, U. (1991). Interest, learning, and motivation. Educational Psychologist, 26(3), 299-323. Washer, E., & Mojkowski, C. (2014). Student disengagement: It’s deeper than you think. Phi Delta Kappan, 95(8), 8-10.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1â€”Spring 2017 Weiner, B. (1990). History of motivational research in education. Journal of Educational Psychology, 82(4), 616622.
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Review of Reading Upside Down: Identifying and Addressing Opportunity Gaps in Literacy Instruction Reviewer: Yanty Wirza Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Wolter, D. L. (2015). Reading upside down: Identifying and addressing opportunity gaps in literacy instruction. New York, NY: Teachers College Press. ISBN: 978-0-8077-5665-2
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 In the midst of noisy debates and concerns around achievement gaps in literacy instruction, Deborah L. Wolter’s work offers distinctive ways of looking at and assessing literacy problems. The author uses scholarly research on literacy practices and interventions on struggling beginning readers as well as data from credible agencies such as the U.S. Department of Education and the National Center for Education Statistics to back her claims on common practices of literacy instruction. She argues that they tend to focus more on the achievement gaps that label young readers disproportionately as being deficient. She identifies that the labeling practices such as “unready,” “at risk,” “ESL,” and “learning disability” to diagnose students with reading challenges have done more harm than good. These labeling practices have been recognized since the 1950s to be detrimental to the label carrier because they cause “the individuals to become that which he is labeled as being” (Rist, 2016, p. 77). In other words, labeling practice could become selffulfilling prophecies that diminish young readers’ potential to grow. Therefore, Wolter invites us to understand that the achievement gaps are largely caused by the lack of opportunity for quality literacy instruction, rather than cognitive problems.
Driven by this concern, Wolter proposes a paradigm shift from focusing on achievement gaps toward opportunity gaps to create more space for inclusive, quality, individualized, and meaningful literacy instruction. Wolter is well aware that the changes she is advocating involve many stakeholders at multiple levels of the educational system: teachers, administrators, policy makers, consultants, and families of struggling early readers as well as the general public troubled by this situation. It is important to note that she is not theoretical in her approach; she emphasizes the practical aspects on “a much smaller, but certainly valuable, scale: how individual students are successfully taught to read and write.” (p. xxi). The book is organized around the different reading problems traditionally identified by general education teachers, schools and district administrations. For each chapter, Wolter presents case studies of students with different reading challenges and shows how the existing programs perpetuate the problems and even make them worse from the point of view of the students and their families. In addressing the issues, Wolter includes discussions attempting to “bring responsibility, professional judgment, and decision making back to the educators where it belongs” (p. xxiii). Wolter prefaces the book by bringing forward a case of a student named Jenna labeled with ADD and dyslexia. The “specialized” phonic program Jenna initially participated in did not seem to solve her problem: she hardly passed the kindergarten reading level as a 4th grade student. The targeted and specialized holistic approach Wolter used to help Jenna proved that in several months, Jenna was able to catch up with her reading skills. Using Jenna’s case, Wolter points out despite the slogans of quality and fair education for all of our children, reality sketches different stories. In various places she shows discontent with the remote policies and regulations, our misinformed decisions, as well as the ready-made private programs that fail to understand the problems of the education system in the U.S. These, she demonstrates, are some of the root causes of the mistreatment and poor
Based on years of experience as an elementary teacher consultant at Ann Arbor Michigan public schools and her own experiences and challenges that she faced as a deaf student herself, Wolter questions the practices of partial, non-inclusive interventions provided to these students. Working one-on-one with challenged early readers for many years, Wolter shows that these practices have been proven to not only perpetuate the negative stigma attached to the label carriers, but also to work poorly in helping students thrive in their literacy abilities. According to Boykin and Noguera (2011), mechanisms and procedures used in schools to identify talent and potential in students are “not precise and deeply flawed” (p. ix). In many cases, students who possess the capacity to achieve are denied opportunities because such potential is not readily apparent or in accordance with the “manuals” provided by the administrations.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 instruction students receive, hence her argument for providing natural all-inclusive environments, where students benefit from positive social support.
Here Wolter presents various cases that relate to ableism – a set of beliefs, attitudes and practices that devalue and limit the potential of persons with disabilities. Wolter challenges the current practices that often use the umbrella term ableism in placing the students in the “special education” category. She criticizes the practices of assigning students with different cognitive, physical, emotional and social disabilities into special education programs where they generally focus more on the disabilities and try to “fix” them. By so doing, they dismiss the opportunities for the students to catch up with their peers in general education. The U.S. Department of Education reminds us that the purpose of special education is “to meet the needs of students with disabilities as well as to educate them along side nondisabled peers to the maximum extend appropriate” (as cited in Wolter, 2015, p. 31). In this respect, Wolter suggests that opportunity gaps can be reduced by shifting the focus away from their disabilities and placing the students in mainstream classrooms with the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) approach (Rose & Meyer, 2002) where the curriculum is intentionally and systematically designed to address individual differences.
Chapter 1: ’Tis the Good Reader that Makes the Good Book. This chapter presents the tensions around school readiness where students may start schooling with literacy abilities that are not validated by the schools, resulting in students being labeled as “at risk” or “unready.” Wolter observes that, because literacy encompasses vast range of abilities, our educational system should not impose a rigid and limited definition of literacy. Treating the struggling students who are not ready for school literacy as pathological symptoms of cognitive deficiencies and removing them from their classroom to be placed in separate and specialized program is an overreaction to a misunderstood situation. Instead, Wolter suggests that educators and policy makers develop a more flexible and responsive curriculum that connects school and home literacies with strong community involvement. Chapter 2: Checking the Weather.
Chapter 4: It Looks Greek to Me
In this chapter, Wolter addresses the issue of seeing the students as “struggling readers,” those who do not achieve proficiency, fluency, and/or comprehension in a well-rounded manner. Using the weather as a metaphor to symbolize the social and political circumstances that tend to create onesize-fits-all programs and approaches that do not work for the struggling readers, Wolter proposes that teachers utilize more individualized, shortterm, and intensive interventions that are closely aligned with their general education. A word of advice at the end of this chapter is that teachers should be critical of these social and political circumstances in the school district that often times does not serve the best interests of struggling readers.
This chapter is concerned with students for whom English is not their first language, or those who use “nonstandard English” as their primary mode of communication. In the review of emergent bilingual in pre-K-12 settings, Garcia, Kleifgen, and Falchi (2008) also argue that one of the most misunderstood issues is how to teach the children who are not proficient in “standard” English. In tackling this matter, Wolter asserts that schools should respect and cherish the students’ rich linguistic and cultural backgrounds, something that is severely lacking in the school environment. Therefore, she emphatically suggests that these students be presented with multilingual literacy instruction that is individualized, connected, and meaningful and that provides adequate social and emotionally safe support for effective literacy development.
Chapter 3: The Gift of Reading
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 Chapter 5: You can’t Judge a Book by Its Cover
Chapter 7: Reading the Fine Print of Tests
This chapter deals with the issues of race in literacy instruction. In multiple cases, some students of color are disproportionately associated with the issues of disabilities, poverties, language, and family values that subject them to harsh exclusionary school disciplinary practices. McDermott, Raley, and Seyer-Ochi (2009) in their review of race, class, and disabilities in education posit that these are relational terms; they are not stand-alone phenomena. The authors further argue that a more egalitarian approach is sorely needed in our educational system where social and cultural resources and support are afforded to racially minoritized students. In this regard, Wolter advocates for minimizing the impacts of racial labels by listening to the voices of race, balancing race and colorblindness, handling public judgment, and creating a culturally and linguistically safe environment.
