Page 1

Zhang Zhaohui's "You and Me" Art Installation

Photo Credit: #2 AP Photo/Lee Jin-man

Spring 2015 Issue-- Volume 11(1): Embodied & Participatory Literacies The Journal of Language & Literacy Education (JoLLE, ISSN #1559-9035) is a peerreviewed, open access journal housed in the Department of Language & 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 Editor’s Introduction: Rethinking “Cookie Cutter” Literacy Practices Michelle M. Falter


Featured Articles: Multimodal Play and Adolescents: Notes on Noticing Laughter  Lalitha Vasudevan


 “The Power of Our Words and Flesh”: An Experienced Literacy Coach’s Love Letter to Incoming Educators About the Transformational Roles of Relationships and the Body in Learning Christine Woodcock & Phyllis Hakeem


Research Articles: Trading Spaces: An Educator’s Ethnographic Exploration of an Adolescents’  Online Role-Play Stacy Haynes-Moore


Spatial Stories with Nomadic Narrators: Affect, Snapchat, and ‘Feeling’  Embodiment in Youth Mobile Composing Jon Wargo


 What are the Disciplinary Literacies in Dance and Drama in Elementary Grades? Charlotte Frambaugh-Kritzer, Stephanie Buelow, & Jamie Simpson Steele


 Participatory Literacy Learning in an African Context: Perspectives from the Ombaderuku Primary School in the Arua District, Uganda Willy Ngaka & Fred Masagazi Masaazi


 Testimoniando en Nepantla: Using Testimonio as a Pedagogical Tool for Exploring Embodied Literacies and Bilingualism Christina Passos DeNicolo & Mónica Gónzalez


Voices from the Field Articles: “Who are Our Mockingbirds?” Participatory Literacies in a Community-Wide  Reading Program Deborah Vriend Van Duinen & Kathryn Schoon-Tanis


Note: Individual pdfs can be found at our journal’s website: http://jolle.coe.uga.edu

Table of Contents Continued Academic Book Reviews: Review of Moving Ideas: Multimodality and Embodied Learning in Communities  and Schools 137 Carolina Blatt-Gross  Review of Cultural Transformations: Youth and Pedagogies of Possibility Mary Elizabeth Hayes


Review of American Circumstance  Margaret A. Robbins


 Review of Teaching Truly: A Curriculum to Indigenize Mainstream Education Timothy J. San Pedro


 Review of After Pedagogy: The Experience of Teaching Elizabeth Davis


Children’s & Young Adult Literature (CYAL) Book Reviews: Review of Girls Like Us  Helene Halstead & Stephanie Wallace



 Review of Bombay Blues Helene Halstead & Deonna Hensley


 Review of Elena Vanishing Helene Halstead & Lindy Buxton


 Review of Anything Could Happen Margaret Robbins & Stacee Dillard


 Review of The Book with No Pictures Khanh Bui & Ja’Saya Muckle


 Review of Jim Curious: A Voyage to the Heart of the Sea in 3-D Vision Xiaoli Hong & Darwin Gutierrez-Martinez


Poetry and Arts: The poetry collection “Spinning Straw Into Gold”  Sheryl Lain


“Blowing and Bursting Bubbles”  Sharon Verner Chappell


 “The 451 App” P.L. Thomas

13 183

 “Burning Hell” and “Dream” Blanca Licona


 “Benjamin” Rodrigo Joseph Rodríguez  “Failing Students” Allisa Abraham  “The Yellow Crayon” Niki Tulk

187 189


Editor’s Introduction: Rethinking “Cookie Cutter” Literacy Practices Michelle M. Falter

I am going to begin my introduction with some thoughts Zhang Zhaohui's "You and Me" Art Installation1 that is our cover art for this issue. This particular art piece can be found in the 789 art district of Beijing, and it invites its viewers to participate, and to step into the body of another. Within this art space, people come together and play. They also laugh, as the picture of the young girl demonstrates. While I am not exactly sure the message behind Zhang’s Zhaohui’s work, it does make me think about the “cookie cutter” ways in which society and schools tries to shape us as individuals and as teachers and learners. The gendered bathroom icon shapes of a male and a female literally represent some human bodies, but they also symbolically represent control of bodies, forcing a conformity of sorts into a certain category. No individual who participates and interacts with this piece of art will ever be able to fill those giant cookie cutter shells, yet the artwork seems to invite us to try to stay within the mold. While this artwork could encompass both embodiment and participatory practices, I wonder what statement Mr. Zhaohui is making through these cookie cutters. Is it a social justice statement about hegemonic institutions that attempt to box us in, or is it a whimsical piece inviting us to find our partner, our match, who completes the pair? It is with this piece of artwork that I wish to begin the exploration of what embodied and participatory literacies might look like. When deciding on the theme of this special issue (and our JoLLE@UGA 2015 Winter Conference) over a year ago, I wanted to consider a different way educators teach and students learn, one in which play, participation in social and community practices, and the body were embraced. For me, “Embodied and Participatory Literacies” as a theme speaks to the direction I believe language and literacy education needs to be heading. School cultures, as they currently are, have a tendency to control and isolate bodies, and this seems to be more and more the case as our schools become increasingly standardized and test-based, and students have less time for free play. Barton and Hamilton (1998) wrote, “like all human activity, literacy is essentially social, and is located in the interaction between people” (p. 3)2. This themed issue of Embodied and Participatory literacies highlights the need to understand how we construct and participate in the world through our bodies and through our active participation in social networks and communities.


Please see http://hahamagartconnect.tumblr.com/post/58175672995/you-and-me-folks-enjoying-zhang-zhaohuis for more information on this Art Installation 2 Barton, D., & Hamilton, M. (1998). Local literacies: Reading and writing in one community. New York, NY: Routledge.

Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 Michelle M. Falter, Editor -- http://jolle.coe.uga.edu

Falter, M. M. (2015) / Editor’s Introduction When I first thought about what embodied and participatory literacies mean to me, a very distinct image and experience popped in my head. It is one in which many of you, I will assume, can relate to. For me that image is the act of writing and composing at a computer. About 10 months ago I had the distinct displeasure of throwing out my back, and it was during this time when I fully began to realize just how embodied our literacy skills are. Simple tasks such as sitting up straight were difficult for me. Yet, as an academic, writing is an activity that I do every day, and I found it extremely difficult to continue doing. I took for granted how my body informed and shaped my language and literacy practice. Besides typing, I also use my computer to connect to my friends and families, via Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. All of my daily participations and interactions with the world and people were instantly cut off during this period as I learned how to refocus my body in a way that I could stay productive. Thinking about my daily writing routines also made me think about reading, which for me is also a very participatory and embodied act. Whether it is a print book or one on my Kindle or iPad, I am actively engaging with my body in the world. Flipping through my Kindle and highlighting parts of the text with my finger is surprisingly fun. Sharing what I am reading with others on Goodreads also helps me to engage and participate with others in an act of reading that many people might characterize as a solitary one. Furthermore, where I sit and how I sit when reading is just as important as the feel of a book against my skin. And as I reminisce about school, I can also remember how my body felt—sweaty, slightly shaky, and uneasy, despite being a gifted reader—worrying about whether my teacher would call on me to read a passage aloud unexpectedly, “popcorn style.” These two personal examples are just the beginning of what embodied and participatory literacies look like and feel like. Although schools and society can confine the body and both teachers’ and students’ participation, there are many out there that are pushing envelopes, breaking barriers, and striving for a different type of experience for teachers and students- ones that embrace participation and embrace the role of the body. Each author in this Spring issue of JoLLE offers unique insights into the complexities and subtleties of what embodied and participatory literacies looks like in research and in practice. Our two keynote speakers from our winter conference provide us with two Featured Articles to help us consider embodied and participatory literacies. The first article, “Multimodal Play and Adolescents: Notes on Noticing Laughter,” by Lalitha Vasudevan examines laughter as a form of embodied multimodal play in which adolescents’ engage across contexts and in various ways. In Christine Woodcock and Phyllis Hakeem’s article “’The Power of Our Words and Flesh’: An Experienced Literacy Coach’s Love Letter to Incoming Educators about the Transformational Roles of Relationships and the Body in Learning,” they explore the power of words alongside the implications of voice and silence in our work as educators, the role of the teacher’s body in (dis)embodied knowledge, and the multidimensional partnerships necessary to work together in empowered, democratic schools. Next, this issue offers six Research Articles, each dealing with different dimensions of embodied and participatory literacies. Our first two articles explore the participatory side of our issue’s theme particularly in online spaces. Stacy Haynes-Moore, explores how students created alternative versions of The Hunger Games through digital role-play, in her article “Trading Spaces: An Educator’s Ethnographic Exploration of an Adolescents’ Online Role-Play.” Jon Wargo’s article, “Spatial Stories with Nomadic Narrators: Affect, Snapchat, and ‘Feeling’ Embodiment in Youth Mobile Composing,” considers the embodied processes of youth composing with and through mobile technology with his participant Ben. The third research article in this issue focuses on the underrepresented literacies of dance and drama in the elementary grades. Charlotte Frambaugh-Kritzer, Stephanie Buelow, and Jamie Simpson Steele’s article, “What are the Disciplinary Literacies in Dance and Drama in Elementary Grades?” explores their research with elementary pre-service teachers in deepening the connection between literacies of the body with relation to the discipline specific literacies of dance and drama.


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 The final two research articles explore embodied and participatory literacies through two different cultural perspectives and frames. Willy Ngaka & Fred Masagazi Masaazi’s article “Participatory Literacy Learning in an African Context: Perspectives from the Ombaderuku Primary School in the Arua District, Uganda” is an important piece in thinking about language and literacy education in an international context. Their article explores the experiences and perceptions of teachers on phonics and whole language approaches to teaching and learning, discovering the untapped cultural resources and tools within the community and the potential for digital technologies as motivational strategies for participatory learning in rural Uganda. The final research article “Testimoniando en Nepantla: Using Testimonio as a Pedagogical Tool for Exploring Embodied Literacies and Bilingualism” by Christina Passos DeNicolo & Mónica Gónzalez explores the Chicana/Latina concepts of nepantla, testimonio and testimoniando as embodied literacy practices within a third grade classroom with emergent bilingual students. Our final article in this Spring Issue is titled “‘Who are Our Mockingbirds?’ Participatory Literacies in a Community-Wide Reading Program.” In this Voices from the Field piece, Deborah Vriend Van Duinen & Kathryn Schoon-Tanis describe and exemplify their community based mockingbird project, in which over 400 high school students and community members artistically responded to the question, “Who are the mockingbirds?” (i.e. marginalized or oppressed people) in their community. Their article explores the need for more embodied, visual and critical visual literacy practices, and place-based pedagogies in both in-school and out-of-school settings. In addition to our manuscripts, JoLLE’s Academic Book Reviews, edited by Xiaoli Hong, offer considerations of five titles that extend the discussions in this issue’s other sections. The five books reviewed include: Moving Ideas: Multimodality and Embodied Learning in Communities and Schools; Cultural Transformations: Youth and Pedagogies of Possibility; American Circumstance; Teaching Truly: A Curriculum to Indigenize Mainstream Education; and After Pedagogy: The Experience of Teaching. The reviews focus on books that help teachers and educators understand embodied/participatory literacies from different approaches. Some of the books present creative pedagogies that enable students to meaningfully interact with their socialites. Others discuss research projects or educational phenomena that challenge us to rethink current educational settings and students’ engagement with the world through embodied /participatory learning experiences. The Children’s and Young Adult Literature Book Reviews, edited by Helene Halstead, complements our academic book reviews, and provides educators with opportunities to preview books that they might wish to include within their classrooms. JoLLE reviews children's and young adult literature in order to support engagement with textual literacy, both for the classroom and for the individual learner. The journal reviews newly released and soon-to-be-released texts designed for the pre-K through twelfth grade audience. Books or other texts include topics related to issues of social justice, providing voices for marginalized youth, fostering discussion regarding children's concerns, accessibility through low-level but high-interest texts, and promoting cross-curricular lessons in the classroom. We have included two viewpoints on each book reviewed—one from an educator’s perspective, and one from a student’s perspective—so that we are always keeping in mind our students when choosing literature, and not only privileging adult perspectives. In addition, we cover book ranging from elementary through high school readers. The literature reviewed for this issue include: Girls Like Us; Bombay Blues; Elena Vanishing; Anything Could Happen; The Book with No Pictures; and Jim Curious: A Voyage to the Heart of the Sea in 3-D Vision. Furthermore, the Poetry and Arts section, edited by Margaret Robbins, includes eight poems: “Spinning Straw into Gold—A Teacher’s Plight,” “Ryan,” “Hale,” “Blowing and Bursting Bubbles,” “The 451 App,” “Benjamin,” “Failing Students,” and “They Yellow Crayon.” In addition to these poems, we also have two art pieces, titled “Burning Hell” and “Dream”. The selections include such important themes as technology's influence on modern day society, schools as sources of embodiment, issues of control and conformity in schools, the dreams and imagination of children, and teachers' encouragement from students to continue in a demanding, but rewarding profession. Many of our poets are also educators, so they understand the importance of encouraging creativity,


Falter, M. M. (2015) / Editor’s Introduction even in a world where individuality is sometimes stifled. We hope you enjoy these uplifting, thought provoking, and powerful works of art. As JoLLE moves forward into the 2015-2016 academic year, I hope that the journal’s readers and conference participants will continue to support the journal’s efforts whether through being a reviewer of manuscripts, participating in our social media, on Facebook (please “like” us and join in the conversation at https://www.facebook.com/JoLLE.UGA) and Twitter (@jolle_uga), writing a Scholars Speak Out op-ed piece, currently edited by Meghan E. Barnes (http://jolle.coe.uga.edu/scholars-speak-out/), listening to our author Podcasts, produced by Jennifer Whitley, or through attending our annual conference. The incoming Principal Editor, Meghan E. Barnes, and the rest of the 2015-2016 JoLLE Editorial Board are already working to offer spaces for new and transformative thoughts and practices through future issues and the JoLLE@UGA 2016 Winter Conference. As a final note I wish to return to the art installation “You and Me.” While our educational system becomes more rigid and standardized, less playful and more controlled and disciplined, I want to rethink this “cookie cutter” mentality of education, but particularly our language and literacy practices. No student or teacher is alike. Rather than conforming to the mold, I encourage us all to take up the call for more embodied and participatory research and pedagogical practices that expand the notions found in this issue. Sincerely,

Michelle M. Falter Principal Editor 2014-2015 jolle@uga.edu

JoLLE wishes to say Thank You to our 2014-2015 Editorial Board and Reviewers! Michelle M. Falter Albina Khabibulina John M. Zyck, Jr. Beth Pittard Crystal L. Beach Jennifer J. Whitley Xiaoli Hong Margaret Robbins Helene Halstead Melissa Baker Khanh Bui Chelsey Bahlman Patrick Tiedemann Ying Cui

Meghan E. Barnes Lourdes Cardozo Gaibisso Bernadette McKelly Xiaodi Zhou Yunying Xu Chau Nguyen Adam Crawley Stephanie Anne Shelton Mandie Dunn Kinga Varga-Dobai Jayoung Choi Mary Beth Hayes Chris Hansen Melissa Perez

Marianne Snow Jin Kyeong Jung Katie Wester-Neal Susan Bleyle Kathryn Caprino Lyndsay Moffatt Victor Malo-Juvera Nicole Strange Velina Boteva Rhett Hutchins Steven Landry Min-Young Kim

And a huge thank you to our Faculty Advisor, Dr. Peter Smagorinksy!

Note: If you are interested in becoming a reviewer for JoLLE, please contact us at jolle@uga.edu


Multimodal Play and Adolescents: Notes on Noticing Laughter Lalitha Vasudevan

ABSTRACT: In this article, I explore laughter as a form of multimodal play in which adolescents’ engage across contexts and in various configurations. With a few recent exceptions, a focus on unscripted play is largely missing from ongoing research and discussion about the education of adolescents. Whereas the space to play has been vitally important to the ways that young people communicate and build relationships in the different settings where I have conducted fieldwork, the play of adolescents is also frequently misinterpreted within school-based and community settings and often remediated or punished. Adolescents’ practices of manipulation and experimentation with various media and technologies are the focus of two scenes I include of adolescents’ playful engagements with video and their immediate contexts in which laughter serves as a medium of play. This article was written with educators and researchers of/with adolescents in mind, with the hope of encouraging greater reflection about how and what we notice about young people’s play: there may be glimpses of being and becoming in the space of a giggle. Key words: Multimodality, Play, Laughter, Video, Adolescents

Lalitha Vasudevan is Associate Professor in the Communication, Media, and Learning Technologies Design Program at Teachers College, Columbia University. For nearly twenty years, she has worked as a researcher, educator, and collaborator with adolescents in a variety of settings, and with court-involved youth in particular. She is interested in how youth craft stories, represent themselves, and enact ways of knowing through their engagement with literacies, technologies, and media. She is co-editor of two volumes that explore the intersections of youth, media, and education: Media, learning, and sites of possibility (2008, Peter Lang) and Arts, Media, and Justice: Multimodal explorations with youth (2013, Peter Lang). She can be contacted at lmv2102@tc.columbia.edu

Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 Michelle M. Falter, Editor -- http://jolle.coe.uga.edu

Vasudevan, L. (2015) / Multimodal Play and Adolescents “To learn, I believe, is to become, to become different. It is to continue making new connections in experience, new meanings, if you like. … This is the power of imagination--to break through the crusts of the conventional and the routine, to light the slow fuse of possibility.” --Maxine Greene (2007)

persistent attitudes toward young, black boys as “troublemakers.” She offers the following caution: “There are serious, long-term effects of being labeled a Troublemaker that substantially increase one’s chances of ending up in jail. In the daily experience of being so named, regulated, and surveilled, access to the full resources of the school are increasingly denied as the boys are isolated in nonacademic spaces in school or banished to lounging at home or loitering in the streets.” (p. 230)

Giggles. High pitched squeals of delight. The infectious staccato of a chortle that unfurls into fullblown waves of laughter, sometimes hearty and continuous and other times abrupt and breathy. These are the sounds that have filled the youth centered spaces in which I have spent time as an ethnographer for nearly fifteen years: parks and local eateries, community centers, libraries, and, for over a decade, alternative to incarceration and alternative to detention programs. Laughter, in its many varieties and forms, permeates these spaces and the practices within them, even as discourses of discipline, punishment, remediation, and surveillance abound.

She goes on to describe “removal from classroom life…at an early age” as “devastating, as human possibilities are stunted at a crucial formative period of life” (p. 230). As educators and researchers, we participate in some of the same discursive geographies that inscribe the practices of adolescents’ with doubt, as Lesko’s (2012) words help to describe further: Static ideas about youth have helped to keep in place a range of assumptions and actions in and out of secondary schools. For example, since adolescents have raging hormones, they cannot be expected to do sustained and critical thinking, reason many educators. Since adolescents are immature, they cannot be given substantive responsibilities in school, at work or at home (p. 189-190).

We are living in a time when young people’s play is not only coming under increased scrutiny, but the consequences of misread play are sometimes fatal. As I write this in the spring of 2015, the names of adolescents who have been victims of police shootings have assumed a seemingly permanent place in the news headlines, and new names and stories are shared in a near-constant stream across social media platforms. The bodies of these mostly Black, mostly male youth who are at the center of these stories are repeatedly viewed, interpreted, and responded to as sources of suspicion, a pattern that has been documented and discussed across academic research and the popular press for decades (Blow, 2014; Ferguson, 2001; Youdell, 2003). Adolescents’ embodied practices, such as their choice of clothing, styles of interaction and postures, and the places they occupy, can place them in a position of being viewed as “looking suspicious.” For some youth, the labeling of their social and cultural practices through the prism of suspicion begins in childhood, long before they enter adolescence.

The impulse here may be to begin by asking how teachers, and adults in general, respond to the embodied practices of youth, in classrooms, the hallways of school, outside of school, and throughout the youths’ movements across communities. I propose that we start by looking inward and paying attention to what it is that we are noticing in the first place. Do we see through the lens of control (wherein young people’s movements are interpreted as demonstrating or lacking control) or do we view adolescents’ practices from an assumption of agency and engagement? As this question suggests, too often acts of noticing are filtered through a rubric of deviance. How we notice is shaped by our physical as well as our conceptual and social location in relation to young people. Thus, we might hold onto the question: From what orientation are we noticing the practices and actions of adolescents who are the focus of our

In her multi-year study at an elementary school, Ferguson (2001) studied interactions between students and teachers and observed teachers’


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 teaching, documentation, or other engagement? And to what extent are claims of (lack of) control and the need for remediation and containment based on the expressive, communicative, and non-linguistic semiotic repertoires of youth who already experience this heightened surveillance in their daily lives?

encompassed practices and evidence of silliness, discursive playfulness in the form of teasing, playing games of many kinds, dramatic play, and the engagement with a wide range of media and other modal resources. If, as Paley (2004) invites us to consider, it is in and through their play that children imagine possible lives, rehearse multiple scenarios, and aesthetically declare their place in the world, then We are living in a time laughter may be viewed as a when young people’s play medium of that play. Thus, for the purposes of this article, is not only coming under laughter is the primary focus of increased scrutiny, but the the analysis and discussion that I present by drawing on two consequences of misread examples from ethnographic research with adolescents play are sometimes fatal. roughly ten years apart.

What I describe in more detail below as multimodal play can also be viewed as an invitation to attend differently to the educational contexts that we design and research. The proposal implicit in this invitation is that the embodied ways with which youth interact with the world – with institutions, places, people, situations – should not be dismissed or hastily categorized according to a priori rubrics of behavior. There is a depth of meaning to be found in the subtle, sustained, sometimes fleeting communicative practices of adolescents, and of human beings more broadly. For youth, however, the interpretations of their actions prove to be consequential in shifting the course of their lives. For example: fidgeting is viewed as a sign of Attention Deficit Disorder that must be medically treated; limited English language proficiency of emerging bilinguals is viewed as a reason to be placed in remedial classes; or joking around with classmates earns the label of troublemaker that follows a child into adolescence when reputation is the thin line between being given the benefit of the doubt or not. It is into this set of complicated and shifting equations in the educational landscape I re-introduce a focus on play.

Multimodal Play “If people never did silly things, nothing intelligent would ever get done.” --Ludwig Wittgenstein (1984) Youth are consistently seeking opportunities to pursue play that is “central to the rhetorics of creativity in childhood” (Marsh, 2010, p. 21) as they move into and out of institutionally sanctioned spaces where room for play has significantly narrowed. Across youth studies, play and storytelling share an intimate bond as co-pilots of young people’s imagination and creativity (Wohlwend, 2008). This body of research shows how meanings are expressed and manipulated through oftentimes unscripted and playful engagement with a wide range of modes (visual, aural, gestural) and media (print, drawing, video). Consequently, expression is imbued with aesthetic meanings that are frequently overlooked. To render visible this expressive variability, I draw upon the conceptual lens of multimodality in dialogue with the traditions of research on play.

My goal in this article is to advocate for serious consideration of adolescents’ play, playfulness, and play-like practices in their communicative practices. I do not focus explicitly on adolescents’ literacies, however an understanding of literacies as situated, multiple, and multimodal saturates the conceptual framing of both projects I discuss below. Furthermore, rather than presenting a comprehensive heuristic for play here, I focus on laughter as a key part of the play I have observed in my work with youth. However, it is important to note that play in the larger project also

Multimodal play is a phrase that calls attention to the spontaneous, unscripted, undirected, and often unpredictable interactions young people have with the modal resources and materials around them (technologies, furniture, clothing; anything can potentially be a mode with which to communicate).


Vasudevan, L. (2015) / Multimodal Play and Adolescents The term brings together the lenses of multimodality with existing discussions of play, which experiences a noticeable gap in the research literature in the chronological distance from children and adolescents. Whereas play is “central to the rhetorics of creativity in childhood” (Marsh, 2010, p. 21), play is decidedly less present and more regulated for older children and youth, as I note in more detail below. The ethnographic study by Ito and colleagues (2010) of youths’ online practices highlighted a range and variation in the ways that young people were participating in and mediating emerging digital landscapes. Johnson has detailed the nuanced ways that teens manipulate popular culture texts – in which she includes clothing and dress as well as jokes and humor – to perform identities and to play with meanings about themselves in classrooms and schools (Johnson, 2011; Johnson & Vasudevan, 2012). The youth in both of the studies noted above engaged in ample forms of unscripted and spontaneous interactions with modes that were playful in nature. Play, in these instances, is serious even as it is sometimes unintentional. Thus, multimodality is central to the communicative practices of youth and there continue to emerge numerous examples of youth using – by which I mean, exploring, manipulating, hacking, repurposing and other forms of engagement – various tools and artifacts as modes through which they are communicating, representing, and engaging in various other expressive practices that fall under the broader heuristic of literacies (Guzzetti & Bean, 2013; Hull & Nelson, 2005; Pahl & Rowsell, 2010).

of children’s literacy and illustrates the ways in which children engage and effectively remix their existing knowledge of popular culture to play with new scenarios, imagined life histories, and to take on imagined identities. And, citing Vygotsky’s axiom that “the freedom of play is ‘illusory’” (p. 1978, p. 103, cited in Dyson, 1997, p. 13), Dyson acknowledged that although children’s play is never quite free from cultural meanings, the opportunity to play – to imagine, to fantasize, to enact the improbable – can also present opportunities for children to “negotiate a shared a world” (p. 13) and in doing so examine and possibly remake social arrangements, if only for short periods of time. More recently, bringing play together with the increasingly digitally mediated landscapes of childhood, Marsh (2010) noted that “play and technology are frequently positioned as oppositional” (p. 23). She described play as “an activity which is complex, multi-faceted and context-dependent” and that digitally mediated play can be viewed as beneficial because of skills gained during play such as “technical and operational skills, knowledge and understanding of the world and subject-specific knowledge in areas such as literacy and mathematics” (p. 24). While the study of childhood play has a rich foundation (Dyson, 1997; Paley, 2004; Sutton-Smith, 1997), research about and opportunities for adolescents’ play is sparse. In fact, the very nature of unfettered play has sharply declined in the last several decades, particularly in the United States. Gray (2011) used the term “free play” to identify what I refer to as “unfettered play” and notes: the term free play refers to activity that is freely chosen and directed by the participants and undertaken for its own sake, not consciously pursued to achieve ends that are distinct from the activity itself (p. 444).

Play, Paley (2004) further argued, is not only the central activity of childhood but vital to young children’s development into being and becoming people. “What an astonishing invention is this activity we call fantasy play,” she mused, and wondered, “Are we really willing to let it disappear from our preschools and kindergartens?” (p. 7). Paley advocated for teachers to encourage the fantastical imaginations of children, even as and especially because of the unexpected places to which their ideas will travel, noting that “fantasy play provides the nourishing habitat for the growth of cognitive, narrative, and social connectivity in young children” (p. 8). Dyson (1997), like several others, has argued for the importance of narrative play in the development

Citing findings by historians of play, Gray (2011) observed a shift in the amount and type of play in which children and adolescents have been engaged beginning around the middle of the twentieth century. In the place of this free play, Gray argued, has come a significant amount of adult structured play in the form of organized sports and similar activities that


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015

mimic the extrinsic motivations of schooling. The current national discourse of testing and accountability leaves many teachers feeling that there is little room for unscripted moments within the school day. In contrast, the wisdom belied by the simplicity of Wittgenstein’s (1984) words above is redolent of young people’s unfettered proclivities for curiosity and innovation that have been symbolic staples in my research with youth.

overarching research questions of the ongoing study focus on how young people are making themselves known. I also take another cue from Parvulescu (2010) as an ethnographer whose analytic orientation is invited to shift in an attempt to more fully appreciate laughter, itself: “The ethnographer would read through and describe the layers of signification surrounding any given burst of laughter at both the production and receiving ends. But while Geertz believes the ethnographer can, at least provisionally, conclude that a given wink ‘says’ something, laughter as such does not ‘say’ anything, although it can illuminate the context in which it bursts.” (p. 21)

Being and Becoming in Laughter As I observed adolescents in different settings, laughter in young people’s play became harder and harder to ignore. Over time, I became increasingly interested in the nature of young people’s laughter, which is a focus slightly apart from the object of their laughter. Parvulescu (2010) made this distinction in her study of laughter itself (rather than laughter about) and posed the following questions, which have served as a heuristic in how I have begun to revisit laughter in my fieldwork: “What does the body in laughter look like? How does laughter sound? Where, in what places, is it likely to burst? What does it mean for two or more people to laugh together? What work (or unwork) does laughter do? What kind of subjects are we when we laugh? What does it mean to be a laugher, to anchor one’s subjectivity, however provisionally, in “I laugh, therefore I am (or am not)”?” (p. 3)

Within the New York City contexts in which my graduate students and I locate our inquiries, we observe play and laughter in many forms. And in most of the interactions we have analyzed in which laughter-filled play is evident, the body serves as the site of play as well as a form of representation, itself a mode of playful engagement. Most of these community-based alternative settings are filled predominantly with male youth who self-identify as Black, African American, Latino, or Hispanic. And it is in the re-reading of their bodies in play that we hope to inform the a priori suspicion narratives that currently circulate about too many young people. Bodies Bursting in Becoming Between 2002 and 2003, I spent fifteen months engaged in ethnographic fieldwork for my dissertation with five, African American, middleschool aged boys whom I had met when they were fifth graders. We initially came together for the purposes of exploring new media for storytelling, which was the broader aim of my study, but quickly formed a group identity characterized by the practices of aimless wanderings, digital explorations, media making, and ample amounts and forms of play. Most of our time together was spent outside of school and we convened at public locations in the vicinity of the boys’ adjacent neighborhoods. A majority of our time was split between the park (during warmer months) and the public library (during colder months and whenever it rained). We also spent an inordinate

Distinct images dance across my mind as I ponder each of these questions, and they include laughter that is inclusive as well as exclusionary, or laughter that causes someone to physically move or be moved. In each of these and several dozens of other examples, two of which I include below, laughter does not exist in a vacuum, but is, in fact, situated and responsive to the context in which, as Parvulescu (2010) might say, it bursts. Thus, my focus here is on the interaction between modal resources of a context and the laughter that bursts, unfolds, ripples, and permeates in that moment of interaction. And rather than ask what laughter leads to or what is learned in laughter, I was more concerned with what was happening in and around the laughter and, in a broader sense, the


Vasudevan, L. (2015) / Multimodal Play and Adolescents

amount of time at the nearby McDonald’s, which was one of the few public places that accommodated our playfulness and occasionally boisterous media production processes as I describe in further detail below.

Scene 1: Coming into being on camera. One summer afternoon, five of us were walking back to the park where we had originally convened after a visit to a local pie shop that Romeo had been raving about and a quick stop at the nearby corner store to pick up something to drink. On most of our outings, I paid for our snacks and this time was no different. We took our drinks and first went to find Shawn, who had said that he could not meet with us that day. Cyrus suspected that he was visiting family out of town, but TJ skeptically postulated that Shawn did not want to be a part of our group any more. TJ’s logic was clear: if you’re not here, then you’re not part of the group. The trip to Shawn’s house, which was slightly out of the way and the farthest distance from our usual meeting spots, was also marred by an encounter with a very loud and sizable dog that lived in the neighboring brownstone. To say that we sprinted away from the barking dog would be an understatement.

This group space was collaboratively formed by the six of us – Cyrus, TJ, Romeo, Jamal, Shawn, and me – and organically unfolded in response to an idea that arose from the group. In other words, we did not have preset goals or curricula to follow. We were also free from many of the constraints that increasing numbers of after-school and community-based programs are facing, largely as a result of reporting requirements from funding agencies which seek to measure out of school time through the lens of its relevance to inschool goals (Gadsden, 2008). This is an unfortunate reality that not only impacts the out of school contexts that young people occupy, but also adversely impacts the fields of study related to understanding adolescent learning by inhibiting choice and “free play” (Gray, 2011).

By the time we had reached the edges of the neighborhood where Cyrus, Romeo, and Jamal lived, our bodies stretched out into a train-like formation, with TJ walking a few dozen feet in front of us and leading the way. Cyrus was also in front but a little closer, while Jamal was lagging behind and then running up ahead of Cyrus. Romeo walked with the camera in hand almost adjacent to me. Occasionally Romeo would pause to record something – a squirrel running up a tree, the street underneath his feet as he walked and stopped – or apply any of the several effects available to apply to the filming. Romeo’s regular documentation was something I looked forward to watching after each time we met; he provided me with another set of insights into how the same moment can be experienced and storied (Vasudevan, 2006).

Each time we met, I would bring with me my royal blue colored backpack filled with the same collection of digital tools and media: digital voice recorders, digital still and video cameras, and a laptop. Whether we had planned to use the technologies or not, they were made available. I later described this approach as taking a multimodal stance in pedagogy, one in which the assumption of multiple forms of expression and communication are embodied in the way the interaction space is set up with the availability of various modal resources without a priori outcomes or instructions. While I did not set out to teach the group of boys a particular skill, per se, this study echoed what my colleagues and I have written about elsewhere as a “research pedagogies” approach to literacy research with adolescents (Wissman, Staples, Vasudevan, & Nichols, 2015).

Without warning, Cyrus spun on his heel holding a plastic soda bottle in his right hand, faced Romeo, and declared that he was going to “do a commercial.” And then, to make sure I also knew what was going on, Cyrus exclaimed, “Ms. Lalitha, I’m gonna do a commercial, ok?” and proceeded to say and do the following (Figure 1 features three stills from the video that Romeo filmed.):

It is perhaps not difficult to imagine that time spent hanging out with a group adolescent boys, ranging in age from 10-13 for the duration of our time together, would include lots of laughter. Embedded within and surrounding that laughter were vibrant of examples of negotiated identities, fleeting moments of belonging, and intertextual narrative work.


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 Cyrus [standing next to the green, 20 ounce plastic bottle he has placed on the ground and giving Romeo and Jamal, who has now joined us, spontaneous stage direction]: Just act like you shot me, all right? Just act like you shot me. (He makes a fake sounding “shooting” or “whooshing” noise and mutters under his breath) “I’m dead” (His voice trails off as he pretends to fall to the ground.) But before collapsing completely, Cyrus says, “Ooh!” and points to the green plastic soda bottle while crouched down on the sidewalk. “A Sprite!” he says, enthusiastically, and takes a long drink from the green bottle. As he does so, the camera pans in close on Cyrus’s face as he says, “I’m fine!” His voice rises as he says the final words of the commercial and immediately follows his performance by nodding vigorously, grinning widely, and asking loudly, “You get that? You get that, [Romeo]?”

The filming of the commercial is followed by the boys’ giggles as Cyrus rushes over and asks to see what Romeo just filmed. We stood on the sidewalk huddled around the small 1.5” x 2.5” display screen of the Sony Hi8 video camera and watched while Romeo pressed play. For several seconds we hear the sounds of the traffic passing by, live behind us and on the small screen. Then, Cyrus appears on the screen and more laughing and pointing ensues. Romeo’s eyes remained glued to the camera screen, although he, too, is smiling widely. The impromptu filming was preceded and followed by laughter and the very existence of the artifact calls to mind Marsh’s (2010) musings on children and toys: “Whatever the nature of the toys to hand, children have long displayed the ability to be creative in their use of them, no matter how limiting they appear to be to adult observers.” (p. 34) In this spirit, Cyrus and Romeo routinely engaged in spontaneous media play, sometimes to produce a commercial artifact, as in the Sprite advertisement. They also recorded numerous versions of their interpretations of the local and national news and, in doing so, engaged discursive play as a way of experiencing the material and imaginative world(s) (Wohlwend, 2008). Sometimes these productions were accompanied by the sort of giggles that are the hallmark of adolescent nervousness in the face of unknown audiences or when placed in unfamiliar circumstances. Other times, the productions included moments of more fleeting multimodal play in which no tangible artifact was produced. The space for laughter to take root and be central to the authoring – of selves, of texts, of relationships – by youth can be challenging to cultivate, particularly as these multimodal play spaces often exist within

What the laughter, and the surrounding play – with roles, responsibilities, materials, space, genre – also illustrate is the nature of the space in which an artifact like the Sprite commercial came to be produced, and the boys’ relationship to that space. The commercial “burst” into being within a space that was already filled with the materiality of the city and the practices we had cultivated in the group. For example, as Cyrus performs this 23 second clip, the only other voice that can be clearly heard is Romeo’s as he assures his friend that the camera is on and ready to record with a simple but earnest, “Yeah.” By this point in our fifteen months of meeting together regularly, Romeo had spent more time filming and photographing with both digital still and video camera than the others in the group.

Figure 1. Stills from the Sprite Commercial


Vasudevan, L. (2015) / Multimodal Play and Adolescents institutions with their own assumptions and expectations about how adolescents should comport their bodies and control their impulses, among them, the impulse to laugh. The challenge of cultivating such a space where laughter is seen as adding to rather than detracting from whatever is happening in that space continues to exist and is a frequent comment I receive whenever I share work related to adolescents’ laughter. And, it is a dilemma that I have faced as my ethnographic work has taken on an increasingly pedagogical tenor.

order to account for a constantly shifting enrollment that is true of most community-based alternative programs.

This question moved us to begin viewing differently not only what we sought to do, but also what and how we observed during the workshops themselves. What emerged consistently as a salient element of nearly all of our time with Voices participants was the range and variation of their play and specifically the significance of playfulness as a mediating element in other forms of engagement. While spontaneity is a hallmark of the Preparing for the Spontaneity of Play kind of free play that we found to hold the most potential for the adolescents’ imagination, we sought Since 2009, my project team and I have been to avoid scripting play into our workshops. We facilitating workshops at Voices, an alternative to instead embraced a pedagogy of play (Vasudevan, detention (ATD) program for youth DeJaynes, & Schmier, 2010) ages 11-15 who have been arrested through which we encouraged and mandated to the afterschool “textual explorations, reconfigured program that offers its participants a teaching and learning We instead embraced range of educational activities, relationships, and [performed] mentoring experiences, community new roles with and through media a pedagogy of play. supervision, and legal services. technologies and media texts” (p. Through the Reimagining Futures 7). To do so, we routinely made Project, which was initiated and available and encouraged the designed with the Voices staff and engagement of, through our former court-involved youth several years ago, we pedagogical practices, a range of modalities with facilitate workshops designed to cultivate the youth which youth could participate in the workshops, participants’ sense of self and critical engagement including digital media tools (cameras, digital voice with the world around them by building on their recorders, and occasionally laptops), pens, paper, digital literacy practices and engaging a wide range of mixed media supplies, and more. It was in the context arts-based and multimodal methods of of a self-contained digital media workshop that the communication and expression. Our workshops are following scene unfolded. At the time, we had been designed with pedagogical flexibility wherein we view facilitating workshops at Voices for three years and youth as cultural producers, and as such, we are were very familiar with the staff and, more committed to providing spaces for their creative importantly, they were familiar with our ways of capacities to take be made visible and find audiences. working that was largely premised upon a pedagogy of play. Our ways of working as a team, like the makeup of the team itself, have evolved over the last six years of the Scene 2: High-fives project, and all workshops include media play, storytelling, questioning, and different forms of Filming that was done at Voices one afternoon shows making artifacts. As a team we meet weekly to discuss the camera following James, a young man of 15 years, workshops and engage in ongoing reflection of our as he walks from room to room inside the small office practice as facilitators and what we are observing and space wearing a wide grin on his face and approaches learning from the youths’ participation in the various staff members to give them a “high five” workshops. We also discuss pedagogical challenges, greeting. Although his hand is initially poised mid-air, one of which has continued to be a question of how to James is, in fact, only pretending to greet the people make the most of a single workshop opportunity in he interacts with using a raised hand, a potential high-


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 five; at the last second, he slaps his own thigh instead of offering his hand to his interlocutor’s awaiting hand. Each subsequent successful fake-out results in increased laughter, primarily from James but occasionally also from his cameraman, Darius, and some of the surrounding program staff and participants. In between bouts of laughter, he can be heard saying “It’s part of the camera, it’s part of the camera!” as if to put the blame for the prank on the camera. The people James and Darius encounter in the office suite include the program coordinator, the program director, a counselor, other participants, and the receptionist, all of whom indulge and even play along with the “fake high fives.”

different kinds of activity happening at once; the youth participants were not dismissed by the staff members with whom they interacted; laughter was not sanctioned or cause for reprimand. Of course, one glimpse by itself can only hold a limited amount of information. This clip, however, is representative of interactions we observed numerous times in which the unfettered multimodal play of the youth participants found fertile ground that seeded subsequent text production, digital exploration, and other forms of learning. The laughter-fueled play at the beginning of the afternoon, for example, was followed by another couple of hours of multimodal play with the camera. Minutes after their video pranking, James, Darius, and several other participants, a couple of Voices staff members, and another two workshop facilitators left the building and engaged in impromptu filming in an area of downtown Manhattan that included the challenge of receiving and documenting free hugs from strangers (for more on the filming of free hugs, see Vasudevan et al. 2014). The initial laughter begat more as the locations shifted from offices to outdoor space and as more participants were engaged in the activities surrounding the filming.

In this scene, James, a young man of 15 at the time, is accompanied by Darius, also 15 and his cameraman for the afternoon. After Melanie, a grad student working with the Reimagining Futures project team, showed Darius some basic functionality, the two of them began walking and talking and filming. Using Parvulescu’s (2010) proposed heuristic, one could describe what James’ body in laughter looked like: animated, bouncy, in constant motion as he swayed while walking from person to person, his red plaid shirt a blur as his arms rushed in a downward motion again and again while pretending to greet his potential interlocutors and then taking his hand away. A wide grin complemented his scrunched up nose and crinkled eyes, as he appeared to remain in a state of humor while thoroughly enjoying other people’s reactions to him.