In this final chapter of identifying opportunity gaps, Wolter examines issues around tests in literacy education. For many students, tests create more questions than answers where the nature and the structure of the tests work against the students’ unique strengths and serve as a poor measure for instructional quality. Wolter calls for more comprehensive, individually tailored assessment where students are given well-rounded evaluation. In accordance with Stiggins et al. (2004), they propose an assessment for learning, instead of assessment of learning. Conclusion In the light of current concerns over the achievement gaps, Wolter’s work serves as a powerful wake up call for all of us who are troubled with problematic literacy practices and hope to rethink the ways we see and treat our young students and the systems that perpetuate these practices. Instead of focusing on what is wrong with students on how “they can’t or won’t learn to read and write” (p. xvii, emphases are original), Wolter invites us to appreciate and help students with “what they can and will do is one step toward ensuring opportunities for literacy instruction” (p. 110, emphases are original).
Chapter 6: Reading as an Escape? Wolter describes in this chapter how young readers with mental, emotional and behavioral difficulties such as the inability to focus; having high anxiety; showing reluctance, anger, or disengagement; and other impulsive behaviors are often subject to “tough-love” disciplinary approaches. Teachers sometimes find that the young students are “acting out” or “being difficult,” which prevents them from accelerating in their literacy development. In handling these issues, the schools typically demand that the young students in distress “should behave before they can access literacy instruction” (p. 83), without taking a closer look at the causes of these behaviors. These practices are immensely detrimental to the young students. Wolter argues that instead of quickly judging the behaviors as a form of intentional incompliance, schools should create and foster a more inclusive, trusting, safe, warm, and accepting atmosphere, where students with emotional disturbances can feel loved and appreciated. That, in turn, will strengthen their literacy development.
Throughout the book, there is ample space given for reflection and deep thought about how things are done in our education system in treating early struggling readers. She believes that more literacy opportunities can be created through a solid foundation of ownership, expertise, inclusion, universal design, and authentic and engaging reading practices. Her message is to not let ableism be the sole factor in determining the students’ failure to learn to read and write. Readers will benefit from the illustrations and examples of alternative instruction that is supported by research. However, Wolter leaves it open for educators to decide based on their own unique situations. One point worth mentioning here is that this book is pleasant to read but hard to implement, especially in
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 the neoliberal era where economic rationality rules, “efficiency and an ‘ethic’ of cost-benefit are the dominant norms” (Apple, 2016, p. 258). It would be beneficial if Wolter could anticipate more of the struggles teachers face and provide insights on how to deal with them. Overall, the book calls for change
and hope, and at the same time offers inspirational stories from real cases that are eye-opening and insightful for teachers, administrators, parents, and general readers who care about improving literacy instruction in our educational systems to change from reading upside down to reading right side up.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1â€”Spring 2017 References Apple, M. W. (2016). Whose markets, whose knowledge? In Alan R. Sadovnik and Ryan W. Coughlan (Eds.). Sociology of education (3th ed.) (pp. 257-278). New York: Routldge. Boykin, A. W. and Noguera, P. (2011). Creating the opportunity to learn: Moving from research to practice to close achievement gap. Virginia: ASDC. GarcĂa, O., Kleifgen, J. A., & Falchi, L. (2008). From English Language Learners to Emergent Bilinguals. Equity Matters. Research Review No. 1. Campaign for Educational Equity, Teachers College, Columbia University. McDermott, R., Raley, J. D., & Seyer-Ochi, I. (2009). Race and class in a culture of risk. Review of research in education, 33(1), 101-116. Rist, C. R. (2016). On understanding the processes of schooling: The contribution of labeling theory. In Alan R. Sadovnik and Ryan W. Coughlan (Eds.). Sociology of education (3th ed.) (pp. 71-72). New York: Routldge. Rose, D. H., & Meyer, A. (2002). Teaching every student in the digital age: Universal design for learning. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development Stiggins, R. J., Arter, J. A., Chappuis, J., & Chappuis, S. (2004). Classroom assessment for student learning: doing it right--using it well. Assessment Training Institute.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1â€”Spring 2017
Review of Challenging Perceptions in Primary Education: Exploring Issues in Practice Reviewer: Lin Chen The University of Georgia, Athens, GA
Sangster, M. (Eds). (2015). Challenging perceptions in primary education: Exploring issues in practice. London, UK: Bloomsbury.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 This informative text questions the influence of beliefs, practices, and policies on primary education. The critical stance of the text challenges practitioners to reflect on their perceptions of key educational issues. It highlights the importance of teacher autonomy and wider perspectives about educational environments, instructional practices, and curriculum in England while also considering other countries
Teaching; Learning from Education in Other Countries; and Exploring Wider Perspectives on Education. Next, I will review the five sections with brief descriptions. Part One: Creating a good learning environment Focusing on the cultivation of vibrant learners and the creation of a positive learning environment, this section answers the following question: How can teachers create a classroom environment that is inspiring and stimulating for children? Barnes provides an excellent introduction to the section by presenting twelve principles that promote a shared value system of teachers and students; highlight the influence of the object’s power on learning; emphasize flexible classroom arrangement and positive interaction with the social environment; and privilege “positive emotional connections” over “simple knowledge acquisition” (p. 6). Walter continues consideration of these issues with the learning environment and promotes SMSC (students’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development) in schools. As she discovers, SMSC provides opportunities for students to have a more meaningful and comprehensive education, as opposed to a standard-driven, strictly measurable agenda that results in children’s “fear of official definition of failure” (p. 12). In addition, the section provides readers with other thought-provoking approaches that include specialist pedagogy, pupils and teachers’ deceptions, and school trips.
The editor’s thought-provoking introduction to the book sets the tone by considering three challenges to current perceptions in primary education. First, the editor challenges the current anachronistic form of education based on traditions that are no longer suitable for today’s children. She points out that educators must provide children with critical thinking and adaptable tools for an unknown future. To accomplish this task, she recommends “a captivating learning experience” that motivates children to engage in lifelong learning (p. xvii). Second, she questions the expectations that primary schools have for children. If the main goal of school is only to transmit the basic skills – reading, writing, and calculating – then the definition of education is narrowed. Sangster proposes that children and their parents’ voices should be taken into consideration by the goal designers so primary school children can achieve more. Third, the editor critiques the dominant notion of learning as a teacher-crafted discipline. To contradict the misinterpretation, the editor upholds students’ self-driven learning that leads to equity, diversity and inclusion in schools. Being faced with these challenges, the editor finally advocates for teachers’ professional autonomy to keep them “unique in their interpretation of education, unique in their procedural choices and unique in their relationships with the children in their class” (p. xviii).