“To Become Different” In the opening epigraph, Greene (2007) links imagination with a person’s learning journey and suggests that learning itself is an ever-unfolding act of becoming. As proposed above, to look at being and becoming is to consider any given moment for both what it is but also from whence it came in to where it is leading. The Sprite commercial as an artifact helps us to begin to understand what kind of space existed for the kind of play with media (that is embodied by the artifact and catalyzed by other artifacts, such as the video camera and plastic bottle) to come into being. And pedagogically, we can look at this construction-on-the-fly as suggestive of where one might take or scaffold the work next. In this scenario, as with James and the high-fives, the young people’s becoming was rendered visible.

Panning out somewhat, both spatially and temporally, we can see that the high-fives between James and various adults in the space were preceded by ritualistic practices of greetings and checking in between the participants and the staff. Some of the other participants ate snacks that were made available to them, and others sat quietly, were seen to be using their phones for various purposes, or were speaking with one of the other staff members. Although the actual impromptu walk around the Voices offices only lasted a few minutes in duration, the filmic representation and the moment itself hold meaning about the larger context in which the filming took place. A few things are readily evident from what can be seen and heard on the video: the youth had access to media with which to record; there are several

But is it meaningful? Implied in this question about all of this focus on laughter and multimodal play are (perhaps) assumptions about what is and is not


Vasudevan, L. (2015) / Multimodal Play and Adolescents meaningful and the extent to which the practices that youth are engaged in outside of school must somehow demonstrate value for schooling. For my research team and I, and for the young people with whom we work and from whom we learn, the meanings are rooted in the understandings about adolescents’ becoming that emerge when we look closely at play, and specifically when we take laughter seriously.

In a complementary tenor, Jones and Woglom (2013) embody multimodal play in the way they graphically represented pre-services teachers’ experiences in a teacher education course in the form of a graphic novel. They argue, through narrative and through the use of narratively constructed images in the graphic novel, that the body can be a site of critical and social change and educators must attend to how they move, feel, occupy space, and interact with one another and their students. This embodied self-reflection of how one experiences the world naturally extends to the ways that teachers understand the adolescent body in relation to the spaces it occupies.

Our pedagogical challenge has become effectively striking a balance between preparing for spontaneous multimodal play and allowing that play to move us in unexpected directions, in the activities that unfold, conversations that emerge, and texts that are produced. To allow play to flourish, and for play to be and become the fertile ground for where relationships, questions, literacies, narratives, and other forms of being/becoming people in the world can take root requires a pedagogical nimbleness that Gustavson (2008) has described as educators taking an ethnographic stance that honors the “personhood of each student” (p. 112, emphasis in original). As he notes, “An ethnographic understanding of the ways in which youth perform, improvise, selfreflect, form communities of practice, and assess their work allows us to treat students as people with ‘desires still to be tapped, possibilities still to be opened and pursued’ (Greene, 2003, p. 111)” (Gustavson, 2008, p. 111).

In our research and our research-informed workshop facilitation, my graduate students and I strive to create conditions to notice the practices of youth broadly and deeply. For us, that commitment means attending closely to those practices that hold meaning for the young people themselves, irrespective of their currency in broader institutional discourses. It means that we must shift in our postures as researchers and educators by moving physically and theoretically closer to their sites and practices of becoming and refocusing our gaze so that we notice the richness of adolescents’ multimodal play and occasionally allow our inquiries to dwell with their laughter.


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015

References Blow, C. M. (2014, February 19). The bias against Black bodies. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/20/opinion/the-bias-against-black-bodies.html?_r=0 Dyson, A. H. (1997) Writing superheroes: Contemporary childhood, popular culture, and classroom literacy. New York, NY: Teachers College Press. Ferguson, A. A. (2001). Bad boys: Public schools in the making of Black masculinity. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press. Gadsden, V. (2008). The arts and education: Knowledge generation, pedagogy, and the discourse of learning. Review of Research in Education, 32, 29-61. Gray, P. (2011). The decline of play and the rise of psychopathology in children and adolescents. American Journal of Play, 3(4), 443-463. Greene, M. (2007). Imagination and Becoming (Bronx Charter School of the Arts). Retrieved from: https://maxinegreene.org/uploads/library/imagination_bbcs.pdf Gustavson, L. (2008). Influencing pedagogy through the creative practices of youth. In M. L. Hill & L. Vasudevan (Eds.). Media, learning, and sites of possiblitity (pp. 81-114). New York, NY: Peter Lang. Guzzetti, B. J. &. Bean, T. W. (2013). Adolescent literacies and the gendered self: (Re)constructing identities through multimodal literacy practices. New York, NY: Routledge. Hull, G. A., & Nelson, M. E. (2005). Locating the semiotic power of multimodality. Written Communication, 22(2), 224-261. Ito, M., Baumer, S., Bittanti, M., boyd, d., Cody, R., Herr-Stephenson, B., Horst, H. A., Lange, P. G., Mahendran, D., Martínez, K. Z., Pascoe, C. J., Perkel, D., Robinson, L., Sims, C., and Tripp, L. (2010). Hanging out, messing around, geeking out: Living and learning with new media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Johnson, E. & Vasudevan, L. (2012). Seeing and hearing students' lived and embodied critical literacy practices. Theory into Practice, 51(1), 34-41. Johnson, E. (2011). “I’ve got swag”: Simone performs critical literacy in a high-school English classroom. English Teaching: Practice and Critique September, 10(3), 26-44. Jones, S. & Woglom, J. (2013). Teaching bodies in places. Teachers College Record, 115(8), 1-29. Lesko, N. (2012). Act your age!: A cultural construction of adolescence. (2nd Edition). New York, NY: Routledge. Marsh, J. (2010). Childhood, culture and creativity: A literature review. Newcastle, UK: Creativity, Culture and Education. Pahl, K. & Rowsell, J. (2010). Artifactual literacies: Every object tells a story. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.


Vasudevan, L. (2015) / Multimodal Play and Adolescents

Paley, V. G. (2004). A child's work: the importance of fantasy play. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Parvulescu, A. (2010). Laughter: Notes on a passion. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Sutton-Smith, B. (1997). The ambiguity of play. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Vasudevan, L., DeJaynes, T., & Schmier, S. (2010). Multimodal pedagogies: Playing, teaching, and learning with adolescents’ digital literacies. In D. Alvermann (Ed.) Adolescents’ online literacies: Connecting classrooms, digital media, and online culture (pp. 5-26). New York, NY: Peter Lang. Vasudevan, L., Rodriguez Kerr, K., Hibbert, M., Fernandez, E., Park, A. (2014). Cosmopolitan literacies of belonging in an after-school program with court-involved youth. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy. 57(7), 538-548. Vasudevan, L. (2006). Making known differently: Engaging visual modalities as spaces to author new selves. ELearning, 3(2), 207-216. Wissman, K., Staples, J., Vasudevan, L., Nichols, R. (in press). Developing research pedagogies with adolescents: Created spaces, engaged participation, and embodied inquiry. Anthropology and Education Quarterly. Wittgenstein, L. (1984). Culture and Value. (P. Winch, Trans.). Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press. Wohlwend, K. (2008). Play as a literacy of possibilities: Expanding meanings in practices, materials, and spaces. Language Arts, 86(2), 127-136. Youdell D. (2003). Identity traps or how Black students fail: The interactions between biographical, subcultural, and learner identities. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 24(1), 3-20.


“The Power of Our Words and Flesh”: An Experienced Literacy Coach’s Love Letter to Incoming Educators about the Transformational Roles of Relationships and the Body in Learning Christine Woodcock Phyllis Hakeem ABSTRACT: Framed by the importance of language, and the ways that knowledge is embodied, this study explores the “coaching side” of literacy coaching, providing tips to educators. Phyllis, an experienced coach nearing retirement, wanted to provide insights to incoming teachers as she reflected on the question “Why do we teach, anyway?” Without realizing it at first, Phyllis highlighted “the power of our words and flesh.” The research evolved to center on the following three questions: How does an experienced, successful literacy coach develop sincere partnerships with teachers? How does the responsive literacy coach co-construct knowledge with teachers? What does it look like for coaches, teachers, and students to become responsible partners in social living? The authors co-constructed a participatory case study, informed by portraiture and autobiographical narrative methods, and analyzed using the Listening Guide, (e.g., Brown & Gilligan, 1992) a qualitative, relational, voice-centered, feminist methodology. Three themes emerged from the research questions: the power of words alongside the implications of voice and silence in our work as educators, the role of the teacher’s body in (dis)embodied knowledge, and the multidimensional partnerships necessary to work together in empowered, democratic schools. Last, the authors conclude with a love letter of sorts, with a particular focus on tangible pedagogical insights for educators, focusing on the importance of teacher narrative and the three postures of relationships.

Key words: Literacy coaching, Embodied knowledge, Teacher language, Teacher relationships, Feminist methodology, Teacher narrative

Christine Woodcock and Phyllis Hakeem met more than a decade ago, when Phyllis was a student in Christine’s classes at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. For the last six years, both have been adjunct instructors for American International College. Their “day jobs” are devoted to empowering students who have academic difficulties. Christine is the Learning Disabilities Specialist at Northwestern Connecticut Community College, and Phyllis is a literacy specialist at Williams Elementary School in Pittsfield, MA. Christine can be contacted at Christine.Woodcock@aic.edu and Phyllis at Phyllis.Hakeem@aic.edu.

Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 Michelle M. Falter, Editor -- http://jolle.coe.uga.edu

Woodcock, C., & Hakeem, P. (2015) / The Power of Our Words and Flesh Teaching, I was coming to understand, was a kind of romance… You… invited a relationship of sorts. – Mike Rose (Lives on the Boundary, 1989)

vague. Instead, educators are swept into a whirlwind of standards, testing, and initiatives, such as The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, Common Core State Standards, and Response to Intervention, just to name a few. In the shadows of these reforms toil the teachers—always overworked, sometimes silent, and understandably disillusioned from the storm. The current study sought to provide insights on how the relational, coaching side of coaching could lead to more productive, empowered stances in education, even in the face of the storm.

Even though life is filled with transitions, changes often feel scary. A shift in the chapters of life renders us vulnerable. We feel it in our fluttering hearts and our turbulent stomachs. Most educators would confess to having “first day jitters,” whether it is truly one’s first day teaching, or it is one of many first days back amidst decades of teaching. Yet, what happens on the last day? As a seasoned educator, Phyllis, is embarking on retirement, she wishes to provide a humble gift—a love letter of sorts—to the incoming and newer teachers. She cannot help but reflect on, “Why do we teach, anyway?” When I asked Phyllis, an accomplished literacy coach, she highlighted “the power of our words and flesh.” So, what are the impacts of our words and flesh as teachers? In a participatory, co-authored case study, she shares her reflections on the transformative roles of relationships and the body in how we learn.

As teachers and teacher educators, of course we all care deeply for the K-12 students whose lives we touch, yet in our constant, student-centered concerns, we sometimes neglect the teachers. Teachers are frequently forced into one change after another, all while being under the scrutiny of both the general public, elected officials, and administrators (Neher, 2007). In the current American educational milieu, how are teachers positioned to negotiate and construct knowledge?

Framed by the importance of our language, and the ways in which we embody knowledge, this study sought to better understand the “coaching side” of literacy coaching, providing tips to coaches and teachers who are newer to the field, and who are seeking insights. At its heart, literacy coaching is about relationships and growth (Blackstone, 2007). The ability to create and foster genuine relationships is the foundation of responsive, successful literacy coaching (Dozier, 2006). Yet, in most of the notable textbooks on the market for literacy coaches (e.g. Burkins, 2007; Hasbrouck & Denton, 2010; Toll, 2005; 2008; 2014; Vogt & Shearer, 2010; Wepner, Strickland, & Quatroche, 2013), very few, if any, go into any depth on how to establish and foster the healthy relationships necessary in a sincere educational partnership.

Since scholars such as Lather (1991) have proposed that agency is unknowable, researchers have been pushed to instead study the ways that people construct knowledge. The current study supports the idea that some people relationally construct knowledge; this social conception of knowledge relates to the ways we embody knowledge in how we do or do not separate physical experiences from those that are emotional and cognitive in nature, because the experiences are holistic and interrelated (Estola & Elbaz-Luwisch, 2003; Woodcock, 2010). As teachers and teacher educators, we must honor the body language, daily experiences, emotions, and perceptions of all of our students and colleagues. When we honor the relational construction of knowledge, it leads to richer, more embodied learning. Nearing the end of a fruitful career, an educator may not remember the test scores and will more likely cherish the relationships and the deeply embedded knowledge. When Phyllis asks herself, “Why do we teach, anyway?” she responds, “To cocreate responsible partners in social living.”

The dynamics between effective literacy coaches and teachers can be the catalysts for change in schools. The demand for literacy coaches has risen tremendously in recent years, yet in that time, a clear understanding of the complexities of coaching roles is still evolving (e.g. Niedzwiecki, 2007; Toll, 2014). Throughout this progression, the relationshipbuilding, “coaching side” of literacy coaching is still

Taking all of these matters into consideration, the focus of the current research centers on the following


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 three questions:  How does an experienced, successful literacy coach develop sincere partnerships with teachers?  How does the responsive literacy coach coconstruct knowledge with teachers?  What does it look like for coaches, teachers, and students to become responsible partners in social living, and how is it accomplished?

about literacy instruction (Hasbrouck & Denton, 2010; Shaw, 2007; Vogt & Shearer, 2010). In America, many literacy coaches are hired for the purposes of focusing on initiatives, such as Common Core State Standards, or Response to Intervention (e.g. Toll, 2014; Wepner, Strickland, & Quatroche, 2013). The savvy coach does not allow the initiatives to overshadow the important work of coaching. Instead, the savvy coach still establishes teachers as her main focus and partners, while wisely and judiciously attending to the educational initiatives. A successful literacy coach makes strides to fully understand educational initiatives, yet allows the focus to remain on the sincere partnership with the teacher (Toll, 2014). Coaching is about embracing the wholeness of people. “Coaching is not about fixing someone. No one is broken, and no one needs fixing. It’s not about giving advice, providing ‘constructive criticism,’ making judgments, or providing an opinion. Coaching is a relationship” (Barkley & Bianco, 2005, p. 4; cf. Froelich & Puig, 2007).

First, the authors will situate the work theoretically by defining terms, such as the role of the literacy coach and how it is evolving, as well as the theoretical underpinnings of how relationships are developed. The relational construction of knowledge will be defined, as well as how it leads to embodied knowing. Second, the authors will explain the methodology. The authors co-constructed a participatory case study, informed by the methods of portraiture and autobiographical narrative, analyzed using the Listening Guide, (LG; e.g., Brown & Gilligan, 1992; Gilligan, Spencer, Weinberg, & Bertsch, 2003; Taylor, Gilligan, & Sullivan, 1995; Tolman, 2002; Way, 1998) a qualitative, relational, voice-centered, feminist methodology. Third, the authors provide the discussion of the case study, focusing on the three themes that emerged from the research questions: language, the body, and the role of relationships in learning. Last, the authors share concluding thoughts—a love letter of sorts, with a particular focus on tangible pedagogical insights for newer educators.

Toll (2008, 2014) refers to the relationship between a teacher and a coach as a partnership. This distinction is important because the term “partner” implies mutuality. In a sincere partnership, much like a traditional business partnership, everyone shares a commitment to success. “In the case of literacy coaching, then, a partnership is not likely to exist when the coach [or the principal or any mandate] decides what the teacher should do. That is a manager-subordinate relationship… but not a partnership” (Toll, 2008, p. 47). Just as someone may have a committed, healthy partnership in his/her personal life, coaching partnerships with teachers should also be based on similar traits, such as: respecting one another, listening to one another, honoring how the other person feels, supporting the other’s decisions, and recognizing the unique traits each person brings to a partnership (Toll, 2008). Relationships give meaning to practice (Hicks, 2002, p. 151).

Theoretical Grounding Coaches as Partners, Teachers as Whole: Relationally, Co-constructing Knowledge In the last decade, the United States has experienced a gradual understanding of the role of a literacy coach in today’s schools. Slowly, literacy coaches have evolved into “partners alongside teachers, executing job-embedded professional learning that enhances teachers’ reflection on students, the curriculum, and pedagogy for the purpose of more effective decision making” (Toll, 2014, p. 241). While traditional reading specialists frequently provide direct instruction to students on a daily basis, a literacy coach’s primary responsibility is to support teachers, working with them to respond to teachers’ needs and concerns

The overriding framework of this study will uphold that knowledge is constructed within the context of relationships. The relational construction of knowledge does not in any way dismiss the social construction of knowledge (Vygotsky, 1978), but instead adds emphasis on the dimension of the


Woodcock, C., & Hakeem, P. (2015) / The Power of Our Words and Flesh relational dynamic between one’s self and others that contributes to the knowledge gained in socializing an experience (Gilligan, 1996; Malaguzzi, 1993; Woodcock, 2005). Within the relational construction of knowledge, attention is paid to the textures of quality and trust in relationships (Raider-Roth, 2005; Woodcock, 2005).

teachers carefully read one another’s body messages” (p. 710).

In the vision of both Malaguzzi (1993) and Gilligan (1996), all knowledge is based in relationships, and an active relationship with one’s self is embedded in the social construction of knowledge. Vygotsky (1978) upheld that all knowledge is constructed in the context of social interaction. Rogoff (1990) extended Vygotsky’s ideas to emphasize and elaborate on the two-way exchange of creating knowledge and sharing meaning. Taking in knowledge is not a one-way street, or simply an individual endeavor, even in a social context. Offering fresh reflections on the social construction of knowledge, Malaguzzi (1993), of the Reggio Emilia approach to education, highlighted the affective domain in learning, which previous scholars, for example Piaget, had simply mentioned, but had not emphasized. Affective and relational dimensions should not just be emphasized in the education of young children, but should instead be considered in the education of each individual, regardless of age. Such relationships among adults, argue Estola and Elbaz-Luwisch (2003), “are also embodied and

(Dis)embodied knowledge

Historically, there is an intricate model of affect as central to human functioning (Tomkins, 1963, as cited in Probyn, 2004). Anyone can relate to ‘the goose bump effect,’ when an educational moment ignites a frisson of feelings, memories, thoughts, and bodily Since knowledge is shaped through socializing reactions (Probyn, 2004, p. 29). This more experiences with others, it is often necessary to have provocative, multisensory learning is anchored in our trusting, comfortable bodies and emotions. Since relationships with one’s self and language is the primary Affective and relational others in order to effectively medium through which socialize experiences. In order for knowledge is shared and dimensions should not just be individuals to trust what they processed (Bakhtin, 1981; emphasized in the education of know (Raider-Roth, 2005), and to Dewey, 1933; Vygotsky, 1978), trust others to help them socially it is essential to consider young children, but should construct what they know into people’s knowledge as it is instead be considered in the new knowledge, it is helpful to constructed through their have supportive relational relationships with their education of each individual, contexts in which to express entire selves: their emotions, regardless of age. ideas and questions. In their words and ideas, their relationship with others, bodies, and their actions. communication can potentially be adapted and One must holistically consider all of the relationships harmonized in order to ensure understanding in a that underlie the knowledge people construct, as well two-way exchange, rather than a one-way, solitary as the body’s various roles in this knowledge event (Paramore, 2007). construction.

As the teachers tell it, they know about being a model—one who is watched and “the figure that they copy”—yet at the same time they are teaching to help pupils learn, to keep them active and involved. The episodes suggest that teaching is such a dynamic activity that teachers are forced to assume different body positions simultaneously. A teacher’s body is on stage, and at the same time it is “in the audience,” close to pupils. This [positioning] underlines just how complicated and ambiguous the notion of presence in teaching is, and yet it seems to be essential to teachers’ ways of understanding their work. (Estola & Elbaz-Luwisch, 2003) Time and time again we see that people do not change when they are forced to do so; rather, people can change themselves, often profoundly, when they are trusted, inspired, and empowered to do so (Tschannen-Moran & Tschannen-Moran, 2010). Yet,


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015

education is a pressure-filled world of high-stakes tests and one-size-fits-all instruction. Americans are in the midst of the blame-game, and one of the favorite targets is the teacher. Teachers are perceived as broken and needing fixing (Burkins, 2007; Toll, 2008; Tschannen-Moran & Tschannen-Moran, 2010). In the typical American school, coaches and teachers are working in a climate of mandates and pressures of measured accountability. Sadly, the average American school culture is one of growing requirements and shrinking resources. Understandably, administrators, coaches, teachers, and students are frustrated, discouraged, and it may be argued, disembodied from their knowledge. Embodied knowing, and how some educators are disconnected from it, may be the missing key in the fullness or success of some teachers and students.

bodily organization and expression, as well as discursive accounting for them (Gillies et al., 2004). In the daily practice of a literacy coach, the seasoned coach often values the less tangible qualities of successful teachers, such as flexibility, the ability to shift gears, or to listen to and follow one’s intuition (e.g. Dozier, 2006). How are those traits taught, measured, and celebrated, though? In a way, we desire “(t)o read what was never written” (Dixon & Senior, 2011, p. 473). Yet, when pedagogy is understood as a relational practice, the affective interactions between bodies give shape to the pedagogical moments. Dixon and Senior observe that “body-to-body pedagogy asserts that our bodies, feelings, histories are as much pedagogical as our minds. The ways we feel about each other, our relationships—physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual—are pedagogical material used in the process of teaching and learning” (p. 478). In recent years there has been growing awareness of the body’s corporeal significance in how students learn in educational settings (Evans, Davies, & Rich, 2009). The current study wishes to extend and apply those understandings to the roles of teachers, and how they grow, learn, and transform.

In the last couple of decades, scholars have illustrated how much theorizing on the body tends to be disembodied and distanced from the day to day experiences of corporeality, and instead urged future research to talk about the body in the ways it is connected to us, and to our knowing, but also in sincere ways that relate to our day-to-day lives (Light & Kirk, 2000; Mulcahy, 2000). Bordo (2003) has argued that “Body can never be regarded merely as a site of quantifiable processes that can be assessed objectively, but must be treated as invested with personal meaning, history, and value that are ultimately determinable only by the subject who lives within it. There is a ‘disregard for personhood’ in how we sometimes speak of our bodies as though they are separate from us” (p. 74). There is an obvious need to study the role of (dis)embodied knowledge in teachers.

When we know how we come to know, and how that knowledge is embodied, we can remain more connected to our bodies and our ways of knowing and relating to others. In short, we learn more effectively when we learn in an emotional, embodied manner. One cannot deny peoples’ capacities for knowing and feeling, and the ways the two notions are interconnected, as noted by Luttrell (1997): “(W)hat is most memorable about school is not what is learned, but how we learn it. Unspoken and unresolved emotions (a taboo subject among most educators) and the ethical and political dimensions of

Johnson (1989) was one of the first to document the significance of emphasizing attention to bodies in education. He demonstrated how experiences are embodied and how language also has an embodied basis. We experience the world by living in it (Woodcock, 2010). Davis (1997) defines embodiment as individuals’ interactions with and through their bodies with the social, cultural, and historical worlds around them. Embodiment involves both a negotiation and composition of physical as well as discursive space. The process is dynamic and reciprocal, involving continual movements between

When we know how we come to know, and how that knowledge is embodied, we can remain more connected to our bodies and our ways of knowing and relating to others.


Woodcock, C., & Hakeem, P. (2015) / The Power of Our Words and Flesh

relationships make a difference in the learning process” (p. 122). When teachers can say what they really know and experience to others in relationships, their knowledge becomes more stable, embodied, and able to be examined with purposeful intention.

including physical setting, personal perspectives, historical background, and aesthetic features. This rich context plays a vital role in painting a clearer, more holistic picture of the informant, keeping her and her surroundings respectfully intact. To Lawrence-Lightfoot and Hoffman Davis, “The portraitist, then, believes that human experience has meaning in a particular social, cultural, and historical context—a context where relationships are real [and] where activity has a purpose” (p. 43). In the method of portraiture, detailed attention is paid to the voice of the informant, providing ways of attending to people and thoughts that may have otherwise gone unnoticed or been kept silent.

Method “I learned, too, how the stories we hear and the stories we tell . . . shape the meaning and quality of our lives at every stage and crossroad.” (Oliver & Lalik, 2000, p. xvi). By sharing this participatory case study, informed by the methods of portraiture and autobiographical narrative, the co-authors intend to provide an intimate glimpse into the life of an experienced literacy coach. We present this case to detail ways to enhance relationships and to honor the body for more successful educational partnerships. At the onset of the study, the initial researcher sought to study the focal informant, Phyllis, in a somewhat traditional manner. As the research unfolded, however, “the researcher and the researched” evolved into a participatory method, so that Phyllis’s voice remained fully intact, and the relationship between the researcher and participant was honored. Tolman and Brydon-Miller (2001) argue that “Embedded in these methods is the importance of trust and relationship between researchers and participants; such work is anchored by the goals of understanding the experiences of others and working collaboratively with them to generate social change and knowledge that is useful to the participants” (p. 5).

Wortham (2001) asserts that “Telling a story about oneself can sometimes transform that self” (p. xi). As the study progressed, Phyllis expressed a natural desire to take a more active role in sharing her story, leading to more of a hybrid autobiographical narrative approach. This inclusive approach makes a distinct valid contribution to the field in the ways it backgrounds the researcher’s voice and studies relational and emotional patterns systematically (Tolman & Brydon-Miller, 2001; Wortham, 2001). Autobiographical narrative helps to organize the human experience, recognizing the multiple layers of meaning in experiential narrative, which were coconstructed in various interview contexts, including in-person exchanges, email, and both structured and less structured formats. Narrative, argue Tolman and Brydon-Miller, “is especially sensitive to the relational nature of research and how researchers can and must negotiate their own and their participants’ subjectivities in collecting and analyzing interview data” (p. 7).

The co-authors sought to create a rich, detailed description of the focal informant, Phyllis, and her teaching environment, as well as the nuances of the multidimensional relationships therein. As researchers, we were committed to rendering a documentation that was illustrative of the depth of the human experience.

Context of Study and Data Sources Phyllis is a full-time literacy coach at a public elementary school in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts. It is located in the southeast portion of a city, in a residential area. At the time of the study, the school had 343 students, and the average student/teacher ratio was approximately 16.3 to 1. The cultural diversity at the school has increased significantly in the last several years. The school is not considered a low-income school and does not receive any Title I funding.

According to Lawrence-Lightfoot and Hoffman Davis (1997), portraiture is a genre of empirical research that reads more like a story or narrative form of literature because it takes into consideration not only the informant, but her entire surrounding context as well,


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 The predominant data source in the study was interviews. Phyllis was interviewed at least four times, with most interviews lasting two hours each. The interviews took place in mutually agreeable spots, such as a restaurant, or her office at school.

Data Analysis: The Listening Guide The Listening Guide (LG; e.g., Brown & Gilligan, 1992; Gilligan, Spencer, Weinberg, & Bertsch, 2003; Taylor, Gilligan, & Sullivan, 1995; Tolman, 2002; Way, 1998) provides a qualitative, relational, voice-centered, feminist analytic method. The LG differs from other means of analysis in that it places emphasis on the psychological complexities of humans through attention to voice. It does so through the creation and special analysis of voice poems, as well as by attending to silences. Furthermore, the LG is distinctive in its emphasis on the importance of human relationships, and its feminist grounding provides spaces to hear those who may previously been silenced (Woodcock, 2010, p. 364).

The interviews were audio-recorded. Every interview was transcribed as soon afterward as possible so that memories were still fresh, and also so that subsequent interview questions could be based on previous interviews. The interviews were unstructured and informal, consisting of open-ended questions (Marshall & Rossman, 1999), which created a discourse that was collaboratively constructed (Mishler, 1986). This approach lent itself to a conversational context that was conducive to the flow of personal stories (Borland, 1991), often referred to by qualitative researchers as “conversations, but conversations with a purpose” (Merriam, 2001, p. 71).

The LG distinctly varies from traditional methods of coding, because the researcher listens to, rather than categorizes or quantifies, the text of an interview. A researcher may listen for an aspect of experience that has been rendered invisible by an oppressive ideology (Tolman, 2001), such as the relational, embodied aspects of learning, vis-à-vis the achievementoriented culture of American education. Gilligan et al. (2003) maintain that “The Listening Guide method provides a way of systematically attending to the many voices embedded in a person’s expressed experience… allow[ing] for multiple codings of the same text” (p. 158). The procedure behind the Listening Guide calls for each interview to be listened to at least four discrete times. In the first listening, the researcher listens for themes and silences. A crucial phase of the second listening is to actually extract a series of “I” statements from the informant’s narrative transcript, and then create an “I poem,” or voice poem. During the third and fourth listenings, the researcher extracts themes of the narrative that melodiously intereact with one another, or that are in tension with each other (Raider-Roth, 2005). This tension or interweaving of the two themes is termed by Gilligan et al. (2003) as contrapuntal. The key is to look at these two themes as being in relation to one another.

Other interviews were slightly more structured and were facilitated through email exchange. Although the emailed interviews had pre-selected questions and were less conversational, the varied interview formats provided freedom to everyone involved, yet still provided the researcher some degree of control to seek insights to research questions, while fostering discussions of the experiences that were important to the informant (Riessman, 1986). The second data source was field notes from visiting the school where Phyllis works. During school visits, the researcher would handwrite notes in a journal, as well as photograph the setting, to provide the material from which to narrate aspects of the physical environment at a later time. The third data source was the researcher’s journal. Directly following each interview and site visit, the researcher wrote about the experience and any reactions to it. This process helped to ensure validity while serving as an additional data source to document what was not captured in field notes or interview recordings, including such contextual features as the aesthetics of the school or areas in which discussions took place, or any other environmental circumstances not discussed on recordings or in field notes. The journal served as an excellent source of not only organization, but also as a source of future interview questions.

Findings As Phyllis contemplated her retirement from the field of literacy coaching, she wanted to create an offering to newer teachers. Incoming teachers are often hungry for advice, especially practical suggestions,


Woodcock, C., & Hakeem, P. (2015) / The Power of Our Words and Flesh and words of wisdom from those who have seemingly experienced it all. When Phyllis was initially interviewed, it became apparent that she wanted to play a more involved role in the research, so the study evolved into a participatory case, borrowing techniques from autobiographical narrative and portraiture, analyzed with the Listening Guide (LG). Although Phyllis was not originally asked questions regarding the role of relationships and the body in teaching, those trends, along with the theme of language, all emerged, as Phyllis continued to emphasize “the power of our words and flesh.” After multiple interviews, site visits, and journaling, the coresearchers were able to explore the three themes of: language, the body, and relationships in some depth, which will be explored in this section.

a mess” the room had been when she was first hired at the school a few months prior. Phyllis was no stranger to renovation, since she and her husband had just restored their classic Victorian home. In a similar, loving fashion, Phyllis transformed her classroom into a space where teachers and students could seek not only academic materials and assistance, but also comfort and a soft place to land. Phyllis was clear to point out, “Whenever teachers are new to a position, they need to sort out all of the logistics first… the systems, the materials, the curriculum. Once all of the logistics are organized, you can really focus on what matters—relationships.” In that spirit, Phyllis had clearly systematized her classroom, which showcased a U-shaped table, and all of the leading products in the field for word study. There were multiple shelves of clean, visually appealing literacy centers and leveled book baskets, all of which could also be borrowed by classroom teachers. In addition, there was a carefully selected lending library of professional literature for colleagues.

The Power of Our Words: The Language Anyone who has been in New England during the autumn season knows what a sincere treat it is for all of the senses. Driving to the school where Phyllis teaches, nestled in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts, one may marvel at the colorful leaves, the crisp air, and the sweet smells of harvest. Although the façade of the elementary school appeared relatively traditional, the inside gave way to winding corridors of glass, with windows showcasing courtyards. The courtyards were purposeful in the ways they provided meaningful connections to the curriculum, in such ways as community gardening and outdoor space for art lessons.

“This is Vegas!” Phyllis exclaimed with a knowing smile. “What happens here, stays here,” she added. This was not the first time Phyllis had explicitly upheld her dedication to confidentiality. The teachers in Phyllis’s school knew that her classroom was a safe place to breathe, talk, or simply sit in silence to decompress after a difficult day. Phyllis did not just have cutting edge materials for literacy—she also had a rocking chair and a faux fireplace in her classroom for the teachers. Likewise, there were stuffed animals for the children, which not only brought academic concepts alive, but also brought forth the comfort and trust required in any relationship.

The principal in Phyllis’s school, a middle-aged woman, was warm and welcoming. Phyllis had described the principal as smart and supportive, which is important to emphasize in the work of a literacy coach. The keen understanding of an administrator is essential in the career of a coach. This principal’s background as an artist was evident in the large spaces established for art education, the lines of inspiring poetry painted on the walls, and the aesthetic, personal touches in the common areas. Even the teacher’s lounge had a lovely, seasonal centerpiece on the table, and there was a buzz in the air about an upcoming community mural project.

Unlike many in the field of literacy coaching, Phyllis was not recruited for her literacy expertise or certifications, or even because she was a reading specialist. Instead, Phyllis specifically chose the vocation and used the word “coach” purposely. As she explained it, “for me, I have viewed this latest recreation as a calling that would bring together much of what has informed my person.” Phyllis not only embraced her role, but even carved it out for herself, while many colleagues in the role of coach were asked to take on that role, or fell into it (Toll, 2014; Wepner, Strickland, & Quatroche, 2013). In the role of coach,

In many ways, Phyllis’s classroom was a reflection of the person she is as well: organized and efficient, yet colorful and cozy. She was careful to point out “what


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 the nuance of the language is paramount, considering the connotations that come with the word “coach.” An athletic coach may conjure up images of yelling or forcing, while a life or job coach may invoke impressions of mentoring, listening, and empowering.

as their leader. Within a matter of weeks, Phyllis had emailed and phoned, freely admitting such tremendous anxiety that she was nearly ready to bow out of co-authorship of this study, due to the demands of the multiple initiatives.

According to Phyllis, as literacy coaches, “we need to hear and see beyond the obvious. I need to be still and listen. I already know a lot about literacy. Now I can pay attention to body language and my language.” Once again, Phyllis emphasized that need to get beyond the logistics of background knowledge, materials, and methods. Once there is a solid foundation established in methodology, a coach may spend more time with language.

“I’m overwhelmed,” she said. “I’m backing out of our project due to these demands to head-up four new initiatives at school. We have a new basal, we need Lexia scores… I have to take things off my plate. I don’t want to end up in the hospital.” The Power of Our Flesh: The Body Undeniably, our bodies are important. They house and sustain us. They are a part of whatever we do, including our work with literacy education. Phyllis’s line was echoing and haunting: “I have to take things off my plate. I don’t want to end up in the hospital.” Human’s bodies can only handle so much. No matter how passionate she may have been about our research, something had to give. In the end, however, we found manageable ways for Phyllis to still participate in the research in a healthy, fulfilling way. Ultimately we couldn’t help but wonder whether, in the face of the educational initiative storm, how one’s body, morale, and professional relationships could all stay we are so afloat.

Although final grades matter, all of the steps along the way matter as well. Walking the hallways of a charming elementary school, marveling at student work displayed proudly on bulletin boards, outsiders need reminding of the human beings who all had a hand in creating that work. It is one thing to peruse test scores, and it is another matter entirely to witness the joy of a child applying math skills in a community garden, or a teacher’s pride in implementing a new initiative, yet in her own, personalized way, by independently creating a pocket chart display. Phyllis Once again, was careful to admire the focused on the students intricacies with which each teacher uniquely implemented When Phyllis emailed and called that our gaze consistently a new initiative, recalling an one autumn evening to share her old expression she created: gets away from the physical extreme discomfort with “Pedagogy can be directly juggling four new initiatives, she and emotional wellbeing of translated to ‘boy learner.’ emphasized how she felt the Instead, I believe in what I need to protect the children the teachers. refer to as mystagogy—the from the anxiety surrounding mystery or mysticism of the assessments associated with learning.” the initiatives, referring to her shielding as “preserving their dignity.” What about the dignity of the One of Phyllis’s largest concerns for newer teachers educators, though? Once again, we are so focused on was their perceived lack of autonomy and voice in the students that our gaze consistently gets away from what Phyllis referred to as the “achieve versus learn the physical and emotional wellbeing of the teachers. culture.” In Phyllis’s vision, “Teachers need a voice. Perhaps the initiatives are not so positive for anybody. They must be asking, ‘What is the meaning and purpose of everything we do?’… Teachers need to be a Phyllis’s voice was anxious and apologetic on the pathway to the change. Instead of focusing on phone. The tension was broken by our hearty laughter initiatives, we need to look at real change, and get rid when Phyllis jokingly referred to how she had of deep wounds.” Yet, these very teachers were in the supposedly buried her dedication to “co-create midst of not one, but four new initiatives, with Phyllis responsible partners in social living.” As may be


Woodcock, C., & Hakeem, P. (2015) / The Power of Our Words and Flesh

recalled, those were Phyllis’s words when she was originally asked why she teaches. “The co-creating is taken away by the demands. Instead of thinking through a long-term vision, instead the goal of schools is marketing.” Despite Phyllis’s ongoing pleas for teachers to have more autonomy, even she was feeling defeated, saying, “We need to be open to nurturing the life of the student, and preserving the dignity of the individual. We take it on. We wear it. It’s heavy. We feel it in our bodies.”

of herself in relationship to herself and others. By constructing this voice poem, a reader may gain deeper insight into what “co-creating responsible partners in social living” means to Phyllis, such as openness, autonomy, and long-term vision. Phyllis feels that hierarchically imposed demands get in the way of that creative freedom, since public schools have to look successful in the mainstream marketing stream, rendering teachers defeated. That defeated, disembodied “It” is expressed in the “we” statements, signifying a comradery among teachers who feel disengaged in the face of the storm.

By creating a voice poem, I was able to attend to Phyllis’s language, although her words didn’t resemble the voice poems I was used to creating (e.g. those modeled in Gilligan et al., 2003; see Woodcock, 2010). Usually, voice poems highlight “I” or “you” statements, yet Phyllis meaningfully referred more to “we” and “it.” As may be seen in the voice poem below, Phyllis began to un-pack her terms of “co-creating” and the opposing energy force, the “demands.” Under those designations, the “demands” become an “It” with which to be reckoned. Beneath “It” there were no “I”s or “you”s, only “we”s, which I interpret as solidarity between fellow educators. Co-creating Long-term vision More autonomy We need to be open

In fact, it was fascinating to see how much notions of the body arose in just that one school observation, because there had never been any mention that the research was centered on the role of the body. Yet a fellow coach, Phyllis’s office mate, exhibited tremendous stress. Although she later voiced how upsetting her day had been, it was obvious by the way she was hunched over in her seat, almost violently chomping chewing gum while grading tests. Then, a first grade teacher named Sherry appeared at the door. Sherry’s eyes, her lowered shoulders, and her strained expression all told that she was troubled. Sherry did not speak, and instead just quietly made her way to the rocking chair next to the faux fireplace and began rocking.

Demands marketing defeated

We all knew Sherry, so perhaps words were not necessary. School had dismissed, and Sherry needed to decompress after a trying day, and everyone knew that Phyllis’s classroom was Vegas. Phyllis had once mentioned that teachers sometimes entered her office, rocked in the chair, never spoke, and left. That day though, Sherry did share her emotional story. A student in her first grade class, who may have been struggling with mental health, finally experienced a big breakdown in the classroom, in front of his peers. In the aftermath of such a traumatic school event, it undeniably affected the emotional wellbeing and the bodies of the teachers and students. Rocking slowly in the chair, Sherry said, “My students talked with the school counselor after the mess and kept saying how they felt upset throughout their bodies—in their tummies and in their throats.”

It We take it on We wear it It’s heavy We feel it in our bodies Since the focus of the research was on how literacy coaches develop partnerships with teachers and coconstruct knowledge with teachers, it was imperative to place a firm focus on Phyllis’s language; hence the voice-centered quality of the LG, as well as the bridges or barriers to partnership; and hence the relational aspect of the LG. Although the poem noted above is not what Gilligan et al. (2003) refer to as a voice poem, the purpose of constructing voice poems is twofold. First, it is to listen to an informant’s voice to attend to any distinctive patterns within it. Second, this methodical attention to voice provides researchers with opportunities to hear how an informant speaks

Of course, there are times when educators discuss literacy endeavors, test scores, and academic


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 concerns. Yet, it is ridiculous to dismiss the personal, relational side of education, on a traumatic day, or on an ordinary day. As Sherry was ready to leave Vegas, she shared how she wanted to end on a positive note. Even though there had been lots of stress in her classroom for the first month of school, Sherry was still excited about how well her students were doing with reading comprehension strategies. Phyllis had been coaching Sherry on how to use kinesthetic movements with explicit comprehension strategies.

opportunity to be heard, often in a safe, trusted relationship, then real change occurred. According to Phyllis, Critical reflection leads to transformation. When schools are being audited, or undergoing mandatory initiatives, I’ve witnessed the physical and emotional anxiety of administrators, teachers, and students. I would welcome a forum to give valued autobiographical voice to these experiences. There is an impact on educators’ ability to change when they are forced to do so.

Sherry concluded, “The muscle memory with all of the movements—it’s so multisensory, they all remember it, and seem excited about it. Some of the parents have even noticed it, so I know the children are doing the movements at home.” Even at the end of a horrible day, there is nothing more rewarding for a teacher than to know that a new skill has been used and transferred to the home. By stimulating their bodies in multisensory lessons, the students were retaining and applying literacy skills across contexts.

Furthermore, Phyllis maintained that there is a “legacy of certainty in perfectionist thinking” that extends into the school realm (Hakeem, 2005)1. Due to standardized testing, state standards, and various mandated initiatives, there is a perceived code of perfectionism that administrators, teachers, and students all feel the need to uphold. In anyone’s attempts to be perfect, we run the risk of compromising our instincts, our health—our emotional and physical wellbeing. Pipher (2005) argues that the pursuit of perfection runs deep in one’s body, and one example is eating disorders. Phyllis went on to explain, “When individuals link self-worth to performance, perfectionism manifests itself in the forms of pathology, depression, and hopelessness. . . . there’s a lot of self-deprecating should-talk. . . . We must examine the ways that teachers have historically been silenced in these ways.”

After this compelling exchange with Sherry, Phyllis reflected by saying, “I develop vulnerably intimate and confidential relationships with teachers. There are moments of hope and respite for many of them. There is such power in our words, not only on emotions, but also on bodies.” Phyllis appeared to have so many positive partnerships with colleagues, it invited the question most coaches wonder: What do you do about those few, seemingly difficult people? Phyllis said, I have learned that academic literacy coaching isn’t foremost about changing people, even though that is what often happens. For me, deep resistance signals an equally deep wound. Often, those who resist the most, need to be genuinely heard. I have discovered that authentic presence and silence move a resistant colleague sometimes to vent in whatever manner they need, and then come the tears.

During LG analysis, third and fourth listenings, referred to by Gilligan et al. (2003) as contrapuntal, are a more in-depth way for a researcher to re-visit research questions and explore the ways themes either melodiously interact or are in tension with one another. Contrapuntal third and fourth listenings are a way to examine themes further and to analyze how they relate to one another. The voice poem depicted in Figure 1 shows the ways in which silence and body overlap. This intersection has implications for the ways knowledge is (dis)embodied.

Although many coaches see themselves as being in the business of change, Phyllis illustrated how change is a happy coincidence when people are allowed to practice their resistance. Phyllis saw the resistance as embodied, as a deep wound, and once those seemingly resistant people were provided with the 1

Figure 1 shows how, according to Phyllis, happy change occurs when teachers may practice resistance, leading to embodiment, as experienced through being

Note that Phyllis and Hakeem are one and the same. We refer to her as Phyllis in the narrative and as Hakeem as a reference.


Woodcock, C., & Hakeem, P. (2015) / The Power of Our Words and Flesh heard in a genuine relationship. Mandatory initiatives produce physical anxiety. Force does not equal true change. Voiced, embodied experience gives way to real change. Perfectionism does not equal physical wellbeing. Lack of wellbeing is disembodiment, which is linked to silence. In the end, we must return to the first statement, which is that happy change occurs when teachers can practice resistance, feeling embodied and heard in sincere relationships. Through the help of Figure 1, we may see how silence and body overlap, implying how knowledge is embodied or (dis)embodied, often related to the availability of a trusted relationship.

(e.g., Hasbrouck & Denton, 2010), who asked the participants to stand and partner up with someone next to them. Then, she asked the partners to face one another in a near embrace. Although that stance felt awkward, and the intense eye contact seemed limited and uncomfortable, there was a much different reaction from the crowd when Hasbrouck instructed the participants to all lock elbows, and to stand sideby-side, facing out to envision focusing on their students. Understandably, this experience resonated with Phyllis. It is a powerful representation for how we need to be student-centered in our approaches to teaching and coaching. Phyllis concluded her story by stating, “When you’re in relationship with students, you’re in relationship with the larger community.” Although I agree, the description of the workshop exercise irritated me. Why are we so queasy to face colleagues in a vulnerable, intimate way, when it is in everyone’s best interests? In order to best serve our students, we need to meaningfully partner with the whole community, most especially colleagues. We need to face back inward, toward one another. Since many people construct knowledge in relational ways, we contend that the relational components lead to richer, more embodied learning—not just in our child or adolescent learners, but also in ourselves, as adult learners and educators. Upon being asked about specific ways she fosters relationships with colleagues, Phyllis replied, “A key to my success was in becoming transparent… accessible. One of my most successful professional development workshops was a conference I developed for paraprofessionals about relationships. There were tears. Now, not just the teachers, but the assistants, too, they come to me saying, ‘This is Vegas, right? I need a hug.’” Although many schools focus on professional development for teachers, Phyllis was careful to carve out unique time for the paraprofessionals in her building. When we are okay with feeling vulnerable, showing others that we are human and accessible, we reach each other in transformative ways, which inevitably impacts our work with our K-12 students.

Figure 1 Our Arms Linked: The Role of Relationships One gray, drizzly day, Phyllis and I met at a trendy Asian fusion restaurant. Its lavish décor, with statues of the Buddha and gorgeous fabrics draped on high shelves, was the ideal setting to discuss our reflections on how the research was unfolding. Sipping a warm mug of tea, Phyllis was excited to share a story about a recent professional development workshop she had attended. The workshop was led by Jan Hasbrouck

According to Phyllis, professional relationships are carried out on a continuum, and partnerships are multi-dimensional:


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 Today, I describe my coaching as relational. Depending on the situation and the person, the relational quality remains diverse. There has emerged a continuum of relationships ranging from collegial to close. Having learned from my past failings, [I believe that] there are two characteristics that prove necessary to relational coaching. The first is nonjudgmental empathy, and the second is confidentiality. Being non-judgmental affords mutual engagement in healthy discernment that often leads to empathy. Confidentiality builds trust, which has proven to be foundational. Last, my coaching has emerged as a vulnerably intimate exchange. Sometimes the exchange is between individuals, teams, or a larger community.

faced with a seemingly resistant colleague, she does not even approach the person at first. Instead, Phyllis finds that the colleague inevitably observes her with students or other staff, which piques the curiosity of the seemingly resistant person. “Demonstrated trustworthiness over time without prejudice is my mainstay!” Third, Phyllis explained how she aims to listen and respectfully probe for clarity—in what is being said and not said. “We have to move from conversation to deep discourse… It is navigating through dissonance amidst a backdrop of ambiguity where relational coaching becomes transformative.” Indeed, when we are ready to tackle issues that cause us discomfort, while being okay that there might not even be a clear answer, we often grow exponentially.

How do we get to that point, though? According to Phyllis, “Teachers can feel autonomous, empowered, Although the depth of relationship varies from and emancipated in their work, when they are colleague to colleague, Phyllis contended that a working towards progressing a socially just relationship of some sort is necessary. As hard as it democracy” (Hakeem, 2005, p. 7). When teachers and may be at times to remain neutral of judgment, or to students feel as though they are being heard, and extend our compassion to others, those pathways, making a difference in their community, their voices alongside of strict privacy measures, often lead to remain intact. Bomer and Bomer (2001) describe this productive partnerships. responsibility as follows: There is such a thing as “We have to stop thinking professional intimacy, or of ourselves as working vulnerability in work for bosses, and instead spaces, whether we like it understand that we are “As coaches, we need to be more or not. Of course, one of leaders in the interests of inviting. Schools need to move the most important of all people” (p. 18). beyond tolerant to hospitable… There school relationships is that of coach and Phyllis explained that “As is a reciprocity between the roles of principal. To Phyllis, “The coaches, we need to be guest and host.” relationship between the more inviting. Schools building principal and the need to move beyond academic literacy coach is tolerant to hospitable… analogous to a close marriage. When both parties There is a reciprocity between the roles of guest and come together as informed professionals embracing a host.” A place of learning cannot be a place of should, common vision with the staff, students, families, and would, and could, because a high stakes climate greater community, the ground is set.” perpetuates the ideal of perfect. “That ideal of perfection silences and disempowers people… Finding Phyllis shared three tangible practices that she values, voices is challenging because it is uncomfortable.” In and that she feels foster relationships. First, she is contrapuntal third and fourth listenings, this passage adamant that she is provided time for regular is compelling in the ways we are reminded of how this meetings with teachers. “In my experience, idea of perfection perpetuates silence and relationships grow when time is respected, so there disempowerment. Yet, the only true pathway out of are no ‘lazy’ agendas.” Regular communication, with that silence is voice. Having space and opportunity for documentation during regular meetings with voice can be uncomfortable, though. We may feel that meaningful agendas, is key. Second, when Phyllis is discomfort in our bodies. We need trusting


Woodcock, C., & Hakeem, P. (2015) / The Power of Our Words and Flesh relationships in order to have our voices heard. Although voice can feel risky, vulnerability is not the opposite of strength; we need layers of vulnerability in order to be strong.

opportunities to critically engage. As teachers and teacher educators, how can we expect our childlearners to critically engage, when we may not be critically engaged ourselves (Dozier, Johnston, & Rogers, 2006)? Teachers need to be provided with meaningful occasions to engage critically, and one pathway for that could be by simply sharing their stories—producing narratives of their educational experiences, in the same way Phyllis has done in this case study.

Social justice is difficult. Exploring topics surrounding critical literacy can feel uncomfortable. Bomer and Bomer (2001) describe this risky process by saying, “There is no reason to think that crafting democracy in classrooms will be easy… A big part of teaching is deciding what relationships people in the classroom will have to one another” (p. 59). At the beginning of our research, Phyllis claimed that she came to teaching to “co-create responsible partners in social living.” Phyllis contemplated the ways in which she implements that theory into her practice. Just when I assumed she would provide an example with her K-6 students, she did not. Instead, Phyllis told a story about adult learners becoming teachers in a collegelevel class that Phyllis taught: “The students shared the need to just be listened to… they just wanted to talk… They wanted to be heard.” This need for recognition reminded her of the arms-linked story again, except this time, Phyllis had a different response. “Maybe my eyes aren’t on the children after all… My eyes are on the co-creators—the teachers!”

In discourse communities, engagement provides people with a sense of symbolic capital (Bourdieu, 1977). Teachers should not simply be thought of as consumers of culture, but as producers of it as well. Production theorists uphold that power and privilege are awarded to some groups and not to others, as the result of capitalism and patriarchy, and that there is a potential for change inherent in the practice of production (Holland & Eisenhart, 1990). Cultural production is one avenue through which marginalized populations either empower themselves or unknowingly perpetuate traditional subordination. When teachers produce their own educational narratives, they are authors with agency. There was an obvious richness in Phyllis’s story. Bodily activities have a narrative structure with a starting point, a series of contiguous intermediate points, a path, and an end (Johnson, 1989). “[N]arrative, too, is a bodily reality— it concerns the very structure of our perceptions, feelings, experiences, and actions . . . [I]t is what we live through and experience prior to any reflective ‘ telling’ of the story in words” (Johnson, 1989, p. 374-375).

Discussion As Phyllis neared retirement, she wanted to provide insights to the newer teachers by reflecting on, “Why do we teach, anyway?” Without even realizing it at first, Phyllis highlighted “the power of our words and flesh.” In her desires to be more involved in the research, she became a co-author, as we developed a participatory case study, sharing the transformative roles of relationships and the body in how we learn. In the Discussion, the co-authors will conclude the study by offering the final love letter, as well as suggestions for educators moving forward in similar endeavors: the value of teacher-produced narrative as a pathway to promote empowerment and social justice, and tangible ways to connect professionally with the Three Postures of Relationships (Marlowe, 2009).

In this study, the contributing elements of the methodology cannot be underestimated. This study evolved on its own, yet the methodology itself played a key role in the critical engagement of the teacher researcher. Teachers’ voices are curiously absent from reform. Yet Dana and Yendel-Hoppey (2008) contend that “Teacher inquiry is a vehicle that can be used by teachers to untangle some of the complexities that occur in the profession, raise teachers’ voices in discussions of educational reform, and ultimately transform assumptions about the teaching profession itself” (p. 2). Not only was this study a form of teacher research, but it was also a form of autobiographical narrative, and analyzed with the LG. With the LG, voices remain intact. By producing narrative, Phyllis

Teacher Narrative In much the same ways educators agree that we need to equip adolescents with critical literacy to read the world with a critical lens, teachers, too, need


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 was empowered by sharing her story in an organized, transformative pathway, illustrating Lather’s (1991) point that “The potential for creating reciprocal, dialogic research designs is rooted in… people’s selfunderstandings… Such designs lead to self-reflection and provide a forum for people to participate in the theory’s construction and validation” (p. 65).

“experience of the learning self in the making” is named, the person that entered and engaged with the “place of learning” no longer exists, but has been somehow transformed (Ellsworth, pp. 35-36). Ellsworth references the Holocaust Memorial, the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial, and the Civil Rights Memorial as exemplary places of learning.

3 Postures of Relationships and a Love Letter

Building on this understanding, Phyllis believes that those are environments of experiencing the full continuum of being in and of the world relationally. She simply stated, it is the space without should, would, and could. Phyllis maintained that the coercive “high stakes” climate of the ordeal of perfect represents an adverse place of learning (Hakeem, 2005).

As Phyllis embarked on retirement after a successful career, she kept asking herself why she loves to teach, and what words of wisdom she wanted to leave behind for newer educators. As her final words, I asked Phyllis to contemplate her statement—that she teaches “to co-create responsible partners in social living,” to unpack that statement and break it down into tangible suggestions for fellow teachers. For Phyllis, the purpose of this study rested in understanding that in order to actualize a pedagogy of democratic social justice in public schools, educators need volitional emancipation (Zeichner, 1991) from what Phyllis refers to as an “ordeal of perfect.” Phyllis’s pathway to this emancipation has been the three postures of relationships (Marlowe, 2009). Phyllis’s synthesis of the material in this section rests heavily in the thesis she wrote to obtain her Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study.

2nd posture: Witness. In advocating witness as a vital movement, it is maintained that educators must rise as a “forum” to provide a space to hear the voices of those traditionally silenced (Brown & Gilligan, 1992; Bruner, 1986). Phyllis defined witness as autobiographical discourse that excavates excluded stories, embraces paradox, and calls on the classical notion of an informed citizenry that needs to “witness” together (Marcy, 2002, p. 10). Standish (2005) suggests that “we stand in need of a serious language in which we can talk about education, just as we need a more serious language in the political realm” (p. 381). Acknowledging the disparity between the number of men and women employed in education, consideration of gender remains important (Martin, 1994). Finding voices to bear witness proves most challenging because witness “requires an audience” and “may be profoundly uncomfortable” (Schudson, 1997, p. 299).

For Phyllis, the ordeal of perfect represents the experiences of administrators, teachers, and students being afforded little choice but to conform to mandates that afford less opportunity to be creative (Mumford, 1968/1952; Sternberg, 2001), to problemsolve, to develop as wise democratic citizens (Dewey, 1975/1909; Goodman, 1989; Spring, 2006), and to engage in open inquiry and “complicated conversations” (Pinar, 2004, p. 9). Phyllis describes volitional emancipation as “emancipatory learning” where “critical reflection and self-reflection” facilitate transformations (Saavedra, as cited in Edelsky, 1999, p. 305).

3rd posture: Sending forth. Sending forth includes taking actions despite the finite weight of existential anxieties named by Phyllis as the ordeal of perfect (Hakeem, 2005). It is a “mission of educating the young for satisfying, responsible participation in a social and political democracy [that] is endangered if society is democratic in name but not in understanding and functioning” (Goodlad, 2001, p. 87). The act of sending forth, especially when experienced by educational leaders, has the potential to put an end to the “ordeal of perfect” and its stated implications (Kanungo & Mendonca, 1996).

1st Posture: Invitation. The dynamic of invitation challenges communities to move beyond tolerance to hospitality (Marty, 2005). However, there remains reciprocity between the roles of guest and host. In addition, invitation is understood as a radical openness to others (Fowers & Davidov, 2006) and places of learning (Ellsworth, 2005). The moment the


Woodcock, C., & Hakeem, P. (2015) / The Power of Our Words and Flesh Maybe it is not enough to have a fireplace and rocking chair in one’s office, yet it is certainly a step in the right direction to create an atmosphere of comfort and confidentiality known as Vegas. Phyllis’s actions and the environments she has sculpted imply that she is an open-minded host. Even though it may feel uncomfortable, we need to ensure that teachers’ voices are heard, perhaps through various means as autobiographical narratives, action research, and blogs. The ordeal of perfect is felt in our bodies, just the same as perfection weighs on the body of someone afflicted with an eating disorder. That same aim to perfection is making us sick as educators, and it is avoidable by telling our stories, sharing our words, in empowered ways.

preparation for high stakes testing and evaluation procedures. When we allow our literate freedom to articulate curriculum, instructional practices, and assessments to be thwarted, we have scarified not only the humanity of education but also our own literacy and the literacy of future generations of students. As coaches we must remain steadfast in our acts of relational literacy. We need to be in a genuine relationship by practicing with compassion authentic listening so as to honor the voice of other in dignifying their experience. We cherish our gifts to be silent and to speak words that empower, encourage and serve as a healing balm to wounds that often have been harbored far too long. We humbly acknowledge our talents as we courageously advocate for resources, time, collaboration, mentoring and study so our coaching informs through collegial literate acts of reading, writing, and contemplating. Through our example we bear witness to the joy of learning rather than the burden of equating self-worth to achievement. Our accountability is in reflecting on whether we helped facilitate learning experiences with those we coach-- that inspire.

A Love Letter Invitation. I am addressing the corpus of men and women who hold the role of academic literacy coach (reading, intervention, writing, and/or language arts). It is my belief that you have been charged to support educators, administrators, staff, families, and legislators, in order that students experience the fullness of being literate. It is in the mystery of relational exchanges of listening, speaking, reading, writing, and contemplating, that we move ever closer to manifesting the transformation in becoming "responsible partners in social living!" I greet you as friend so as to invite and inspire you to reflect on your storied work, own your strengths and challenges, and prize yourselves as beacons of hope in what is currently a recursive turbulent tragedy of missing the mark in educating our students.

Sending forth. Many questions remain and many questions will continue to emerge. Humans are perpetual questioners. It is a guidepost to avoid platitudes of certainty and marketed measured solutions that promise perfection. It is in the questions of how to move this field forward that you make a difference. It is your perseverance in relishing in "ah, ha" moments of learning with those you coach that your questions will take shape and be graced in the asking. Grounded with positive intentions you will build upon my legacy of seeing beyond the directly observed with eyes of faith that each person is worthwhile and deserves access to the power of words. In sending you forth, I ask that you meditate on your experiences with those you have coached, reflect how both of you were changed, and to inscribe them in your heart. The challenge is to ponder the experiences that were convicting and unpleasant with equal vigor. It is often those sessions that allow us to reflect on our own challenges. They certainly did for me!

Bearing witness. I will attempt to bear witness to the paradox at the heart of our work. Education is proclaimed as a democratic constitutional right and is to be studied and practiced as a humanity. However, the paradox lies in the fact that the humanity has been chiseled away by corporate greed and governmental legislated control. During coaching sessions, we bear the witness of countless educators who give testimony to psychological and spiritual wounds due to mandated abuses of scripting of teaching, time-line coverage of standardized curriculum, and inordinate time spent on


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015

References Bakhtin, M. M. (1981). The dialogic imagination: Four essays by M. M. Bakhtin (M. Holquist, Ed.; C. Emerson & M. Holquist, Trans.). Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. Barkley, S. G., & Bianco, T. (Eds.). (2005). Quality teaching in a culture of coaching. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Education. Blackstone, P. (2007). The anatomy of coaching: Coaching through storytelling. Journal of Language and Literacy Education, 3(1), 48-58. Retrieved from http://jolle.coe.uga.edu/ Bomer, R., & Bomer, K. (2001). For a better world: Reading and writing for social action. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Bordo, S. (2003). Unbearable weight: Feminism, western culture, and the body. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Borland, K. (1991). "That's not what I said": Interpretive conflict in oral narrative research. In S. B. Gluck & D. Patai (Eds.), Women's words: The feminist practice of oral history (pp. 63-76). New York, NY: Routledge. Bourdieu, P. (1977). Outline of a theory of practice. (R. Nice, Trans.). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. Brown, L. M., & Gilligan, C. (1992). Meeting at the crossroads: Women’s psychology and girls’ development. New York, NY: Ballantine Books. Bruner, J. (1986). Actual minds, possible worlds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Burkins, J. M. (2007). Coaching for balance: How to meet the challenges of literacy coaching. Newark, DE: International Reading Association. Dana, N. F., & Yendel-Hoppey, D. (Eds.) (2008). The reflective educator's guide to classroom research: Learning to teach and teaching to learn through practitioner inquiry, 2nd Edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Davis, K. (Ed.). (1997). Embodied practices: Feminist perspectives on the body. London, U. K.: Sage. Dewey, J. (1933). How we think. Boston, MA: D. C. Heath and Co. Dewey, J. (1975/1909). Moral principles in education. Carbondale and Edwardsville, IL: Southern Illinois University Press. Dixon, M., & Senior, K. (2011). Appearing pedagogy: From embodied learning and teaching to embodied pedagogy. Pedagogy, Culture & Society, 19(3), 473-484. Dozier, C. (2006). Responsive literacy coaching: Tools for creating and sustaining purposeful change. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.


Woodcock, C., & Hakeem, P. (2015) / The Power of Our Words and Flesh Dozier, C., Johnston, P., & Rogers, R. (2006). Critical literacy, critical teaching: Tools for preparing responsive teachers. New York, NY: Teachers College Press. Edelsky, C. (Ed.). (1999). Making justice our project: Teachers working toward critical whole language practice. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English. Ellsworth, E. (2005). Places of learning: Media, architecture, and pedagogy. New York, NY: Routledge Falmer. Estola, E., & Elbaz-Luwisch, F. (2003). Teaching bodies at work. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 35(6), 697–719. Evans, J., Davies, B., & Rich, E. (2009). The body made flesh: Embodied learning and the corporeal device. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 30(4), 391-406. Fowers, B. J., & Davidov, B. J. (2006). The virtue of multiculturalism: Personal transformation, character, and openness to the other. American Psychologist, 61(6), 581-594. Froelich, K., & Puig, E. (2007). The magic of coaching: Art meets science. Journal of Language and Literacy Education, 3(1), 18-31. Retrieved from http://jolle.coe.uga.edu/ Gillies, V., Harden, A., Johnson, K., Reavey, P., Strange, V., & Willig, C. (2004). Women’s collective constructions of embodied practices through memory work: Cartesian dualism in memories of sweating and pain. British Journal of Social Psychology, 43, 99–112. Gilligan, C. (1996). The centrality of relationship in human development: A puzzle, some evidence, and a theory. In G. G. Noam & K. W. Fischer (Eds.), Development and vulnerability in close relationships (pp. 237-261). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum. Gilligan, C., Spencer, R., Weinberg, M. K., & Bertsch, T. (2003). On the Listening Guide: A voice centered relational method. In P. M. Camic, J. E. Rhodes, & L. Yardley (Eds.), Qualitative research in psychology: Expanding perspectives in methodology and design (pp. 157–172). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association Press. Goodlad, J. I. (2001). Education and democracy: Advancing the agenda. Phi Delta Kappan, 82(1), 86-89. Goodman, J. (1989). Education for critical democracy. Journal of Education, 171(2), 88-116. Hakeem, P. (2005). The effects of implementing a postmodern adaptation of critical curriculum theory: A case study of “Invitation, Witness, and Sending Forth” for teachers experiencing an educational quality assurance audit. Unpublished Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study thesis, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, North Adams, MA. Hasbrouck, J., & Denton, C. (2010). The reading coach 2: More tools and strategies for student-focused coaches. Boston, MA: Sopris West. Hicks, D. (2002). Reading lives: Working-class children and literacy learning. New York, NY: Teachers College Press. Holland, D. C., & Eisenhart, M. A. (1990). Educated in romance: Women, achievement, and college culture. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015

Johnson, M. (1989). Embodied knowledge. Curriculum Inquiry, 19(4), 361–377. Kanungo, R. N., & Mendonca, M. (1996). Ethical dimensions of leadership. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Lather, P. (1991). Getting smart: Feminist research and pedagogy with/in the postmodern. New York, NY: Routledge. Lawrence-Lightfoot, S., & Hoffman Davis, J. (1997). The art and science of portraiture. San Francisco, CA: JosseyBass. Light, R., & Kirk, D. (2000). High school rugby, the body, and the reproduction of hegemonic masculinity. Sport, Education, and Society, 5(2), 163–176. Luttrell, W. (1997). School-smart and mother-wise: Working-class women’s identity and schooling. New York, NY: Routledge. Malaguzzi, L. (1993). For an education based on relationships. Young Children, 49(1), 9-12. Marcy, M. (2002). Democracy, leadership & the role of liberal education. Liberal Education, 6-11. Marlowe, M. (2009). Three postures of relationships. Sharon, CT: Center for Shared Leadership. Retrieved from http://www.academyforchange.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/3-Postures-of-Relationship.pdf Marshall, C., & Rossman, G. B. (1999). Designing qualitative research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Martin, J. R. (1994). Changing the educational landscape: Philosophy, women, and curriculum. New York, NY: Routledge. Marty, M. E. (2005). When faiths collide. Malden, MA: Blackwell. Merriam, S. B. (2001). Qualitative research and case study applications in education. San Francisco, CA: JosseyBass. Mishler, E. G. (1986). Research interviewing: Context and narrative. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Mulcahy, D. (2000). Body matters in vocational education: The case of the competently trained. International Journal of Lifelong Learning, 19(6), 506–524. Mumford, L. (1968/1952). Art & technics. New York, NY: Columbia University Press. Neher, A. (2007). Wading through it: Balancing opposing tensions via effective literacy coaching. Journal of Language and Literacy Education, 3(1), 65-70. Retrieved from http://jolle.coe.uga.edu/ Niedzwiecki, A. (2007). Organizational barriers to effective literacy coaching. Journal of Language and Literacy Education, 3(1), 59-64. Retrieved from http://jolle.coe.uga.edu/ Oliver, K. L., & Lalik, R. (2000). Bodily knowledge: Learning about equity and justice with adolescent girls. New York, NY: Peter Lang.


Woodcock, C., & Hakeem, P. (2015) / The Power of Our Words and Flesh

Paramore, T. (2007). Coaching conversations for beginners. Journal of Language and Literacy Education, 3(1), 7181. Retrieved from http://jolle.coe.uga.edu/ Pinar, W. F. (2004). What is curriculum theory? Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum. Pipher, M. (2005). Reviving Ophelia: Saving the selves of adolescent girls. New York, NY: Riverhead. Probyn, E. (2004). Teaching bodies: Affects in the classroom. Body and Society, 10(4), 21-43. Raider-Roth, M. (2005). Trusting what you know: The high stakes of classroom relationships. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Riessman, C. K. (1986). Narrative analysis. Newbury Park, CA: Sage. Rogoff, B. (1990). Apprenticeship in thinking: Cognitive development in social context. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. Rose, M. (1989). Lives on the boundary: The struggles and achievements of America's underprepared. New York, NY: The Free Press. Schudson, M. (1997). Why conversation is not the soul of democracy. Critical Studies in Mass Communication, 14, 297-309. Shaw, M. L. (2007). Preparing reading specialists to be literacy coaches: Principles, practices, possibilities. Journal of Language and Literacy Education, 3(1), 6-17. Retrieved from http://jolle.coe.uga.edu/ Spring, J. (2006). Wheels in the head: Educational philosophies of authority, freedom, and culture from Socrates to human rights. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum. Standish, P. (2005). Democratic participation and the body politic. Educational Theory, 55(4), 371-384. Sternberg, R. J. (2001). What is the common thread of creativity?: Its dialectical relation to intelligence and wisdom. American Psychologist, 56(4), 360-362. Taylor, J. M., Gilligan, C., & Sullivan, A. M. (1995). Between voice and silence: Women and girls, race and relationship. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Toll, C. A. (2005). The literacy coach’s survival guide: Essential questions and practical answers, 1st Edition. Newark, DE: International Reading Association. Toll, C. A (2008). Surviving but not yet thriving: Essential questions and practical answers for experienced literacy coaches. Newark, DE: International Reading Association. Toll, C. A. (2014). The literacy coach’s survival guide: Essential questions and practical answers, 2nd Edition [Kindle Edition]. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 Tolman, D. (2001). Echoes of sexual subjectification: Listening for one girl’s erotic voice. In D. L. Tolman & M. Brydon-Miller (Eds.), From subjects to subjectivities: A handbook of interpretive and participatory methods (pp. 130–144). New York, NY: New York University Press. Tolman, D. (2002). Dilemmas of desire: Teenage girls talk about sexuality. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Tolman, D. L., & Brydon-Miller, M. (Eds.). (2001). From subjects to subjectivities: A handbook of interpretive and participatory methods. New York, NY: New York University Press. Tschannen-Moran, B., & Tschannen-Moran, M. (2010). Evocative coaching: Transforming schools one conversation at a time [Nook Edition]. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Vogt, M., & Shearer, B. A. (2010). Reading specialists and literacy coaches in the real world, 3rd Edition. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon. Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes (M. Cole, V. JohnSteiner, S. Scribner, & E. Souberman, Eds.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Way, N. (1998). Everyday courage: The lives and stories of urban teenagers. New York, NY: New York University Press. Wepner, S. B., Strickland, D. S., & Quatroche, D. J. (2013). The administration and supervision of reading programs, 5th Edition. New York, NY: Teachers College Press. Woodcock, C. (2005). The silenced voice in literacy: Listening beyond words to a “struggling” adolescent girl. Journal of Authentic Learning, 2(1), 47–60. Woodcock, C. (2010). ”I allow myself to FEEL now…”: Adolescent girls’ negotiations of embodied knowing, the female body, and literacy. Journal of Literacy Research, 42(4), 349-384. Wortham, S. (2001). Narratives in action: A strategy for research and analysis. New York, NY: Teachers College Press. Zeichner, K. M. (1991). Contradictions and tensions in the professionalization of teaching and the democratization of schools. Teachers College Record, 92(3), 363-379.


Trading Spaces: An Educator’s Ethnographic Exploration of Adolescents’ Digital Role-Play Stacy Haynes-Moore

ABSTRACT: In this work, the author examines a digital role-play in which participants composed an alternate version of The Hunger Games (Collins, 2008). Participants imagined characters and posted more than 400 scenes in the online collaboration. The author draws upon ethnographic methods (Merriam, 2009) to describe her participant-observer experience and discuss the digital role-play from the perspective of a classroom teacher and literacy researcher. Holland, Lachicotte, Skinner, and Cain’s (1998/2003) theory of figured worlds frames moments of participants’ discourse to illuminate issues of identity and power that emerged. Analysis complicates the use of digital spaces with adolescent-driven literacy practices. This study provides educators with ideas about how to examine adolescents’ online literacies and suggests that research of digital role-play within formal learning settings may help educators explore what it means to read and discuss texts in a digital world.

Key words: Young Adult Literature, Digital Literacies, Fan-fiction, Social Identity, Online Writing Practices

Stacy Haynes-Moore is a Doctoral Candidate in Language, Literacy, and Culture at the University of Iowa. Her research interests include adolescent literacies and digital literacies, with a particular focus on intersections of formal and informal learning that occur within digital spaces. Stacy also teaches English language arts in the Cedar Rapids Community School District. She can be contacted at stacyhaynesmoore@uiowa.edu

Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 Michelle M. Falter, Principal Editor -- http://jolle.coe.uga.edu

Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 I’d avoided death for weeks. Then the knell of an incoming email slipped into my inbox with notification that my online identity, Neadle, was the next to die in The Second Annual Hunger Games RolePlay. My character survived imagined floodwaters, fireball explosions, and swarms of rats. But, the odds were not in his favor. Neadle’s physical skills and cleverness could not compete against his rivals in the digital role-play, an activity organized by adolescent fans of The Hunger Games (Collins, 2008) and housed within the Teen Reader hub of an online book community. I was one of 24 participants who joined the digital role-play to write and produce an alternate version of the young adult novel through our activities.

traits, actions, and behaviors. Examining the Space as Teacher and Researcher I was drawn to examine the adolescents’ digital roleplay from my perspective as both a classroom educator and literacy researcher. As an English language arts teacher, I am an avid reader of the YA genre and attend to my students’ reading choices. I see Collins’ novels in the hands of teenage readers at school, and it is not uncommon in class discussions that students connect themes from Katniss’ story— power, corruption, rebellion, survival—with themes from traditional classroom studies of dystopian literature, Shakespeare’s plays, or Greek mythology. From my perspective as a literacy researcher, I recognize the increasing significance of digital technologies and digital spaces in adolescents’ daily home and school lives (Alvermann, 2010; Ito et al., 2010; Lenhart, 2014). Digital spaces draw adolescents to express themselves and find others willing to join in shared interests or passions (Curwood, 2013; Gee, 2004). Adolescents take up literacy practices in digital spaces in ways that explore, examine, and craft social identities (Betz, 2011; Hull & Katz, 2006; Lam, 2000). Of particular interest to my work is research of youths’ online fan-fiction communities in which participants share interests about story characters and events (Black, 2009; Chandler-Olcott & Mahar, 2003; Thomas, 2007).

I stumbled upon the role-play event while browsing reviews of popular YA literature, following my curiosity to hear adolescents’ online discussions of Collins’ novels. At the time of my study, The Hunger Games was a best seller, the movie scheduled to premiere in March 2012. Area bookstores dedicated entire shelves to stock The Hunger Games and the city library reported a month-long waiting list. Katniss’ coming-of-age story earned a wide audience readership because of its page-turning plot and characters that offered a genuine portrayal of adolescence (Simmons, 2012). Stepping into the role-play activity, participants invented original characters, reimagined the Hunger Games arena, engaged characters in alliances and battles, and enacted key moments of The Capitol’s deadly competition, rewriting scenes such as The Reaping, GameMakers Interviews, Cornucopia Run, and Crowning of the Victor.

Theoretical Framework We invented problems in our brave new story world using conflicts of cruelty and injustice. Through scene dialogue and description, we positioned characters to suggest, experiment, and perform solutions to these conflicts. I frame my research of our digital role-play through a sociocultural lens and draw upon notions of Bakhtin (1994) and Vygotsky (1978) to recognize social identity, participation, and culture as significant to participants’ discourse. This perspective situates the adolescents’ role-play space as one in which literacy practices are social functions involving people in participation, relationships, and interactions (Jenkins, Purushotma, Weigel, Clinton, & Robinson, 2009; Lankshear & Knobel, 2006; Merchant, Gillen, Marsh, & Davies, 2012).

Role-play activity invites participants to step into someone else’s shoes and facilitate the story through character interactions (Cornelius, Gordon, & Harris, 2011). Imaginary settings of role-plays afford participants exploration of issues or behaviors within new contexts (Beach & Doerr-Stevens, 2009; Russell & Shepherd, 2010). Within an online environment, digital role-play is an “asynchronous text-based world” (Thomas, 2007, p. 2) as it exists as a nonphysical realm that relies on written character dialogues and descriptions of character’s physical


Haynes-Moore, S. (2015) / Trading Spaces Connecting Literacies and Imagination

constructed sites in which “particular characters and actors are recognized, significance is assigned to Vygotsky (1978) correlated literacy development with certain acts, and particular outcomes are valued over imagination. He argued that children developed others” (p. 52). People develop, perform, and increasingly complex speech communications as they continuously realign identities in an improvised used representative symbols and cultural tools. For response to others and in response to the social example, a child’s use of a simple object, such as a relationships within the figured world. Holland et al. stick, might launch her into a new fantasy world as the (1998/2003) argue that during identity-making stick transformed into a galloping horse. Represented processes we become perplexed by tensions from our meaning pushes forward histories and the dominant human language and literacy cultural storylines of our When tensions tug against experiences (Vygotsky, 1978). worlds. When these tensions what we think we know and Scholarly research of digital tug against what we think we spaces reflects Vygotsky’s know and understand about understand about ourselves, notions in practice. ourselves, we find ourselves we find ourselves wrestling Adolescents’ digital spaces wrestling with new ways of often foster highly imaginative thinking about ourselves. In with new ways of thinking responses to literature such moments, we are about ourselves. In such (Chandler-Olcott & Mahar, malleable under others’ social 2003; Thomas, 2007). Likewise, and discursive practices moments, we are malleable in the digital role-play, (Holland et al., 1998/2003). under others’ social and character identities were borne and broadened through Each digital role-play discursive practices (Holland creative written expression. participant posted writings et al., 1998/2003). that reported his or her Situating Literacy Practices character’s physical as Social Functions appearance, behaviors, and thoughts. Holland et al. (1998/2003) might describe Participants’ online processes also reflected these expressions as self-understandings: what we tell heightened social interactions. As we posted scenes, ourselves we are, how we act as we think we are, and we parsed how our characters were perceived and who we say that we are to others. Examining these reworked our characters in response to others’ voices. identity-making processes is important as these We constantly negotiated conflicts of identity and understandings shape how we “make sense of our power that surfaced. In this paper, I refer to the work world and our experiences in it, including our of Lewis, Enciso, and Moje (2007) to shape definitions experiences with texts” (McCarthey & Moje, 2002, p. of identity and power, referring to identity not as a 228). biological marker, but as fluid and negotiated selfconcepts that move in and through social discourse; Methods power is a social and dynamic network “produced in and through individuals as they are constituted in In this study, I use qualitative research methods for larger systems” (p. 4). These definitions help “discovery, insight, and understanding from the illuminate complications that developed in the digital perspectives of those being studied” (Merriam, 2009, role-play composing processes. p. 1) and draw from ethnographic methods to shape the direction and discussion of my work. Exploring Social Identities in Figured Worlds Researcher’s Position Also critical to my research is the theory of figured worlds (Holland, Lachicotte, Skinner, & Cain, As a participant-observer, I closely observed the 1998/2003). Figured worlds are socially and culturally complex networking of participants as they performed


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 characters through social and discursive practices. For purposes of this paper, my response draws upon my immersion in the story world and takes the shape of a narrative, a format that reflects our digital composing processes, illustrates my character experiences, and provides a closer analysis of the inner-workings of the participant-driven activity.

gender. In my research processes, I observed that participants posted comments to the role-play space to discuss school classes, homework, and holidays. I also tracked participants’ digital footprints in areas of the online book community where they posted book reviews, discussed books, or posted messages to other members. This anecdotal evidence reinforced the participants’ self-reported adolescent identities. However, I do not have sufficient data to confirm that each participant was an adolescent. I sought IRB assistance as I struggled with unforeseen ethical and logistical questions in my research of the digital roleplay space. Conversations with IRB members informed my practices though IRB documentation concerning research of internet and social media was emerging. Continuing and expanding my research of adolescents’ digital literacies, my work today is guided by IRB policy and the ethical framework of the Association of Internet Researchers, an organization developing resources for reflection and decisionmaking in conducting research within a global and rapidly changing digital environment.

Data Collection I collected data over a four-month period in Spring 2012. Artifacts included participants’ written scenes, art/graphics, and more than 400 screenshots (electronic images) to document participants’ composing processes. I maintained weekly field notes that annotated and described key moments, recording specific observations of group practices, game rules, and character comments. I also maintained a whiteboard to visually track character alliances, advancements, and expulsions. Setting I selected this particular field site because it was a public online community with hundreds of members who participated in book discussions, literature reviews, and reading activities. Participants in the website’s Teen Reader area focused on YA literature, and it was within this area that participants issued an open call for The Second Annual Hunger Games RolePlay.

Immersion in the Role-Play World Figured worlds take shape within collaborative activities, discourses, performances, and artifacts. In turn, these collaborations shape the participants’ figured world (Holland et al., 1998/2003). Our story world began to shape through the collaborative direction of five adolescents. These Game Moderators (The Mods) set the expectations for our gameplay. To maintain the authenticity of The Mods and participants’ expressions, in this paper I have not altered grammar, spelling, or punctuation in the roleplay postings. The Mods explained the role-play rules: Starting within the next few days, we will be hosting an enormous Hunger Games roleplay, in which 24 members will create 24 tributes and be thrown into an arena. The Games will last until March 23, in that time you will be able to: - Roleplay your chariot rides & interviews - Be given a training score - Make alliances with members of your choice - Fight and run and hide and kick-butt in the arena Moderators (organizers) will act as

Participants Twenty-four participants enrolled. In my beginning field notes, I recorded doubt about my acceptance in the digital role-play as I was a 40-something, not a 14something, participant (Field notes, March 19, 2012). I openly listed my name and university affiliation on my digital role-play profile and reported out to others in the game that I was a graduate researcher who studied YA literature and digital cultures. My self-disclosure elicited zero response. I secured IRB approval for my study, yet I cannot speak with certainty about the identity of all participants. My data indicates most participants were female, between the ages of 13 and 17. Participants each posted a role-play profile that listed age and


Haynes-Moore, S. (2015) / Trading Spaces GameMakers & Sponsors, reigning all sorts of havoc upon you (and supplying you with necessitates, depending on your given training score). Tributes will be killed off in a poll, made by GameMakers. This is where your alliances really come in handy, since you can gang up on a certain tribute. Of course inactive Tributes will be killed off in a GameMakers attack. All the fine details (rules, guidelines, arena, etc.) will be supplied once we have our 24 Tributes…See you in 24 hours, and may the odds be ever in your favor! (Jenny/Happy hunger games, Web post)

them as his running footsteps filled the passageway... (Neadle/The games, Web post) Quickly, participants came to understand that survival in the digital role-play connected with the way we presented our character identities. As in the beginning stages of figured worlds, identities are largely undefined; gradually, the world takes shape as participants report out who they are and what they value (Holland et al., 1998/2003). In The Second Annual Hunger Games Role-Play, an important aspect of the gameplay was the strategic shaping of characters. We modified characters and bestowed upon them superior strengths. This, in turn, shaped our online interactions and the developing storyline.