Additionally, this section promotes a deeper understanding of positive learning environments by exploring approaches to and the occurrence of learning. In his chapter, Vincent considers play as “a powerful motivator for learning” (p. 17) and suggests the inclusion of play in the curriculum. Aligned with Vincent’s claim, Hope writes his article to recommend learning through doing. As he writes, “through making, they (children) can see their own ideas come to fruition and see themselves as active agents in
The book is a collection of thirty-two individual chapters written by authors affiliated with Canterbury Christ Church University, an institution deeply engaged in teacher education. The text covers five major sections: Creating a Good Learning Environment; Developing an Effective Curriculum; Using Imagery in
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 the creation of new things” (p. 21). In her chapter, Sangster points out that student learning can be enhanced when informative assessment is applied in class to maximize opportunities for each student to learn. Hardman takes a further step by going over the occurrence of learning in his article, revealing that learning is messy and results from a complexity of classroom dynamics, rather than a linear process. In all, Part one does a thorough exploration into the creation of a good learning environment and indicates its inseparable connection with an offer of an effective curriculum. Part two goes one step further by presenting what an effective curriculum is and how teachers can develop it.
schools. As he suggests, doing so will prepare students for their future, possibly allaying fears that students may have learned from the media’s sensational news coverage. Focusing on the value of students’ life and the curriculum, Matthews describes children’s mathematical knowledge as being socially constructed within the context of their shared life experience. This approach highlights application of conceptual understanding into different situations and connections of learning in the school to learning at home. Then, Schulze proposes that second language learning should be brought into learners’ real life. According to her, this learning brings the students not only “a truly holistic sensory experience” but also strong motivations (p. 65), running counter to the learning environment that is tightly structured with the pressure of testing, and thus assails the learners’ senses. Lastly, Howells, in her chapter, explores the educational values inherent in schools’ break-times. She calls for more physical space for schools’ playgrounds and more focus on children’s break-time for physical activity. To sum up, Part two promotes an effective curriculum that connects students’ real life and their social and emotional development to subject teaching. Part three furthers the conversation about what to include in an effective curriculum by discussing the impact of visual imagery on teaching and learning as it is increasingly incorporated into classrooms in England (Sangster, 2015).
Part Two: Developing an effective curriculum In England, the present curriculum emphasizes the core subjects alone, marginalizing other subjects that make contributions to children’s learning (Sangster, 2015). But, is this type of curriculum effectively able to provide students with a captivating experience? To address this thorny issue, part two offers several solutions that are summed up in two approaches: preserving and integrating marginalized subjects in the curriculum and valuing students’ lives by relating them to the curriculum. In his chapter, Barnes argues for the protection of the arts in schools due to their important role in the social and emotional development of children. His argumentative writing cites various types of resources, including philosophical works, psychological discoveries, educational studies and international documents related to children’s learning or well-being, to demonstrate art’s educational value. Next, Whyte moves away from the arts and draws upon a government document and previous studies to justify geography as one of the foundational subjects in curriculum due to its broad influences on children’s daily routines and global and social connectivity. Later, Scoffham directs the reader toward children’s futures and proposes a need for the subject of climate-change in primary
Part three: Using imagery in teaching Four chapters in Part three explore the application of imagery to classroom teaching in two aspects. First, this section focuses on the use of digital imagery, and it retains a complex stance that addresses both positive and negative attitudes in relation to the digital age. Bentley’s chapter clarifies potential threats that the use of digital imagery poses to children’s learning. Drawing upon the theories of Sweller (1988), Miller (1956) and Paivio (1986), Bentley discovers that the issues of image-text mismatches and unnecessary cognitive loads can emerge from
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 teachers’ application of digital imagery in teaching. However, Hewlett and March, in their chapter, maintain that electronic programs and devices, such as the iPad, can empower children to take risks in the pursuit of artistic endeavor. Both of them find that the iPad gives children the freedom to make mistakes and leads them to bolder experimentation when they develop and refine their initial ideas in the process of making artwork.
and transformative experience for teachers. Clarke further regards this transformation as being conducive to the development of the teachers’ identities. But in discussion of student-teachers’ international placements in developing countries, Mahon raises a concern. Although he believes that international experiences shape the studentteachers’ understanding of challenges faced by nonEnglish-speaking students, he worries that teachers and students in those developing countries may not benefit from this offer of voluntary teaching.
This section expands the discussion of using imagery in relation to its connection to visual literacy. In his chapter, Gregory shows his great concern for the gradual disappearance of the subject of art and design in primary schools. To address this issue, Gregory undertakes a thorough and informative discussion of this subject’s three strands––seeing, knowing and believing––that contribute to the development of students’ visual literacy, an important skill in today’s society. Gillespie furthers this discussion in the context of religious education. Gillespie highlights the need for nurturing children’s visual literacy as he believes that this ability is of great value when it is used as a tool for their exploration of religious knowledge. In conclusion, Part three, as well as Part two and Part one, maps primary education in contemporary England.
Alternatively, Wilson takes a more ambivalent attitude toward international comparisons in education. On one hand, he agrees that comparisons enable teachers in England to interpret new ideas well and support their students’ learning. On the other hand, he uses PISA (the Program for International Student Assessment) as a counterexample to indicate that comparisons can decrease diversity in education policies in different countries. While this section shows different attitudes toward education in other countries, it conveys such a disbelief that one country’s educational ideas can be directly and immediately transferred to another country. For Wilson, a successful transfer is a long-term process that requires practitioners’ commitment to applying another country’s educational ideas to their own national and local contexts. He skillfully clarifies this point by citing a famous case where Swiss mathematical materials were gradually transformed by teachers and researchers in England to improve student learning in the English context. The view of re-adjustment is further confirmed by Tancoke’s chapter where approaches in English teaching were recontextualized in order to be successfully applied in Indian primary schools. Comparatively, Lever and Newton discuss their teaching experience as student-teachers in Kenya, persuasively proving that the local resources should be taken into account by the western teachers who re-adjust their instructions toward the local children’s needs.
Part four: Learning from education in other countries Six chapters in Part four focus on a critical analysis of primary education at the world level which is important because what a teacher can learn from education in other countries is a complicated topic. However, this section serves as a holistic picture of different perspectives on teachers’ international visits and placement, international comparisons in education, and the transfer of educational approaches and ideas. In terms of teachers’ international visits, the tone of this section is supportive but a little prudent. Hammond believes that visiting is an eye-opening
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 Part five: Exploring wider perspectives on education
consequently leading to the shortage of male teachers in primary schools.
The last section, consisting of seven chapters, continues to inspire the reader to reflect on a wide range of controversial topics regarding people’s attitude toward teachers’ professional development.
Response As a doctoral student majoring in elementary education and a former elementary school teacher with ten years of teaching experience, my encounter with this book is an emotional and academic engagement as I am led into “some challenging waters but also well-springs of opportunity and potential” (Gillespie, 2015, p. 88).
Several chapters are contributed in promotion of teachers’ professional autonomy. Yong’s chapter is a critique of the conception of teaching as a craft. As Yong suggests, this view probably hinders teachers from learning theory and developing advanced thinking that guides them to teach in different contexts. Stone’s chapter recommends action research as a systematic way employed by teachers to examine and improve their teaching practices. By citing Paulo Freire’s (1968) work, Austin and Birrell denote the necessity for teachers to recognize their decision-making as a political process. They take the discussion further in connection to intellectual integrity where this recognition is meant to resist “a robotic state of acquiescent teaching” (p. 133). To support teachers’ engagement in their own active professional development, Matthews makes a powerful statement that “(E)ducation should be set beyond the reach of party politics” (p. 138). With the use of several exciting lessons as vivid examples, Austin encourages teachers to take professional risks by striking a balance between teaching pragmatically and teaching creatively.
This book brings to light educational problems emerging in the interface between primary education and contemporary society. Within the context of expanding international competition, it invites readers to re-examine the meaning of education through their reflections on educational policies and practices in the time of accountability. The titles of the chapters are represented in the form of thought-provoking questions that constantly raise readers’ critical awareness. What’s more, the book expands readers’ educational lens by broadly answering the questions, providing nuanced answers instead of focusing on one answer to an issue. To bolster these possible answers, the author’s illustration of claims is supported by diverse examples and previous studies in the field of psychology, education, sociology, and philosophy. These rich citations as well as the host of information that they carry make the arguments understandable, persuasive and informative.