Understanding the rules of the game As participants, we committed to composing daily scenes. One participant’s post would lead to another participant’s post. Role Play (in this sense) is basically like writing a story with a bunch of other people. You each have a character (or two, three...ect.). It really just depends on the particular Role Play) or in this case, 2 characters- a guy and a girl. You create backstories for them, personalities -basically everything that makes up a good character in anything and you act as them, like you are seeing the world from their eyes. (Rachel/Happy hunger games, Web post)

Crafting My Character Identity I carefully considered what my character might look like, how he would speak, and what talents he would display. I named him Neadle and designed him as a 12year-old boy who despised the brutality of the Hunger Games. Since Collins described many of her story characters with gender-neutral behaviors, I felt satisfaction in crafting Neadle with qualities that might complicate stereotypes of male teenagers (Field notes, March 21, 2012). In an early game post, I placed Neadle at the edge of the arena waiting for the games to begin: He held himself steady, arms to his side, even though his stomach was churning and beads of sweat ran down his neck. He felt turned upside down. His hair itched. His teeth hurt. Next to him, his District 10 tribute Sherry was singing aloud again, humming and mumbling a few words. Something about her finger hurting? He couldn’t quite make it out. He glanced down at her hands, soft and pretty. Not the kind of hands to be used for strangling someone or shooting arrows into their hearts. (Neadle/Pre-game thoughts, Web post)

The Mods encouraged storytelling techniques such as imagery, characterization, and dialogue. We were to write characters in the third person and avoid slang in the language of our scenes. Here, as an example, is an early post for Neadle: Neadle’s hands slid blindly down the walls, the magical sensor goggles on, his eyes following the heat of the surging blobs within the wall. Suddenly his hands pushed forward on the wall and he fell, into the darkness, into the cave of the grey-wall tomb. Through the energy-glasses, he could see the red blob scatter, the pitter patter of tiny feet, the squeaking of --- mice, thousands and thousands of them. He started running away from the blob, he could see tiny red dots in the distance -- he ran to the figures there. “Hey! Over here!” he called to

Already, in my earliest scenes, I presented Neadle as a compassionate young adult. I gave him quirky skills that might prove valuable to his survival as the game progressed. I described his home in District 10 where he lived with his grandmother and tended to their farm’s livestock. Neadle was good at handling ropes,


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 tying knots, and using knives. He could sew the toughest of materials. His curly blonde hair was tufted like a shock of wool and he used this shaggy mass to squirrel away small items like pins or shards of glass in case these might become useful later.

The water is drinkable. The maze is littered with swarms of mice, rats and birds. These are your only food source, unless others were gathered from the cornucopia/stolen from other tributes. You may need a few gifts from your Sponsors. Around the maze you will find a number of trapdoors (that lead to a black claustrophobic underground labyrinth) and ladders (which will take you to the top of the maze wall. Though if you slip and fall, you’ll die.) (Rachel/The games, Web post).

Establishing Positions of Power Other participants also painted vivid characters and showcased character strengths to secure a reputation in the story. In this example, the participant Grant describes himself as a willful, competitive character: Strength and Weaknesses: Strengths - Good with all weapons, but has a specialty of a bow n arrows or hand to hand combat. Trained in four different martial arts. Acrobat for 7 years of his life. Nimble and quick. The mind relishes under pressure, emotions play no factor in anything. Weaknesses: Frustration, if frustrated, will be easily distracted. Family is the only thing that he will do anything to save. (Grant/The reaping, Web post)

We imagined destructive weather that forced us into the arena’s tunnels. We faced flesh-eating rats, deadly technology, and swam in raging floodwaters. We also invented tools such as backpacks, medicines, and night goggles that enabled us to outmaneuver competitors or move forward in the game arena. Surviving the Participants’ Poll

Designing Our Story World

Security was essential for survival in the role-play. The Mods’ rules explained that we were allowed to fight and injure other characters, as long as we received the participant’s permission first. We were not allowed to kill other characters unless The Mods approved. Game rules also called for a weekly poll in which we voted a character killed from the storyline. Votes were anonymous. “This is where alliances may become handy as you can organize to gang up on someone in order to protect yourself,” explained The Mods (March 14, 2012, Web post). If voted from the game, participants wrote their own character’s death scene though The Mods selected the killer. Both the character dying and the character killing could write corresponding death scenes.

Our setting also shaped who we were, our choices of action, and how we interacted with other characters. The Mods established the opening setting and participants added descriptions as the story unfolded. Similar to Collins’ characters, our digital characters lived in constant danger. The arena was a labyrinth of smooth walls: There are some isles in the maze where the ground gives way to a deep hole (perhaps ten meters wide & deep) of water. There is no choice but to swim through it or double back.

As an example, when the character Benjamin was voted from the game, the Mods named Grant as his killer. From Grant’s vantage, he crafted a scene that described his raid on Benjamin’s campsite. Grant then snuck up behind Benjamin and grabbed both sides of Benjamin’s head. He didn’t scream or sound loudly…Grant then lent in and whispered in Ben’s ear, “You know you’re suppose to break your leg for luck. But I don’t want to fall for the stereotype. Stage left”. With that, he snapped

Grant’s early self-descriptions were strategic—he planned to win. In my next postings, I attempted to follow this lead and expanded upon Neadle’s physical strengths, and thus I began my pattern of character modification. Like a chess match, I reconfigured Neadle in ways to improve his chance of role-play survival. Likewise, other participants modified their characters. Our online identities were changeable in this story realm, a world that shaped in relation to the everyday activities and happenings within it (Holland et al., 1998/2003).


Haynes-Moore, S. (2015) / Trading Spaces Benjamin’s neck like he was trained to do. Ripper and the others heard Ben crumble to the ground and turned. Grant bent down and picked up Ben’s blue bag that he had dropped. Now Grant had both a red and a blue bag. (Grant/The games, Web post)

fell through trap doors. We shared food, shelter, and confidences in our united struggle to survive in the games. Sharing the narrative space strengthened our identities by making our characters more visible. However, because we could now narrate each other’s characters, we also lacked sole ownership of our character identity. This proved to be a challenge.

Competition among characters was deadly. In my field notes (March 26, 2012), I described feeling pressure to protect Neadle.

Fighting for My Identity In figured worlds we achieve self-control “by the mediation of our thoughts and feelings through artifacts” and seek to “position ourselves for ourselves” (Holland et al., 1998/2003, p. 64). In the digital role-play, there was a steady maneuvering of social identity and power. My efforts to present Neadle as a kind, strong-willed male character felt challenged (Field notes, April 4, 2012). As an example of controlling my character identity, in one of my scenes I described Needle’s discovery of Nightlock, an important acquisition as he could use the plant for medicine. However, soon after I posted Neadle’s success, Sam reworked the situation: Sam ate some of the food from the packs he had found. It isn’t really enough, and he does have to save some to save. The rats are starting to smell. The water below them starts to recede. Sam looks to Neadle who seems to be sleeping. It’s quiet. “Guess it’s all me.” Sam whispers. He keeps the knives and needles and nightlock close. (Sam/The games, Web post)

Strategizing with Alliances Similar to the Collins’ story, alliances were means to increasing one’s value. Finding a way for Neadle to befriend Grant, counting him or others as allies, might increase sustainability. I posted more frequently, writing one or two scenes daily, to keep other players aware of Neadle’s participation. I also reached out to another participant. Neadle: Hi! Do you want to have an alliance? This is District 10 Neadle! Sam: Let’s go for it! I could use some protection quite honestly, lol. I’ll put it in with the group :) Neadle: Me too. Thanks! (Neadle/Messages, e-mail post) This digital friendship quelled my anxiety. As allies, Neadle and Sam were authorized to describe each other’s actions and behaviors. In this way, I could perform Sam in my story posts, and Sam could perform Neadle in his story posts: The cannon fired once, and then again, very quickly. Sam jumped at the sound. He needed to get a move on. There were 12 tributes left. He hoped the next to go wouldn’t be him. Sam motioned for Neadle to follow him. They started forward, being very quiet. They came to one of the holes filled with water. There were a few rats floating in the pond, but Sam tries not to think about it as he fills his and Neadle’s bottles. They both have some of the dried fruit and move forward into the maze. (Sam/The games, Web post)

Sam confiscated the Nightlock and described Neadle as sleeping. Thus, the power shifted from Neadle to Sam. I was frustrated, reflecting in my field notes that the digital world was becoming too competitive and that we were too willing to harm others to advance. Questioning Our Story’s Direction I realized that I also might be taking the digital roleplay too seriously—after all, this was a game. I enjoyed creating Neadle and developing his story. I recorded in my field notes (March 23, 2012) that I embodied my character’s identity and, through his actions and responses, I lived a new reading of The Hunger Games. However, my enjoyment shifted as participants continued to inflict cruelties and characters died.

A few days later, we joined with Anna. Together, our alliance climbed tricky ladders, tread deep waters, and


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 Initially, I envisioned that our digital role-play characters, similar to Collins’ protagonists, would become emboldened by the tragedies and inspired to rally against The Mods’ rules or other participants’ cruelties. But after several weeks of the digital roleplay, I felt unsettled at our story’s direction.

killed! Neadle had to stop her. He took a breath, then stepped out. (Neadle/The games, Web post) I decided to present Neadle as motivated to improve our world. I stepped into his role determined to report how he valued friendship and kindness. I ignored The Mods’ e-mail that implicated Mylan as his killer. Instead, Neadle saved another character from death: “Sherry -- slow down,” Neadle said. Holding his hands out toward her. “What the....? Get him!” Jake yelled. “Wait -- wait --- it’s Neadle!” Sherry said. But Jake and Merissa were running forward, weapons drawn and moving fast. The wire tripped. The poisoned needles popped and zoomed, tips crossing in air......Merissa’s knife pinged against one of the needles, redirecting it ever so slightly, and right into the outstretched hands of Neadle. He fell. He stared down at his hands. “We got one! We got another!” yelled Jake, laughing. Sherry ran toward him. Merissa was frozen in place and stared at Neadle. His vision was blurring, he felt hot, and his shoulder, oddly, wasn’t even hurting him any more. He thought he heard Sam and Anna, their voices yelling and shouting. “Neadle! Neadle! We have your medicine -- Get up! You can do it!” Neadle knew they cared. There could be good here, after all. People could choose to do the right thing. And then he was gone. (Neadle/The games, Web post)

Though events mirrored the significant turning points of The Hunger Games, we missed opportunities to unite against The Capitol in our digital version. We seemed to superficially address tensions of identity and conflicts of power. We did not often question authority. Where was our collective uprising? Could we not end the violence? Could we not challenge heavy-handed power? Rewriting for Rebellion I imagined composing Neadle’s next scenes in a way that might unite participants (Field notes, April 4, 2012). However, before I could take action, an e-mail slipped into my mailbox: … your tribute has been chosen to die at the Feast in the Cornucopia in the Kids/Teens Book Club’s Hunger Games. Neadle will be killed by Mylan from District 2. Your character may only be killed after the start of the Feast is indicated by the rising table, so you are free to do as you wish until then. If you are able to bring your character to the Cornucopia in preparation, it would be greatly appreciated. (Rachel/Messages, email post) Neadle did not survive the weekly poll. My figured world collapsed. I felt angry at his alliances that befriended him, said they needed him, and then betrayed him. Offline, with self-deprecating humor, I confessed my sadness in Neadle’s death to my colleagues and family, and forced myself to compose his final scene: Neadle shivered. He peeked around the corner… They were coming toward him, toward the wire hidden on the path. Grant and Merissa were pushing each other, flirting. Jake ran around them a little and was talking and nudging Sherry along, pushing her ahead of the group. She was in front. She was going to hit the wire first. She would be

I attempted to control his legacy and reimagine our storyline. Sam was the first to respond, describing how he and Anna discovered Neadle: Anna helped him lug Neadle back to a new secluded spot. Sam ripped another piece of sleeping bag to soak up the blood… “Ripper is not going to be happy.” Sam grumbled. “And?” “Well, you know, he’ll probably want to murder us all. We have to be really careful now.” Sam explained as the bleeding finally slowed. Neadle probably wasn’t conscious still. (Sam/The games, Web post)


Haynes-Moore, S. (2015) / Trading Spaces Had I read correctly? Sam reported Neadle injured, but alive. An alternate story might happen, after all, if participants revived Neadle. Ironically, when I alerted The Mods, it was Easter Sunday: I did try to make it clear that the poisoned needle got Neadle and that he’s ‘gone’ but I think Sam and Anna still think he’s alive and just unconscious (I kind of love that, really!) Anyway, it’s Easter, right? Maybe you guys will bring Neadle back in the spirit of the holiday! (Neadle/Messages, e-mail post)

version of the YA novel through social and creative composing practices.Emerging Themes of the Digital Role-Play

I felt lightened at the possibility of a pardon. The Mods responded: Sorry, but once you die, you’re dead. We just didn’t have time to set off the cannon immediately. Sorry about that. (Rachel/Question and Answer, Web post)

Following Grant’s final interview, participants’ postgame comments pleaded to The Mods to initiate a Third-Annual Hunger Games Role-Play. The digital trail of hundreds of role-play scenes and the duration of our gameplay that extended almost four months reflected heightened engagement in writing, reading, and re-crafting the YA novel. The digital role-play was a playground for our imagination and language.

From this study, my data illuminated the following themes: online language reflected a base of literary knowledge and/or formal understanding of texts and text making; social collaboration was integral to creating a text; player interactions appeared to reflect a desired social status, and character interactions were marked by identity-making processes.

Neadle’s official death posted and The Second Annual Hunger Games Role-Play spanned another month.

Posts varied in style and sophistication, but story scenes clearly reflected elements of imagery, sensory detail, figurative language, dialogue, and characterization. Participants’ language often displayed rich vocabulary and complex sentence structure. As writers, our collective goal was to reinvent The Hunger Games, and we posted daily to push the alternative story forward to its resolution. We crafted digital scenes as story turning points, using new settings or conflicts to transition into the next chapter. The online environment afforded participants a dynamic, real-time forum to engage in revision and response. Feedback fueled the story development.

Eventually, Grant claimed the crown. In his final story scene, he imagined a TV reporter asking: What did he most enjoy about the games? Grant hated this question every year. Surely, the Capitol must realise that the Games are a horrible thing to experience and you never enjoy yourself. ‘Probably having fun in the water with Lia and Merissa. They were such nice people most of the time, and it was the only time I could really relax in The Games. Until Neadle got stabbed of course... ‘Yes, that was very unfortunate. Jake was very sneaky about that. But at least you had some fun!’ said Caesar. ‘Yes, but if I couldn’t say that moment, I would say winning The Games. I mean, not the killing Allen bit, but rather the thought process. I was going home!’ he yelled the last sentence to the audience, who cheered along with him. (Grant/The victor’s interview, Web post)

From my lens as a classroom educator, the adolescents’ collective interest in producing a digital version of The Hunger Games reflected the compelling nature of the novel. Prior to initiating my study, I regarded the YA novel as a text that presented important issues to consider. Themes of childhood violence, hunger, and poverty raise complicated questions. Similar to commonly taught classroom novels such as Lord of the Flies (Golding, 1954), To Kill a Mockingbird (Lee, 1960), and Night (Wiesel & Wiesel, 2006), the YA text asks readers to think about and respond to complex social issues. The American Library Association (2014) describes The Hunger

Grant hints at remorse, but he is satisfied with his performance. I recognized that I, too, enjoyed my participation as Neadle in the digital role-play. Our fan community successfully produced an alternate


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 Games as worthy literature and literacy researchers argue that the text is well positioned to support students’ critical thinking and problem solving (Layfield, 2013; Saunders & Ash, 2013). The Hunger Games can be used to scaffold students in critical examinations of self and society (Sarigianides, 2012; Simmons, 2012). The study leads me to wonder how The Hunger Games digital role-play—and perhaps digital role-play with other challenging YA novels, canonical literature, and non-fiction texts—might be leveraged within classrooms to engage students in closer examinations of texts and of self. The online environment presented a creative forum for participants to practice core literacies. Within a classroom, a teacher might be able to mesh the digital processes with further classroom readings, discussions, reflection, and analysis of the digital text and production Blending digital processes.

Blending digital spaces with reading practices may motivate students to engage with texts. However, a teacher’s thoughtful guidance throughout a digital role-play may help students observe how literacies can be a means for investigating and countering dominant social narratives, and support students in recognizing and analyzing complicated issues that surface in the online world. Implications The art of teaching with digital spaces deserves continued examination as educators wrestle with how to mesh technology within literacy curriculum in purposeful ways and position ourselves alongside students to help make visible connections of power and identity that emerge in the production of digital texts.

spaces with reading practices may motivate students to engage with texts. However, a teacher’s thoughtful guidance throughout a digital roleplay may help students observe how literacies can be a means for investigating and countering dominant social narratives, and support students in recognizing and analyzing complicated issues that surface in the online world.

It is the role of the language arts teacher “to make our students conscious of difficult issues, not to turn away from them” (Simmons, 2012, p. 30), and my research raises questions for me about a teacher’s role within adolescents’ digital processes. From my lens as an insider, I enjoyed this participantdriven activity, yet I recognized missed opportunities for adolescents to question or challenge dominant discourse of the storyline (Field notes, May 7, 2012). My research experiences lead me to speculate how we might have collectively paused to examine the digital text and discuss our roles in its production. What did we learn, or what might we learn by stepping into imagined character roles? What did we learn about ourselves in composing this digital world?


Gee and Hayes (2009) argue that youths’ digital spaces are filled with creative problem-solving experiences and suggest that adolescent-driven digital spaces may provide more rigor than the learning demands of many school classrooms. Like the participants of The Second Annual Hunger Games Role-Play, adolescents immersed in online composing processes reinforce the significance of digital spaces as relevant and “contemporary tools” that are essential for continued achievement in literacies (Curwood, Magnifico, & Lammers, 2013, p. 677). Digital worlds can also support students’ exploration and examination of social identity, raising thoughtful questions about who we are or want to become in our world (Holland et al., 1998/2003).

Haynes-Moore, S. (2015) / Trading Spaces This study suggests that adolescent-driven digital spaces are worthy of continued study. In particular, educators should ask: how might we leverage youths’ engagement in digital worlds at school? What teaching approaches with digital role-play might support students in an exploration of social identity

and examination of social power? How might educators mesh adolescent-driven digital spaces within more traditional learning spaces? In my continuing research, I take up these questions, bringing the digital role-play into literacy classrooms to examine student learning and teacher approaches.

References Alvermann, D. (2010). Adolescents’ online literacies: Connecting classrooms, digital media, and popular culture. New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing. Bakhtin, M. (1994). The Bakhtin reader: Selected writings of Bakhtin, Medvedev, Voloshinov. P. Morris (Ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. Beach, R., & Doerr-Stevens, C. (2009). Learning argument practices through online role-play: Toward a rhetoric of significance and transformation. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 52(6), 460-468. doi: 10.1598/jaal.52.6.1 Betz, U. A. K. (2011). What fantasy role-playing games can teach your children (or even you). British Journal of Educational Technology, 42(6), E117-E121. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8535.2011.01209.x Black, R. (2009). English language learners, fan communities, and twenty-first century skills. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 52(8), 668-697. doi: 10.1598/jaal.52.8.4 Chandler-Olcott, K., & Mahar, D. (2003). Adolescents’ anime-inspired fanfictions: An exploration of multi literacies. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 46(7), 556-566. Retrieved from https://resources.oncourse.iu.edu/access/content/user/mikuleck/Filemanager_Public_Files/L750%20El ectronic%20Lang%20and%20Lit/New%20Forms/Adolescent%20anime-inspired%20fan-fiction.pdf Collins, S. (2008). The hunger games. New York, NY: Scholastic Press. Cope, B., & Kalantzis, M. (2000). Multiliteracies: Literacy learning and the design of social futures. London, England: Routledge. Cornelius, S., Gordon, C., & Harris, M. (2011). Role engagement and anonymity in synchronous online role play. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 12(5), 57-73. Retrieved from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/923/1857 Curwood, J. (2013). The Hunger Games: Literature, literacy, and online affinity spaces. Language Arts, 90(6), 417-427. Retrieved from http://www.jensc.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Curwood-LiteratureLiteracy-and-Online-Affinity-Spaces.pdf Curwood, J., Magnifico, A., & Lammers, J. (2013). Writing in the wild: Writers’ motivation in fanbased affinity spaces. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 56, 677–685. doi: 10.1002/jaal.192


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 Gee, J. P. (2004). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. Gee, J. P. (2005). Semiotic social spaces and affinity spaces from the age of mythology to today’s schools. In D. Barton & K. Tusting (Eds.), Beyond communities of practice: Language, power, and social context (pp. 214-232). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. Golding, W. (1954). Lord of the flies. New York, NY: Perigee. Holland, D., Lachicotte, W., Skinner, D., & Cain, C. (2003). Identity and agency in cultural worlds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. (Original work published in 1998) Hull, G. & Katz, M. (2006). Crafting an agentive self: Case studies of digital storytelling. Research in the Teaching of English, 41(1), 43-81. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/40171717 Ito, M., Baumer, S., Bittanti, M., Boyd, D., Cody, R., Herr, B., …Tripp, L. (2010). Hanging out, messing around, geeking out: Living and learning with new media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Jenkins, H., Purushotma, R., Weigel, M., Clinton, K., & Robinson, A. J. (2009). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Retrieved Feb. 2, 2015 from https://mitpress.mit.edu/sites/default/files/titles/free_download/9780262513623_Confronting_the_Chal lenges.pdf Lam, W. S. E. (2000). L2 literacy and the design of the self: A case study of a teenager writing on the Internet. TESOL Quarterly, 34(3), 457-482. doi: 10.2307/3587739 Lankshear, C. & Knobel, M. (2006). New literacies: everyday practices and classroom learning (2nd ed.). Maidenhead, UK: Open University Press. Layfield, A. (2013). Identity construction and the gaze in The Hunger Games. The Looking Glass: New Perspectives on Children’s Literature, 17(1). Retrieved from http://www.lib.latrobe.edu.au/ojs/index.php/tlg/article/view/389/382 Lee, H. (1960). To kill a mockingbird. New York, NY: Harper & Row. Lenhart, A. (2014). Teens & technology: Understanding the digital landscape. Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech. Retrieved November 4, 2014 from http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/02/25/teenstechnology-understanding-the-digital-landscape/ Lewis, C., Enciso, P., & Moje, E. (2007). Reframing sociocultural research on literacy: Identity, agency, and power. New York, NY: Routledge. McCarthey, S., & Moje, E. (2002). Identity matters. Reading Research Quarterly, 37(2), 228-238. doi: 10.1598/rrq.37.2.6 Merchant, G., Gillen, J., Marsh, J., & Davies, J. (Eds.). (2012). Virtual literacies: Interactive spaces for children and young people. London, England: Routledge.


Haynes-Moore, S. (2015) / Trading Spaces Merriam, S. B. (2009). Qualitative research: A guide to design and implementation. San Francisco, CA: JosseyBass. Russell, C., & Shepherd, J. (2010). Online role-play environments for higher education. British Journal of Educational Technology, 41(6), 992–1002. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8535.2009.01048.x Sarigianides, S. (2012). Tensions in teaching adolescence/ts: Analyzing resistances in a young adult literature course. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 56(3), 223-230. doi: 10.1002/jaal.00131 Saunders, J., & Ash, G. (2013). Entering the arena: The figured worlds transition of pre-service teachers. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 56(6), 490-499. doi: 10.1002/jaal.170 Simmons, A. M. (2012). Class on fire: Using the Hunger Games trilogy to encourage social action. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 56(1), 22-34. doi: 10.1002/jaal.00099 Thomas, A. (2007). Youth online: Identity and literacy in the digital age. New York: Peter Lang. Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. M. Cole, V. JohnSteiner, S. Scribner, & E. Souberman (Eds.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Wiesel, E., & Wiesel, M. (2006). Night (1st ed. of new translation.). New York, NY: Hill and Wang.


Spatial Stories with Nomadic Narrators: Affect, Snapchat, and Feeling Embodiment in Youth Mobile Composing Jon M. Wargo ABSTRACT: While the vast majority of scholarship on mobile media, social semiotics, and multimodality highlights work done behind the screen, few studies have considered the embodied processes of youth composing with and through mobile technology. This study, drawn from a larger critical qualitative connective ethnography, works to fill a paucity of literature by examining how one youth participant, Ben, uses the digital mobile application Snapchat to create and compose a myriad of phenomenological experiences. By partnering approaches from queer phenomenology and multimodal (inter)action analysis, this paper illuminates how the affective intensities and push-and-pull of orientations deliver a narrative that is enfolded by several felt moments. By illuminating the rich processes of embodied composing with mobile media and accounting for the spatio-temporal scales and traversals that Ben navigates to architect his experience, this article works to spotlight how youth composers tell spatial stories and map nomadic narratives to explore their own embodied experiences with and through mobile media. Key words: Composing, Mobile Media, Affect, Embodiment, Multimodality

Jon M. Wargo is a University Fellow and Ph.D. candidate in Teacher Education at Michigan State University. Anchored in interdisciplinary study, Jon’s work engages with qualitative and humanities oriented approaches to research to explore the intersections of language and literacy education, technology, and cultural studies. His current research examines digital technologies and the role virtual geographies play in literacy learning. In particular, Jon examines the rhetorical affordances of digital media composition for youth writing across formal and informal learning spaces. He can be contacted at wargojon@msu.edu

Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 Michelle M. Falter, Principal Editor—http://jolle.coe.uga.edu

Wargo, J. M. (2015) / Spatial Stories with Nomadic Narrators

“What is special about place is precisely that throwntogetherness, the unavoidable challenge of negotiating a here-and-now (itself drawing on a geography of thens and theres); and a negotiation which must take place within and between both human and nonhuman.”—Doreen Massey, For Space

lives behind the screen are marked by an era known for its focus on the visual. Traditional folk distinctions plaguing research in language and literacy (online/offline, in-school/out-of-school) studies are becoming blurred and feeling the liminalities and spaces between these bifurcations is necessary.

“Watching someone snap is like watching someone paint. It is the creative process. That is what I am talking about. This is my collective conscious on a map, stretched across a hundred frames or so, charting an experience.”—Ben, Participant Interview While lacing up his boot in preparation to brave the cold autumn day, Ben (all names of participants and institutions are pseudonyms), a youth participant with whom I worked and learned alongside, swiped his iPhone’s screen to enter a passcode and unlock his phone. With a click, tap, and swipe, Ben toggled between applications to check weather, reblog on his Tumblr dashboard, and tweet a Twitter follower and friend about an upcoming homework assignment. By the time he laced his other boot, Ben informed me that it may rain an hour later into the day, three users added comments to his reblog, and that his classmate confirmed that their calculus inquiry project was due on Tuesday. This short vignette, what some would conceive of as Ben’s mobile media use-in-progress, highlights a common scene for youth whose lives are increasingly mediated by digital technologies and virtual geographies.

While the vast majority of scholarship on social semiotics and multimodality highlights work done behind the screen, few studies have considered the embodied processes of youth composing with and through technology (for exemplar see Ehret & Hollett, 2014). This study, in line with the aforementioned research, works to fill a paucity of literature by examining how one youth participant, Ben, uses the digital mobile application Snapchat to (re)live, reexamine, and document a myriad of phenomenological experiences. The affective intensities and push-and-pull of orientations, I argue, deliver a narrative that is enfolded by several felt moments, moments that were not conceived of at the start of the production. By highlighting the rich processes of embodied composing, and accounting for the spatio-temporal scales and traversals that Ben navigates across, I work to illuminate how twenty-first century youth composers tell spatial stories and map nomadic narratives through mobile media. In sum, I offer the heuristic perspective of elastic literacies to analyze and document the practice of narrative cartography across three paths of complementarity: activity, spacetime, and affect/sensation.

For language and literacy studies, much like the opening scene highlighting Ben’s mobile media composing, space and time have recently retaken a place of primacy in the vast array of situated conceptions of meaning making (Compton-Lilly & Halverson, 2014). Despite this recentering, much of the scholarship focusing on the spatio-temporal dimensions of learning has occluded the affective and experiential pathways of composing (Lemke, 2013). Sedimented by the hyper-mediated digital world, this disavowal of affect and experience leaves the topography of literacies and learning across space and time with more cleavages. With the advent of new digital technologies and advanced communicative landscapes, youth, as we know, are living even more connective lives than before (Boyd, 2014). As such,

This article is divided into four parts. In the opening section, I review and operationalize key constructs such as space, time, literacies, and composing. By partnering Ahmed (2006), Lemke (2013), Massey (2005), and Massumi (1995), I highlight how time is an affective component for space as it reorients the practice of composing new media narratives. I review previous conceptions of these constructs and operationalize what Lemke (2000) calls the traversal to examine the layering of composing across spacetime configurations. After, I focus on a single case study of a youth with whom I worked and learned alongside using Snapchat as a tool for embodied composition. By charting three distinct spacetime traversals in his snapstory, it is my hope to strike a chord that highlights how youth use mobile


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1—Spring 2015 applications and digital technologies to tell spatial stories, ones that are layered in affective intensities and (re)orient the production of embodied spacetime.

and temperature, Snapchat is a medium that produces perception. Thus, with the affordances of the application, youth users are becoming nomadic narrators to tell temporal tales.

Examining these spatial stories across one another, I interrogate affect, embodiment, and its intersection with the spatio-temporal dimensions of mobile media composing. Ben’s story, I contend, is a rich one that illustrates the way youth use ephemeral media to recreate history/ies and remediated “me-s.” As a narrator, Ben draws us into his experience by its affective intensities. He asks us to be a part of the performance rather than decode it from a periphery. As I will suggest throughout the sections that follow, both in broad brush strokes and in the minute details embedded within Ben’s snapstory, language and literacy educators and researchers must be cognizant of the ways youth are using new media narratives to touch time, telling spatial stories and composing experience across a variety of spacetime traversals.

Snapchat, in comparison to other mobile applications and/or devices, allows for a type of techno-embodied composition not previously seen. Previous studies of youth mobile composing have traditionally focused on how youth use the affordances of video, digital photography, and/or text-based messaging to (re)author/remix selves (Jocson, 2013; Lam, 2009; Saul, 2014; Vasudevan, 2006; Vasudevan, Schultz, & Bateman, 2010). Comparatively, Snapchat is an application whose emergent composing process and storytelling features become crystalized in the semiotic activity of tracing experiential events, not products. Snapstories beg to be read as textual and affective assemblages unfolding. Conceptual and Theoretical Framework

Snapchat, Social Semiotics, and Everyday Digital Photography

Stretchy Selves and Spatial Stories: On “Feeling” Space

The iPhone, a digital tool and pseudo-appendage for a multitudinous number of young people, is inherently a cartographic interface. Users select, download, and navigate across a myriad of mobile applications and tools on the device. The hybrid interface of the iPhone not only calls for navigation within the machine and across the screen, but it is also used to navigate the physical space surrounding the device. While there are a plethora of iOS and Android applications and mobile media tools used to chart cartographies of space, for the purposes of this article I focus on one in particular, Snapchat.

Mobile applications and digital tools for composing new media narratives stretch across affective planes of scale (Lemke, 2000). Whether residing in the mundane or memorializing an event, Snapchat is a mobile application used by users to “feel” space and place through composing. As the application of primacy in this project, and a digital tool that works to tell spatial stories, it is worth spending some time here to operationalize how I define space and place. Like the opening epigraph, I draw on Massey (2005) to describe the “throwntogetherness” (p. 140) of negotiation and navigation. Conceptualizing place as an entanglement, the situative nature for language and literacy studies becomes blurred when observing composing in situ across mobile planes. Just as Leander and Boldt (2013) argue, literacies are not bounded a priori. Youth are not solely working as multimodal designers, documenting and designing the physical space and geographies they traverse and compose through (a tenet often cited in the multiliteracies framework by the New London Group, 1996), but rather they are following “the emergence of activity” (Leander & Boldt, 2013, p. 34) where their bodies are pushed-and-pulled by affective intensities

Seeing over 350 million photos shared every day, Snapchat is a photo-based mobile application for smart and iPhones. As an application whose youth appeal lies in its ephemeral status, Snapchat allows users to share their digital stories with others for an allocated amount of time (from one to ten seconds); or to create a narrative stream or snapstory lasting for longer periods of time. Linking photos and videos into a temporal stream of images, each snap is stitched together to last for 24 hours. As a digital composing tool, Snapchat combines and processes meta-data to act as a sensor. Ethnographically linking space, time,


Wargo, J. M. (2015) / Spatial Stories with Nomadic Narrators of the relations they are a part of. For Snapchat users, people and objects become contexts for one another. Ever feeling, ever fleeting, youth stretch themselves across these affective intensities to (re)author selves.

compose with Snapchat, temporality cuts across to chart a constellation of embodied composing across time. Particularly, I find it useful to demarcate and splice these spatial stories by what Lemke (2013) defines as traversals; or the “trajectory through space and time, real and virtual or both, that crosses boundaries of place, setting, activity, genre, and the like” (p. 65). In taking on a phenomenological orientation to users feeling affective intensities as they compose, I argue that technology does not solely become a tool, but rather an extension of self. Technology, echoing Ahmed (2006), “does not simply refer to objects that we use to extend capacities for action” (p. 45) but instead becomes “the process of ‘bringing forth’ or … to make something appear, within what is present” (p. 46). Thus, the technoembodiment of youth mobile composing takes on a queer orientation as it navigates both space and place.

Affect is the drag individuals feel—the push-and-pull of narrative cartography—as they compose across the techno-writing assemblage of Snapchat. Drawing from Lemke (2013), I describe affect as “how feelings interact with meanings as we live our lives across places and times, being and becoming the persons we are moment to moment across longer timescales” (p. 64). Similarly, affect and the selves we convey through spatial storytelling have much to do with our own senses of selves and identities. Taking a poststructuralist stance, I contend that the forces or affective intensities between bodies, contract and collide to make emergent instantiations of identity/ies work. “Our identity-in-the moment” as Lemke (2013) has posited, “need not coherently cumulate into a single longer term identity” (p. 64). “Identities can be multiplex, strategic, logically inconsistent or incommensurable, and call for quite different conceptualizations when considered at different timescales” (Lemke, 2013, p. 64). Hence, it is through the composing practice of snapping, I argue, that youth stretch themselves across an array of spatio-temporal dimensions to (re)author selves.

Affect and/or affective intensities Affect may be described as the change in orientation/network when corporeal bodies come into contact with one another. Affective intensities are the push-and-pull between bodies through their contact, elision, and/or collision. Affective intensities often are sites of new expression and quality. Assemblage A complex configuration of networked elements and/or human and nonhuman objects. A city, for example, could be read as an assemblage insofar as it is composed of a people/population, roads, government policies, social movements, and slogans/signs. Embodiment An expression of the present. A corporeal and affective reworking of the content of social worlds. Embodiment “involves a capacity to take up and to transform features of the mundane world in order to portray a ‘way of being’, an outlook, a style of life that shows itself in what it is” (Thift, 2008 cf. Radley, 1996). Rhizome / rhyzomatic “The rhizome is any network of things brought into contact with one another, functioning as an assemblage machine for new affects, new concepts, new bodies, new thoughts” (Colman, 2005, p. 232). The mapping of these rhizome networks and affective intensities could be classified as rhyzomatic, each residing on the same plane of immanence. Scale/s Units / systems of model and organization that represent interactions across topologies such as space, time, etc. “Each scale of organization in an ecosocial system is an integration of faster, more local processes…into longer-timescale, more global or extended networks (Lemke, 2000, p. 275). Social semiotics A tradition of inquiry, drawing from Halliday (1978), Hodge and Kress (1988), interested in the social dimensions of meanings in any medium of communication, its production, interpretation and circulation, and its cause and effect in social processes. Spacetime Highlighting the multiplicities and heterogeneities of both space and time, spacetime imagines the “simultaneity of stories so far” (Massey, 2005) as they pertain to place making. Traversal Pathways of making meaning across boundaries of sites, genres, contexts, institutions. Traversals may, and often do, extend across scales.

Space, like affect and place in particular, takes on a perspective of orientation. Drawing from Ahmed’s (2006) book Queer Phenomenology, space becomes a “question of ‘turning’ of directions taken, which not only allow things to appear but also enable us to find our way through the world by situating ourselves in relation to such things” (p. 6). Hence, the meandering across the throwntogetherness of narrative place is affectively propelled to take on new (re)orientations, to fall within the entanglements of time, and to takeon new stories, ones which may not have crystalized in the original plan. Youth users, hence, become spatial architects of experience (see Figure 1). Techno-Embodiment, Queer Orientations, and Touching Time Although space, place, and affect are theoretical constructs that ground the navigation of users as they

Figure 1: Glossary


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1—Spring 2015 Users across Snapchat “touch” time to tell stories. Elastic literacies stretch across three “paths of Both physically, by tapping and clicking buttons on complementarity” (Kress, 2011, p. 246). I draw on Kress screens with fingers to chart how long a particular (2011) here to suggest that seemingly frame will last on the ephemeral mobile application, incommensurable orientations into meaning making and affectively, by being propelled across spacetime to and composing may in fact render greater analyses compose frames for representation, simulation, and into the specialized insights of each of these three perception, Snapchat is a techno-embodied practice intersecting and overlapping approaches. The first whose dual narrative possibility falls across spatial path considers the mediating activity, in our case a and temporal domains. I young person composing with highlight its techno-embodied a mobile application on his Ethnographically linking space, iPhone. Taking into account qualities so as not to pronounce it a wholly liberatory the varying scales (Lemke, time, and temperature, application for composing. 2000) of the ecosocial system Snapchat is a medium that Snapchat, embodied as it may youth traverse in all activity, be, does not function solely as produces perception. Thus, the second path accounts for an opening of vision and the spatio-temporal traversals with the affordances of the storytelling. Through its mobile of mediated action. The third application, youth users are screen perspective it also serves path that elastic literacies as a shield or blinder, limiting accounts for is the affective, the becoming nomadic narrators our views within more novel diagonal that cuts across to tell temporal tales. modes of techno-composing. activity and scale to account for how affective intensities of Elastic Literacies and Stretches of Selves enfolding make the practice, action, and reception motile. Deleuze (1988/2012) accounts for this In an effort to not discount these energetic and elasticity as inflection, the genetic element of the affective moments for youth, I am offering the term action/line, which is the point of the movement. elastic literacies. Drawing from Wang’s (2013) theory Movement, for Deleuze (1981/2002), “is not explained of the elastic self, elastic literacies take into account by sensation, but by the elasticity of sensation, its vis the types of practices that emerge from relational elastic” (p. 45). Elastic literacies, hence, is the growing social ties and interactions with human and together activated through the improvisation of the nonhuman actors across an array of environments. relational, not merely the coming together of two The elastic self is “characterized by the feeling that subjectivities but the novelty of experience and one’s identity is malleable and involves the trying on expression. Elastic literacies take into account the way of different identities that are beyond the realm of contemporary youth use, feel, and experience specific what would be considered normal displays of one’s types of practice to maneuver between selves. prescribed self” (Wang, 2013, p. 31). Wang has further argued that “… the more elastic one’s identity, the Conceptually, elastic literacies is a heuristic more capacity one has to engage with one’s social perspective that accounts for how the emerging surroundings, to react to unfamiliar people and landscapes and digital geographies of new media situations, and to reflexively incorporate the new technologies, and available communicative practices interactions into their own personal narrative” (p. 31). shape identity and its relationship to new imaginings Rhyzomatic in nature, elastic literacies, in comparison of literacy practice(s). I describe it as a heuristic to multiliteracies, are more malleable and creatively insofar as it serves not only an explanatory function charged. They are less design-focused and more but also traces the tensions and resonances between experimental. Elastic literacies work to “trace systems of representation and real time (inter)actions resonance” (Stornaiuolo & Hall, 2014, p. 37) across a among and between social actors. Rather than solely number of literacy sitings. seeing practice as mediated by actor and a tool, elastic


Wargo, J. M. (2015) / Spatial Stories with Nomadic Narrators literacies account for a range of spacetime traversals and affective motilities. Elastic literacies ask us to consider movement and navigation across practice as a fluid assemblage, operating always in between the constraints and limits of composing but taking heed of experiential improvisation.

basis that they offer unique insights regarding language, activity, and semiotic flexibility. In other words, it was a “telling” case (Mitchell, 1984, p. 239) for examining youth composing with mobile media. Microanalysis was done not to analyze this moment in the traditional sense, but to follow Leander and Boldt’s (2013) invitation and consider “what is emergent” (p. 42) in this data? Thus, I work to address the following research questions:

By focusing on a particular snapstory of Ben’s (a youth with whom I worked and learned alongside in a larger study) as my unit of analysis, I first adopt a critical sociocultural perspective to explore Snapchat as a composing process, one wherein the body is traced across multiple ecosocial scales (Lemke, 2000). Utilizing a sociocultural approach explicates “the relationships between human action, on the one hand, and the cultural institutions and historical situations in which this action occurs, on the other” (Wertsch, 1995). As youth work to continuously reauthor selves, the activities remediating personal histories, creations and compositions, and trajectories of material embodiment are at once enabled but also constrained by the cultural tools employed (Shipka, 2011; Wertsch, 1998). Working to understand semiotic (re)mediation and the process of composing through a larger sociocultural network, I avoid common tensions in literacy studies concerning digital/virtual geographies by “looking at the technology as an addition to life” rather than “looking at life through that technology” (Bruce & Hogan, 1998, p. 270). However, and as I attend to in my heuristic perspective of elastic literacies, I am also cognizant of the affective experiences youth encounter as they compose. These intensities are not detailed or indexed by solely analyzing the action through a sociocultural perspective. For this reason, I consider Ben’s snapstory encasing a milieu of elastic literacies practices. Analysis will be attentive to the complex processes that account for how bodies, minds, and institutions participate in the action, and subsequently, how they take shape from activities and experiences in which they are recruited.

1. How does one youth participant, Ben, use the digital application Snapchat as a tool for embodied composing? How do histories of participation and rememory orient him in his composing process? 2. How does Ben navigate spacetime traversals in the process of composing during this everyday literacy event? What affective intensities propel him to tell his spatial story? How does he navigate and touch time? Method Toward a Connective Ethnographic Approach: Capturing Spatial Stories Utilizing a networked design to trace actions across space and place, I use a connective ethnographic approach (Hine, 2000; 2015; Leander, 2008; Leander & Lovvorn, 2006; Leander & McKim, 2003) for both data collection and analysis. Data drawn for the article consists of a 46- minute video-recorded 1:1 multimodal (inter)action protocol analysis (Norris, 2011) of Ben producing an identity text, multiple active interviews ranging from 40 to 75 minutes (Holstein & Gubrium, 2002), participant observation, and field notes. As Snapchat is an ephemeral mobile application, with compositions deleting themselves after a 24-hour period, I used the mobile application Reflector, an AirPlay receiver, to mirror the snapstory from my iPhone to my desktop and record via QuickTime.