Additionally, many authors in this section make effective discussions in light of teachers’ personal experience. Through a young teacher’s story, Dorman clarifies the differences between a role model as an individual construction and a mentor as part of a hierarchical structure. Inspired by his own experience as a male primary school teacher, Mellor provocatively and insightfully states that a gender-neutral professional identity is unavoidably developed with teachers’ competence as practitioners and commitment to children’s learning,
This book grasps exam-oriented learning, one of the core issues in contemporary primary schools; besides, it guides the reader to explore its alternatives. As the book reveals, learning is not only socio-culturally but also spatialtemporally constructed. In particular, the view of learning as a non-linear process deconstructs the notion of learning as the result of teaching (Hardman, 2015). It advocates deep learning with the focus on the unmeasurable, and it questions the appropriateness of testing as a way to ensure learning. Based on these progressive
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 understandings, the book also suggests future directions for the study of pedagogy. Nonetheless, there are a few limitations. For example, there is ambiguity in the book’s discussions of learning. As the book indicates, creativity and personality are emphasized as the features of learning; at the same time, knowing worthwhile experiences is also considered as learning. The question is what experience counts as worthwhile? Who decides that it is worthwhile? If a child’s learning equals knowing something that is considered worthwhile by someone other than the child, it would be hard for readers to understand that this learning provides the child with a captivating experience. Of course, this inconsistency might be considered the editor’s strategy for providing multiple educational opinions for readers to make a choice in balancing teaching for students and teaching for society, but to avoid confusion, more elaboration is needed. Overall, despite a few limitations, the book is an excellent resource for practitioners and researchers interested in the field of teacher education, curriculum, pedagogy, and international education. I recommend the text as a text-book for graduates and undergraduates or as pre-reading or follow-up reading to seminars, tutorials, and group discussions. It is particularly beneficial to scholars committed to the development of inclusive education while highlighting teachers’ agency and students’ autonomy in the age of accountability. In conclusion, the book provides a “thirdspace” (Soja, 1996) where challenges and opportunities co-exist and move to a different vision of reality.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1â€”Spring 2017 References Freire, P. (1994). Pedagogy of the Oppressed (M. B. Ramos, Trans.). New York, NY: Continuum. (Original work published 1968) Gillespie, A. (2015). Can using childrenâ€™s visual literacy help them to learn Religious Education? In M. Sangster (Eds.), Challenging perceptions in primary education: Exploring issues in Practice (pp. 84-87). London, UK: Bloomsbury. Hardman, M. (2015). How do classroom dynamics affect learning? In M. Sangster (Eds.), Challenging perceptions in primary education: Exploring issues in practice (pp. 26-30). London, UK: Bloomsbury. Miller, G. A. (1956). The magical number seven, plus or minus two: Some limits on our capacity for processing information. Psychological Review, 101(2), 343-352. Paivio, A. (1986). Mental representations: A dual coding approach. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. Sangster, M. (2015). Introduction. In M. Sangster (Eds.), Challenging perceptions in primary education: Exploring issues in practice (pp. xvii-xxiv). London, UK: Bloomsbury. Soja, E.W. (1996). Thirdspace: Journeys to Los Angeles and other real-and-imagined places. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Blackwell. Sweller, J. (1988). Cognitive load during problem solving: Effects on learning. Cognitive Science, 12 (2), 257-285.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1â€”Spring 2017
Local Author Spotlight Stan Mullins Athens, GA By T. Hunter Strickland
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017
From the Editor: I sat down with local artist and author, Stan Mullins, at his studio off Pulaski Street in Athens. We talked about his international career in sculpture, painting, and writing. The focus of our discussion was on his two published children’s books, Under the Backyard Sky, and Codalino. Stan talked much about his process in writing children’s books and the art that he creates for them, as well as his hope for the use of his art in the local and global communities. Check out the pictures below from his studio, and listen to the podcast of our interview.
T. Hunter Strickland CYAL Editor, JoLLE
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1â€”Spring 2017
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1â€”Spring 2017
Review of Treasure Town By Doug Wilhelm and Illustrated by Sarah-Lee Terrat Adult/ Educator Reviewer: Mary Guay The University of Georgia, Athens, GA Student Review: Askia Hylton, 5th Grade
Wilhelm, D. (2016). Treasure Town. Weybridge, VT: Long Stride Books. ISBN: 978-1455622498
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017
may indeed be treasure buried in Florida. Lafitte, a handsome and arrogant pirate entrepreneur, was captured and escaped US custody on two occasions. He eventually fell victim to a Spanish warship disguised as a cargo ship and died. Haley B. speaks out for women pirates. She shares the adventures of Calico Jack, his wife Anne, and Mary Read, proudly declaring that the women pirates were braver than the men.
Adult Review: Mary Guay
“This is a lightn a small Florida beach town, three hearted tale with young friends set out engaging to find the buried characters and treasure of legendary the universal pirate, Jean Lafitte. allure of finding Lafitte was said to have buried treasure.” buried enough treasure to build a bridge of gold across the Mississippi River. As our three friends, Luis, Haley B., and Speedup are planning their grand escapade, two “weirdos” arrive in town, Bug Luck and Yuke Johnson. The bungling pair of buddies, Bug and Yuke, were trying to get to Alaska to search for gold, but they arrived, instead, in Florida. Yuke is a gentle giant with a penchant for digging and Bug is his short feisty leader. The kids meet up with Bug and Yuke and together they head to the beach to seek their fortunes.
This is a light-hearted tale with engaging characters and the universal allure of finding buried treasure. The reality of pirates adds to the intrigue of the book, but also softens the brutality of pirate life. Student Review: Askia Hylton
would recommend this book to anyone who likes pirates, treasure, and geography. The cover led you to believe that that treasure was across from the pirate diner, but it wasn’t. I expected them to find treasure, but they found a boat.
In an effort to please, Yuke digs until there is no beach at all. The town is upset when they discover that their beach has disappeared. Yuke did not intend to upset anyone and so consoles himself by doing what he does best, dig. He digs up the neighboring parking lot and finds a buried ship. It is not the pirate ship of Jean Lafitte, but rather a United States Navy ship designed to hunt for pirate ships. The kids, Bug, and Yuke become heroes bringing fame and fortune to their town.
I think it would be fun to dig “I was pretty as fast as Yuke. I would want surprised that the to dig to the mantle of the story was true.” earth. I was pretty surprised that the story was true. When I was reading, I thought that I had heard the pirate name before. I think this book was important because of the facts at the end and the lesson it taught you- to care for your friends, and always put your head where your soul is
At the end of the book, Luis and Haley B. give us deeper insights into the book. Luis reveals that the legend of Jean Lafitte is a true story, and that there
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1â€”Spring 2017
Review of Inspector Flytrap By Tom Angleberger and Cece Bell Adult/ Educator Reviewer: Sharon M. Nuruddin The University of Georgia, Athens, GA Student Review: Pharaoh N. Nuruddin
Angleberger, T., & Bell, C. (2016). Inspector Flytrap. New York, NY: Harry N. Abrams. ISBN: 978-1419709654
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017
letters and basic colors. Educators will benefit from this book because of the many lessons that can be created from it.
Adult Review: Sharon N. Nuruddin
nspector Flytrap was “Educators will written by New York benefit from this Times bestselling book because of author, Tom the many lessons Angleberger. This is the first in a delightful series that can be of kid-friendly created from it.” whodunits. In this book, we are introduced to Inspector Flytrap, a Venus flytrap who aspires to solve “big deal” mysteries in his goal to become a super sleuth. Careening through the city on a skateboard pushed by his trusty assistant and always hungry sidekick, Nina the Goat, Inspector Flytrap embarks upon various adventures and misadventures, while solving such mysteries as “The Big Deal Mystery of the Stinky Cookies” and “The Big Deal Mystery of the Missing Rose.” An emu, a dodo bird, a peg-legged pirate, and a mysterious sloth are just a few in the cast of characters of this four-part, nineteen-chapter children’s book, boldly-illustrated in a graphic novel style by Cece Bell, also a New York Times bestselling author.