Impetus for Research Questions

Data Analysis

This article, drawing on a single piece of data from a three-year longitudinal critical qualitative study, focuses on a singular rich point for analysis. The snapstory and narrative events analyzed in this article were selected from the larger corpus of data on the

In the first phase of analysis, I used ChronoViz (Version 2.0.2.; Fouse, n. d.), a qualitative web-based tool that helps navigate time-coded data, to break down and segment the larger video-recorded protocol. ChronoViz helped facilitate splitting the


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1—Spring 2015

video and snapstory into larger frames (spatial stories) for analysis. Frames were triangulated with the actual “snaps” (segments of narrative) from Ben’s larger snapstory. Pieces of data were then co-constructed and situated spatially (digitally mapped by Ben’s movement and co-constructed on Google Earth), to better texture the narrative cartography and reenactment of lived experience. These think-aloud sessions and interviews were classified as “maker moments” (his word, not my own) as Ben and I worked collaboratively to retrace and stitch together the movement and stretches of narrative.

on the role of “little brother” when his sister, Lizette, came home from college and participated with us in the collection of the snapstory. I highlight this interjection as Lizette becomes a central figure in Ben’s snapstory and elicits affective intensities that push him to create alternative compositions across spacetime traversals. Findings / Traversals The creative practices and digital affordances of the Snapchat interface can be seen as an embodied tool for composition involving a myriad of queer affective entanglements of spacetime. In this section, I discern three different ways in which the broad concept of embodied composing becomes specific for Ben’s navigation and where tenets of performative cartography emerge across three traversals: navigation as touching and curating experience, as an affective moment and engagement of feeling rememory/ies, and as a haptic participatory project wherein histories and experiences collide.

As a secondary phase of analysis, I returned to the video-based protocol of composing in situ to create a multimodal transcript that included not only speech but also descriptions of changes in gesture and movement. For the latter, I noted the sequence, timing, and position of each snap on Ben’s larger text and embodied composition. I referenced these changes in modal density in the multimodal transcript (see Figure 3). In the second phase of analysis, videos were reformatted without audio so that the focus was on embodied modes of interaction. Throughout the course of these analyses, I noticed Ben’s referent to the landscape, touching of the screen, and positioning of the figured audience as frequent modes of communication for technoembodied composing. Gestural pointing and placing moves marked important shifts in activity. These shifts illuminate the traversals and broader themes in the findings section.

Spacetime traversals are presented across themes, each unique and in response to the aforementioned research questions. “Touching Writing: Feeling Digital Composing and Creating Experience” explores Ben’s histories of participation and his mediated action using Snapchat as an embodied tool for composing. In particular, I analyze his spatial story in situ and use multimodal (inter)action analysis to read Ben as auteur. In “My Collective Life, My Consciousness: On Curating and Mapping Experience,” I explore the holistic design process embedded within Snapchat and Ben’s near 7-minute embodied snapstory. Pushed by an affective moment of rememory, Ben curates a memorialization of an event and relives it with a small collective of users (both virtual and in-person). In the third and final finding, “Like Sand Sculptures Blown Away in the Wind: Materiality, Felt Space, and Participating in Lizette’s Childhood,” I work to explore how Snapchat could be considered as an inherently queer practice. Both phenomenologically felt across geographies and space, Snapchat, I argue, is ephemerally reorienting the embodied present in the youth composing process.

About Ben Throughout the larger three-year longitudinal qualitative study, Ben was an avid Snapchat user and digital composer. When this snapstory was collected, Ben was 17 years old and a junior at City Town high school, an affluent suburban school with an International Baccalaureate program. Having competing interests in linguistics, technology, and pop culture, Ben’s larger narratives on Snapchat were often layered with selfies, snapshots of homework, and/or video recordings of YouTube videos. While Ben considered himself an “only child now” as his older brother and sister were away at college, he took


Wargo, J. M. (2015) / Spatial Stories with Nomadic Narrators Spacetime Traversal 1. Touching Writing: Feeling Digital Composing and Creating Experience

way Ben uses text, audio, video, and paint features to detail objects and narrate events of the past. Take for instance the final three frames from Ben’ first spatial story. In this 3-minute and 52-second narrative, Ben uses the final frames to highlight sites of interaction. In the third and fourth frames of Figure 2, we see Ben use paint to draw in particulars of the situation. Next to his face we see where the kiss happened, illustrated by the red paint. Following, we see him narrate and physically draw in a bench that used to line the back of the elementary school playground. An artifact that would provide warrant for a story he later tells. Finally, and as way to transition to the overlapping spatial story, a 10-second frame is played with Ben swinging on a swing at the school’s playground. Backdropped by the squeaking of the swing, Ben does not speak. Rather, the affective moment for Ben is the movement, the gaze of the screen that moves up to the sky and then back down to the woodchips that line the playground bed. Ben, using the particulars of Snapchat, literally creates a blueprint for the experience he wants viewers to have. Working to “create an experience” (according to Ben), Snapchat is used as a tool to compose and supplant pre-existing objects and histories into an unfolding narrative. In essence, Ben touches writing to feel and create experience.

As a Snapchat user, Ben was quick to use all facets of the mobile application to texture his narratives with incisive features detailing day, location, and sound. On this day, in particular, Ben, alongside his sister Lizette and me, went out to revisit a snapstory he had created earlier in the month. In a previous interview, Ben had noted that he often uses Snapchat to “… create shared experiences, to relive moments in my life that I wanted to share with other people but no one else was around.” In this snapstory, more specifically, Ben was eager to compose and share a lived history of his “first kiss.” However, on the day Ben and I met for a composing protocol analysis wherein I asked him to re-create this story, his narrative does not go as planned. In a near 7-minute snapstory, each frame lasting 7-10 seconds, Ben tells three spatial stories: his first kiss, a rewind to school in a micro-story he calls “Lizette’s inner child,” and the close or the story of feeling rememory (see Figure 2). While I will detail these spatial stories in later sections, I want to first discuss the act of “touching” composing and highlight through vignettes from the larger multimodal (inter)action analysis transcript how Snapchat is inherently an embodied process of composing.

Touching writing and felt composing. Apart from the formal features and affordances of composing on Snapchat, it is important to physically mark how composing in situ with the mobile application is operationalized as an embodied experience for youth users. Take, for instance, the 6-frame vignettes I included in Figure 3, a multimodal (inter)action analysis transcript that looks across gesture, body movement, and speech. In each frame we see Ben,

As an application, Snapchat is a hybrid tool that requires users to touch, swipe, and tap to compose. Apart from these gestures and movements, users can also use Snapchat’s hybrid affordances to detail the specifics of their narrative. For example, the last frame of Ben’s snapstory indicates the temperature of the day he created it (59 degrees Fahrenheit). Apart from these minute details, what is important to note is the

Figure 2. Ben’s layered snapstory across time.


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1—Spring 2015 through his numerous histories of participation and expertise on Snapchat, mark his frame. Focusing on perspective, angle, approach, mode, and dialogue, Ben uses the application not only to convey message and meaning to his Snapchat audience but to also navigate physical space and surrounding geographies. For Ben, creating and curating his spatial story was of the utmost importance. He was consistent in arguing that he wanted it to be “real” just like the moment it occurred three years before. Although Snapchat is most readily read as a digital tool, one in which its ephemeral and virtual status are worked to render the day-to-day, mundane happenings, it is also an application that youth composers use to blur bifurcations between the real/virtual and of the past/present.

temporal scales of composing. Snapchat allowed Ben the opportunity to be an experience architect, one whose own processes of embodied composition facilitate the touching of time and the possibility as spatial storyteller. Spacetime Traversal 2. My Collective Life, My Consciousness: On Curating and Mapping Experience If we abstract away from Ben’s larger snapstory and instead focus on the process and rationale for using Snapchat to compose experience, we begin to see how he uses the application to curate and map, virtually, his experience. Prior to commencing the protocol, Ben opened up a parallel digital application on his iPhone, Map My Walk. Map My Walk is a physical fitness application that charts steps, distance, and time. For Ben, the Map My Walk application houses a feature that Snapchat does not, a global positioning system (GPS). In an effort to document the actual trail of his thoughts and narrative, Ben charts where his snapstory takes him. Unlike many of the other youth users whom I observed in their Snapchat use and composing, Ben was an outlier. He felt he needed to map this process as it both captured the amount of time he spent curating the experience as well as the distance he traversed to create it (see Figure 4).

Figure 3. Excerpt from multimodal (inter)action analysis transcript. The 6-frame vignettes demonstrate a multimodal (inter)action analysis transcript that looks across gesture, body movement, and speech. For Ben, using Snapchat during this protocol was less about his history with me as a researcher or his sister as sibling, than it was about his histories with the moment and the audience with whom he wanted to share it. Feelings across this spacetime traversal, ones which pushed Ben to touch feeling and create experience for his users, allows us to read the ways in which the digital screen is enfolded within spatio-

Figure 4. Ben’s Map My Walk map.


Wargo, J. M. (2015) / Spatial Stories with Nomadic Narrators

Ben uses the Map My Walk map to chart the geographic particulars of his snapstory. Because Ben was the sole participant whose interest in mapping his narrative led him to visually and digitally track it, I worked to better understand the particulars of this snapstory’s trajectory and situation. As documented in Figure 3, the protocol itself lasted over 49 minutes and we traveled over two and a half miles together. After our return, Ben and I sat down and decided to segment and chart his narrative together. Using the Map My Walk map as a mentor-text, Ben and I used Google Earth to stitch the track that his narrative took. We then used the Google Earth maps to highlight the layered spatial stories that occurred across spacetime traversals (see Figure 5). For Ben, Snapchat allowed him to curate his “collective life” and document his ““consciousness.”

the informality that makes it easier to do a lot more things. Rather than text, instant messaging, or microblogging across venues of social media, Ben prefers Snapchat given its focus on the ephemeral and visual. This visual turn could be seen as indicative of what Verhoeff (2012) has called the spatio-visual or navigational turn insofar as its larger lineage has been traced across the visual (Mitchell, 1994) and spatial (Soja, 1996), which then evolved into a piqued interest and emphasis on mobility (Urry, 2007). For Ben, snapping is about curating an experience, collecting moments through visual frames to tell a moment, or perhaps to experience a rememory. When asked what the affordances of composing with Snapchat were, Ben replied: It is like being with someone for that day. It is very intimate. When you see that snap, only a small group can see that snap. I get to feel like I am with them, even when I am not. People who I don’t care about, or who I don’t want to share that moment with, they don’t get to know. It’s a memory for a small collective, an experience we have together. Thus, Snapchat, through its array of snapped selfies, screenshots, and visual ecologies, is a storied assessment of experience. Users curate images, video, and text and link them semantically to provide an array of experiences to not only relive them but also to document and stream them for a small collective.

Figure 5. Google Earth map and Snap moments highlighting spatial stories. Plotting, tracing, and stitching together the overarching narratives and spatial stories that took place across Ben’s snapstory allowed for us to have an in-depth discussion while uncovering why Snapchat was the tool of primacy for Ben. As we used Google Earth to map the various folds of narrative embedded within the longer snapstory, Ben elaborated on his composing process. Jon: Why is Snapchat your primary mode for writing? Ben: I like it. It is extremely informal. People are more likely to respond because you can’t just get the pop-up and see what it is and ignore it. You have to open it. You have to hold it down. You don’t read, you see. I will know if you read it. I like that. Honestly, it is

Affective intensities and curating personal history/ies; or snapping as art. The array of spatial stories Ben tells in this particular snapstory are affectively charged, propelling him to document certain experiences over others. In the first story, the one that he titles “My First Kiss,” Ben relives and redocuments a snapstory he had previously created. I showed initial interest in this story given its theme and content surrounding identity. In a 24-frame narrative arc, Ben snaps a story that traces the histories of both the geographic and physical location of his elementary school and of the particulars of the “moment” he shares (see Figure 6).


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1—Spring 2015 they do these giant sand sculptures with various colors of sand. It’s intricate. It’s beautiful. They are masterpieces, every single one. Then, just like that, they let the wind blow it away. That is what is so beautiful about it [Snapchat]. It is so temporary. Curating and stitching together frames to compose an embodied experience is like art for Ben. As he suggests, Snapchat’s ephemerality and modes for design afford him the ability to compose and share his “collective life” and consciousness. Composing with Snapchat, however, like Ben contends, is ephemeral. Often, these narrative cartographers are like the sand he cites, blown not by wind but by the affective intensities that incite coinciding spatial stories to be taken up, composed, and felt.

Figure 6. Ben’s Google Earth plot of spatial Story 1. Ben commences the narrative by opening with a horizontal turned vertical frame snap with text overlaying his elementary school. This, both visually and textually, sets the audience to be a receiver of “going back in time” with Ben. As a narrative time traveler, Ben continues this thread by then streaming several frames that document the highlighted “blank space” of a history he can no longer represent. For example, in Frame 2 of Figure 6, Ben highlights an area just adjacent to his head where he uses Snap’s paint feature to highlight the area where his previous love interest laid his head. By drawing the audience into landscapes of times past, Ben provides a scenario that is affectively charged. The first spatial story then continues with Ben traversing the playground to sit on the swings. In Frame 3 of Figure 6, we see a still action frame of a 10-second video where Ben records himself swinging. Backdropped by the squeaking of the swing’s chain and the rush of wind on this autumn day, Ben propels his audience to feel his own navigation across spacetime. Closing out this first snapstory is a still photo frame of a painted United States map with Michigan hollowed out. Using the text feature, he types, “Why’s my state hollowed out?” He closes this first spatial story, perhaps unnoticingly, by indexing his location both physically, with the hollowed map and text indexing him as a Michigan resident, but also temporally as he asks viewers to “go back” with him.

Spacetime Traversal 3. Like Sand Sculptures Blown Away in the Wind: Materiality, Felt Space, and Participating in Lizette’s Childhood As I stated earlier, Ben’s Snapstory and the composing in situ protocol did not go as expected. What we set out to accomplish was a Snapstory that, like the one he shared some weeks previous, replicated and documented the curated experience of his first kiss. During this data session, however, Lizette, Ben’s older sister, accompanied us on our journey. Usually walking some few feet behind and/or asking why I was interested in Snapchat as a mechanism for writing, Lizette became a focal unit of analysis for Ben as his snapstory progressed (see Figure 7).

As a narrative time traveler and as a spatial storyteller, Ben’s larger goal as a composer is to, as he says, “create art.” As we stitched together frames of his overlapping spatial stories, Ben discusses his own strategies of being a Snap artist: It’s like art. I know of one example. When I was in San Diego, I saw these artists and

Figure 7. Ben’s stitching together of spatial Story 2.


Wargo, J. M. (2015) / Spatial Stories with Nomadic Narrators As noted in Figure 6, jumping off the swings, Ben traversed the playground pavement to snap a photo of the hollowed state of Michigan that lines the blacktop. Some 40 feet away, across the pavement and down into a wood-chipped jungle gym, Ben observed Lizette playing on the monkey bars. “It’s hot lava!” screams Lizette. Lifting his phone, Ben aims the iPhone camera lens to snap Lizette in action. “Is this ok?” Ben inquires of me. I highlight this interaction as it aptly illuminates the affective intensities and material realities that push and pull Ben to compose overlapping spatial stories. In this concluding findings section, I follow these traces and resonances of Ben’s composing as a way to document and detail the material “felt” spaces he composes in a spatial story he calls, “Lizette’s inner child.” As Ben rushed over to Lizette, she quickly tip-toed her way across a balance beam, acting as if she could not touch the wood chips below as the so-called “hot lava” would burn her. Climbing up and across the monkey bars, Lizette continues to meander the lava terrain. Immediately, Ben starts snapping photos, taking videos, and providing textual dialogue to a secondary spatial story. For the next 90 seconds, Ben follows Lizette and documents her “reliving” her childhood (for examples see Figures 8, 9, and 10).

Figure 9. Lizette traverses the “lava.” In alignment with feeling his own youth and past experiences, Ben traces and embodies Lizette by tracing the recess game she played in her early youth. Marking her “success,” following her path while snapping her process, and then indexing these moments as “Lizette finding her inner child,” the affective intensities and shared histories of Lizette arriving on the scene reoriented Ben’s snap composition. Adding Lizette into the mix, the throwntogetherness of the playground space and place transformed into an assemblage of felt histories. The sand sculptures, if we use Ben’s words, of the aims and goals of the composition were blown away, revised to tell an affective moment of youth and to relive the childhood imaginary of recess. As Lizette finds herself successful in navigating the “hot lava,” Ben closes the story in a third refrain that I call “feeling memory,” the final spatial story. For Ben, as a narrative cartographer, it was not necessarily the snapstory (the product) that he felt warranted close inspection. In fact, even writing about it and documenting it in static screenshot frames seems inauthentic. For Ben, Lizette, and me, it was the shared experience, felt histories, and material navigation across the place and space of school that carries most resonance. For us, it was in the moment and process of navigating the topographies and traversals of spatial stories that carried the most

Figure 8. “Success.”


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1—Spring 2015 affective weight. While Ben felt as if he contaminated the research scene by following Lizette and her moment of felt history, the third traversal and spatial story works to bookend the group experience.

moves away from previous accounts of youth writing through mobile media which focus solely on design. Utilizing an elastic literacies perspective allowed us to nuance the topographies of a young person navigating the so-called situative and networked turns in literacy research and practice. Illustrated in the findings/traversals sections, the expanded heuristic of elastic literacies helps account for the practices and intensities across activity, spacetime, and affect/sensation. These paths of complementarity textured the spatial stories we navigated and traversed through. In this final section, I describe how my emergent analysis of Ben’s snapstory informs theorizations and intersections concerning embodiment, narrative cartography, and youth language and literacy studies.

Closing the story, we as a collective returned to the parking lot. Wanting to document “every moment,” Ben swipes his thumb to the right to capture the temperature. His final frame then takes a picture of Lizette’s car and closes the story with a text box that reads, “experiment over.” As Lizette started her car and drove off, leaving Ben and me to walk the onemile return trip, Ben laughed and said, “well that was a tale to tell.” The tale that Ben refers to cannot be viewed as a triad of narratives that counter one another but an assemblage of the digital, physical, and geographic materiality that documents how time is felt in the embodied composing process/experience of composing with mobile media.

Taking heed of what Lewis and del Valle (2009) have identified as the third wave of literacy and identity research, microanalysis helped illuminate how identity is “hybrid, metadiscursive, and spatial” (p. 316) for Ben. Through Ben’s composing process and snapstory, we are able to attend to the multi-spatial and cross-temporal performances of selves across spacetime traversals. As mobile technologies continue to infiltrate youth spaces, I suggest we continue to describe and explore how, through the stretches of selves and emergent experiences, youth are not solely seeing themselves through the screen but rather mediating their construction of motility across spacetime. Apart from experience, identities, and spacetime, the felt affect and touch of time is another avenue to continue exploring in multimodal youth composing. Multimodal (inter)action analysis helped account for the ways in which Ben physically (through touch, swipe, gesture, and gaze) composed a narrative that was not only overlapping across histories of access and participation but enfolded in spacetime as new bodies emerged on the scene. As an embodied form of composition, we saw how the so-called contamination of the research scene, the inclusion of his older sister Lizette, invited new possibilities and affective intensities for embodied composing. In sum, Lizette became both an object and subject that Ben built context around. Lizette’s riptide effect across spacetime contributed to Ben’s ongoing story and rememory. For Ben, the “tale to tell” was not the

Figure 10. “Finding her inner child” Discussion By highlighting a constellation of rich points to illuminate the affective feelings and touching of time mediated by youth mobile composing, this article


Wargo, J. M. (2015) / Spatial Stories with Nomadic Narrators documented product but the shared event that we encountered in the nexus and navigation of practice.

landscapes in their role as narrative cartographers, we would do well to remind ourselves that technology is but a tool and a lens, not a form or way of life. The iPhone was not affectively charged or stretched toward telling a secondary sedimented story on top of the first, but Ben was.

If we abstract away from Ben’s snapstory and affective experience, two themes come to fruition when considering youth mobile composing and its relation to temporal travel: the affective paths of embodied design and the navigation of emerging techtual landscapes. If we consider how Ben’s moment-tomoment unfolding signals a turn in the field, then we must, as language and literacy researchers, take heed of what an elastic orientation to our work may suggest.

Although issues of space, time, and affect crystalized in an out-of-school context for Ben, they are paramount constructs that mediate school spaces and literacy classrooms in particular. While I am apprehensive in suggesting utility for language and literacy educators to potentially co-opt the mobile media application Snapchat for pedagogical purposes, Literacies are rhyzomatic. Unbounded, the I do see its larger rhetorical affordances and potential meanderings of youth for classroom and composing when left to narrative analyses. As unfold, stretch across a Beach, Anson, Kastman multitude of planes to Breuch, and Reynolds chart the affective (2014) suggest, Snapchat experience. We would do may be used to engage As mobile technologies continue to well to remind ourselves students in of this as we try to “photojournalism or infiltrate youth spaces, I suggest we constrain the act and art digital storytelling” continue to describe and explore of composing in schools. highlighting how a how, through the stretches of selves Unfortunately, the “certain event, topic, or and emergent experiences, youth are boundaries of the issue in the school or institution are not as community” (p. 167) can not solely seeing themselves through permeable as these time be shared with peers. the screen but rather mediating their traveling spatial stories. Similarly, and as Ben’s construction of motility across Youth composition is narrative suggests, spacetime. often handcuffed to the Snapchat can also be do-s and don’ts used to have students disciplined by form. document experiences, highlighting how the Apart from these affective dimensions across particulars of composing (i.e., audience, voice, ethos, spacetime, I now want to turn towards scale and etc.) are orchestrated in the design of networked and consider the emergence of new techtual landscapes multimodal selves. Recent scholarship on that literacy in the era of the mobile screen is multimodality, video production, and arts-based producing. As a literacy educator whose interest in inquiry articulate how the interperformativity across critical geography, writing in digital environments, modes make visible a range of affiliations, selfand technology has taken him to trace youth reflexivity, and aesthetic choices of the composer composing across a variety of literacy “sittings” and (Doerr-Stevens, 2015; DeJaynes, 2015). Mobile media geographies, I am still struck by the cemented applications offer the literacy educator a window into paradigm of technological integration. I fear the textthe types of networked composing young people use centrism of the New London Group (1996) and in to engage audiences and explore differences. multiliteracies framework is collapsing into techcentrism in the age of the Internet. Although youth Similarly, educators may find it worthwhile to have are traversing new geographies and communicative students virtually map the particulars and trade


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1—Spring 2015 routes of their literacy and composing practices to better illuminate the dimensions of spatiality in their writing. Pennell (2014), for example, had first year writing students interrogate the spatio-temporal dimensions of literacy acquisition and sponsorship by tagging, tracing, and charting the spatial locations of literacy sponsorship. For Pennell, the act of having students map their literacy sponsors helped develop an “infrastructural framework, a framework that accounts for the when and where of one’s literacy experiences” (Pennell, 2014, pp. 59-60). As our contemporary time becomes marked as an age wherein metal meets flesh, and the mobile devices we carry track, count, measure, and observe us, we should have students inquire not only about the navigation of social space, but the scale of social space and the elastic stretches it asks us to consider in the day-to-day moments of sensation and movement.

convergent narratives to produce and embody their visions, voices, and experiences. By accounting for the rich opportunities and nuanced processes of composing via Snapchat, I advocate for a continued critical engagement with a composition that encourages expressive possibilities and potentials for meaning making across space. In an effort to better understand the intersections of language and literacy studies across an array of contexts, this article argues that we must first, as Massey (2005) has asserted, attend to the felt experiences of coping with and telling the “ongoing stories” (p. 126) of the everyday. Tracing affective experiences and spatial stories shed light on the potential in documenting the nomadic narratives and embodied temporal tales of the everyday. For these narratives, stories of felt history and rememory provide a window not into the micropolitics of the literacy classroom but a glimpse into the emergence of embodied practices of youth composing with mobile media. These rhyzomatic narratives may not provide potential for or an idealism about literacy in school-sanctioned spaces, but they may very well be those that make use feel and stretch us towards composing and designing a better tomorrow.

Conclusion By examining the literacy traces of youth mobile composing in situ, educators and researchers alike may account for the rhetorical and embodied affordances youth employ as they stitch together

References Ahmed, S. (2006). Queer phenomenology: Orientations, objects, others. London: Duke University Press. Beach, R., Anson, C. M., Kastman Breuch, L., & Reynolds, T. (2014). Understanding and creating digital texts: An activity-based approach. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. Boyd, D. (2014). It’s complicated: The social lives of networked teens. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Bruce, B. C., & Hogan, M. P. (1998). The disappearance of technology: Toward an ecological model of literacy. In D. Reinking, M. McKenna, L. Labbo, & R. Kieffer (Eds.), Handbook of literacy and technology: Transformations in a post-typographic world (pp. 269-281). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. Colman, F. J. (2005). Rhizome. In A. Parr (Ed.), The Deleuze dictionary (pp. 231-233). Edinburgh, Scotland: Edinburgh University Press. Compton-Lilly, C., & Halverson, E. (2014). Time and space in literacy research. New York: Routledge.


Wargo, J. M. (2015) / Spatial Stories with Nomadic Narrators DeJaynes, T. (2015). “Where I’m from” and belonging: A multimodal, cosmopolitan perspective on arts and inquiry. E-Learning and Digital Media, 1-16. doi: 10.1177/2042753014567236 Deleuze, G. (2002). Francis Bacon: Logique de la sensation. Paris: Editions Du Seuil. (Original work published in 1981) Deleuze, G. (2012). The fold: Leibniz and the Baroque. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. (Original work published in 1988) Doerr-Stevens, C. (2015). “That’s not something I was, I am, or am ever going to be:” Multimodal self-assertion in digital video production. E-Learning and Digital Media, 1-19. doi: 10.1177/2042753014567221 Ehret, C., & Hollett, T. (2014). Embodied composition in real virtualities: Adolescents’ literacy practices and felt experiences moving with digital, mobile devices in school. Research in the Teaching of English, 48(4), 428–452. Fors, V., Backstrom, A., & Pink, S. (2013). Multisensory emplaced learning: Resituating situated learning in a moving world. Mind, Culture, and Activity, 20(2), 170–183. Fouse, A. (n. d.). CronoViz [Computer software]. University of California, San Diego: Distributed Cognition and Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory. Hine, C. (2015). Ethnography for the internet: Embedded, embodied and everyday. New York, NY: Bloomsbury Publishing. Hine, C. (2000). Virtual ethnography. London, UK: SAGE. Holstein, J., & Gubrium, J. (2002). Active interviewing. In D. Weinberg (Ed.), Qualitative research methods (pp. 112–126). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing. Jocson, K. (2013). Remix revisited: Critical solidarity in youth media arts. E-Learning and Digital Media, 10(1), 68–81. Kress, G. (2011). ‘Partnerships in research’: Multimodality and ethnography. Qualitative Research, 11(3), 239-260. Lam, W. S. E. (2009). Multiliteracies on instant messaging in negotiating local, translocal, and transnational affiliations: A case of an adolescent immigrant. Reading Research Quarterly, 44(4), 377-397. Leander, K. (2008). Toward a connective ethnography of online/offline literacy networks. In J. Coiro, M. Knobel, C. Lankshear, & D. Leu (Eds.), Handbook of research on new literacies (pp. 33-65). New York: Routledge. Leander, K., & Boldt, G. (2013). Rereading “a pedagogy of multiliteracies”: Bodies, texts, and emergence. Journal of Literacy Research, 45(1), 22-46. Leander, K., & Lovvorn, J. (2006). Literacy networks: Following the circulation of texts, bodies, and objects in the schooling and online gaming of one youth. Cognition and Instruction, 24(3), 291–340.


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1—Spring 2015 Leander, K., & McKim, K. (2003). Tracing the everyday “sitings” of adolescents on the internet: A strategic adaptation of ethnography across online and offline spaces. Education, Communication Information, 3(2), 211–240. Lemke, J. L. (2013). Thinking about feeling: Affect across literacies and lives. In O. Erstad & J. Sefton-Green (Eds.), Identity, community, and learning lives in the digital age (pp. 57–69). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Lemke, J. (2000). Across the scales of time: Artifacts, activities, and meanings in ecosocial systems. Mind, Culture, and Activity, 7(4), 273-290. Massey, D. (2005). For space. London: Sage. Massumi, B. (1995). The autonomy of affect. Cultural Critique (The Politics and Systems of Environment, Part II), 31, 83–109. Mitchell, J. C. (1984). Case studies. In R. Allen (Ed.), Ethnographic research: A guide to general conduct (pp. 238–239). London: Academic Press. Mitchell, W. J. T. (1994). Picture theory: Essays on visual and verbal representation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. New London Group. (1996). A pedagogy of multiliteracies: Designing social futures. Harvard Educational Review, 66(1), 60-92. Norris, S. (2011). Identity in (inter)action: Introducing multimodal (inter)action analysis. Berlin, Germany: De Gruyter Mouton. Pennell, M. (2014). (Re)placing the literacy narrative: Composing in google maps. Literacy in Composition Studies, 2(2), 44-65. Shipka, J. (2011). Toward a composition made whole. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press. Soja, E. (1996). Thirdspace: Journeys to Los Angeles and other real-and-imagined places. Oxford: Blackwell. Stornaiuolo, A., & Hall, M. (2014). Tracing resonance. In G. Gundmundsdottir & K. Beate Vasbo (Eds.), Methodological challenges when exploring digital learning spaces in education (pp. 29-43). Boston: Sense Publishers. Thrift, N. (2008). Non-representational theory: Space, politics, affect. New York: Routledge. Urry, J. (2007). Mobilities. Cambridge: Polity Press. Vasudevan, L. (2006). Making known differently: Engaging visual modalities as spaces to author new selves. ELearning and Digital Media, 3(2), 207–215. Vasudevan, L., Schultz, K., & Bateman, J. (2010). Rethinking composing in a digital age: Authoring literate identities through multimodal storytelling. Written Communication, 27(4), 442–468.


Wargo, J. M. (2015) / Spatial Stories with Nomadic Narrators Verhoeff, N. (2012). Mobile screens: The visual regime of navigation. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press Wang, T. (2013). Talking to strangers: Chinese youth and social media. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of California-San Diego, San Diego: CA. Wertsch, J. V. (1995). The need for action in sociocultural research. In J. Wertsch, P. del Rio & A. Alvarez (Eds.), Sociocultural studies of mind. New York: Cambridge University Press.


What are Disciplinary Literacies in Dance and Drama in the Elementary Grades? Charlotte Frambaugh-Kritzer Stephanie Buelow Jamie Simpson Steele ABSTRACT: Disciplinary literacies in dance and drama are underrepresented in classrooms and in scholarship, especially at the elementary level. The purpose of this qualitative case study was to examine how preservice teachers constructed meaning of the disciplinary literacies in dance and drama. The theoretical framework guiding this study was drawn from social constructivism. Data was examined from three tenets: (a) learning from others; (b) learning through dialogue; and (c) learning by doing. Data sources included observation notes, artifacts, and a focus group interview. A combination of conventional and directed content analysis tools coupled with writing as an analytical tool were applied to examine the data. Five findings emerged: the preservice teachers (a) utilized instructional practices to teach comprehension with the complex texts of dance or drama, (b) supported students who had academic knowledge gaps in dance or drama, (c) taught the academic vocabulary unique to dance or drama, (d) customized literacy strategies unique to dance or drama, and (e) included instructional spaces for the inquiry process. We assert that in socially constructed environments, preservice elementary teachers can realize disciplinary literacies in dance and drama. Moreover, the notion of embodied literacies emerged as one of the disciplinary literacies in dance and drama.

Key words: Disciplinary Literacies, Embodied Literacies, Dance Education, Drama Education, Teacher Education Charlotte Frambaugh-Kritzer, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Secondary Reading at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. Her interests include: Disciplinary Literacies, Adolescent Literacies, New Literacies, Peace Education and Teacher Education. As a former middle school teacher, she strives to bridge the gap between theory and practice into her literacy method courses. Her recent publications focus on teacher professionalism and disciplinary literacies. She can be contacted at kritzer@hawaii.edu Stephanie Buelow Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Elementary Reading at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. Her interests are in new literacies, disciplinary literacies, third space pedagogies, and teacher education. Dr. Buelow brings over ten years of elementary teaching experience to her work in teacher preparation, where she teaches literacy method courses. Her recent publications address student-centered literacy instruction within a pedagogical third space. She can be contacted at buelow@hawaii.edu Jamie Simpson Steele, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Performing Arts at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. Her interests include social justice, performances of culture, arts integration, and performance as research methodology. As a former theatre teacher and teaching artist, Dr. Simpson Steele collaborates with schools and arts organizations to prepare teachers to integrate the arts. Her recent publications address the development of creative practice in the classroom. She can be contacted at jamiesim@hawaii.edu

Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 Michelle M. Falter, Editor -- http://jolle.coe.uga.edu

Frambaugh-Kritzer, C., Buelow, S., & Simpson Steele, J. (2015) / Disciplinary Literacies

“I saw first hand how engaged my students were with dance maps and that was enough to convince me. I will use performing arts in my class.”—Nicole Marie

applies to children) was born out of the Progressive Era views of childhood and education, placing “democracy and educative principles primacy over artistic principles of theatre” (Woodson, 1998, p. 6). Early practitioners worked to separate the ideals of drama from the processes of theatre, which was considered a profession and art for commercial purposes and did not serve the child (Woodson, 1998). For many drama educators, drama is a vehicle for children to “expand their understanding of life experience, to reflect on a particular circumstance, to make sense of their world in a deeper way” (Wagner, 1976, p. 147). The major difference between theatre and drama is that drama focuses on the experience of the participant and theatre focuses on the experience of the audience (Bolton, 1983; O’Neill, 1983; Taylor, 2000; Wagner, 1976).

Our discussion begins with a quote from one of the K6 preservice teachers in our study who expressed excitement surrounding the use of dance maps—a “specialized literacy” strategy (Fang & Coatoam, 2013 p. 628) unique to the discipline of dance. Nicole Marie’s (all names are pseudonyms) enthusiasm caught our attention because disciplinary literacies in dance and drama are underrepresented in classrooms and in scholarship, especially in elementary classrooms. That is, the literature is scarce in reporting the particular ways dancers and actors read, write, speak, and think within their disciplines. Further, arts educators often feel the arts speak for themselves (Barton, 2013); for example, dancers engaged in mapping use movements and floor patterns as language for communicating ideas. Traditional notions of literacy include reading and writing text but often exclude symbolic forms, modalities, and cognitive processes inherent in the arts (Handerhan, 1993). At the same time, theory (Dewey, 1934; Greene, 1977), empirical evidence (Deasy, 2002; Fiske, 1999), and policy (No Child Left Behind, 2001; President’s Committee on Arts and Humanities, 2011) all converge in agreement that the arts, including dance and drama, are valuable disciplines for study at all levels of education. Yet these two disciplines are often neglected (Meyer, 2005) or taught as decorative frills with very little attention to the language demands they present to young learners (Mishook & Kornhaber, 2006). The purpose of this study was to examine how preservice teachers constructed meaning of disciplinary literacies in dance and drama. Given the shortage of extant research in these disciplines and the debatable impact of disciplinary literacies at the elementary level (Heller, 2010; Moje, 2010), we are contributing to scholarship in this area.

Similarly, we wanted to understand more deeply the distinctions made between the terminology of movement and dance. In recent literature, the fields of physical education, preventative medicine, exercise, sport, and health education have been instrumental in researching movement education. Experts in these fields suggest movement is valuable to a range of learning situations (Hillman et al., 2009; Van Dusen, Kelder, Kohl, Ranjit, & Perry, 2011). Not only does movement “influence mood and behavior; physical movement has also been linked to academic achievement” because it “helps get students’ brains active, thinking, and building connections” (Wells, 2012, p. 3). However, movement, even that which is structured for educative purpose such as brain gym or yoga, is not dance without a strong expressive element. On the other end of the spectrum, dance education includes the acquisition of aesthetic skills, not only the technical skills required for dance and choreography, “but also the habits of mind and behaviour that are developed in the arts” (Winner, Goldstein, & Vincent-Lancrinm, 2013, pp. 261-262). In this paper, although we use the terminology dance and drama, we are not excluding the notions of movement and theater. We recognize that all of these terms, from an insider’s view, come loaded with multiple descriptions, examples, institutional histories, and avenues.

Before sharing our review of the literature, we address terminology used in this paper surrounding dance and drama, especially important to consider as we continue to unpack disciplinary literacies in these areas. In particular, the terms theater and drama require some distinctions. The term drama (as it


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 Literature Review

history, along with the fact that some children in upper elementary grades still struggle with basic and intermediate reading and writing skills as reasons to support the simultaneous teaching of basic, intermediate, and disciplinary literacies. Further, Altieri (2014) has posited that elementary students’ foundational literacy skills do not have to be developed prior to teaching more complex disciplinary literacy skills, such as engaging with high quality digital texts.

Disciplinary Literacies in Elementary Education In this study, we intently examined the disciplinary literacies of dance and drama. However, to situate our work, we begin with a brief overview of the disciplinary literacies field that flourished this past decade. Disciplinary literacies stem from the field of content area literacy, which has been well established in elementary education (Alvermann, Swafford, & Montero, 2003; Armbruster, 1992; Lapp, Flood, & Farnan, 2005; Moss, 2005). However, a distinction that grew between the two concepts as disciplinary literacies called for a more robust way to teach students to read, write, act, talk, and think in precise ways for specified purposes determined by each discipline area (Shanahan & Shanahan, 2008). For instance, one critique of content area literacy suggested generic literacy strategies might not be appropriate for all disciplines (Shanahan & Shanahan, 2008). Instead, teachers should customize the literacy strategies providing students a more authentic apprenticeship to each discipline.

Disciplinary Literacies in Dance and Drama To better understand and hone in on the specialized disciplinary literacies in dance and drama, we conducted a comprehensive literature review searching electronic databases such as ERIC and PsychInfo in peer-reviewed journals both in literacy and art education. We searched key terms such as literacy in theater, drama, literacy in dance, literacy in performance arts, as well as disciplinary literacies in dance, theater/drama and performing arts and dance and drama. We also searched for the key term of content area literacy in dance/drama. Since the field of content area literacy is more established we borrowed from these ideas, yet our search still yielded few results. We paused to understand, why is this the case? In short, dance and drama do not appear to have received the same attention as mathematics, science, and social studies in the fields of disciplinary literacy or content area literacy. Although disciplinary literacies in music (Buehl, 2011) and content area literacies in theater (Draper, Broomhead, Jensen, Nokes, & Siebert, 2010) have been addressed in secondary education, there is limited discussion surrounding disciplinary literacies in dance and drama.

There is contention amongst scholars who assert elementary students are too young for the disciplinary literacies approach (Heller, 2010; Moje, 2010), and this is why it is more prevalent in secondary education. Moreover, Brock, Goatly, Rapheal, Trost-Shahata, and Weber (2014) reported that disciplinary literacies in the elementary grades remains “minimally defined” (p. 18) even though they support disciplinary literacies in K-6 education. Nevertheless, many scholars have promoted disciplinary literacies for elementary teachers because they think it is never too early to apprentice elementary students to the disciplines, and this can contribute to their success in later grades when they encounter more disciplinary literacy challenges, such as complex text structures and discipline specific vocabulary (Altieri, 2014; Billman & Pearson, 2013; Fang & Coatoam, 2013).

The closest literature we found to the disciplinary literacies of dance and drama was included in the work of Kindelan (2010), Dils (2007), and Barton (2013), who argued that specific literacy skills are essential for the performing arts. For instance, Kindelan (2010) explained that performers should maintain written reflective journals in order to capture observations of a character’s struggle when facing a dilemma. Further, she claimed critical thinking and problem solving are required to analyze how social issues affect the psychology of characters.

We agree with Brock et al. (2014) who explained that children are “best served when engaged in disciplinary instruction while simultaneously learning to read and write throughout their elementary years and beyond” (p. 19). They cited the strong interest young children have in discipline related topics, such as science and


Frambaugh-Kritzer, C., Buelow, S., & Simpson Steele, J. (2015) / Disciplinary Literacies

Moreover, Dils (2007) shared how dancers must acquire language to develop dance descriptions and interpretations as students attend “to the kinesthetic properties of dance—bodily position, deployment of weight, sense of tension or freedom in the muscles— and retell their experience of the movement in evocative verbs” (p. 96). Additionally, Barton (2013) examined what it means to be “arts literate” by exploring the distinctive qualities of inquiry and structures for communicating meaning in the arts (p. 1). These examples clearly outline specific literacy skills related to dance and drama; however, these authors did not refer to them as disciplinary literacies.

connections. On the left side of the table, we list the five main disciplinary literacy tenets and on the right side of the table, we offer one specific example from the literature in dance and drama, revealing that disciplinary literacies must be attended to in each of these disciplines. Table 1 The Instructional Tenets of Disciplinary Literacies in Dance and Drama

While content area literacy and disciplinary literacies in dance and drama yielded minimal results in our literature review, much has been researched about art integration—as this is how the arts are often taught in K-12. We appreciate Remer’s (1990) taxonomy for teaching (a) with the arts, (b) in the arts, (c) about the arts, and (d) through the arts. In short, teachers who teach with the arts use them for instrumental outcomes such as behavior management; teachers who teach in the arts address the discreet principles and properties of the art form; teachers who teach about the arts may do so to establish historical or cultural contexts; and teacher who teach through the arts develop arts projects and processes to develop understanding and meaning about the world around us. In Remer’s taxonomy, all forms of arts instruction are viable and valuable to varying purposes and degrees; all have a place in education. Yet, the purpose of this study was to look closely at the disciplinary literacies unique to dance and drama taught through explicit instruction, which aligns with the second approach, in the arts, as described in Remer’s (1990) taxonomy. To identify the disciplinary literacies in dance and drama, we took another direction in our literature review to ensure we conducted a thorough search. Thus, we outlined the major tenets of the disciplinary literacies pedagogical approach already established in the literature. Next, we searched dance and drama using the key terms situated within these main tenets, from lenses specific to each discipline (dance and drama). This proved to be more fruitful in yielding connections. We created Table 1 to illustrate these


A disciplinary literacies instructional approach includes …

For the creative dance and drama teacher this means …

Providing instructional practices to teach comprehension when reading complex discipline texts (Buehl, 2011; Fang, 2013).

Creative dance and drama teachers draw upon multiple complex texts. Texts include theater production, live performances, video, music, body movement, set, scenery, lights, scripts, and costumes (Draper, 2008; Draper, Broomhead, Jensen, Nokes, & Siebert, 2010).

Providing instructional practices to support students who have academic knowledge gaps (Moje, 2011).

Creative dance and drama teachers must know the learning variability of their students, including background knowledge, abilities, preferences, identities, skills and attitudes so the teacher can provide options to best support student learning through creative dance and drama (Glass, Meyer, & Rose, 2013). Instructional strategies are needed to help scaffold students in learning dance and drama. It is also important for the creative dance and drama teachers to make time in their instruction for students to build their own knowledge as well, instead of the teacher filling those gaps (Moje, 2011).

Providing instructional practices to teach the academic vocabulary unique to the discipline (Shanahan & Shanahan 2014).

Vocabulary in creative dance and drama often sounds like everyday language. However, within the context of these disciplines, it takes on unique meanings. For example, newly developed National Core Arts

Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 Standards (2014) articulate the expression of body in creative drama to include gesture, facial expression, character stance, and emotional state as expressed through strategies such as pantomime or tableaux (Neelands, 2000). As an element of creative dance, body includes the combination of parts, shapes and action as expressed through movement or stillness. Providing instructional spaces for the inquiry process. Inquiry has many layers and should involve  students generating their own questions;  teacher role needs to evolve from question asker to question modeler;  utilizing a Questioning the Text and SelfQuestioning Taxonomy;  deep study of the discipline so inquiry can occur from the lens of the discipline or disciplinary perspective (Buehl, 2011).

For creative dance and drama teachers the body is a site associated with the construction of knowledge. Thus, “dance can be a place of inquiry and its generative possibilities for deeper understanding” (Snowber, 2012, p. 54). Dance is especially powerful in posing questions through aesthetics, engaging audiences in dialogue through art (Borstel, 2007). Additionally, dancers who take up inquiry develop their own variations of body motion, time, space, and energy to explore and imagine expressive movement possibilities (Stinson, 1988).

Providing instructional practices that utilize the customized literacy strategies unique to each discipline (Shanahan & Shanahan, 2008).

Dance and drama teachers greatly benefit from using customized literacy strategies such as side coaching (Spolin, 1986) through which a facilitator narrates or calls out challenges and corrections to enhance imaginative play. In drama, students are mentored into the “invisible literacies” required to analyze scripts for character objectives and tactics through embodied experiences (Draper, 2008, p. 75).

disciplinary literacies must be attended to in each of these disciplines. Embodied Literacies Finally, we explored embodied literacy because all the participants in this study continuously referred to it throughout the semester. We examined how this notion was relational to the disciplinary literacies in dance and drama. Turning to the literature, embodied literacies takes on various definitions. For example, Jones (2013) speaks of the visceral response of the body with literacy experiences—some positive and some negative. She exemplified her point by explaining the physical way one’s heart may race at the idea of having to read in front of the class during round-robin reading. In another study that bridged the concepts of disciplinary literacy and the body— specifically gestures, Wilson, Boatright, and LandonHays (2014) examined the discipline specific ways teachers used gestures to communicate ideas. They defined gestures as “arm, hand, and/or gross whole body movement used to communicate disciplinary content, whose meaning was cued or complemented by verbal speech or other modes” (p. 237). While they did not refer to this as embodied literacies, this research brings attention to how the body is important within the disciplinary literacies approach. Additionally, we felt compelled to follow Jones’ (2013) call to “tend to the literacies embedded in, performed through, and experienced as bodies” (p. 525) as students use their bodies to perform critical engagements with a multitude of texts (Johnson & Vasudevan, 2012). These expanded views of what counts as text align with the principles of content area literacy and the disciplinary literacies approach because nontraditional texts are encouraged and promoted (Alvermann, Gillis, & Phelps, 2013; Draper et al., 2010; Hinchman & Moje, 1998). Borrowing from these ideas, we define embodied literacies in two ways. First, it is a meaning-making tool across all disciplines. Second, it is one of the disciplinary literacies in dance and drama used as a specialized means for communicating ideas through the body. Our understandings derive from both the literature and our findings that we share later.

Note. On the left side of the table, we list the five main disciplinary literacy tenets and on the right side of the table, we offer one specific example from the literature in dance and drama, revealing that


Frambaugh-Kritzer, C., Buelow, S., & Simpson Steele, J. (2015) / Disciplinary Literacies Theoretical Framework


Our theoretical framework draws from social This qualitative case study was conducted over one constructivism—a theory that heavily emphasizes the semester wherein we collected and analyzed multiple social aspects of learning. Many scholars who data to answer the following question: How do conceptualize their work using this theory draw preservice teachers socially construct meaning of heavily on Vygotsky’s Thought and Language (1986) in disciplinary literacies in dance and drama? According which he argued that a child’s to Yin (2009), our inquiry met development could not be three conditions suited for case It is never too early to understood by a study of the study methodologies: (a) we apprentice elementary individual. That is, scholars asked a “how” question; (b) our must examine the external study did not require control of students to the disciplines, and social world in which that behavioral events; and (c) our this can contribute to their individual life has developed study focused on a contemporary because learning is social and phenomenon rather than success in later grades when meaning making is situated in historical events. We defined this they encounter more a community of practice instrumental case study (Stake, (Lave & Wenger, 1991). Smith 1995) as one cohort of preservice disciplinary literacy challenges, (1992) summed up these teachers enrolled in a performing such as complex text social aspects of learning in arts methods course, in a single seven words: “we learn from university setting, over the structures and discipline the company we keep” (p. course of a semester. This study specific vocabulary (Altieri, 432). builds a general understanding 2014; Billman & Pearson, 2013; of the disciplinary literacies in Moreover, learning occurs dance and drama through the Fang & Coatoam, 2013). and is constructed through particularities bound by this case dialogue (Vygotsky, 1978). (Stake, 1995). Further, case study Thus, through discursive practices, individuals methodologies align to a social constructivist interact with a multitude of knowledge sources in framework by allowing the reader to construct social settings and actively take part in reconstructing meaning and draw conclusions from “thick knowledge within their own minds. Bruner (1986) descriptions” (Geertz, 1973, p. 213). Stake (1995) expounded the notion of constructivism as an active succinctly explained the constructivist underpinnings process in which individuals construct new ideas or in case study methodologies as “providing readers concepts based on existing knowledge. This aligned with good raw material for their own generalizing” (p. with our study as we observed the preservice teachers’ 102), which is congruent with our framework. discursive interactions with their dance and drama instructor and with one another as they made Context meaning of the new dance and drama knowledge connecting it to their existing knowledge. This study took place at a research university in the Pacific region of the United States. The undergraduate Finally, Au (1998) explained there are many forms of elementary education teacher preparation program at social constructivism, yet “at the heart of this university implements a cohort model. That is, a constructivism is a concern for lived experience, or group of full time preservice teachers take all of their the world as it is felt and understood by social actors” courses together over two consecutive years and are (p. 299). In other words, we learn by doing. Overall, supervised by a cohort coordinator who observes the main tenets of social constructivism we employed them in the field and oversees their progression. to examine the disciplinary literacies in dance and During the first semester of the program, these drama were (a) learning from others, (b) learning preservice teachers were required to take a 3-credit through dialogue, and (c) learning by doing. performing arts methods course, a 3-credit visual arts


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 methods course, a 3-credit introduction to teaching course, and additional 6 credits from the department of special education. Moreover, they spent two days a week in local elementary schools for field experiences (which included observing and teaching at least two formal lessons for observation). The field placements for the preservice teachers were in rural, suburban, and urban areas. Some were placed in schools serving affluent neighborhoods and some were placed in schools serving disadvantaged neighborhoods in order to provide a wide range of field experiences. For our purposes, we only focused on the performing arts methods course and their field-based teaching experiences.

interested in how disciplinary literacies could be applied in the elementary context, which provided the impetus for joining efforts. Again, Stephanie became the insider within the elementary context because she served as the cohort coordinator for the elementary preservice teachers who ultimately became participants. Stephanie’s relationship with the preservice teachers in the field had the potential to lead to issues of power (Nolen & Vander Putten, 2007). Charlotte, serving as the outsider, helped alleviate this concern because she was neither tied to the participants’ coursework nor fieldwork. Furthermore, these roles were explained explicitly when we introduced our study and invited the preservice teachers to participate. To further balance issues of power, our consent forms clearly stated that there would be no penalty for nonparticipation; we asked another colleague to collect the consent forms and securely file them away until after grades were submitted for the semester; and we provided students the option to opt out of the study at any time (Nolen & Vander Putten, 2007).

The performing arts methods course addressed three arts disciplines: music, dance and drama. The course syllabus focused on standards-based teaching with, in, through, and about music, dance, and drama, which aligned with Remer’s (1990) taxonomy of arts education and integration. Course content and assignments often incorporated creative expression overlapping between dance, music, and drama; however, there was more specialized attention brought to dance and drama. Therefore, for the purposes of this paper, we focus on the disciplinary literacies of drama and dance.

Charlotte and Stephanie shared equally in all data collection. Once we entered the data analysis stage, Jamie was invited into the process because of her dance and drama research expertise, yet she did not have any connection to this cohort. Consequently, Jamie truly became an outsider who provided additional objectivity. Jamie also supported Charlotte and Stephanie with the review of the literature in dance and drama. This decision was congruent with previous research that demonstrated how collaboration between literacy educators and discipline-area teacher educators had yielded deeper understanding of the content and pedagogical approaches of the discipline (Draper, Broomhead, Jensen, & Nokes, 2012).

Researcher Positionality We are teacher educators at the college of education where the study took place. Charlotte and Jamie are outsiders, and Stephanie, who served as the Cohort Coordinator, is an insider, thus we characterize our work as a reciprocal collaboration with insideroutsider teams (Herr & Anderson, 2005). Due to Stephanie’s role and to overcome subjectivity issues, we made some strategic steps. However, we agree with postmodernist theory that even if you are an outsider researcher “it is never possible to divorce the ‘self’ from either the research process or from educational practice” (Cochran-Smith & Donnell, 2005, p. 8). For background, Charlotte and Stephanie began this collaboration due to a shared interest in disciplinary literacies. Charlotte is a secondary literacy teacher educator (Grades 7-12) who initiated the study because of her experience and knowledge in disciplinary literacies. Stephanie became deeply

Participants All 17 female preservice teachers who were placed in a cohort model in their first semester of an undergraduate two-year teacher preparation program consented to our study. This all female cohort ranged between the ages of 20 to 29, with ethnic diversity representative of the local population (e.g. Pacific


Frambaugh-Kritzer, C., Buelow, S., & Simpson Steele, J. (2015) / Disciplinary Literacies Islander, Asian, Caucasian, and African American). Their backgrounds in dance and drama varied greatly. Throughout the findings, we specifically spotlight the work of 11 preservice teachers. While all 17 participants informed our findings, the examples from this subset provided the clearest evidence for two reasons. First, two preservice teachers chose to teach music lessons. While this was part of their performing arts course work, our analysis did not focus on this phenomena. Second, the remaining four preservice teachers’ lesson plans were similar to others that we provided as evidence and therefore we felt it would be redundant to highlight these findings. Table 2 provides additional information, revealing important aspects of the participants such as their field experience context and grade level, the discipline and specific content they taught, and some of their notable background experiences in dance or drama prior to taking this methods course.

Nicole Marie

2nd grade in suburban, Title I school

Dance: Choreographe d Dance

No previous coursework or experience in dance or drama


2nd grade in suburban, Title I school

Drama: Freeze Frames

University level theater and dance coursework ; Involved in dance and drama in high school


6th grade in suburban, Title I school

Dance: Choreographe d Dance

University level theater course


5th grade in rural, Title I school

Drama: Tableau

University level theater course; performed as dancer and in plays as a child


Kindergarte n in urban, affluent school

Drama: Pantomime

University level dance course


5th grade in urban, Title I school

Drama: Statues

University level dance course; Previously involved in jazz, ballet, hip-hop, and tap dance


6th grade in suburban, Title I school

Drama: Scenes with Props

University level theater course; involved in theater and dance as a child


5th grade in urban, Title I school

Drama: Dialogue for Scenes

University level costume and theater

Table 2 Eleven Participants Spotlighted in Findings Preservice teachers (all names are pseudonyms ) Moriah


Field setting context

Discipline and content of lesson

3rd grade in urban, Title I school

Drama: Tableau

5th grade in rural, Title I school

Dance: Body Levels and Pathways of Movement

Previous experience with drama and/or dance University level theater course; Teaches signlanguage dance University level beginning acting course; worked backstage for plays in high school; teaches dance lessons to students in summer camp


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015


3rd grade in urban, Title I school

Dance: Choreographe d Dance

design course

Data Collection

University level theater course; Family involved in theater

Case study methods rely on multiple sources of data for triangulation (Yin, 2009). We collected data from multiple sources, including (a) observation notes from the performing arts course, (b) observations notes from the field practicum, (c) artifacts, and (d) focus group interviews. Charlotte and Stephanie simultaneously observed and took ethnographic notes from the performing arts method course for fourteen weeks of the semester, for a total of 35 hours. We also observed the preservice teachers in their field placements a minimum of two times each so that we could later analyze how they constructed and reconstructed new meaning of their dance and drama methods content as it played out in their own teaching practice. Artifacts included lesson plans, teaching videos, observation notes from lessons they taught in the field, an attitude/experience questionnaire in the performing arts, and several other course assignments that Annemarie created for assessment purposes. Moreover, we conducted the focus group after the semester ended to further our interpretations, especially surrounding the preservice teachers’ conceptualizations of what impacts their understanding of dance and drama. We organized all of our data using the electronic software HyperRESEARCH (Version 2.8.3; ResearchWare, Inc.) for efficient analysis and retrieval.

Note. Title I is a federal program of the United States Department of Education that provides financial assistance to schools that serve high percentages of children from low-income families (Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965). Annemarie, the instructor for this Performing Arts method course, also agreed to be our participant. Annemarie has an eclectic background. For instance, she has worked as a drama specialist at a local theater company, she knows and taught sign language, was a therapist specializing in using drama as a form of therapy, and taught performing arts in the K-12 setting prior to working in the elementary teacher education program where she has taught undergraduate methods courses in performing arts for the past eleven years. Her peers have recognized her for excellence in arts education. We observed Annemarie apprentice the preservice teachers to teach dance and drama as discrete disciplines, helping them to plan for dance or drama integration given the realities of their field placements. We highlight one example to provide a snapshot of how the preservice teachers were exposed to nontraditional texts such as videos of dance performances. In one class session, Annemarie used the cooperative literacy strategy, jigsaw, to engage students in a video as text analysis of three strikingly different ballet performances: the traditional version of The Dying Swan (Fokine, 1905) performed by Anna Pavlova, a comical version of The Dying Swan with a man dressed as the swan performed by the Trocadero Ballet Company (Fokine, 1905), and a street performance of The Dying Swan by Lil Buck and YoYo Ma (Jones, 2011). The preservice teachers used a print-based advanced organizer to analyze the videos using a framework offered and customized in the discipline of dance: B (body) E (energy) S (space) T (time).

The focus groups included seven of the preservice teachers and followed Creswell’s (2013) protocol. We invited these seven participants after we developed profiles for each of the original 17 participants (Miles & Huberman, 1994). Specifically, we wrote biographical sketches for each to describe several variables including gender, age, ethnic background, attitude towards and experiences with dance and drama, teaching dispositions that were observed in the field, and dispositions. Juxtaposing these variables allowed us to better see whose profiles were emerging in similarities and differences surrounding their use of the disciplinary literacies of dance and drama. Thus, we selected the seven focus group participants purposefully to elicit a range of perspectives from individuals who were communicative about their experiences and had fully interacted with the concepts and practices introduced throughout the


Frambaugh-Kritzer, C., Buelow, S., & Simpson Steele, J. (2015) / Disciplinary Literacies course. This face-to-face focus group interview consisted of five open-ended questions with the assumption that the social context of the group would grow a richer discussion and enhance data quality (Patton, 2002). For example, we asked: (a) Is there a need for dance and drama in the classroom? If yes, in what manner will you continue to teach dance and drama to your classroom? (b) What are your ideal notions around teaching dance and drama? (c) What are your realistic notions around teaching dance and drama? Not only did we audio-record the interview, Charlotte and Stephanie conducted the interview together to ensure detailed note-taking and effective facilitation of the group conversation (Krueger, 1994).

the discipline; (d) instructional spaces for the inquiry process; and (e) instructional practices that utilize the customized literacy strategies unique to each discipline. As we coded for each of these areas, the predetermined categories populated quickly with the exception of (d) instructional spaces for the inquiry process. Nevertheless, this code still had enough evidence to warrant a finding. Conventional content analysis. Although our predetermined categories provided us with ample evidence to understand this phenomenon, we were not satisfied. Our goal was to grow the literature, specifically in disciplinary literacies in dance and drama; thus we also applied conventional content analysis to discover other aspects surrounding the disciplinary literacies in dance and drama. This tool allowed us to code for inductive category development (Mayring, 2000) that allowed “new insights to emerge” (p. 1279). For precision, we employed Strauss’s (1995) three-step analysis using the process of open coding, axial coding, and selective coding because “codes are derived from the data” (Hsieh & Shannon, 2005, p. 1286). The open coding phase allowed us to code with no restrictions as we carefully read the words of each of our observations notes, all artifacts, transcripts, and notes from the focus group interview. For trustworthiness, we collaboratively coded—meaning we “reached agreement on each code through collaborative discussion” (Smagorinsky, 2008, p. 401) and assigned units of meaning to each piece of data. In doing so, we started to notice similar words and phrases. We organized these words and phrases as specific codes (Strauss, 1995). For example, the phrase embodied was used multiple times yet expressed in different ways by the participants. Again, in collaboration we employed axial coding (Strauss, 1995) techniques to assign conceptual categories to the meaning of embodied. In short, we clustered the open codes around an “axis” or point of intersection (p. 32). For example, these units described as embodied then fit under the axial code of meaning-making tool across all disciplines and specialized means for communicating ideas through the body. Finally, we used the “selective coding” process (Strauss, 1995, p. 34) to systematically decide how the categories related to each other and the findings they revealed. Then, we linked these findings to the theoretical framework, thus arriving at the idea

Data Analysis We strategically analyzed our data by combining conventional and directed content analysis tools (Hsieh & Shannon, 2005; Strauss, 1995). We also used the writing process as an analytical “way of knowing” (Richardson, 2000, p. 923). Each of these analysis tools served us in a particular way—resulting in more robust findings. Directed content analysis. The directed content analysis tool is appropriately applied when prior research or existing theory about a phenomenon “is incomplete or would benefit from further description” (Hsieh & Shannon, 2005, p. 1281). Further, this structured tool requires the use of predetermined categories derived from existing theory or relevant findings. Since the research examples on disciplinary literacies in dance and drama are limited, we pulled the predetermined categories from the established field of disciplinary literacies where we identified the five instructional tenets that are promoted for all discipline areas (see Table 1). We began with this coding process because we wanted to verify if the preservice teachers were indeed attending to these tenets outlined from the field of disciplinary literacies. For example, when we coded for a directed analysis, the key words were derived directly from Table 1: (a) instructional practices to teach comprehension with the complex discipline texts; (b) instructional practices to support students who have academic knowledge gaps; (c) instructional practices to teach the academic vocabulary unique to


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 that embodied literacies is one of the specialized literacies of dance and drama.

Preservice Teachers Utilized Instructional Practices to Teach Comprehension with the Complex Discipline Texts of Dance or Drama

Writing. Finally, after we completed our coding and determined our findings, we used the tool of writing as a way to work through and refine our analysis. Richardson (2000) advocates that qualitative researchers should spend a great deal of writing as a “way of knowing” (p. 923). Hence, we wrote numerous drafts together in order to “revise our thinking” (Makaiau & Freese, 2013, p. 145). In writing together, our analysis strengthened as we reevaluated, and reflected on our methods as we also considered both confirming and disconfirming evidence. Finally, we conducted a member check (Stake, 1995) by asking Annemarie and the preservice teachers to read drafts of the paper for accuracy and the trustworthiness of our findings, which they were able to corroborate.

Buehl (2011) posits that teaching comprehension with complex texts is a major tenet of the disciplinary literacy approach. First, in the disciplines of drama and dance, complex text takes on many forms—both traditional, print-based forms, and non-print formats. Most often, the body is a literal text in dance and drama because it is a tool to communicate and make meaning of ideas (Snowber, 2012). Thus, the body as text takes on dynamic forms while one is engaged in dance and drama, depending on one’s point of view. The body is an embodied literacy for the performer as she/he communicates meaning, and it becomes a text for the audience as they interpret meaning. The interconnectivity of text and the body in drama and dance emulate dynamic roles as one makes and communicates meaning. The preservice teachers constructed a variety of ways in which they took up this disciplinary literacies instruction of the complex texts described below.

Findings Overall, our analysis showed that the preservice teachers connected with the ideas they learned in their methods course as they constructed and implemented lessons that foregrounded the disciplinary literacies of dance or drama. Considering how they were apprenticed from Annemarie in their methods course, these findings were not entirely surprising. However, given the limited research in elementary disciplinary literacies in dance and drama, the specific examples we uncovered contribute to this research gap. Furthermore, we did not predict how significant the notion of embodied literacies would be in the preservice teachers’ instructional practice. That is, regardless of their implementation, all of the preservice teachers used embodied literacies as we described in the literature review. This finding was critical as we postulate that embodied literacies are a critical attribute in the dance and drama disciplines. Moreover, our findings show that embodied literacies serve as one of the specialized ways individuals communicate and make meaning of content through the use of the body (Shanahan & Shanahan, 2008), or the physical interpretation of communicated ideas while engaged in dance and drama. As we share our findings, we will highlight the embodied literacies examples that provide important insight for disciplinary literacies in dance and drama.

For example, Bella incorporated a variety of complex print-based literacies and embodied literacies as she taught the third grade students the elements of dance (e.g. B (body), E (energy), S (space), and T (time) in order for them to embody and perform the stages of the water cycle (the science content was previously taught). In the example we previously shared in the methods section, of the three interpretations of Dying Swan, Bella, similar to Annemarie, selected a video of the musical ballet entitled Shine by Billy Elliot (2013) as a text for the third grade students to analyze the elements of dance. Bella overtly pointed out what parts of the body were moving, the energy behind the body movements, the space in which the body moved, and how the body moved in relation to time to support the students’ comprehension. Next, the third graders used an advanced graphic organizer as they worked cooperatively to identify how the dancers in the video used their body, energy, space, and time to communicate meaning in the dance. The jigsaw instructional strategy further supported students’ comprehension of the musical performance as each group focused on one particular element of dance (body, energy, space, and time) prior to sharing evidence of their assigned element to peers. Indeed,


Frambaugh-Kritzer, C., Buelow, S., & Simpson Steele, J. (2015) / Disciplinary Literacies this ballet performance was a complex text that required specialized instructional strategies and scaffolding in order to comprehend the complexities it contained. Further, Bella built off this lesson for a subsequent lesson by utilizing the students’ knowledge of the elements of dance in order to embody the water cycle where the students’ bodies became a text for their peers—communicating their representation of the stages of the water cycle.

complex texts. For instance, Heather showed several silent films from historical events (e.g. building the transcontinental railroad, America’s first football game, and Neil Armstrong walking on the moon) and asked the fifth grade students to demonstrate understanding of the video-text by creating a scene that included a script of dialogue between two of the characters in the film. Preservice Teachers Supported Elementary Students who had Academic Knowledge Gaps in the Disciplines of Dance or Drama

Another common complex text that we observed the preservice teachers work with in their methods course taught by Annemarie was a dance map. A dance map is a visual plan, similar to a storyboard, of a choreographed dance. This text captures the dance through simple drawings of lines or geometric shapes (e.g. zigzag, spiral, or circular), action words (e.g. squirm, reach, gallop, twirl), words to describe the level of the body (e.g. high, medium, low), and words to describe the tempo of the movement (e.g. sudden, accelerate, decelerate). Dance maps as a text communicate very specific instructions for moving the body and require “specialized reading skills” (Shanahan & Shanahan, 2008, p. 48). Amy, Bella, and Nicole Marie all used dance maps in their field-based lessons. Again, their take up of this was not entirely surprising as it connected to their methods course work.

Supporting students who have academic knowledge gaps is another tenet of disciplinary literacy (Moje, 2011), and our data provides evidence that the preservice teachers addressed these gaps. Further, we found that the body was most often used as a more accessible text to scaffold student learning—further closing the academic knowledge gap. Again, in the methods course, we observed Annemarie apprenticing the preservice teachers on the many ways their body could be used as a tool to build students’ knowledge of the discipline or specific technique. For example, Annemarie taught them the skills necessary to create a tableau by providing experiences with the concept of statue, then pantomime (telling a story with the body), and then the concepts were merged together as students used the body to tell a collaborative story through frozen gestures in a tableau.

While more dance lessons were implemented overall, our data showed that when the preservice teachers taught drama lessons they used the body, props, and video as complex texts. Again, we observed Annemarie apprentice the students into the ways dramatic performers used body to convey emotions and ideas through techniques such as statue, pantomime, freeze frames, and tableaux. Elizabeth specifically took up the body as text as she taught the second graders how to capture emotion of music through facial expressions and frozen gestures. She said, “Today we are going to explore what different moods may look like using our bodies. We are going to make statues to show this.” Whereas Elise used props as her text to teach math content, and Heather utilized video to provide historical context for students’ script writing and dramatic performances. More importantly, all three of these preservice teachers provided drama discipline specified instruction to ensure comprehension of these

Moriah took up this approach to address the third graders’ gaps in the use of academic vocabulary in her drama lesson that focused on tableaux. To close this gap, she provided embodied experiences for the students as a way to scaffold their learning on the difference between the techniques: statue and tableaux. Students enacted various statue poses prior to creating a tableau for a birthday party (an experience in which she knew they all had prior knowledge) as a performance task to demonstrate understanding of the skills required in successful tableaux (e.g. group cohesion, facial expressions, different levels of the body). Through tableaux, the elementary students communicated their understanding through the bodies and they worked collaboratively to capture emotions and actions.


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 While these academic gaps were being filled, we noted how many of the preservice teachers were foregrounding instruction. For example, when Grace taught the fifth graders tableaux, she first introduced and let them experience the academic language and techniques needed in order to create a tableau. This required careful scaffolding and planning on her part as she not only had to have academic knowledge of tableaux, but she also had the fifth graders create tableaux utilizing the content from the print-based text they had read, The Sign of the Beaver (Speare, 1983). Grace reported that the fifth graders demonstrated a deeper understanding of the novel as they embodied the characters and scenes from the novel in their tableaux. In doing this, they had to attend to the emotions of the characters, the dialogue, the setting, and the actions in their selected scene. Grace’s example highlights two of Remer’s (1990) ideas presented in his taxonomy for teaching. Grace taught this lesson through the arts and in the arts. But we assert that without her teaching the disciplinary literacies in the arts of tableaux, the fifth graders would not be as prepared to participate through the arts. These complexities are important to reveal if closing academic gaps are to come to fruition.

surrounding the special ways a dancer’s body moves from high levels to low levels depending on their interpretation of the music. The academic language she used in the lesson aligned with this enactment. For example, she taught rhythm, movement, spatial awareness, waltz, music beats, contemporary piece, ¾ time, and drumbeat through embodied experiences enacting each concept. Students demonstrated their understanding of this academic language and the concept of varied body levels through waltz dancing as well as dancing to Katy Perry’s contemporary piece entitled Roar. Their bodies moved to the beat, capturing the energy of each song through dance. Switching gears, we observed Annemarie teach the preservice teachers the specialized vocabulary of drama such as props, sets, and ensemble. Annemarie made these terms come to life through a field trip to visit a local theater that performs for the youth. In this context, the preservice teachers were required to analyze specific components of the complex text in drama (e.g. props, the set, body, makeup, costumes). An explanation of the academic vocabulary for drama was foregrounded prior to the field trip. For example, to teach ensemble, Annemarie had them view a videotext on the behind-the-scenes decisions that led to the production of Wicked (OfficialWICKED, 2014). The preservice teachers watched the video and then discussed the complexities of an ensemble going beyond simply defining the term, rather gaining a conceptual understanding. We highlight this example because Annemarie offered an experience to help the preservice teachers solidify the academic language, which we think influenced the preservice teachers’ examples previously discussed.

Preservice Teachers Taught the Academic Vocabulary Unique to the Disciplines of Dance or Drama Students must be taught the discipline specific, academic vocabulary of dance or drama in order to effectively engage in the techniques of the discipline (Shanahan & Shanahan, 2008). It was evident that the preservice teachers taught the elementary students the specialized vocabulary of dance and drama. In fact, we noted that this academic language was often taught through embodied experiences. For example, Moriah explicitly taught the third grade students about the drama technique called tableaux. During her instruction, she took up the discourse and actions of a tableau performer using specialized vocabulary (e.g. pose, interpret, statue, levels, facial expressions). Through experiences with creating a tableau for a birthday scene, the third grade students came to understand the concept and term tableaux.

All disciplines have academic language that must be comprehended to thrive in the discipline. Dance and drama are no different. Literacy (meaning making) is constructed and learned most often through doing, a critical component of the social constructivism theory of learning. We always observed Annemarie model and provide a space for the preservice teachers to do, and, in turn, this notion was taken up by the preservice teachers as they taught elementary students the academic language through dance and drama experiences—most often, through embodied experiences.

In another example, Allison apprenticed the fifth graders by teaching them the specialized vocabulary


Frambaugh-Kritzer, C., Buelow, S., & Simpson Steele, J. (2015) / Disciplinary Literacies Preservice Teachers Included Spaces for the Inquiry Process


recorded a socially constructed list of qualities that morphed into the criteria by which the students evaluated their own performances later in the lesson. Again, Annemarie modeled this same process in the methods course when she asked the preservice teachers to consider what criteria made a good choreographed dance after their learning trip.

According to Buehl (2011), a disciplinary literacy approach includes instructional spaces for the inquiry process. As we highlighted in Table 1, inquiry has many layers that reside on a continuum in the ways a teacher can facilitate the inquiry process to include more depth. That said, we did not expect to see inquiry taken to deeper levels in their lesson plans because the preservice teachers were only required to teach a minimum of two lessons for the semester, as their context (in the field) would afford this time. Nevertheless, our data still showed that some hints of inquiry were explored in the preservice teachers’ lessons, which we did not predict.

Earlier we shared Bella’s lesson that apprenticed the third graders as dancers by requiring that they embody the water cycle in a performance that incorporated the elements of body, energy, space, and time. Examining the lesson from a lens of inquiry, we were able to analyze how Bella also touched on elements of inquiry in this lesson. To reiterate, the third graders worked cooperatively to select types of pathways of movement and action words to describe Starting with their methods course, Annemarie the movement, levels of the body, and tempo of the apprenticed them into how the inquiry process could dance that would embody each stage in the water look and sound like in cycle. For example, drama and dance by one group of the third taking the preservice graders embodied the teachers to a local evaporation stage of cultural site. Once at the water cycle Customizing literacy strategies and skills the site, they worked through spiraling in small groups as they pathways, squiggly that are unique to the discipline is a crucial engaged in the inquiry movements, levels tenet in the disciplinary literacies field process to explore that began low and essential questions of moved to high, all (Moje, 2008; Shanahan & Shanahan, 2008). their choice about the moving at a slow native culture and the tempo. With the natural environment. freedom to create Once they learned the their own dance maps content by exploring and movements, Bella the property and outdoor grounds, Annemarie invited allowed students to take an inquiry approach to their them to construct their new knowledge through learning. They were allowed to explore how to best embodied literacies. Each group performed a dance use their bodies in order to emulate the water cycle. that reflected a combination of the content from the cultural site and the content from their methods Preservice Teachers Used Customized Literacy course. A debriefing followed this experience where Practices Unique to the Disciplines of Dance or Annemarie facilitated a class session on studentDrama generated assessment criteria. Customizing literacy strategies and skills that are In seeing this work that Annemarie did firsthand with unique to the discipline is a crucial tenet in the the preservice teachers, it was easier to connect how disciplinary literacies field (Moje, 2008; Shanahan & Christina took up these strategies in her own lesson Shanahan, 2008). Our data showed that dance and by engaging the fifth grade students in a more drama teachers have many customized literacy teacher-directed inquiry. She activated the students’ strategies to select from as well as some generic prior knowledge on what they knew about statues and literacy strategies that would be best aligned to


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 support students’ making meaning of their discipline. While many were demonstrated, we share four specific ones taken up in the preservice teachers’ lessons most often.

preservice teachers’ analysis of a video-text that focused on the body. I see _______(body part)__________(verb/adverb). The_____ (same body part(s))________are making a(n)__________ shape.

Earlier, we introduced dance maps as a complex text. In our data we also saw that dance maps were being utilized as a specialized literacy strategy (Shanahan & Shanahan, 2008). For example, Amy’s disciplinary literacies instructional approach was explicit as she modeled a dance map herself. The students then used this instructional tool to help support the creation and performance of a dance (see Figure 1). The dance map strategy supported the students’ ability to plan a choreographed dance through explicit steps that included a planned pathway, action words to describe the movement, levels of the body, and tempo of the dance. Next, Amy connected the dance map to football playbooks and had the students perform their dance map with the addition of catching a football at the end of the performance. Group members collected data on the number of passes caught by the team and then converted their raw data to ratios and percentages. Each group reported their data to the class by embodying a sports reporter. In the end, the sixth graders in Amy’s class learned discipline specific literacy practices of dance and drama by creating and performing as they generated authentic data for which they applied mathematical concepts.

Amy and Bella appropriated the sentence frame strategy as a way to support elementary students’ construction of text and comprehension of text, respectively. Amy used the sentence frame strategy in the same format at Annemarie, however for a different purpose. In Amy’s lesson, sentence frames were used to help students develop and describe their dance maps (see Figure 1), thus supporting their construction of the dance map text. Bella, on the other hand, used the strategy in a modified format but for the same purpose Annemarie used the strategy in class: to support comprehension of text. In the example we previously shared, Bella supported the third grade students’ comprehension of a video of the musical entitled Shine by Billy Elliot by providing them an adaptation of the sentence frame strategy. Bella supported the students’ comprehension of the text through guiding questions which served the same purpose as the sentence frames Annemarie used to support the preservice teachers’ comprehension of the Bad Romance: Women’s Suffrage (Corum & Grant, 2012) video previously discussed. Bella posed questions surrounding each element of dance and provided students with a set of sample responses to help guide their thinking: “How is the body moving? Weight (heavy/light), Attack (sharp/smooth), flow (free/bound; tight/loose).” While Bella did not organize the prompts into a frame, the support she provided mirrored the sentence frame strategy she learned to use in her methods class.

Another literacy strategy to which the preservice teachers were exposed and then took up in their practice was a method of analyzing text through a traditional print-literacy technique called sentence framing. Research on this strategy suggests that the use of frames helps writers focus on the meaning that they are trying to convey and use the academic vocabulary of the discipline (Graff & Birkenstein, 2010). The preservice teachers were given a set of sentence frames as a tool to help them analyze a dancer’s body movements in the music video entitled Bad Romance: Women’s Suffrage (Corum & Grant, 2012). The video is a historical parody of Lady Gaga’s version of the song and music video (i.e. Bad Romance). While sentence frames can be considered a “generic literacy” strategy (Fang & Coatoam, 2013, p. 631), Annemarie altered the sentence frames to serve as a specialized literacy strategy to support the

As we observed Annemarie apprentice the preservice teachers into the disciplines of creative dance and drama, she used gradual release of responsibility (Pearson & Gallagher, 1983) in order to mentor and model ways that dance and drama experts in the field think, act, and speak. Buehl (2011) posits that this method of instruction is effective in apprenticing readers, writers, and thinkers, too. We noticed that Annemarie adapted this method of gradual release of


Frambaugh-Kritzer, C., Buelow, S., & Simpson Steele, J. (2015) / Disciplinary Literacies responsibility that was more tailored to dance and drama because it used embodied literacies. We refer to her specialized approach as embodied scaffolded instruction as it supported the preservice teachers’ understanding of concepts, vocabulary, and techniques through embodied literacies. Nicole Marie took up the same approach as she apprenticed the second graders in developing a choreographed dance. She used the dance map strategy to first model how to create and read the map through enactment, then she guided students through a class-generated example and guided enactment, and finally she asked students to develop and enact their own dance map to represent a marine animal of the group’s choice. Below she describes the sequence of events: I gave my students direct instruction on how the lesson would be structured today. We produced our own pathways and action words, and that showed me that they understood the concepts. We created our own dance map as a class, and I demonstrated the dance for them, and then had each group come up, one by one, and follow our dance map. They understood the concept, so I moved on to let them create their own dance maps in their groups.

to apply representations of the characters they chose to portray. I asked them questions to help them represent their character better. I asked them where the scene was taking place, and what had happened just before and just after their scene. Blakely also used the side-coaching strategy during her drama lesson on statues with kindergarteners: When the students were making movements for the characters I called out, I continued to tell them to change levels and that if they just used a low level, to try and use a higher one. This way, they were using all three levels and they could deepen their understanding on what each one meant. The side-coaching strategy provided individualized support for elementary students as they learned the techniques, vocabulary, and concepts of dance and drama. Further, the use of this strategy provided formative assessment data to the preservice teachers to help guide their instruction. Discussion and Implications We have identified two critical discussion points and implications that grow our knowledge of disciplinary literacies in dance and drama. Our first discussion point surrounds our examination of the preservice teachers’ construction of embodied literacies. This finding is important because we assert that the embodied literacies emerged as one of the “specialized literacies” (Fang & Coatoam, 2013 p. 628) unique to dance and drama. We think this finding continues to build upon Wilson et al.’s (2014) literature that connects body movement with disciplinary literacy. We too aim to deepen the connection between literacies of the body with relation to the discipline specific literacies of dance and drama. We assert that without understanding the notion of embodied literacies, one could not be considered as a disciplinary expert in dance and drama. In our conventional content analysis of the data, we found that the concept of embodied literacies was socially constructed through the discursive practices not only spoken from Annemarie, but also from the preservice teachers, as they were all socially constructing together what the embodied literacies

The fourth discipline specific literacy strategy we noted was side-coaching (Spolin, 1986). This observed literacy strategy was used in both the drama discipline and the dance discipline. In this technique, the teacher provides specific, descriptive, and positive feedback to students as they are learning new skills and doing informal performances as a group. In the disciplines of dance and drama, side-coaching serves a formative assessment and a model of how to use the academic language of dance and drama. Sidecoaching was used in many of the preservice teachers’ lessons as a strategy to support elementary students’ dance or drama performances. Grace explains how she used side-coaching to deepen the students’ understanding of tableaux and comprehension of The Sign of the Beaver: I facilitated interactions among students by circulating the room and side-coaching. While all of the students were working in their partner groups, I was walking to each individual group to see how they were doing and asking probing questions. I helped them


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 meant to them. This content arose most frequently while coding the data. The preservice teachers not only dialogued about this notion in their methods course; they also learned it in the doing. In other words, Annemarie’s weekly instructional practices allowed the preservice teachers to engage in the actions needed to make meaning of the embodied literacies. Given this finding, we assert that embodied literacies should be formally acknowledged as one of the disciplinary literacies in dance and drama.

Table 1). However, in Nicole Marie’s own words she admitted: If I had had performing arts when I was younger, I feel that I wouldn’t have an aversion to it. We stop, at a very young age, promoting expression through our bodies, and it’s really like, “Sit. Listen. Be quite” in the classroom. If I had had that [dance and drama], I wouldn’t be so intimidated and scared by it. That’s why I do want to use dance and drama in my future classroom.

Our second discussion point shows that in a supportive environment elementary preservice teachers can socially construct disciplinary literacy learning experiences in dance and drama. This finding is important because the literature in disciplinary literacies in elementary grades is underrepresented and even disputed (Brock et. al., 2014; Heller, 2010; Moje, 2010). Moreover, it is even more scant in dance and drama. Yet, the preservice teachers in this study proved to have learned from the company they kept (Smith, 1992). In fact, our findings also show that the company they kept prior to this methods course (i.e. additional course work, childhood experiences) also influenced their knowledge and abilities in teaching the disciplinary literacies of dance and drama as exemplified when we discussed Bella and Moriah’s lessons. Both of them (and others) had studied dance or drama in their own K-12 or through prerequisite courses prior to entering the elementary education program. From a social constructivist lens, they were able to construct more meaning of the dance or drama content due to these prior experiences because our background knowledge relates to the “mental resources that enable us to make sense” of what is going on around us (Smith, 2004, p. 13). Yet, we want to point out that several of the preservice teachers credited one particular dance instructor they took for a prerequisite as being most influential, and we could see how these former experiences further aided to their understandings of dance because the same content was explored in both the prerequisite class and Annemarie’s class.