Educators should consider the lack of colorful drawings in the book. The illustrations are green, so this book might not be a good choice for educators looking for more color. In fact, one image in the book is described as yellow, but it is very clearly a green hue. Student Review: Pharaoh N. Nuruddin
thought this book was “I would very funny, and the recommend it to pictures were pleasant. I someone who would recommend it to really likes someone who really likes mysteries like me. My mysteries like favorite was “The BIG DEAL me.” Mystery of the Stinky Cookies.” Inspector Flytrap and Nina the Goat are very hilarious to see on the case.
This book is a great choice for the English-language and -literacy education of early-grade readers (grades 1-4), especially those students who are beginning to read from chapter books. Also, it is perfect for classrooms of students with diverse interests, as it caters to kids who are interested in mysteries, animal books, adventure books, and humorous tales. It is also a good choice for diverse learners. For example, visual learners will appreciate that almost every page is illustrated boldly and creatively. The book is also written in large, clear
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017
Review of Inspector Flytrap in The President’s Mane is Missing By Tom Angleberger and Cece Bell Adult/ Educator Reviewer: Sharon M. Nuruddin The University of Georgia, Athens, GA Student Review: Pharaoh N. Nuruddin, 2nd Grade
Angleberger, T., & Bell, C. (2016). Inspector flytrap in the president’s mane is missing. New York, NY: Harry N. Abrams. ISBN: 978-14197096
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 example, might appreciate the large print. Educators will benefit from this book because of the many lessons that can be created from it.
Adult Review: Sharon M. Nuruddin
nspector Flytrap – “Also, it is perfect The President’s for classrooms of Mane is Missing, is students who are the second book of interested in this delightful series, written by New York mysteries, animal Times bestselling author books, adventure Tom Angleberger. In books, humorous this book, Inspector tales, comic books, Flytrap and his assistant, and other genres.” Nina the Goat, continue their adventures—and misadventures—in what we learn is Washington, D.C. President Horse G. Horse is eager for the inspector to solve a “thrilling mystery”— the unexplained disappearance of a very important piece of a statue. Many of the characters from the first book return, including a penguin, a rose, and a mysterious sloth. Zipping through the nation’s capital on his trusty skateboard, Inspector Flytrap furthers his quest to be the Greatest Detective in the World. This four-part, twenty-three-chapter book is boldly-illustrated in a graphic novel style by Cece Bell, also a New York Times bestselling author.
Because this book is the second in a series, educators should consider reading the first book before continuing, as many characters reappear, and their relationships to the main characters are not always explained. Educators should also consider the lack of colorful drawings in the book. The illustrations are green, so this book might not be a good choice for educators looking for more colorful texts. Student Review: Pharaoh N. Nuruddin
like Inspector Flytrap “I like Inspector because he is funny and Flytrap because always riding his he is funny and skateboard. The thing I like always riding his least about the book is skateboard.” President Horse. He is too snappy! I would recommend this book because kids might like to see a plant in action!
This book is a great choice for English-language and -literacy education of early-grade readers (grades 14), especially those students who are learning to read from chapter books. Also, it is perfect for classrooms of students who are interested in mysteries, animal books, adventure books, humorous tales, comic books, and other genres. It is also a good choice for students with differing abilities. Students with visual impairments, for
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017
Review of Fannie Never Flinched: By Mary Cronk Farrell Adult/ Educator Reviewer: Heidi Lyn Hadley The University of Georgia, Athens, GA Student Review: Spencer Hadley, 6th Grade
Farrell, M.C. (2016). Fannie never flinched: One woman’s courage in the struggle for American labor union rights. New York, NY: Harry N. Abrams. ISBN: 978-1419718847
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017
Adult Review: Heidi Lyn Hadley
to studies of women who changed history. Because this book features many photos from the time period, newspaper cuttings, and other original source material interspersed with a more narrative account of Fannie’s life, it could also serve as a model text for teaching non-fiction writing. At the end of the book, there is a timeline of important events in the struggle for workers’ rights which students might use as a springboard to further research. Fannie Never Flinched: One Woman’s Courage in the Struggle for American Labor Union Rights would be an excellent addition for most classrooms’ non-fiction library.
his book tells “I see a great deal the story of of potential for Fannie Sellins this book as a (1872-1919) who resource in the was a leader in the classroom.” labor movement at the turn of the century. After working as a seamstress in a factory in St. Louis, Missouri, Fannie helped create a local chapter of the United Garment Workers of America, organizing strikes and walkouts. Fannie then went on to travel the nation, organizing unions and speaking out for fair wages and treatment of workers, particularly in the garment and mining industries. Although the book is generally organized into chapters that roughly follow Fannie’s journey from an underpaid seamstress to a martyred union activist, the first page of the book begins with the end of Fannie’s life, describing how she was gunned down by local policemen as she tried to protect the women and children who were protesting with her.
Student Review: Spencer Hadley
annie Never Flinched by “I like this book Mary C. Farrell, is about because it is not a woman, who was born only about her, in 1872 in New Orleans, but her influence famous because she was a key and her fiery part in the fight for workers' passion to help rights. She protested, she the people of boycotted, she encouraged America as well.” others to strike for better working conditions, salaries, and the abolishment of child labor. She did a lot of work to help countless people and families before she was murdered by a police officer during a protest.
I read this book with my son, Spencer. It did give us the opportunity to talk through what it means to protest, and why the right to protest has been such an important right in shaping the history of the United States. Spencer is a bit of a history buff, so this book was right up his alley. Students who are less enthusiastic about history may find the story to be a bit dense in details, but the book has plenty of pictures with educative captions to support and enrich students’ reading. In fact, my five-year-old and seven-year-old didn’t read the book’s text, but I was able to have conversations about social justice with them as we did an informal picture walk through the pages.
I like this book because it is not only about her, but also about her influence and her fiery passion to help the people of America as well. The photos and the captions help to adequately portray her back-breaking work and life, and the writing is smooth. This story really captures the dire situation of what workers used to have to endure and portrays what Fannie did for the working class of America.
I see a great deal of potential for this book as a resource in the classroom. Aside from the obvious connections to curricular units that deal with labor injustice, this book could be a great addition
In conclusion, “Fannie Never Flinched” is about a woman who influenced hundreds and spread hope across America. The writing is extremely
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1â€”Spring 2017
smooth, engaging, and interesting. The numerous types of media such as newspaper clippings helps portray what happened. Overall, I think this book is extremely interesting and engaging, and best of all, it gets people thinking about the world, and what THEY could do to make it better.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1â€”Spring 2017
Review of Fuzzy By Tom Angleberger & Paul Dellinger Adult/ Educator Reviewer: Dr. Sara Kajder Mom, Reader, and Clinical Assistant Professor, English Education The University of Georgia, Athens, GA Student Review: Brennan Kajder, 4th Grade
Angleberger, T., & Dellinger, P. (2016). Fuzzy. New York, NY: Harry N. Abrams. ISBN: 978-1419721229
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 performance in school - and, larger, in relationships between people.
Adult Review: Sara Kajder
om Angleberger’s books “This book first became a part of quickly and our family’s reading solidly earned lives with his Origami Yoda series, beginning an a permanent expectation that the books that home on our delight my sons with their family antics and humor were made bookshelves…” even better when we passed them around to laugh together, to talk about unexpected moments, and to simply share. We eagerly jumped into Fuzzy in the hope that this collaboration between Tom Angleberger and Paul Dellinger would bring more of the same.
This book quickly and solidly earned a permanent home on our family bookshelves, and it challenged our thinking both about what it means to be an ally to others and what ways we demonstrate empathy. Student Review: Brennan Kajder
uzzy is a book by “I would Tom Angleberger and Paul Dellinger recommend this that is based on a book to people time in the close future. that like reading There is a robot named about science, Fuzzy who is assigned, school, and like a kid, to go to adventure.” Vanguard One Middle School as a student. As you’d expect, the students there watch excitedly as the robot walks down the hall. But there is another robot already in the school - evil vice principal Barbara. She is determined to stop Fuzzy and his friends from discovering the real reason Fuzzy is there. This begins an epic battle between students and a test-obsessed Vice Principal set on making students miserable - but excellent test takers.
The true delight is that this is a very different book. And, as a result of the on-going and very real discussion it invited across all four members of our family, it lead us to think together about schools, testing, technology and how we really show what we learn. On the surface, Fuzzy is the story of a created robot who goes to middle school with the goal of learning how to be a typical student. His new friend, Maxine, the kiddo assigned to help Fuzzy navigate the school day, decides to get to the bottom not only of why Fuzzy would be assigned to the school but to also figure out how his arrival ties to the evil Vice Principal’s single-minded focus on raising school test scores. Within this system, Max is penalized for the tiniest of infractions, leading to a tense relationship with her parents who ratchet up the pressure for her to “turn things around.” Tunneling in more deeply, the satire the book presents subtly calls the reader’s attention to the automation of the school and the school’s assessment program, the “big brother” nature of the computerized VicePrincipal’s surveillance and plotting, and the tensions between humans and technology. It was an equally important discussion for us to talk about what we value as a family when it comes to
As a kid who has gone to a school that went a little too test crazy, I liked that this book showed some kids who took a stand along with their robot friend who sure was a lot more like a person as the book kept going. Fuzzy became their actual friend as he learned to be a middle school student, which you and I know means more than taking tests at school. This book is the best balance of funny scenes, suspense and some sad moments, too. You can’t stop reading it. I would recommend this book to people that like reading about science, school, and adventure. This book is full of twists and turns and cliff-hangers which keep you reading. It is great for boys and girls even though the main human character is a girl. It is
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 also a book that I would recommend for adults who went to middle school, who might be able to relate to the characters in the story, or who have ever been the new kid in school. It’s probably important for adults who make tests for schools to read it too. For kids, if you are going to middle school or you must take a lot of tests as a part of school, then you should read this, too. I actually wish there were more people in the world like Fuzzy. You’ll finish this book and feel that way, too.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1â€”Spring 2017
Review of The Intuitives By Erin Michelle Sky & Steven Brown Adult/ Educator Reviewer: Margaret A. Robbins The University of Georgia, Athens, GA Student Review: Jordan White
Sky, E.M., & Brown, S. (2017). The intuitives. Franklin, GA: Trash Dogs Media LLC. ISBN: 9781946137012
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 captivating and shows an awareness of audience, along with an appreciation for preteens and teenagers. This book would be a great choice for secondary library shelves.
Adult Review: Margaret Robbins
hile on an “Advanced archeological middle school dig in Egypt, a students and team high school discovers the lost tomb of military general students who extraordinaire Alexander enjoy the Great. Several years adventure, later, students throughout fantasy, and the U.S. take a cryptic test suspense stories in school. Based on the test will love this results, six students are book.” chosen to participate in a mysterious summer program known as the Cultivation of Intuitive Cognition. Roman, MacKenzie, Rush, Kaitlyn, Daniel, and Sam know they are being trained to use their gifts, but they are left in the dark about the reasons the US Government is so invested in their summer program. Yet as helicopters crash and a plane disappears over the Atlantic, their adult trainers feel a strong sense of urgency to prepare them for the mission ahead.
Student Review: Jordan White
his book is definitely “I like this book one that I would read because it is not again or recommend to only about her, another. The author but her influence kept me reading the book every and her fiery chance I had. The characters passion to help were about my age, and I could relate to them. The the people of backgrounds of the kids in the America as well.” story were very much believable and normal. As the story began to take me into strange, not ordinary, practices, rituals, etc., having knowledge of the kids’ backgrounds helped make the events somewhat more believable. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and feel that there will be a second book. I hope so anyway. The author ended the book in a way that would leave it open to do a continuation of the story. The ending was great and really left me hoping for more and coming up with various possible endings for the next book.
Advanced middle school students and high school students who enjoy adventure, fantasy, and suspense stories will love this book. It emphasizes the power of intuition and the importance of friendship. The characters are well crafted, and the plot line is intriguing because there are tough choices for the characters, high stakes, and unexpected twists and turns. The dialogue is
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1â€”Spring 2017
Review of The Lie Tree By Frances Hardinge Adult/ Educator Reviewer: T. Hunter Strickland The University of Georgia, Athens, GA Student Review: Brantley Power, 12th Grade
Hardinge, F. (2016). The lie tree. New York, NY: Harry N. Abrams. ISBN: 978-1419718953
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017
he Lie Tree by Frances “The novel was a Hardinge is a truly perfect mixture fascinating book. The of fantasy and Sunderly family, the action, making it main characters, are introduced a great read for in the beginning of the book. The family consists of Erasmus, almost anyone.” Myrtle, Faith and Howard. Erasmus Sunderly is the mysterious father of the family who has secrets and a tainted reputation. He is an esteemed archaeologist that many look up to. Myrtle, the mother, is a very vain character that ultimately has a loving heart. Faith, the main character, is not the typical fourteen-year-old girl of the time period. She is inquisitive, independent and very clever when most girls of the time were worried more about looking for a husband. Howard, the youngest child, is the only surviving boy of the family who the family hopes will inherit Erasmus’ intelligence.
Adult Review: T. Hunter Strickland
he Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge was surprisingly good. Set on a small island off the coast of Victorian England, the Sunderly family follows Reverend Erasmus Sunderly, the protagonist’s father, to an archeological dig that he has been invited to be a part of. Faith, his daughter and the protagonist of the book, is stuck in her training to be a proper lady by her mother, Myrtle, while her true gifts and desire have her wanting to pursue science and archaeology like her father. In a world where there are not female scientists, Faith meets resistance to this desire everywhere she turns. When her father mysteriously dies and Faith is the only one who suspects murder, it is up to her to follow the clues and discover who the murderer is. The clues found in her father’s journal lead her to a mysterious plant that her father brought back from the Orient. The tree has special powers as well that her father was trying to unlock. When the tree is told a lie and that lie is spread further in the community, the tree bears a fruit that gives whoever consumes it in the knowledge of a powerful secret. Faith has to decide if this tree can be used to find her father’s murderer, or if it is too dangerous itself.
The novel begins with the family traveling to Vane, where they will be moving. They formerly lived in England, but were forced to move due to Erasmus’ reputation. His reputation was questioned when one of the fossils he “discovered” was tampered with. Faith, however did not know this until she was given the opportunity to sneak through Erasmus’ personal papers. Upon doing so, she learned of her father’s allegations and decided it was her duty to protect him and help him in any way possible.
This book well exceeded my expectations. The writing is well done, and the story keeps readers guessing the whole way through. I would see great value in pairing the reading of this book with the reading of canonical texts during a Victorian unit. Students that are interested in mysteries, fantasy, and strong female protagonists would enjoy The Lie Tree.