Overall, our findings suggest that these experiences are socially constructed and with more spaces to learn the dance and drama discipline, one can feel more comfortable teaching the disciplines of dance and drama. We also want to point out that when we shared the preservice teachers’ lesson examples according to the five disciplinary literacy tenets (see Table 1), our goal was not to select the perfect lesson plan upholding some kind of gold standard for the disciplinary literacies in dance and drama. Indeed, in our findings we saw a range of what was socially constructed, as we recognize that preservice teachers are novices only in the beginning phases of their certification journey. In particular, one disciplinary literacy instructional tenet that was the least constructed surrounded the inquiry process (Buehl, 2011). Again, this was not too surprising, considering that the preservice teachers had less instructional knowledge in the inquiry process. And even if they had more knowledge, they were not afforded the instructional time in their field placements to construct long-term inquiry learning opportunities. Nevertheless, even with these limitations our analysis shows promise for instructional inquiry development in dance and drama at the elementary level based on the lessons that Christina and Bella socially constructed. Due to these findings, first we suggest that more emphasis be made on Remer’s (1990) taxonomy that highlights the in the arts approach as this aligns with our argument. Again, while we value all the methods explained in the taxonomy, we suggest elementary performing arts teacher education continue to make space for supporting the foregrounding of disciplinary

On the other hand, Nicole Marie had never taken this prerequisite dance course and was still able to construct two dance lessons that addressed some of the disciplinary literacies instructional tenets (see


Frambaugh-Kritzer, C., Buelow, S., & Simpson Steele, J. (2015) / Disciplinary Literacies literacies in dance and drama. We agree with Brock et al. (2014) who also argue that the “why”, “what” and “how” matter in disciplinary literacies in elementary education. In this study, the preservice teachers apprenticed their field practicum elementary students into “why” dance and drama matter and then foreground their discipline instruction by teaching the students the “what” of dance or drama. Again, they did this by emphasizing the unique vocabulary, content, and norms unique to dance and drama. Furthermore, we assert that understanding the “how” is also critical, and in our study the embodied literacies unlocks the “how” as it emerged as one of

the specialized attributes to disciplinary literacies in dance and drama. Finally, we end by recognizing that the preservice teachers explored and prioritized these embodied literacies either in the arts or through the arts (Remer, 1990) because it was a course requirement. In other words, they were socially set up to implement these embodied literacies. We are hopeful that they will continue to use the embodied literacies in the arts and/or through the arts and grow in their dance and drama discipline knowledge as they progress through the elementary teacher program and their profession.

References Altieri, J. L. (2014). Powerful content connections: Nurturing readers, writers, and thinkers in grades K-3. Newark, DE: International Reading Association. Alvermann, D. E., Gillis, V.R., & Phelps, S.F. (2013). Content area reading and literacy: Succeeding in today’s diverse classroom (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson. Alvermann, D. E., Swafford, J. M., & Montero, K. (2003). Content area literacy instruction for the elementary grades. USA: Pearson. Armbruster, B. (1992). Content reading in RT: The last two decades. The Reading Teacher, 46(2), 166-167. Au, K. (1998). Social constructivism and the school literacy learning of students of diverse backgrounds. Journal of Literacy Research, 30(2), 297-319. Barton, G. M. (2013). The arts and literacy: What does it mean to be arts literate? International Journal of Education & the Arts, 14(18), 1-21. Billman, A., & Pearson, P. D. (2013). Literacy in the disciplines. Literacy Learning: The Middle Years, 21(1), 25-33. Bolton, G., (1983). Drama as education. Harlow, England: Longman. Borstel, J. (2007). The Liz Lerman dance exchange: An aesthetic of inquiry, an ethos of dialogue. In P. Korza & B. Bacon (Eds.), Dialogue in artistic practice: Case studies from animating democracy (pp. 57- 91). Washington, DC: Americans for the Arts. Brock, C. H., Goatly, V. J., Rapheal, T. E., Trost-Shahata, E., & Weber, C. M. (2014). Engaging students in disciplinary literacy, K-6. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 Bruner, J. (1986). Actual minds, possible worlds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Buehl, D. (2011). Developing readers in the academic disciplines. Newark, DE: International Reading Association. Cochran-Smith, M., & Donnell, K. (2005). Practitioner inquiry: Blurring the boundaries of research and practice. In G. Camilli, P. Elmore, & J. Green (Eds.), Complementary methods for research in education (2nd ed.). Washington D.C: AERA. Creswell, J. W. (2013). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five traditions. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Corum, L. (Producer), & Grant, T. A. (Director). (2012). Bad romance: Women’s suffrage [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.soomolearning.com/suffrage/ Deasy, R. J. (2002). Critical links: Learning in the arts and student academic and social development. Washington D.C.: Arts Education Partnership. Dewey, J. (1934). Art as experience. New York: Pedigree Books. Dils, A. (2007). Why dance literacy? Journal of the Canadian Association for Curriculum Studies, 5(2), 95-113. Draper, R. J. (2008). Redefining content-area literacy teacher education: Finding my voice through collaboration. Harvard Educational Review, 78(1), 60-83. Draper, R. J., Broomhead, P., Jensen, A. P., & Nokes, J. D. (2012). (Re)Imagining literacy and teacher preparation through collaboration. Reading Psychology, 33(4), 367-398. Draper, R. J., Broomhead, P., Jensen, A. P., Nokes, J. D., & Siebert, D. (Eds.). (2010). (Re)Imagining content-area literacy instruction. New York: Teachers College Press. Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, Title I—Improving the Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged, 20 U.S.C. § 6301 et seq. (1965). Elliot, B. (2013). O Musical—Shine [Video file]. Retrieved from http://youtu.be/HR_kenTmKac Fang, Z., & Coatoam, S. (2013). Disciplinary literacy: What you want to know about it. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 56(8), 627-632. Fiske, E. B. (Ed.). (1999). Champions of change: The impact of the arts on learning. Washington DC: Arts Education Partnership. Fokine, M. (1905). The dying swan. Performed by Anna Pavlova [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QMEBFhVMZpU Fokine, M. (1905). The dying swan. Performed by Trocadero Ballet Company of Montecarlo (2008) [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6rpqmcXqcNw Geertz, C. (1973). The interpretation of cultures. New York: Basic Books.


Frambaugh-Kritzer, C., Buelow, S., & Simpson Steele, J. (2015) / Disciplinary Literacies Glass, D., Meyer, A., & Rose, D. (2013). Universal design for learning and the arts. Harvard Educational Review, 83(1), 98-119. Graff, G., & Birkenstein, C. (2010). They say/I say: Moves that matter in academic literacy (2nd ed.). New York: Norton. Greene, M. (1977). Toward wide-awakeness: An argument for the arts and humanities in education. Teachers College Record, 79(1), 119-125. Handerhan, E. C. (1993). Literacy, aesthetic education, and problem solving. Theory into Practice, 32(4), 244251. Heller, R. (2010). In praise of amateurism: A friendly critique of Moje’s “Call for Change” in secondary literacy. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 54(4), 267-273. Herr, K., & Anderson, G. (2005). The action research dissertation: A guide for students and faculty. London: Sage Publications. Hillman, C. H., Pontifex, M. B., Raine, L. B., Castelli, D. M., Hall, E. E., & Kramer, A. F. (2009). The effect of acute treadmill walking on cognitive control and academic achievement in preadolescent children. Neuroscience, 159(3), 1044-1054. Hinchman, K. A., & Moje, E. B. (1998). Locating the social and political in secondary school literacy. Reading Research Quarterly, 33(1), 117-128. Hsieh, H. F., & Shannon, S. E. (2005). Three approaches to qualitative content analysis. Qualitative Health Research, 15(9), 1277-1288. Johnson, E., & Vasudevan, L. (2012). Seeing and hearing students’ lived and embodied critical literacy practices. Theory into Practice, 51(1), 34-41. Jones, S. (2011). Opening ceremony blog exclusive—Spike Jones presents: Lil Buck and Yoyo Ma [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9jghLeYufQ Jones, S. (2013). Literacies in the body. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 56(7), 525-529. Kindelan, N. (2010). Demystifying experiential learning in the performing arts. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2010(124), 31-37. Krueger, R. A. (1994). Focus group interviews: A practical guide for applied research (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Lapp, D., Flood, J., & Farnan, N. (Eds.). (2005). Content area reading and learning: Instructional strategies. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis. Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Makaiau, A. S., & Freese, A. R. (2013). A transformational journey: Exploring our multicultural identities though self-study. Studying Teacher Education, 9(2), 141-151.


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015

Mayring, P. (2000). Qualitative content analysis. Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 1(2). Retrieved from http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1089/2385 Meyer, L. (2005). The complete curriculum: Ensuring a place for the arts in America’s schools. Arts Education Policy Review, 106(3), 35-39. Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. M. (1994). Qualitative data analysis (2nd ed). Newbury Park, CA: Sage. Mishook, J. J., & Kornhaber, M. L. (2006). Arts integration in an era of accountability. Arts Education Policy Review, 107(4), 3-11. Moje, E. B. (2008). Foregrounding the disciplines in secondary literacy teaching and learning: A call for change. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 52(2), 96-107. Moje, E. B. (2010). Response: Heller’s “In praise of amateurism”: A friendly critique of Moje’s “call for change” in secondary literacy. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 54(4), 275-278. Moje, E. B. (2011). Developing disciplinary discourses, literacies, and identities: What’s knowledge got to do with it? In M. G. L. Bonilla & K. Englander (Eds.), Discourses and identities in contexts of educational change: Contributions from the United States and Mexico, (pp. 49-74). New York: Peter Lang. Moss, B. (2005). Making a case and a place for effective content area literacy instruction in the elementary grades. The Reading Teacher, 59(1), 46-55. Neelands, J. (2000). Structuring drama work. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, Pub. L. No. 107-110 § 115 Stat. 1425 (2002). Nolen, A. L. & Vander Putten, J. (2007). Action research in education: Addressing gaps in ethical principals and practices. Educational Researcher, 36(7), 401-407. OfficialWICKED. (2014). Wicked: Book writing [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=DTmeWxfTouE O’Neill, C. (1983). Context or essence. The place of drama in the curriculum. In C. Day & J. L. Norman (Eds.), Issues in drama education (pp. 25-32). New York: Falmer Press. Patton, M. Q. (2002). Qualitative research & evaluation methods (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Pearson, P. D., & Gallagher, M. C. (1983). The instruction of reading comprehension. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 8(3), 317-344. Perry, K., Lukasz, G., Martin, M., McKee, B., & Walter, H. (2013). Roar [Song]. On Prism [CD, digital download]. U.S.: Capitol. President’s Committee on Arts and the Humanities. (2011). Re-investing in arts education; Winning America’s future through creative schools. Washington, DC: Author.


Frambaugh-Kritzer, C., Buelow, S., & Simpson Steele, J. (2015) / Disciplinary Literacies Remer, J. (1990). Changing schools through the arts: How to build on the power of an idea. New York: American Council for the Arts. HyperRESEARCH (Version 2.8.3) [Computer software]. Randolph, MA: ResearchWare, Inc. Richardson, L. (2000). Writing: A method of inquiry. In N.K. Denzin & Y.S. Lincoln (Eds.) Handbook of Qualitative Research (2nd ed., pp. 923-948). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Shanahan, T., & Shanahan, C. (2008). Teaching disciplinary literacy to adolescents: Rethinking content-area literacy. Harvard Educational Review, 78(1), 40-59. Shanahan, T., & Shanahan, C. (2014). The implications of disciplinary literacies. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 57(8), 628-631. Smith, F. (1992). Learning to read: The never ending debate. Phi Delta Kapan, 73(6), 432-441. Smith, F. (2004). Understanding reading (6th ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Smagorinsky, P. (2008). The method section as conceptual epicenter in constructing social science research reports. Written Communication, 25(3), 389-411. Snowber, C. (2012). Dance as a way of knowing. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 134, 53–60. Speare, E. G. (1983). The sign of the beaver. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company. Spolin, V. (1986). Theatre games for the classroom: A teacher’s handbook. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press. Stake, R. (1995). The art of case study research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. State Education Agency Directors of Arts Education. (2014). National core arts standards. Dover, DE: Author. Stinson, S. (1988). Dance for young children: Finding the magic in movement. Reston, VA: for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance.

American Alliance

Strauss, A. (1995). Qualitative analysis for social scientists. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. Taylor, P. (2000). The drama classroom: Action, reflection, transformation. New York: Routledge Falmer. Van Dusen, D. P., Kelder, S. H., Kohl, H. W., Ranjit, N., & Perry, C. L. (2011). Associations of physical fitness and academic performance among schoolchildren. Journal of School Health, 81(12), 733-740. Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind in society. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Vygotsky, L. (1986). Thought and language. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. Wagner, B. J. (1976). Drama as a learning medium. Washington, DC: National Education Association.


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 Wells, S. L. (2012). Moving through the curriculum: The effects of movement on student learning, behavior, and attitude. Rising Tide, 5, 1-17. Wilson, A. A., Boatright, M. D., & Landon-Hays, M. (2014). Middle school teachers’ discipline-specific use of gestures and implications for disciplinary literacy instruction. Journal of Literacy Research, 46(2), 234262. Winner, E. T. Goldstein, T. R., & Vincent-Lancrin, S. (2013), Art for art’s sake? The impact of arts education. Paris: OECD Publishing Woodson, S. E. (1998). Underlying constructs in the development and institutionalization of the child drama field. Youth Theatre Journal, 12(1), 1-9. Yin, R. K. (2009). Case study research: Design and methods (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.


Participatory Literacy Learning in an African Context: Perspectives from the Ombaderuku Primary School in the Arua District, Uganda Willy Ngaka Fred Masagazi Masaazi ABSTRACT: This study documents the experiences of volunteer teacher research assistants in relation to pupils’ interaction with parents, texts, and informal literacy practices in the community, and considers how these practices may enhance literacy instruction and production of local reading materials. The research site was located in the context of Uganda’s mother tongue education policy, driven by a whole language approach to teaching literacy in one primary school in the Arua district. Locating the research in sociocultural and ethnographic perspectives on literacy, the authors use observation, document analysis, and informal interviews to capture the phenomena of interest in the project. Findings show that although pupils, parents, and community members engaged in informal literacy practices and interact with cultural resources and written texts including Information and Communication Technology (ICT) literacies on an everyday basis, such cultural resources, informal practices, and written texts outside the classrooms have not been adequately used to enhance participatory teaching and learning of literacy. Further, local materials development in the implementation of Uganda’s current language policy was characterized by lack of local reading materials and declining literacy levels among pupils. The authors recommend building research, teaching, and materials development capacity for promoting various literacies including digital literacies and for enhancing authentic literacy instruction. Key words: Authenticity, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Literacies, Literacy Instruction, Learning, Participatory Literacy, Home Languages and Literacies Dr. Willy Ngaka received his PhD from University of KwaZulu-Natal. He is the Coordinator for Centre for Lifelong Learning and is a Senior Lecturer in Makerere University, College of Education and External Studies. He has published several articles on topics including: formal and non-formal educational practices; illiteracy and poverty; and community involvement in education within Uganda. He is a member of International Literacy Association and a recipient of 2006 Elva Knight Research Award. He can be contacted at wngaka@gmail.com. Dr. Fred Masagazi Masaazi is the Principal College of Education and External Studies, Makerere University. He received his PhD from Makerere University with a concentration on Language Education. He is interested in language policy and planning, literacy studies, cultural studies, and methodologies of language teaching. He can be contacted at fremas@cees.mak.ac.ug.

Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1—Spring 2015 Michelle M. Falter, Principal Editor—http://jolle.coe.uga.edu

Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1—Spring 2015

The complexity and multidimensionality associated with literacy, and the economically and politically motivated debate on the language and the effective approaches to its teaching, have been recurring themes in the development literature (Muzoora, Terry, & Asiimwe, 2014; Pearson, 2004; Perry, 2012). Although the most simplistic understanding of literacy has centered on one’s ability to read and write, literacy can usefully be understood as a social practice and a means of communication between people in which its forms and meanings vary from one context to another and are contingent upon the actors making use of it and the social settings in which it is found (Barton & Hamilton, 2000; Baynham, 1995; Cheffy, 2011; Prinsloo & Breier, 1996; Street, 1984, 2003). Literacy is now seen as a fundamental right for both children and adults (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2009-2014), and every effort needs to be made to study and understand its uses across culture, the process of its acquisition, and effective strategies for enhancing its teaching and learning.

reading and writing under the mother tongue education policy in primary schools in Arua? 2. What cultural resources, informal literacy practices, and texts were available in the community for children to collect and bring to their teachers to enhance literacy teaching and learning, and to expand the local reading materials available to primary schools? 3. What other resources in the community were available to children to enable literacy learning? Topical and Theoretical Frameworks In the following review, we first describe the background and context of literacy work generally and in Uganda in particular, and we then discuss sociocultural and ethnographic perspectives on literacy informed by Vygotsky (1978), with special emphasis on a real literacies materials approach, authentic literacy instruction, and the debate on phonics and whole language approaches.

In this study, we describe the experiences of volunteer teacher research assistants who participated in the Arua Pilot Project for Literacy Enhancement (APPLE) in Uganda. This project aimed to document teachers’ perceptions about phonics and whole language approaches to teaching literacy in the students’ mother tongue. We further sought to understand how pupils’ interactions with parents, texts, and informal literacy practices in the community could be tapped to enhance literacy instruction and offer opportunities for the production of literacy teaching materials. Marshalling these resources may address the challenge of the lack of local reading materials in implementing the Uganda mother tongue education policy, which is mainly driven by the whole language approach1 to teaching reading and writing in Ugandan primary schools. Our study was guided by the three research questions: 1. What were the experiences and perceptions of teachers regarding the shift from phonics to a whole language approach to teaching

Literacy Learning in Uganda The emergence of literacy can be traced to 8,000 BCE during the times of ancient civilizations, such as Egypt, Mesopotamia, and China. However, there has been no universally accepted definition of the term literacy. Traditionally, it had been understood to mean the ability to read and write print texts, which was assumed to be important for economic growth and development in a country like Uganda. This kind of literacy is normally measured in terms of the minimum number of years a person has had of formal schooling. This conception of literacy led the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to embark on the Experimental World Literacy Programme (EWLP) in many technologically developing countries such as Algeria, Ethiopia, Guinea, Madagascar, Mali, Sudan, and Tanzania in the 1950s and 1960. The 5-year EWLP was designed to “pave the way for the eventual execution of a world campaign in the field of literacy.” [The


In our study, we drew from the views on the whole language approach that Bomengen (2010) offers, in which she describes it as the method teachers use to teach pupils to read by recognizing words as whole pieces of language instead of recognizing individual letters of the alphabet and letter combinations that are then decoded. When the authors contrasted the phonics approach they through which they learned to read some decades ago with the current whole language approach, the two approaches differed sharply in that the teachers who taught the authors had pupils learn vowels and consonants separately, then start combining them and eventually beginning to form words and sentences. The whole language approach has children start learning reading by focusing on a whole sentence instead of breaking it into easily understandable component parts that children find very difficult to decipher.


Ngaka, W., & Masaazi, F. M. (2015) / Participatory Literacy Learning in an African Context EWLP] was distinguished both by its selectivity (reaching one million adults in eleven countries) and by its stress on “functionality.” As Gillette notes, the central criterion in the program was narrowly oriented functionality—with major emphasis being given to industrial, agricultural, and craft training for me, and homemaking and family planning for women. (Arnove & Graff, 1987, p. 8)

Across the world, literacy is considered to be a human right (UNESCO, 1997, 2006), a lifelong and life-wide intellectual process of gaining meaning from a critical interpretation of written texts. Most of the technologically developing countries, including Uganda, have implemented programmes and policies related to Education for All goals such as Universal Primary Education (UPE), Universal Secondary Education (USE), and gender parity in education. The improvement of literacy levels in most of the developing countries such as Uganda through participation in UPE has been characterized by political decisions regarding the choice of language to teach literacy, the provision of local reading materials to facilitate literacy teaching and learning, and the strategies chosen to teach it. The decisions are sometimes not based on baseline assessment surveys, and as a result, pupils may not develop the required level of literacy abilities. Since the key to all literacy is reading development—a progression of skills that begins with the ability to understand spoken words and decode written words for textual understanding— those teaching literacy for both adults and children should, as Street (2011) and Rogers and Street (2012) argue, use ethnographic lenses (Kielmann, 2012) to enhance their understanding of the context in which the teaching and learning of literacy take place.

Yet the program yielded disappointing results (Lyster, 1992; UNESCO, 2004). Since then, the traditional definition of literacy has been expanded within different literacy circles to include other aspects of life such as the ability to use language, numbers, images and other means to understand and use the dominant symbol systems of a culture (Christenbury, Bomer, & Smagorinsky, 2009). The inclusions were necessitated by the complexity and multidimensionality that characterizes literacy (Harris & Hodges, 1995). This expanded notion of literacy has led UNESCO (2006) to parse literacy into four discrete understandings, as: (1) an autonomous set of skills; (2) applied, practiced, and situated skills; (3) a learning process; and (4) a text. We focus on the improvement of the third component of literacy, one that extends beyond the walls of school classrooms. When we talk about literacy in our context, we borrow from the definition by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency cited in UNSECO (2006), which states that “literacy is about learning to read and write text and numbers and also about reading, writing and counting to learn, and developing these skills and using them effectively for meeting basic needs” (p. 158), which to us should not only be extended to adult learners, but permeate the walls of the formal primary school classrooms. This choice is based on the assumption that literacy can no longer be regarded as a single autonomous set of technical skills but rather must be viewed as a social practice that is integrally linked with ideology, culture, knowledge, and power (Rassool, 2009; Street, 1984, 2003). Literacy in this conception involves broader learning and the mastery of information to work within the knowledge (information) societies that UNESCO (2006) says will dominate the 21st century.

An ethnographic lens is important because reading development involves a range of complex language processes, including awareness of phonology, orthography, semantics, grammar, and patterns of word formation, all of which provide a necessary platform for reading fluency and comprehension within the broader sociocultural and political context (Pearson, 2004). Because of these complexities, we decided to conceptualize a study to document volunteer teacher research assistants’ experiences as regards their perceptions of the strategies they were using for teaching literacy and determining how the interaction among pupils, parents, and texts embedded in the communities could be tapped to respond to the challenges facing literacy development efforts among children. Ugandan Political Landscape Geopolitically, Uganda is a small landlocked country located in East Africa. It occupies 236,040 square


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1—Spring 2015 kilometers (Uganda Bureau of Statistics, 2007). Its current population is estimated to be 35.8 million, of which over 80 percent live in rural areas. Uganda shares borders with Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Republic of South Sudan. Historically, it was colonized by the United Kingdom and attained political independence on October 9, 1962. The foundation of much of the literacy and education work in the country was laid by Christian missionaries (Ssekamwa, 1997). Ssekamwa argues that the indigenous educational systems prior to this colonial education effort were constructed around tribal approaches “with aims, organization, content, methods of teaching, teachers and places where education was imparted” (p. 1). Education was not conducted abstractly in schools, but rather in situated daily life around the fireplace, in the fields, through storytelling and in other settings around which diurnal activities took place. All children participated as learners, and all adults were responsible for instruction. Rather than being a colonial imposition, however, the involvement of Christian missionaries came at the invitation of the King of Buganda (Kabaka Mutesa I), with English becoming the lingua franca of formal education early in the 20th century. These schools soon monopolized formal educational efforts in Uganda (Meinert, 2009).

significantly widened access to formal education for children. Critics have pointed out that some of the programmes such as the UPE, USE, and introduction of mother tongue education policy driven by a whole language approach to teaching have instead contributed toward the deterioration in quality and standards of education in the country. Various reports have identified a variety of critical issues responsible for the decline in literacy levels of children in primary schools, with evidence for this amelioration found in a decline in performance of pupils in national assessments. The causes include high rates of dropouts among pupils, students’ completion of primary school without having acquired the expected literacy abilities, a sheer lack of local reading materials to facilitate teaching and learning of literacy in mother tongue, and the absence of a reading culture among the population (Abiria, 2011; Batre, 2009, 2010; Muzoora et al., 2014; Ssentanda, 2014; Uganda Rural Literacy and Community Development Association, 2007). We present some of these issues in the context of APPLE’s role in Ugandan literacy education. APPLE in Ugandan Education APPLE was conceptualized in 2013 to be implemented in Arua District, North Western region of Uganda, with the support of the International Reading Association and the Pan African Literacy Leadership Programme. It was designed to respond to the challenge of declining literacy competences and abilities of children in the face of the efforts the government of Uganda has made to implement policies designed to reduce poverty such as UPE, USE, and the mother tongue education policy of Uganda, which were all meant to contribute toward increasing literacy rates among the population.

Socioculturally, Uganda is a multiethnic nation with over 50 constitutionally recognized ethnic groupings, each speaking different languages (United Nations Development Programme, 2005). This linguistic plurality complicates issues in choosing the most appropriate language of instruction for teaching and learning literacy in school. Socioeconomically, Uganda is one of the world’s poorest countries, with 67 percent of the population being vulnerable to poverty (Anguyo, 2013). HIV/AIDS affects 7.3 percent of Ugandans (Parliament of Uganda, 2013) and has remained a huge challenge for the population. Simultaneously, remarkable progress has been made in the area of education. Uganda’s government is on record for having implemented programmes that are in line with global efforts to realize goals of Education For ALL (EFA) and Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) such as its Functional Adult Literacy (FAL), UPE, USE, and equal opportunity policy for girls. The UPE and USE have

The context in West Nile regions for the teaching and learning of literacy presents many challenges to educators, as the region continues to recover from traumatic experiences of war and political turmoil that Uganda went through from the 1970s until mid-2006 (Brett, 1992). Despite some well-intentioned interventions, the rates of school dropouts among children in the region are still very high, with girls being the worst affected (Batre, 2009, 2010). The


Ngaka, W., & Masaazi, F. M. (2015) / Participatory Literacy Learning in an African Context Uganda Rural Literacy and Community Development Association (2007) and other media reports show that children completed seven years of their primary schooling without acquiring the literacy abilities expected of them; some could hardly write their names correctly. There is a weak reading culture among the population, which is worsened by a lack of libraries in rural areas, especially in primary schools.

explore the potential of involving children, parents, and community members in attaining effective and authentic literacy instruction, which will in turn facilitate the realization of the EFA goals.

APPLE was conceived and implemented amidst these challenges. Our study was therefore a deliberate attempt to: (1) explore volunteer teacher research assistants’ perceptions of the literacy teaching As if those challenges were not enough, the mother strategies they were using; (2) understand and tongue education policy has been characterized by a document different cultural resources as well as shift in method of teaching literacy in lower primary informal practices in the community; and (3) classes from phonics to whole language approaches document how the involvement of children, parents, that we found have complicated children’s literacy and members of the community in collecting texts development (Abiria, 2011). This challenge follows embedded in homes with which they interact on daily from the enforcement of the mother tongue education basis to improve literacy instruction, learning, and the policy known as the “thematic development of relevant local curriculum,” which frames the reading materials. We hoped to What remains salient is that learning of children in grades 1– understand which of the two 3). In this approach, most literacy teaching methods— literacy is a dynamic, complex, pupils, especially those in phonics or whole language— multidimensional phenomenon would motivate pupils and Primary 1, have not interacted with texts and cannot easily for which continual study is enable them more easily to differentiate and understand develop the reading skills and required (Harris & Hodges, the letters of the alphabet and competences expected of them at 1995; Lyster, 1992). make meaning out of them those levels of education. We when combined to make words. believe that our findings would It therefore gets practically go a long way to inform policy difficult for such pupils to understand the whole and practice regarding the development of relevant sentences they are assigned to read. mother tongue literacy instructional materials and teaching literacy in Uganda. Additionally, local reading materials for teachers to implement the mother tongue education policy are A Sociocultural Perspective on Literacy lacking, and many of the teachers themselves cannot speak their mother tongue very well, meaning that Our research was designed to address the challenge of they cannot effectively use it to teach literacy to the declining children’s literacy levels in the context of pupils. The Lugbara language teachers’ predicament is current UPE and lack of relevant local reading even made worse by a lack of orthography for the materials in the implementation of a mother tongue language (Batre, 2012). All of these challenges require education policy in Uganda. The debate on the looking for remedies beyond the conventional ones, “reading wars” concerned identifying the most including tapping sociocultural resources and efficacious strategies for teaching and learning informal practices in the communities. In the spirit of literacy, a disagreement that has never been the current shift in conceptualization of literacy along definitively resolved (Abiria, 2011; Johnson, 2001; the lines of sociocultural and ethnographic Krashen, 2002; LeDoux, 2007; Muzoora et al., 2014; perspectives (Nirantar, 2007; Perry 2012; Rassool, Pearson, 2004; Scribner & Cole, 1978; Ssentanda, 2014; 2009; Street, 1994, 2011) and taking into account issues Wagner, 1989). of mediation, literacy externalities, physical proximity, and social distance (Maddox & Esposito, 2013), What remains salient is that literacy is a dynamic, teachers of literacy in formal primary schools should complex, multidimensional phenomenon for which


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1—Spring 2015 continual study is required (Harris & Hodges, 1995; Lyster, 1992). Literacy is understood as a critical factor in learning (Smagorinsky, 2014). Although the traditional and dominant view on literacy has concerned the ability to read and write relative to the number of years one has spent in formal schooling, literacy is now increasingly recognized and understood as a social practice of people whose forms and meanings vary from one context to another, are contingent upon the actors making use of it, and are a function of the social setting in which it is found (Barton & Hamilton, 2000; Cheffy, 2011; Street, 1984, 2003).

profile of the literacy practices associated with these languages was found to be correspondingly complex. Cheffy recommended that it is important for the organizers of literacy programmes to aim at improving literacy among adults by being conscious of the varying language and informal literacy practices in their locality and to design teaching programmes that respond to the learning needs of people in a contextualized manner so as to approach literacy through the means they value. Rassool (2009) adds that literacy is now more generally regarded as a social practice that is integrally linked with ideology, culture, knowledge, and power (cf. Nirantar, 2007; Rogers & Street, 2012). Literacy should be viewed as a related set of activities that community members engage in while operating within their daily worlds.

It is important for those trying to understand and establish effective strategies of enhancing the teaching and learning of literacy to take into account the emerging sociocultural and ethnographic perspectives on literacy foregrounded in the work of Vygotsky (1978; cf. Barton & Hamilton, 2000; Perry 2012; Prinsloo & Brier, 1996; Street, 1994, 2003). Indeed, this view of the significance of out-of-school experiences in teaching and learning literacy is emphasized by Perry, who argues that current research efforts should focus on understanding the ways in which people use literacy in their everyday lives, finding ways to make literacy instruction meaningful and relevant by recognizing and incorporating students’ out-of-school ways of practicing literacy, and decreasing achievement gaps for students whose families and communities practice literacy in ways that may differ from those in the mainstream or in positions of power (p. 51).

Rogers (1999) recommends the use of real literacies material, which Jacobson, Degener, and Purcell-Gates (2003) call authentic literacy instruction materials. Jacobson et al. argue that learners benefit more from using local authentic materials than using ones that are a step removed from their real lives. Authentic materials are useful for learners of all levels and categories (Laniro, 2007). Purcell-Gates, Degener, Jacobson, and Soler (2001) studied Adult Basic Education (ABE) and English as Second Language (ESL) students and found that, when learners used authentic materials inside the classroom, they were more likely to engage in literacy activities outside the classroom. For example, if students were to express an interest in improving nutrition, having them read authentic materials such as food labels in class helps to increase the likelihood that they will also read such labels at the supermarket.

Like others arguing in this tradition (e.g., Moll, 2000) Perry asserts that when school is conducted so that is disassociated from how people use literacy practices in their daily lives, school may become an alienating place for those whose literacy usage does not correspond to the means by which literacy is taught and evaluated through education.

Abiria (2011) explored cultural resources as pedagogical tools for language education in two primary schools in Uganda and found out that cultural resources travel from the community settings where they are traditionally performed to new sites in the classrooms as hybrid forms ranging from strong (retaining a large number of key elements from their place of origin) to weak (with limited elements from their place origin). The role adults play in scaffolding students’ use of such cultural resources is crucial.

Cheffy (2011) conducted a study in a rural area of northern Cameroon where most adults described themselves as illiterate. The study revealed a complex picture in which three languages were used in different ways and in different domains of life. The

Since local resources and literacy materials exist within the communities, we borrow from Saraswathi


Ngaka, W., & Masaazi, F. M. (2015) / Participatory Literacy Learning in an African Context (2012) and Rogers and Horrocks (2010) to argue that communities surrounding schools are full of adults whose heads are not blank sheets or empty vessels to be filled with new knowledge from outside. Having children interact with these elders and their literacy tools in an effort to learn literacy based on texts embedded in communities will be a useful strategy to tap on their prior experiences and informal knowledge and skills they have. This situated learning is important, Rogers and Horrocks (2010) argue, because adults who find themselves in a learning situation have a particular background and associated experiential prior knowledge, known in the literature as funds of knowledge (Gonzalez, Moll, & Amanti, 2005) and banks of skills that they are often unconscious they possess, but could be drawn on for purposes of enhancing children’s literacy learning through texts embedded in home environments.

on literacy. This perspective has been greatly influenced by the theory of social constructivism that considers the teaching and learning of literacy as both a social and integrated process in which scaffolding, commonly associated with scholars such as Rogoff (1990) and Bruner (Wood, Bruner, & Ross, 1976), working from a Vygotskian (1976) foundation, plays a crucial role. This metaphor refers to the temporary support provided to learners to reduce the complexity of a task. We use the scaffolding of authentic and real literacies materials (Verenikina, 2008) as the main conceptual and/or theoretical practice to underpin our research, given that the development of writing and reading is, according to Wagner (1989), “fostered by meaningful social interaction, usually entailing oral language” (p. 8). Scaffolding is widely considered to be an essential element of effective teaching, as many teachers to some extent use various forms of instructional scaffolding in their teaching. Scaffolding helps in bridging learning gaps, that is, the difference between what pupils have learned and what they are expected to know and be able to do at a certain point in their education cycle (Laniro, 2007).

The Tools of Literacy Much has been written and continues to be written on literacy. However, the available materials on literacy tend to focus on adult learners. Efforts that have tried to involve pupils and their parents in search of solutions to address the challenges of declining literacy rates among children and enhance local reading materials development are rare. Abiri’s (2011) findings are aligned with the current shift in understanding literacy from sociocultural and ethnographically based perspectives that needed to be promoted locally. Our study therefore offers a rare opportunity to assess how a community can engage with pupils attempting to learn literacy in their mother tongue under the complex sociolinguistic, cultural, political, and economic factors that have underpinned the context of literacy learning in Uganda.

Laniro (2007) links the concept of scaffolding to the use of what Jacobson et al. (2003) refer to as authentic materials and what Rogers (1999) calls real literacies materials for literacy instruction. Laniro argues that even if the student cannot read every word of a parking ticket used as an authentic material, the teacher can scaffold his or her reading skills and minimize the difficulty of the text by helping with vocabulary words and teaching scanning skills. These materials may include print, video, and audio texts that students encounter in their daily lives. Others examples cited include change-of address forms, job applications, menus, voice mail messages, radio programs, and videos.

Our study assumes that literacy learning is fundamentally associated with social practices of people in their everyday activities. We draw on Scribner and Cole (1978), Street (1984, 1994, 2011), Barton and Hamilton (2000), Rogers (1999), and many others, who argue that experiences outside formal classrooms are equally important for literacy learning. We view as axiomatic that literacy is social in origin, immersing our perspective within the emerging sociocultural and ethnographically based perspectives

We anticipate that as pupils get involved with their parents and communities in collecting various texts and literacy materials from homes, the volunteer teacher research assistants would provide successive levels of temporary support that would help pupils reach levels of comprehension and skills acquisition that they would not be able to achieve without assistance (see Verenikina, 2008). We expected that


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1—Spring 2015 the support strategies would become incrementally removed when they were no longer needed, and the volunteer teacher research assistants would gradually shift more responsibility over the learning process to the pupils. In this way it is possible that pupils would be able to learn reading and writing in their local language and at the same time contribute toward building the stock of locally produced reading materials.

rooms using phonics or whole language approaches. The children were taught twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10.00 AM–12.30 PM for a period of four months. Each group was assigned three volunteer teacher research assistants to make sure that while one was teaching, the other two were observing and recording what the children were doing. The pupils were then told to report to their teachers or come to school with texts they found in their homes, which the volunteer teacher research assistants recorded. The teaching was required to be participatory and learnercentered.

Method The Intervention

Data Collection We held in workshops organized for teachers, teacher trainees, parents, and members of the community to educate them about the role of sociocultural resources and texts embedded in people’s homes that could be collected and used to aid literacy pedagogy and to enhance local reading materials development. With permission from the District Education officer of Arua District, we shortlisted, interviewed, and selected six volunteer teacher research assistants from six primary schools. We held two-day intensive discussions with successful teachers regarding: 1. the ongoing debates on the literacy learning, language related issues, and the reading wars (see Abiria, 2011; Johnson, 2001; Krashen, 2002; LeDoux, 2007; Muzoora et al., 2014; Pearson, 2004; Scribner & Cole, 1978; Ssentanda, 2014; Wagner, 1989); 2. sociocultural and ethnographic perspectives on literacy teaching and learning (Jacobson et al., 2003; Laniro, 2007; Purcell-Gates et al., 2001; Rogers 1999); and 3. real literacies and authentic literacy materials as a preparation for the teaching (Nabi, Rogers, & Street, 2009; Nirantar, 2007; Perry 2012; Street, 1984, 1994, 1995). 4. the basics of social research.

We immersed our study in a mixture of an interpretive and a constructivist paradigm, which Kelly (1999) says leads one to adopt qualitative and participatory research approaches. Our selection of an interpretive paradigm and qualitative approach guided us to choose a case study oriented exploratory design described in Mitchell (1984) to arrive at a rich description of the volunteer teacher research assistants’ experiences, perceptions, assumptions, and attitudes regarding the literacy teaching strategies, the available sociocultural resources, and the texts embedded in the communities. By understanding the processes by which a participatory approach to involving pupils and parents collecting everyday texts in the communities, we thought we could enhance literacy instruction, learning, and materials development in primary schools. Our inclination toward sociocultural theoretical perspectives on literacy led us to adopt ethnographic methods such observations, review and analysis of documents, and informal interviews with teachers, pupils, and parents to understand issues involved in teaching literacy in primary schools. The three methods were complemented with some photographs captured during home visits and observations of the field activities in the course of the implementation of the intervention. The researchers and volunteer teacher research assistants also followed the children to their homes and engaged their parents in discussing materials their children reported or brought to the teachers as follow-up to the interactions with children in the school. Since it is a common practice in qualitative research to keep

Thereafter the teachers were assigned to teach 50 pupils in lower primary classes in the Ombaderuku Primary school. The instructions were carried out in Lugbarati, the dominant local language in the area. Ombaderuku Primary school was chosen because of its central location in the Sub County. The 50 girls and boys purposively selected were randomly divided into two groups and taught reading and writing in different


Ngaka, W., & Masaazi, F. M. (2015) / Participatory Literacy Learning in an African Context

records of every event in the field, we took detailed field notes on texts, cultural resources, and informal practices we observed in the homes, and thoroughly edited them at the end of every day. With permission from the individuals involved in the research, we audio-recorded all of the interviews and transcribed them later for analysis. With consent from the villagers, we captured some of the evidence of those factors we were interested in via digital camera.

collection yielded an overwhelming volume of data that we reduced via tabulation and through use of percentages, number, and words, providing ourselves with a more manageable version of the data that sense in terms of the research questions of the study. This process of playing with the raw data, which Smagorinsky (2008) describes as reducing data from an emergent mass to a systematically organized set from which a subset can document representative trends, helped us to eliminate some data that were not making sense in terms of what we were looking for in learning and teaching of literacy. At other times it confirmed what was available through other data. The process of playing with the data involved coding them to help us see the emerging categories, patterns, and potential themes. This process also guided our identification of themes and the connections we saw between the themes, thereby leaving us with meaningful and manageable data sets for our analysis.

We sought to ensure rigor and trustworthiness (Fereday & Muir-Cochrane, 2006) through various means, including member checks, interviewer corroboration, peer debriefing, prolonged engagement, negative case analysis, confirmability, and bracketing as detailed in Lincoln and Guba (1985). As is the practice in qualitative research, we maintained reflexivity journals, which Saladana (2009) also calls analytic memos. These notes later helped us to reflect on the patterns, themes, and concepts that were emerging from the data we were collecting (Creswell, 2007). In conducting our observations, analysis of documents, and informal interviews, we made sure that we adhered to all the protocols involved in negotiating access into the community and other gatekeepers (Campbell, 2012). The huge volume of data we collected led us to the phase of data reduction we have described below.

Data Analysis Data for our study were analyzed using pragmatic qualitative research techniques. Since we immersed our study in an interpretive and constructivist paradigm, we employed a mix of qualitative techniques to analyze our data, a process commonly known as observer impression or thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006). This process involved using an eclectic approach in which data are continually analyzed with a special focus on issues that best matched the research questions. According to Chilisa and Preece (2005), as soon as the data collection process in qualitative research starts, so must data analysis. They further argue that “unlike in quantitative research, where the data analysis starts at the end of the data collection, in qualitative research, the analysis is tied to the data collection and occurs throughout the data collection, as well at the end of the study” (p. 172).

Data Reduction As discussed in Smagorinsky (2008), the end of data collection normally produces an “amorphous mass of data” (p. 397) that cannot be of any use unless reduced to meaningful units of analysis. We thus endeavored to (a) tease out the experiences of volunteer teacher research assistants, pupils, and parents regarding their interactions in the course of teaching and learning literacy; (b) find out their assumptions, perceptions, conceptions, and misconceptions about teaching and learning; (c) carefully observe what each party in the research was doing with regard to learning and teaching of reading and how they were doing it, both in class and in the homes or in the community; and (d) capture through digital camera evidence of texts embedded in the community, informal learning practices, and other factors that could inspire pupils to easily learn reading and writing skills. Our

For our case, as soon as we commenced data collection, we started by coding our data into categories and later reduced them into meaningful components as described above. Coding is an interpretive technique that both organizes the data and provides a means to introduce the interpretations


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1—Spring 2015

of it into certain quantitative methods, which required us to read the data over and again and demarcate segments within it at different times throughout the process (Boyatzis, 1998; Chambliss & Schutt, 2010). In our case each data segment was labeled with a "code" (a short phrase) that was meant to help us understand how the associated data segments informed our research questions or did not fit with them. We identified such anomalies and eliminated such data segments that never made sense in the analysis stage.