To the Sunderly family’s knowledge, no one on Vane knew of Erasmus’ lack of respect. They get to the island, unpack and go to the dig site, where Erasmus is to help discover fossils. When the family arrives, Erasmus is offered a ride down on a contraption to see deep into the caves, however, at the last moment Faith and Howard were lowered. A chain snaps and the children almost plummet to their deaths when they are barely saved by the gentlemen standing by. This was thought of an accident but as the plot thickens, the motives will be uncovered.
Student Review: Brantley Power
Erasmus continues to act bizarre and sneaks off rather often to check on a secret specimen. Faith
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 notices this and one day decides to find out the cause of her father’s strange behavior. She examines the plant and has no suspicions about it until one night, she walks into her father’s library and he is acting strange, drugged by Opium. Erasmus was in a trance like state and Faith was very concerned for him. Later that night, Faith went with her father by boat to move the plant and eventually retired to her room, although her father was on edge and carrying a pistol. The next morning Erasmus is found dead, which looked to be by suicide. Faith knew her father would never commit such an act and decided to find who murdered her father.
to succeed in a man’s world and definitely proved girls rule! I personally loved The Lie Tree. The novel was a perfect mixture of fantasy and action, making it a great read for almost anyone. It was really great for me to see a strong female main character who did NOT back down in a world where it is easy just to be silent. Faith is strong, clever, eager to learn, and extremely witty. I loved Hardinge’s writing style because she wrote properly and eloquently; however, it was still simple enough it did not hurt my brain to read it. The content was also very interesting and left no room to even try to imagine what the ending could be. I think The Lie Tree is a fascinating novel and would be loved by many. I suggest young adults and up read the novel because there is death and deceit, which is more mature content. It is great for young people and adults because everyone can find a way to relate to the novel.
Painful weeks went by which included the Sunderly family being shunned by many due to the thought of suicide. In these weeks, Faith found her father’s papers and read them. Her reading uncovered the truth of the plant, the change in her father’s reputation, and what she needed to do to find the truth. The strange specimen, Faith uncovered, was called the Lie Tree. To this tree, one must whisper lies that are believed by many. As the lie grows, a fruit on the tree grows, which uncovers a truth no one knows. Faith decided to feed lies to the tree and find out what truly happened to her father. Faith was the perfect example of a strong female, fighting
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017
Sarah’s First Visit to Shanghai Lei Jiang Oh dear! My God! So why does Chinese cuisine have so weird names! See Chicken without sex ( )? That’s too erotic…What? It’s pullet in sauce! So what’s contained in Lungs of Husband-Wife’s ( )? Sliced beef in Chili sauce? I’m scared to death! Well, Tofu made by a woman full of freckles ( ), I see her face when eating this spicy dish. I’ll never eat this Slobbering chicken ( )! Oh wait, again? It’s steamed with Chili sauce? How glad on earth are Four glad balls ( )? You must be kidding—only pork in balls. Here comes The ants are climbing trees ( )! I’m really sad when served with vermicelli fried with pork. Behind these names there’re stories?!—Oh, Chinese!
Lei Jiang is a PhD student in Education at the University of Georgia. His research interests include applied linguistics, linguistic minority education, mixed methods research, and poetry writing. He obtained his master’s degree in Education from Harvard University, and B.A. in English and Economics from Fudan University (China). He once served as an instructor in Chinese at Harvard University, and won Distinction in Teaching Awards. He can be reached at email@example.com
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017
God-Read English Lei Jiang Dude, that’s easy, really easy: Acquisitive means being not inquisitive at all, like invaluable is the antonym of valuable. Just assume unassuming means not supposing, like unyielding for yield. Creek is the plural form of crook, the same as feet for foot. Recapitulation is the noun of repetitively capitulate, just like renounce means to denounce again; Oh by the way, here denouement is a typo of denouncement. Sober means a person who always sobs, much as solder refers to someone who has been sold. Sedulous is the adjective for seduce, similar to the case of deciduous for decide. Censure is a new buzzword, used when the result of a census is sure; Also epicure, epic-cure, used if a doctor can cure any disease. And these common words are much easier: Flit means to toy with (“flirt”), discrete means careful (“discreet”), impervious means arrogant (“imperious”), intimidate means friendly (“intimate”), taunt means to boost (“tout”), and spring is venal (“vernal”). See? English is precise. Don’t be a sober. Be smart and deciduous like me: Find the logic of the language and, you know everything.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1â€”Spring 2017
Lei Jiang is a PhD student in Education at the University of Georgia. His research interests include applied linguistics, linguistic minority education, mixed methods research, and poetry writing. He obtained his masterâ€™s degree in Education from Harvard University, and B.A. in English and Economics from Fudan University (China). He once served as an instructor in Chinese at Harvard University, and won Distinction in Teaching Awards. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017
International Student Learns about American Chinese Food Viviane Klen Alves Moore If the veggie’s broccoli, then the dish will suffice. Many options of chicken, Mongolian beef, and rice. Drinking options? Only sweet tea, The combination is from here… a unique Georgia treat. Besides $6,99, ALL YOU CAN EAT, Indeed a cross-cultural hit… When it is Chinese food, but American style.
Viviane Klen Alves Moore is a Brazilian PhD student in TESOL and World Language Education at the University of Georgia (UGA). She has a Master’s degree in Romance Languages and a B.A. in Portuguese and English Languages and Literature. In 2012, she was granted a Fulbright FLTA to come to Georgia. Since then, she works with the Portuguese Flagship Program at UGA. Her research focus on the use of technology in the language classroom and her poetry focus on the life of international students living in the U.S. She can be reached at email@example.com
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017
Manifesto: The Mad Teacher Liberation Front —In Imitation of Wendell Berry’s Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front
Rebecca Powell Love the pre-packaged, one-size-fits-all, color-coded curriculum. Want 4 easy steps to teach everything but humanity. Be afraid to know your students. Index the lives in the desks. Funnel them through the machine of school to college, work, and prison. Test for deficiency, delinquency, distribution and watch your heart turn bad like spoiled milk, until you no longer remember why you stand in front of a classroom. But don’t worry. When they want your body in support of an unfunded mandate, they will call you. When they want you to speak, they will script it. So, tsunali, friends, everyday teach something that can’t be tested. Love your students. Love the world. Work for the common good. Read a book for the joy of it. Smile at the secretary. Denounce the system of education and hold dear its promise. Hope to know a world where children have full bellies and become neither the bully nor the cowed. Give what no one gave you: permission to fail, to learn. Praise the unknown, the unquantified, the intangible.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1â€”Spring 2017 Ask the questions that lead to better questions. Call that success. Say your job is enabling lives that you do not control, that will not profit you. State that in your dossier. Say the course objectives are achieved when students become learners. Put your faith in the resilience of a child and your money in CSAs. Expect the whole system to come crashing down, but work like it never will. Be joyful though you know all the statistics. Ask yourself: will this satisfy the adult this student will become? Will this disturb the sleep of a mother about to send her child to school? Go with your love to the classroom. Listen to the unspoken. Read between the lines. Swear allegiance to the lights in studentsâ€™ eyes. Practice insurrection.
Rebecca Powell teaches and writes on the edge of the Mississippi Sound. She has published on adolescent writing experiences, K-16 writing pedagogy, community literacy and place studies. Current projects include researching the circulation of writing experiences through people's lives and communities and the implications of place studies for teacher education. She practices insurrection in the garden and the kitchen. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017
Writing Club Agie Behounek Very few knew we existed They squeezed us between drama practice, robotics, and history club Sometimes they forgot to announce us at all We didn’t mind… and did mind, Most of all it bothered us when one of us failed to show up Because writing was collecting breaths, falling for each other’s words and thoughts, rewriting silences, invisible lines, even though silence was all we knew, all we ever had We considered creating t-shirts and slogans We counted on Poe and ravens to make us cool But every other day but Thursday, we hid our writing notebooks When people mentioned poetry, we turned our heads We were different and afraid Sometimes we laughed so hard at our stories, we forgot we had so little time and so much to say We created our own proofs, postulates, and theorems, We could have easily been the next Shakespeare or Stephen King
By now, one of us probably is
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1â€”Spring 2017
Eventually we grew into a steady group, Friends gathered friends Food was brought in Some ditched basketball practice, others video games We powered through colds and stigmatized sneers We played all kinds of music And we wrote and we shared But in the end, all we had was one hour, every Thursday afternoon In the end, that was everything
Agie Behounek is a native of Poland. She is pursuing a PhD in Language, Literacy, and Culture at The University of Iowa. Her interest is in writing instruction and identity, looking at how writing can be a space for students to acquire agency, confidence, and voice. Prior to entering graduate school, Agie taught middle school language arts, where she strived to make her students fall in love with words. She can be reached at email@example.com
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1â€”Spring 2017
Sentences Make Sense Sheryl Lain Sentence-one unit of thought after another lining up across the page in the book I'm reading at 3:00 a.m. The doctor sees a black dot, macular degeneration, beginning in the middle of my left retina, a black hole growing larger until the meaning of the sentence is sucked into its vortex, gone as if it never existed. Then... what will sustain me in the darkest hours when my mind swims to the surface gasping for air and I lie awake listening to a cacophony of thoughts, free of syntax, banging into each other, denting their fenders like cars on the Interstate in an ice storm. Their crashing is quelled, chaos reordered when I pick up my book and read the sensible sentences lining up, orderly, across the page. Thoughts in my head, on the other hand, misbehave. The dangling modifiers can't begin to find their nouns. The run-ons careen hopelessly into one another tangling like unspooled thread, nothing I can do with them now. Pronouns search for their antecedents but end up lost, unable to remember what they were referring to. Copulative verbs try to link with all the wrong nouns, and subordinate clauses battle with their independent clauses for ascendency. Without the comfort of the book with sentences that make sense, how do I find my way through the jungle of unparsed thoughts? Tonight, I can sleep and read, sleep and read, hoping the black hole grows so, so slowly.
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1â€”Spring 2017 Sheryl Lain began teaching secondary English on the Wind River Indian Reservation and before retiring served as director of the Wyoming Writing Project, national consultant for BER, language arts coordinator at the district level, and instructional leader at the state level. During most of that time, she never stopped teaching, her first love. While with the National Writing Project, Sheryl published a book about building classroom community and school reform entitled A Poem for Every Student. Her poems, articles, and chapters have been published in various venues. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017
The Disenfranchised Learner Vivian Yenika-Agbaw Laura Hudock Paul Ricks Rene Rodriguez-Astacio Young me in class “Sound out that word” I sound it out Not like that Again I do . . . not a clue why . . . not a clue what it means . . . Not a clue at all!
Like that? It stares at the ceiling Okay, I get it: Like . . . Sure . . . but what is that? I shrug . . . I thought that was what you wanted . . . Okay, class, Everyone, settle down: “What is this novel about?” I take a deep breath then raise my hand “Yes?” A commentary on . . . “Incorrect!” Uh? Eyes bulging Furrows aging me Completely drenched in sweat!
Middle me at my desk “Dramatize that scene” Like this? I skipped one way Not like that I skipped another . . . not a clue why . . . not a clue what – And . . . not a clue how it connects with anything!
A chair creaks . . . perhaps mine and the footsteps approach “What is the author saying in this novel?” Should I know? Exasperation! Steps retreat. I feel stupid recoiling into My cultural hole of silence! Don’t “i” MATTER
High school me: digital native! “Digitalize this” What? “This story!” I smile nodding in agreement. Like this? Hmm! It scratches its head
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1â€”Spring 2017
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1â€”Spring 2017
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1â€”Spring 2017
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017
Vivian Yenika-Agbaw is professor of Education at The Pennsylvania State University where she teaches children’s and adolescent literature both in the residential and World Campus programs. She has authored or co-edited several books including, Adolescents Rewrite their World: Using Literature to Illustrate Writing Forms, and presented numerous papers at national and international conferences such as the National Council of Teachers of English, Literacy Research Association and the International Reading Association. A former high school teacher of English, she is passionate about literature, literacies, learning and how these intersect with culture! She can be reached at email@example.com
Laura Anne Hudock taught first grade for a decade in St. Lucie County, FL and at a Title I school in Fairfax County, VA. She is a PhD Candidate in Curriculum and Instruction at The Pennsylvania State University. Her area of emphasis focuses on children’s literature, namely young children’s aesthetic responses to picture books, and early literacies. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Paul H. Ricks (email@example.com) taught fifth and sixth grade for seven years in Salt Lake City, UT. He is currently a PhD student at The Pennsylvania State University studying children’s literature. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
René M. Rodríguez-Astacio (email@example.com) is a passionate bibliophile from Puerto Rico interested in children’s and young adult literature. Currently, he is a first year PhD student at The Pennsylvania State University and his area of emphasis is English Language Arts under the Curriculum and Instruction program. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1â€”Spring 2017
Intertextuality Jerome C. Harste
(From the collection of Dr. Margaret Atwell)
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 I recently created a rather interesting painting from two original works featuring readers that I had painted earlier. It is a watercolor/collage which I'm calling "Intertextuality," to connote Bakhtin's notion of all texts residing in text. It is a rather odd piece, I know. I'm sure a viewer would ask, "Why on earth would an artist do that?" But, this is the question that may actually get them to arrive at Bakhtin's initial insight. So, I like it.
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 “Signature Status” in the Bloomington Watercolor Society and the Missouri Watercolor Society and can be reached at email@example.com
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1â€”Spring 2017
Out of the Box Scholarship Jerome C. Harste
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 The piece is entitled "Out of the Box Scholarship." It features (on the scholar's shirt) a goat with its head out of a box. The painting is meant to suggest that as scholars we all need to think differently. I use goats as a metaphor for how traditional notions and research in and about literacy continues to dupe us as well as why it is we need to take a critical stance. The piece is framed with side margins running along the left and at an angle at the base to disrupt traditional notions of artistic presentation.
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 “Signature Status” in the Bloomington Watercolor Society and the Missouri Watercolor Society and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1â€”Spring 2017
The Reader Jonathan Eakle
Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 13 Issue 1—Spring 2017 This piece is parasitical on Da Vinci’s Head of Christ; and, it is intended to convey the difficulties of being free by moving from form to margin through light, line, color, and sensations. Eakle’s approach to seeing and art production, influenced by Gilles Deleuze and Cezanne, and are detailed in a soon-to-be-published article in Qualitative Inquiry about “Baroque, Breakout, and Education without Organs,” and is driven by concepts as methods (edited by St.Pierre and Lenz Taguchi). Jonathan Eakle is an associate professor of curriculum and pedagogy at the George Washington University. His most recent research projects are about museum literacies in Mexico City; affective dimensions of terrorism; literacies, affect, and assemblage; and the Baroque in relation to literacies education (forthcoming in Qualitative Inquiry). His latest book is about current debates in education; and his recent book contributions include media literacies, true crime drama, and bodies; and literacies of sensations and affect in an emblematic art museum school. He can be reached at email@example.com