Our analysis of the data we collected followed the six steps in thematic analysis described variously in Boyatzis (1998); Fereday & Muir-Cochrane (2006); Virginia & Clarke (2006); and Chambliss, and Schutt (2010). The six steps we followed included: (a) familiarizing ourselves with our coded data sets to determine patterns that were emerging; (b) engaging in data reduction, which entailed collapsing the massive forms of data into labels and creating code categories for ease of analysis; (c) combining codes to make themes that accurately depicted data; (d) determining how the themes were supported by the data and related to the sociocultural theoretical perspectives we adopted to guide our study; (e) defining themes emerging from the data in terms of aspects we tried to capture; and (f) writing the report with focus on which themes were contributing towards understanding what was going on within the data through member checks which led us to what Chilisa and Preece (2005) call a thick description of the phenomenon of interest to us.

We made use of the questions that guided the coding of our qualitative data described in Saldana (2009), inquiring into the following issues:  What were people (that is, teachers, pupils, parents, etc.) doing?  What were they trying to accomplish both in class and at home in terms of learning and teaching reading?  How were they doing what they wanted to do?  What specific means or strategies were they using to realize their goals?  How did the teachers, pupils, and parents talk about and understand what was going on as far as teaching and learning reading was concerned?  What assumptions were they making about learning and teaching of reading in the school?  What assumptions did we bring into the study as far as learning and teaching reading and writing are concerned?  What did we see going on in the classrooms, homes, trading centers, etc.?  What did we learn from detailed notes we took in the course of the data collection?  Why did we arrive at some conclusions we drew about teaching and learning reading and writing in schools, etc.?

Our intervention, which provided basis for this study, only lasted for a short period (six months) and our study was based on a very small sample (one primary school of 50 pupils). The purpose of qualitative case studies is not to have large samples whose results should be generalized, but rather to attain a thick description of the phenomenon of interest the researchers are looking for in the study. Guest, Bunce, and Johnson (2006) argue that there is little reliable guidance on what sample size is needed for a thematic analysis, but sometimes decisions in qualitative designs are made in in the course of the study, given that their designs are not rigid. Findings The following four themes were identified across the data: (a) volunteer teacher research assistants’ experiences and perceptions of the phonics and whole language approaches; (b) sociocultural resources and informal literacy practices in the community; (c) texts embedded in the community; and (d) other literacy learning-related inspirational factors children reported in the community.

In doing so, we summarized the frequencies of the codes, discussed the emerging similarities and differences in related codes across distinct sources, and compared the relationship between one or more codes to guide us in drawing our conclusions.


Ngaka, W., & Masaazi, F. M. (2015) / Participatory Literacy Learning in an African Context Teachers’ Experiences and Literacy Teaching Strategies



practices we found included communal local crafts making, storytelling at fire places, encouraging children to read together in groups, singing songs with literacy messages, and decorating walls and traditional crafts using various colors in homes. Some of these events and practices in which people were interacting with texts are depicted in Figure 1.

In Uganda, children in rural areas go to school starting at age of six or seven. In this study of students in Primary grades 1–3, the students’ ages ranged from 6– 10. Our interviews with the six volunteer teacher research assistants, observation of their interactions with pupils in the two classes, and informal discussions with some of the pupils showed that all the teachers were frustrated by the shift from using a phonics approach to adopting a whole language approach to teaching reading and writing under the mother tongue education policy. The teachers perceived the policy shift as a waste of time. Our observations in the whole language class showed that the pupils were really struggling with reading as compared to the phonics class. One of the teachers told us that the major problem with the whole language method was that of starting with the children from the unknown, which contradicts the principle that emphasizes that learning should begin from the known and move gradually to the unknown (Cohen & Cowen, 2008; yet see Egan, 2009, for a dissenting view). Five out of the six volunteer teacher research assistants found whole language approaches problematic due to the lack of literature in the Lugbarati language, the inadequate training of the teachers to prepare them to teach in mother tongue, and the inability of some teachers to speak the language fluently. Most of the pupils indicated that they found it very difficult to read sentences when they were unable to identify and combine the letters, which to them was the easiest way to learn how to read. Community’s Sociocultural Informal practices


Figure 1. Photographs showing Lugbara traditional crafts, children engaged in tradition dancing, children singing song with their own designed letters of the alphabet, reading in groups. Texts Embedded in the Community Evidence from what pupils reported or collected from home revealed that every family was rich in texts, with which all household members directly and indirectly interacted in their everyday activities. Such texts included campaign posters with photographs of politicians, sitting or living rooms decorated with newspapers that had texts and pictures on them, religious documents, voters’ cards, medical forms from health units, texts written on doors by immunization officials, Christmas messages printed on walls as decoration, dates written on walls to remember when the houses were constructed, letters from family members, and measuring quantities of goods such as food in heaps instead of using standard measures such as kilograms. Examples of some of the documents from families’ home lives are depicted in Figure 2.


Regarding the local cultural resources in the communities, our field visits and observations revealed that all homes were endowed with a variety of untapped sociocultural resources and informal literacy practices. These texts and practices have potential for enhancing literacy learning and teaching efforts in primary school, but had been ignored or underused by literacy teachers as effective pedagogical tools. Some of the cultural resources and informal


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1—Spring 2015 found you reading when we came!” we said. “Yes, I was reading the Holy Bible in my language, and that is the only text I can read,” she said. When we approached the next home, we were struck by a date that was written with mud on one of the walls of the house. The relatively old grass-thatched house belonged to another elderly woman. When we approached her, she tried to kneel down, but we stopped her. In Lugbara culture it is characteristic of village women to kneel down for visitors, especially males, as a sign of respect. When we inquired why the date was on the wall, she turned her face down and shyly replied, “We use it to remember the date when the house was constructed.” This means of recordkeeping was not taught in school, but was instead a local practice. There were many other texts we saw in other homes, such as the one conveying to all Christians a Christmas and New Year message (see Figure 2), a sort of text that made homes convenient places for children to learn literacy.

Figure 2. Photographs of a woman who claims to illiterate surrounded by religious texts; texts written on doors; a house decorated with Christmas and New Year messages; and a date recorded on a wall. One day we visited a woman in her sixties and found her seated on her neat compound reading the Christian Holy Bible (see Figure 2).. She stood up and smiled broadly as she welcomed us warmly to her home. “You have a very beautiful compound,” we remarked. “Thank you, I always try to keep it clean to avoid some diseases spread by house flies,” she replied. When we looked around the homestead, we saw some figures written with chalk on her door and wondered who wrote them and for what purpose. When we tried to find out, she replied, “I did not write it myself.” “Who wrote it?” we inquired. “I have two grandchildren I take care of. One day one lady and two men came from the health center to drop some medicine in the mouths of the children, and they were the ones who wrote those figures,” she explained. “Why don’t you rub them away from your door?” we asked. “No, no, I cannot clean them. They remind me of what happened,” the woman explained while nodding her head in disapproval. “What do you remember about those figures?” we further asked. She replied, “I remember two ticks on the door. I was told the first tick represented the first time the visitors came to drop the medicines and found the two children around, and the second tick represents the second time the visitors returned and gave the children more drops of the medicine.” We asked, “Can you read them?” She turned her face away and said, “I can’t read, I never received education to read.” “But we

Other Literacy Learning Related Inspirational Factors in the Community During our home visits we decided to assess other factors that could help children to learn literacy. We noted a pattern where most children were coming to trading centers to watch films, leading us to look for artifacts that attracted their interest in the community. Through interviews and our informal interactions with pupils in their homes, we learned of cultural tools that children thought would enhance their literacy learning efforts. The common ones they mentioned included computers, mobile phones, audio-visual games, internet, and some education television channels. When asked about the possible TV channels they would be interested in, the majority of the children mentioned channels such as National Geographic and NatGeo World, which they said they cannot access but were told by other kids were very good for learning purposes. The urge to access computers was expressed by pupils from a primary school that housed a Community Library for members of a women’s group called Queens of Heaven, who requested to learn computer skills from a Local Nongovernmental Organization (NGO) that trained communities in how to use their mobile computer


Ngaka, W., & Masaazi, F. M. (2015) / Participatory Literacy Learning in an African Context laboratory. Figure 3 depicts the enthusiasm of the school’s pupils.

fruitful opportunities for aiding the teaching of literacy at various levels (Abiria, 2011; cf. Moll, 2000). Similarly, there were informal practices among the people we observed that could also be used to facilitate the teaching of literacy. We came across instances where women elders were making traditional crafts, which offered others the chance to learn without necessarily being in a formal classroom. In some instances we saw children engaged in learning literacy through traditional dancing, and in others teachers had the children use local materials to develop the letters of the alphabet and use them to learn literacy through singing. Scholars have discussed how some people have come to learn literacy and numeracy informally in the community and have been able to use them to perform complex tasks that ideally would require formal literacy (e.g., Nirantar, 2007). The case of the woman who was able to read religious texts without formal education is one such example. Many of the sociocultural resources were largely untapped. Ugandan literacy teachers have not been able to draw on such resources and local practices in their literacy pedagogy. We attribute this phenomenon to the failure by the society to recognize informal ways of learning and over-concentrating on formal literacy practices that tend to disadvantage those with no formal schooling. We strongly believe that such resources and informal ways of learning should be used to improve literacy instruction in primary schools.

Figure 3. Primary school pupils react to women’s participation in computer training in Yumbe District. Discussion The experiences and perceptions of teachers on phonics and whole language approaches yielded familiar results. The complaints registered by the teachers relating to lack of literature in the Lugbarati language, inadequate training of the teachers to prepare them to teach in mother tongue, and the inability of some teachers to speak the local language fluently, were similar to findings of studies conducted elsewhere. They helped to reaffirm concerns Batre (2010), Abiria (2011), LeDoux (2007), Ssentanda (2014), and Muzoora et al. (2014) highlighted while articulating the strengths and shortcomings associated with the whole language approach and debates surrounding the issue of mother tongue education policy. The study’s contribution comes from demonstrating the challenges involved in trying to teach and learn literacy in Lugbarati under the new language policy in Uganda. The findings regarding this particular issue may help to inform policy makers and programme managers and could cause them to seek measures to address some of the problems that have emerged.

Evidence from what pupils reported or collected and brought to the volunteer teacher research assistants as texts embedded in their homes revealed a rich array of texts with which all household members either directly or indirectly interacted in their everyday activities. These artifacts included religious texts, voter cards, marriage certificates, texts written on walls, newspapers used as wall decorations, and campaign posters. While such materials have been used effectively to teach literacy in other parts of the world (Jacobson et al., 2003; Laniro, 2007; Rogers, 1999), we were unable to identify any serious efforts to use such authentic literacies materials for teaching literacy in Uganda. This oversight raises a warning bell: Programme managers and policymakers must

We came across many sociocultural resources and informal practices in the community that were new to our context. All the homes we visited had some form of cultural resource that could potentially offer


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1—Spring 2015 begin to take advantage of such texts in the community.

training. This problem is reflected in the minimal level of support the field of literacy in Uganda receives, a paucity of attention that negatively affects its teaching Our study has documented other factors that could and learning. Last, but not least, from the standpoint inspire and motivate children to learn literacy, of conventional formal education, literacy is an asset especially their interest in accessing digital literacies, that is only acquired from a formal classroom. As a which raises the issue regarding the role of ICTs in the result, the idea of promoting literacy learning outside current knowledge-based the formal classroom does economies. ICT tools now not sell at all, because offer rich opportunities for people’s literacy practices learning, and their absence in acquired informally do rural areas is synonymous not count in the eyes of with a denial of a right to the society. Therefore, Having children interact with learning. Since we witnessed what we are that the majority of the pupils recommending to elders and their literacy tools in flock to trading centers to facilitate the teaching and an effort to learn literacy based on watch films, we feel that it learning of literacy is could be possible to design unlikely to receive texts embedded in communities some literacy programmes support from various will be a useful strategy to tap on along the lines of what circles in Uganda. This attracts their interest in the limited conception of their prior experiences and community, and this literacy does not align informal knowledge and skills opportunity would enhance with Uganda’s global their literacy learning. This ambition to attain the they have. critical point needs the EFA goals and other government’s attention. Millennium Development Goals and represents a Challenges, Lessons and challenge to overcome in Implications the realms of policy and everyday literacies. In this section, we present some of the limitations associated with the approach adopted in our study, point out some of the recommendations and/or lessons from the study, and highlight the implications for policy and practice for teaching and learning literacy in Uganda. Challenges. Our first challenge associated with the study is that it was crafted out of an intervention of six months, which only left us with four months to try to understand the phenomenon. Our main aim was to attain a rich description of the experiences of the volunteer teacher research assistants with regard to issues of teaching and learning literacy. We believe the study has uncovered issues that offer opportunity for further investigation using other methods.

Lessons learned. This study has generated a number of lessons that could guide efforts to respond to the challenges related to teaching and learning literacy. We conclude that: 1. Most of Uganda’s policies and programmes, such as the mother tongue education policy, are merely copied and pasted from prior policies, probably as a result of political pressure, without a thorough assessment of the local conditions and contexts that could help inform policy makers in their design of interventions to respond to the needs of the target population. 2. There is much emphasis on structure and standards in literacy teaching, learning, and materials development, which influences policy makers and programme managers to ignore the richness and diversity that characterize the world of literacy.

Secondly, the field of literacy is not attractive to many people, and most governments do not give it the serious attention it requires in terms of funding and


Ngaka, W., & Masaazi, F. M. (2015) / Participatory Literacy Learning in an African Context Policymakers thus concentrate more on the formal acquisition of literacy than on practice and usage, leading to a gap between policy and research-based literacy theory. 3. All rural homes are very rich in cultural resources, informal learning practices, and texts that make them convenient sites for literacy learning, but such opportunities have not been adequately explored because of the focus on dominant literacy practices, which make people discount the value of literacy practices acquired informally outside the classroom. 4. Many Ugandan children are now attracted to audio visual technologies whose content is not designed to be educational, as evidenced by the number who go to watch films in trading centers. We believe that a deliberate effort to use such information and communication technologies to mediate literacy learning for children in rural settings would most likely help them to learn literacy more readily. Implications. We believe that the following implications are available from our study of Ugandan literacy practices: 1. Government, policy makers, and programme managers need to finance the construction of local capacity to address challenges facing the literacy sector. This investment should include instituting enabling policies that make access to literacy a right; stepping up efforts to conduct action-oriented research in various aspects of literacy to take advantage of the diversity of cultural resources, practices, and texts embedded in the community to enhance literacy learning and teaching; and developing infrastructure such as community libraries and community learning centers equipped with the necessary ICT tools to increase access to information and knowledge for all in rural settings. Investing in research could greatly help minimize the temptation of cutting and pasting policies without thoroughly assessing the local needs of the people targeted by specific interventions. 2. Policymakers and programme managers should appreciate the dynamism and diversity that characterize the world of literacy and downplay the current focus on rigid structures and standards that


characterize literacy teaching, learning, and materials development. The opportunity offered by the richness and diversity in the world of literacy should be seized to concentrate application, practice, and uses of literacy, rather than the superficial forms of acquisition presently emphasized in schools. Conclusion

This study focused on the exploration of volunteer teacher research assistants’ perceptions regarding the approaches to teaching literacy they are currently exposed to, documentation of the sociocultural resources in the communities that could be used as pedagogical tools to aid literacy teaching and learning, and the consequences of deliberate efforts to involve pupils, parents, and members of the community in collecting texts embedded in homes and with which children interact in their everyday lives. Teachers may draw on the available cultural resources and local practices to improve teaching and learning of literacy among children in primary schools. The lessons documented have potential for addressing pupils’ current literacy developmental levels and the lack of relevant local reading materials being experienced under UPE and the implementation of a mother tongue educational policy in Uganda. The study raises four issues of concern in promoting literacy for pupils under the mother tongue education policy in Uganda: teachers’ concerns and dissatisfaction with the whole language strategy to teaching literacy; inadequate use of sociocultural resources, informal learning practices, and texts in the community to aid literacy teachers; the focus on rigid structures and standards in literacy learning; and lack of capacity to engage in continual actionoriented research to understand the emerging dimensions of literacy appropriate to the challenges posed. Serious and sustainable investment in building local capacity for effectively conducting research in new dimensions of literacy using ethnographic lenses to understand the local contexts of the community, teach literacy, and develop relevant local reading materials to aid literacy instructions in primary schools is urgently needed to address the challenge of the lack of locally relevant literature for teachers to facilitate the teaching and learning of the Lugbara language. The capacity


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1—Spring 2015 building should also stress the issues of training in the newly approved Lugbara orthography, which appears to be too complex to be grasped by the teachers. Attempts to seek solutions to children’s inability to develop the required literacy competencies should extend beyond classrooms and include establishing as well as supporting community learning centers in line with the Oakyama 2014 commitment (Kominkan-Community Learning Centres International Conference on Education for Sustainable Development, 2014) to support learning of all forms to promote sustainable development. Efforts should be made to encourage more empirical studies in the field of literacy to enable people to understand the dynamic, complex, and diverse nature of the field of literacy so as to ensure that all forms of literacy count, irrespective of which sites they were acquired from (Street, 1994, 2003, 2011). Considering the motivational role that ICTs plays in children’s learning,

policymakers need to promote multiple literacies, including digital literacies for rural schools. Effective strategies for inculcating a reading culture among the population, including setting up community libraries and community learning centers as well as equipping them with various ICT-related tools, need to be sought as a way to increase access to information by all members of the community to effectively function in the current information and knowledge based economy. The main advantage of approaching literacy teaching and learning from a social utility perspective, foregrounded in authentic real literacies materials, is that the approach will lay deliberate emphasis on practice and uses of literacy rather than on the parroting of a language in school. By focusing on seeking solutions to challenges associated with teaching and learning beyond the formal school classrooms, it will be possible to make a significant contribution toward the attainment of universal Ugandan literacy, as it will focus on everyone in the household and community.

References Abiria, M. D. (2011). Exploring cultural resources as pedagogical tools for language education: A case of two primary schools in Uganda. Unpublished MA thesis: Faculty of Graduate Studies (Literacy Education) of the University British Columbia, Vancouver. Anguyo, I. (2013, March 19). 67% of Ugandans vulnerable to poverty. New Vision. Retrieved from http://www.newvision.co.ug/news/640813-67-of-ugandans-vulnerable-to-poverty.html Arnove, R. F., & Graff, H. J. (1987). Introduction. In R. F. Arnove & H. J. Graff (Eds.), National literacy campaigns: Historical and comparative perspectives (pp. 1-28). New York, NY: Plenum. Barton, D., & Hamilton, M. (2000). Literacy practices. In D. Barton, M. Hamilton & R. Ivanič (Eds.), Situated literacies: Reading and writing in context (pp. 7-15). New York, NY.: Routledge. Batre, R. (2009). 72% of women in Arua still illiterate. Uganda Radio Network. Retrieved from http://ugandaradionetwork.com/a/story.php?s=20386 Batre, R. (2010). Rate of school drop out in Arua hits alarming levels. Uganda Radio Network. Retrieved from http://ugandaradionetwork.com/a/story.php?s=26658 Batre, R. (2012). Lack of orthography affects teaching of mother languages in West Nile. Uganda Radio Network. Retrieved from http://ugandaradionetwork.com/a/story.php?s=40496


Ngaka, W., & Masaazi, F. M. (2015) / Participatory Literacy Learning in an African Context Baynham, M. (1995). Literacy practices: Investigating literacy in social contexts. New York, NY: Longman. Bomengen, M. (2010, September 23). What is the “whole language” approach to teaching reading? Reading Horizons Blog. Retrieved from http://www.readinghorizons.com/blog/post/2010/09/23/ What-is-theWhole-Languagee-Approach-to-Teaching-Reading.aspx Bound, M., & Campbell, J. (2012). Ethics in qualitative research: Gatekeepers. Retrieved from https://www.academia.edu/1526314/Ethics_in_Qualitative_Research_Gatekeepers Boyatzis, R. (1998). Transforming qualitative information: Thematic analysis and code development. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3 (2), 77-101. Retrieved from http://eprints.uwe.ac.uk/11735/2/thematic_analysis_revised Brett, E. A. (1992). Providing for the rural poor: Institutional decay and transformation in Uganda. Kampala, UG: Fountain Publishers. Campbell, J. (2012). Ethics in Qualitative Research: Gatekeepers. Online and retrieved from https://www.academia.edu/1526314/Ethics_in_Qualitative_Research_Gatekeepers Chambliss, D. F., & Schutt, R. K. (Eds.) (2010). Making sense of social world: Methods of investigation (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Cheffy, I. P. (2011). Implications of local literacy practices for literacy programmes in a multilingual community in northern Cameroon. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 41(2), 247–260. Chilisa, B., & Preece, J. (2005). Research methods for adult educators in Africa. Hamburg, DE: UNESCO Institute for Education. Cohen, V., L., & Cowen, J. E. (2008). Literacy for children in an information age: Teaching reading, writing, and thinking. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. Christenbury, L., Bomer, R., & Smagorinsky, P. (Eds.) (2009). Handbook of adolescent literacy research. New York, NY: Guilford. Creswell, J. (2007). Qualitative inquiry & research design: Choosing among five approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Daly, J., Kellehear, A., & Gliksman, M. (1997). The public health researcher: A methodological approach. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. Fereday, J., & Muir-Cochrane, E. (2006). Demonstrating rigor using thematic analysis: A hybrid approach of inductive and deductive coding and theme development. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 5(1). Retrieved from http://www.ualberta.ca/~iiqm/backissues/5_1/pdf/fereday.pdf Gonzalez, N., Moll, L. C., & Amanti, C. (Eds.). (2005). Funds of knowledge: Theorizing practices in households, communities, and classrooms. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1—Spring 2015 Guest, G., Bunce, A., & Johnson, L. (2006). How many interviews are enough?: An experiment with data saturation and variability. Field Methods, 18, 59–82. Harris, T. L., & Hodges, R. E. (Eds.). (1995). The literacy dictionary: The vocabulary of reading and writing. Newark, DE: International Reading Association. Jacobson, E., Degener, S., & Purcell-Gates, V. (2003). Creating authentic materials and activities for the adult literacy classroom: A handbook for practitioners. NCSALL teaching and training materials. Boston, MA: National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy, World Education. Johnson, F. (2001). The utility of phonics generalizations: Let’s take another look at Clymer’s conclusions. The Reading Teacher, 55, 132-143. Kelly, K. (1999). Calling it a day: Reaching conclusions in qualitative research. In M. Terre Blanche & K. Durrheim (Eds.), Research in practice: Applied methods in the social sciences (pp. 421 – 437). Cape Town, ZA: University of Cape Town Press. Egan, K. (2009). Students’ development in theory and practice: The doubtful role of research. In H. Daniels, H. Lauder & J. Porter (Eds.), Educational theories, cultures, and learning: A critical perspective (pp. 54-67). New York, NY: Routledge. Retrieved from https://www.sfu.ca/~egan/HER.html Kielmann, M. (2012). The ethnographic lens. In L. Gilson (Ed.), Health policy and Systems research: A methodology reader (pp. 235-252). Geneva, CH: Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research, World Health Organization. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/alliance-hpsr/resources/ alliancehpsr_hpsrreaderpart4_3.pdf Kominkan-Community Learning Centres International Conference on Education for Sustainable Development. (2014). Okayama commitment 2014: Promoting ESD beyond DESD through community-based learning. Okayama City, JP: Author. Retrieved from http://www.kominkan-clc.jp/upload/topics/12/file.pdf Krashen, S. (2002). Defending whole language: The limits of phonics instruction and the efficacy of whole language instruction. Reading Improvement, 39(1), 32-42. Laniro, S. (2007). What are authentic materials? Authentic Materials Professional Development Fact Sheet, No. 1. Sacramento, CA: California Adult Literacy Professional Development Project (CALPRO). Retrieved from http://www.calpro-online.org/documents/AuthenticMaterialsFinal.pdf LeDoux, A. (2007). Investigating the implementation of whole language: Strengths and weaknesses. Unpublished MSC thesis, School of Education, Dominican University of California. Lincoln, Y., & Guba, E. G. (1985). Naturalistic inquiry. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Lyster, E. (1992). An overview of the debates. In B. Hutton (Ed.), Adult basic education in South Africa: Literacy, English as a second language and numeracy (pp. 9–47). Cape Town, SA: Oxford University Press. Maddox, B., & Esposito, L. (2013). Literacy inequalities, mediation and the public good: A case study of physical proximity and social distance in Nepal. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 34(2), 243-261.


Ngaka, W., & Masaazi, F. M. (2015) / Participatory Literacy Learning in an African Context Meinert, L. (2009). Hopes in friction: Schooling, health, and everyday life in Uganda. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing. Mitchell, J. (1984). Typicality and the case study. In R. F. Ellen (Ed.), Ethnographic research: A guide to general conduct (pp. 238–41). New York, NY: Academic Press. Moll, L. C. (2000). Inspired by Vygotsky: Ethnographic experiments in education. In C. D. Lee & P. Smagorinsky (Eds.), Vygotskian perspectives on literacy research (pp. 256-268). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. Muzoora, M., Terry, D. R., & Asiimwe, A. A. (2014). The valorisation of African languages and policies in the African education systems: A case of Uganda. Universal Journal of Educational Research, 2(1), 42-50. Nabi, R., Rogers, A., & Street, B. (2009). Hidden literacies: Ethnographic studies of literacy and numeracy practices. Bury St. Edmunds, U.K.: Uppingham Press. Nirantar: A Centre for Gender and Education. (2007). Exploring the everyday literacies: Ethnographic approaches to literacy and numeracy. New Delhi, IN: Author. Parliament of the Republic of Uganda. (2011). New HIV prevalence rates alarming as MPs are rallied to join the fight. Kampala, UG: Author. Retrieved from http://www.parliament.go.ug/new/index.php/aboutparliament/parliamentary-news/136-new-hiv-prevalence-rates-alarming-as-mps-are-rallied-to-join-thefight Pearson, P. D. (2004). The reading wars. Educational Policy, 18(1), 216–252. 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 Prinsloo, M., & Breier, M. (Eds.). (1996). The social uses of literacy: Theory and practice in contemporary South Africa. Amsterdam, NL: John Benjamins. Purcell-Gates, V., Degener, S. C., Jackobson, E., & Soler, M. (2002). Impact of authentic adult literacy instruction on literacy practices. Reading Research Quarterly, 37(1), 70-92. Rogers, A. (1999). Improving the quality of adult literacy programmes in developing countries: The ‘real literacies’ approach. International Journal of Educational Development, 19. 219-234. Rogers, A., & Horrocks, N. (2010). Teaching adults (4th ed.). New York, NY: Open University Press. Rogers, A., & Street, B. (2012). Adult literacy and development: Stories from the field. Leicester, U.K.: National Institute of Adult Continuing Education. Rogoff, B. (1990). Apprenticeship in thinking: Cognitive development in sociocultural activity. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. Saldana, J. (2009). The coding manual for qualitative researchers. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1—Spring 2015 Scribner, S., & Cole, M. (1978). Literacy without schooling: Testing for intellectual effects. Harvard Educational Review, 48, 448–461. Smagorinsky, P. (2008). The method section as conceptual epicenter in constructing social science research reports. Written Communication, 25, 389-411. Smagorinsky, P. (Ed.) (2014). Teaching dilemmas and solutions in content-area literacy, grades 6-12. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin. Ssekamwa, J. C. (1997). History and development of education in Uganda. Kampala, UG: Foundation Publishers. Ssentanda, M. (2014). The challenges of teaching reading in Uganda: Curriculum guidelines and language policy viewed from the classroom. APPLES—Journal of Applied Language Studies, 8(2), 1–22. Street, B. V. (1994). What is meant by local literacies? Language and Education, 8(1-2), 9–17. Street, B. V. (1995). Social literacies: Critical approaches to literacy in development, ethnography and education. London, U.K.: Longman. Street, B. V. (2003). What’s “new” in New Literacy Studies? Critical approaches to literacy in theory and practice. Current Issues in Comparative Education, 5(2), 77-91. Street, B. V. (2011). Literacy inequalities in theory and practice: The power to name and define. International Journal of Educational Development, 31(6), 580–586. Uganda Bureau of Statistics. (2007). Projections of demographic trends in Uganda 2007-2017. Kampala, UG: Author. Uganda Rural Literacy and Community Development Association. (2007). Integrated intergenerational literacy project (IILP). Kampala, UG: Author. Retrieved January 9, 2012 from http://www.unesco.org/ uil/literacyprogrammes/14a_en.html United Nations Development Programme. (2005). Uganda human development report 2005: Linking environment to human development: A deliberate choice. Kampala, UG: Author. Retrieved from http://hdr.undp.org/sites/default/files/uganda_2005_en.pdf United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. (1997). Hamburg declaration on adult learning, 1997. Hamburg, DE: Author. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. (2004). The plurality of literacy and its implications for policies and programmes. Paris, FR: Author. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. (2006). EFA global monitoring report 2006. Education for all: Literacy for life. Paris, FR: Author. Retrieved from http://www.unesco.org/new/en/ education/themes/leading-the-international-agenda/efareport/reports/2006-literacy/ United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. (2009-2014). Literacy. Paris, FR: Author. Retrieved from http://www.unesco.org/new/en/education/themes/education-building-blocks/literacy/


Ngaka, W., & Masaazi, F. M. (2015) / Participatory Literacy Learning in an African Context Verenikina, I. (2008). Scaffolding and learning: Its role in nurturing new learners. In P. Kell, W. Vialle, D. Konza, & G. Vogl (Eds.), Learning and the learner: Exploring learning for new times (pp. 161-180). New South Wales, AU: Faculty of Education, University of Wollongong. Retrieved from http://ro.uow.edu.au/ cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1043&context=edupapers Virginia, B., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77-101. Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. M. Cole, V. JohnSteiner, S. Scribner, & E. Souberman (Eds.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Wagner, B. J. (1989). Whole language: Integrating the language arts and much more. Bloomington, IN: ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading and Communication Digest. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/ fulltext/ED313675.pdf Wood, D. J., Bruner, J. S., & Ross, G. (1976). The role of tutoring in problem solving. Journal of Child Psychiatry and Psychology, 17(2), 89-100.


Testimoniando en Nepantla: Using Testimonio as a Pedagogical Tool for Exploring Embodied Literacies and Bilingualism Christina Passos DeNicolo Mónica Gónzalez ABSTRACT: This research study examines the use of testimonio, a narrative of marginalization, in a third grade language arts classroom. Through a Chicana/Latina feminist framework, which prioritizes theorizing from the body, the authors explore the process of sharing and witnessing testimonio as an embodied literacy practice. Data sources for this qualitative case study consist of written work, oral recordings, and interviews at the end of the data collection period. Through data analysis, students’ embodied knowledge was evident in their reading and writing of testimonio. The findings indicate that emergent bilingual Latina/o students found themselves within a contradictory yet transformative space as they made sense of the politics of bilingualism alongside their bilingual identities. In creating a space for students to reflect and contemplate their lives between worlds, they were able to discuss painful experiences and reframe them towards transformative ends. As such, testimoniando, the process of sharing the narratives, became a pedagogical tool to identify nepantla, the in-between space, where students negotiated the productive tensions of their language learning processes.

Key words: Embodied Literacies, Testimonio, Emergent Bilinguals, Nepantla, Latina/o Dr. Christina P. DeNicolo is an Assistant Professor of Bilingual and Bicultural Education at Wayne State University, where she teaches courses on bilingual and ESL program development, methodology, and assessment. Her research examines how sociopolitical contexts shape the implementation of bilingual education programs, and, in turn, how the programs can impact the literacy development of bilingual students who are developing proficiency in two or more languages. Recent publications include DeNicolo, C. P. (2014). ¡Fantástico!’ Valuing student knowledge through the morning message. The Reading Teacher, 68(2), 135-144 and DeNicolo, C. P., & García, G. E. (2014). Examining policies and practices: Two districts’ responses to federal reforms and their use of language arts assessments with emergent bilinguals (K-3). 63rd Yearbook of the Literacy Research Association, 229-242. She can be contacted at christina.denicolo@wayne.edu Mónica González is a doctoral student in Literacy Studies in the School of Education at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Her research focuses on the language and literacy practices of Latino/a youth in non-traditional learning spaces such as afterschool programs and community centers. Additionally, she examines how Chicana/Latina feminist theoretical approaches to education can provide an alternative understanding to the dominant ways that Latino/a students are positioned within the institution of Education. She can be contacted at monica.gonzalez@colorado.edu

Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 Michelle M. Falter, Principal Editor—http://jolle.coe.uga.edu

DeNicolo , C. P., & González, M. (2015) / Testimoniando en Nepantla

While demographic shifts and accountability requirements have resulted in an increased awareness of Latina/o students’ linguistic diversity and academic development in U.S. schools, Latina/o emergent bilinguals (García, Kleifgen, & Falchi, 2008) continue to be defined by labels that devalue the skills and knowledge they possess in their home languages (García, 2009). Labels such as English language learner (ELL) and limited English proficient prioritize the English language over other forms of knowledge and categorize children solely in terms of their English proficiency (Cuero, 2009). For elementary school students, these labels and the associated measures of progress, such as standardized English language proficiency tests, often communicate to students that the linguistic knowledge they acquire outside of school is not useful for school learning and may impede their ability to perform well in school (Zacher Pandya, 2011). These perceptions influence the value that students hold for their own abilities and the knowledge of their communities.

Schneider, 2013; Hughes-Decatur, 2011; Johnson & Vasudevan, 2012). Scholars have found that bilingual students utilize a range of language practices outside of school, some that are co-constructed with family members and essential for navigating daily life (González et al., 1995; Orellana, 2009). These complex ways that cultural and linguistic knowledge is shared may surpass school-based expectations for literacy (Orellana, 2009). Hybrid spaces (Guitérrez et al., 1999) enable the use of multiple language varieties and languages as meditational tools for academic work and opportunities for enacting agency (García & Gaddes, 2012). Classroom instruction that promotes students’ use of bilingual language practices or translanguaging (Garcia, 2009) facilitates students’ accessing of their full repertoires of knowledge for literacy learning (Hornberger & Link, 2012; Velasco & García, 2014). In this article, we discuss a qualitative project that builds on these studies to examine Latina/o emergent bilingual students’ participation in a writing unit that enabled them to engage their cultural and linguistic resources.

This phenomenon also occurs in schools with bilingual programs that use students’ home languages for content and literacy instruction, given that these program also experience similar political pressures due to the accountability frameworks established through the No Child Left Behind Act (No Child Left Behind [NCLB], 2003; Menken & Solorza, 2014). Regardless of the programmatic approach for using students’ home languages (i.e., limited use of home language in transitional programs or primary language of instruction in two-way immersion programs), the prioritization of English and Eurocentric literacy curriculum diminishes the significance of students’ home, community, and lived knowledge for learning (Delgado Bernal, 2002; Faltis, 2013; Hornberger & Link, 2012). In other words, even when the intent of the program is for students to develop bilingualism and biliteracy, the implementation of the program and curriculum may be subtractive (Valenzuela, 1999) in nature. This results in limiting students’ opportunities to tap into and engage their embodied knowledge: the literacies, feelings and understandings that they carry within themselves, and are shaped by, and that inform their experiences, relationships, and identities as well as the performance of those identities (Branscombe &

This view of language as dynamic and responsive pushes against traditional binaries of languages, cultures, and identities as separate entities (Broomaert, 2013) allowing for reconceptualization of literacy instruction. We seek to explore deeper understandings of language and identity through testimonio, a narrative of marginalization, and how this genre enabled the students to access their embodied literacies and disrupt dominant ideologies (e.g., English-centered, English as superior) regarding the Spanish language and literacy learning. Dominant ideologies position the English language as the priority for emergent bilinguals (Bartolomé, 2008) and are maintained through school language policies and practices (Yosso, 2005; Fránquiz, Salazar, & DeNicolo, 2011). Testimonio, a genre that emerged in Latin America, can be defined as personal accounts of struggle that are shared to inform, indicate solidarity, or to shed light on oppression (Elenes, 2000; Latina Feminist Group, 2001). For Elenes (2013), testimonio is an “embodied narrative” (p. 137), told or written by individuals who have experienced oppression and


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015

seek to activate change through communicating their testimonio to a wider audience. Testimoniando, the process of sharing one’s testimonio, can involve powerful healing through the collective identification that emerges when struggles are voiced to those with a shared understanding (Elenes, 2013; Pérez Huber, 2009). This process can also function as a call to action through bringing awareness of oppression to those who do not share a lived or experiential understanding.

Theoretical Framework We draw on Chicana/Latina feminist theories and methodological approaches as a lens to examine the ways that testimonio functions as a pedagogical tool to engage students’ embodied literacies. Chicana/Latina feminist scholarship has challenged the perspectives and ideologies of Eurocentric American culture by highlighting other[ed] sites and processes of knowledge production such as the brown body and the home (Cruz, 2001; Delgado Bernal, 1998; Saavedra, 2011; Saavedra & Nymark, 2008). Within the institution of education, the theories and experiences of those in power have been privileged and legitimized while other[ed] epistemologies and theoretical frames have been devalued, dismissed, and silenced. As such, Chicana/Latina feminists have theorized that embodied knowledge is produced and shared among the bodies and generations of women of color to understand, critique, and intervene in the schooling of Latina/o students. Chicana/Latina feminist theoretical perspectives in education interrogate ways that Eurocentrism maintains dominant, oppressive ideologies embedded in schools and continues to position marginalized students in deficit ways (Delgado Bernal, 1998; 2002; Saavedra, 2011; Yosso, 2005). Towards transformative ends, Chicana/Latina feminist theories in education work to reposition the knowledge of Chicano/a/Latina/o students by connecting these marginalized ways of knowing to the well-developed systems of historical and community knowledge that they possess.

In the educational research literature, Chicana/Latina1 feminist scholars have employed testimonio as an instrument for vocalizing experiences of marginalization and injustice in higher education (Elenes, 2000, 2013; Latina Feminist Group, 2001; Perez Huber, 2009) to bring forth the voices of bilingual teachers (Prieto & Villenas, 2012) and highlight transformative instructional practices that highlight the knowledge of culturally and linguistically diverse students (Fránquiz, Salazar, & DeNicolo, 2011). Additionally, the need for further research on testimonios in education has been expressed, particularly the need to understand the potential for language arts classrooms at the elementary level (Saavedra, 2011). Purpose of the Study The purpose of this qualitative study was to examine the ways that testimonio functioned as a decolonial method (Carillo et al., 2010; Delgado Bernal, Burciaga, & Flores Carmona, 2012) in a language arts classroom with emergent bilingual students. This study extends the work of Chicana/Latina feminist scholars by exploring the possibilities of testimonio to counter the ideological messages that privilege English for demonstrating knowledge and learning at the elementary level. In the following section, we discuss the frameworks that we utilized to explore testimonios as an instructional practice that disrupts a deficit perspective regarding language and learning and engages students’ embodied literacies across their developing languages.

Testimonio strongly aligns with the Chicana feminist tradition of theorizing from the body, from the experiences, memories, familial history, and actions to break silences and name injustices to motivate social change (Delgado Bernal et al., 2012). We understand the process of giving testimonio, called testimoniando, as an embodied literacy practice that disrupts the notion of the mind-body split, and instead engages what Lara (2002) has conceptualized as the bodymindspirit. The genre is most notably recognized for its roots in Latin America, particularly for its use in documenting and voicing experiences of


The term Chicana/Latina encompasses the scholarly contributions that emerged from Chicana feminist work while also recognizing the relevance and connection with Latinas (Villenas et al., 2006).


DeNicolo , C. P., & González, M. (2015) / Testimoniando en Nepantla people who have faced marginalization, persecution, education. Working with young people in community and oppression by governments and sociopolitical education programs within alternative schools in Los forces (Burgos-Debray, 1984). Testimonio continues to Angeles, she explains how testimonio became a be framed within sociopolitical contexts fueled by necessary tool in the understanding of everyday urgency, resistance, and experiences in relation to the survival to address institutional sociopolitical contexts in Testimonio becomes a vehicle forces that sustain which these students were marginalization (Beverly, 2005). living. Although these studies to construct and share on testimonio focus on older knowledge across generations, Different from traditional youth and adults, Saavedra narrative, life stories, or (2011) specifically calls for revealing the epistemological autobiography, testimonio calls education scholars to consider maps of Chicanas/Latinas for collective action through the testimonio for elementary aged (Latina Feminist Group, 2001). voicing of personal struggles children arguing that children situated within larger are continuously placed at the Testimonio, thus, is a practice sociopolitical contexts that margins, and that children of of knowledge production transcend time, place, and color, thus, “are the ultimate location (Delgado Bernal et al., subalterns” (Saavedra, 2011, p. where the individual “I” stands 2012; Latina Feminist Group, 267). These scholars have for the collective “we” (Elenes, 2001). Many Chicana feminist shown the possibilities of scholars have argued that this testimonio for the teaching and 2000, p. 111). genre provides an opportunity learning of young people, to “articulate and disseminate” through a focus on the political positions held in response to intersecting narratives and voices of those who have been silenced oppressions (Elenes, 2000, p. 106). Testimonio and ignored. becomes a vehicle to construct and share knowledge across generations, revealing the epistemological Nepantla maps of Chicanas/Latinas (Latina Feminist Group, 2001). Testimonio, thus, is a practice of knowledge Central to our analysis of testimonio as an embodied production where the individual “I” stands for the literacy practice is Anzaldúa’s (2002; 1987/2007) collective “we” (Elenes, 2000, p. 111). conceptualization of nepantla—the Nahuatl word meaning “in-between space” (Keating, 2006, p. 9)—to Much of the work of Chicana/Latina feminist scholars reflect on the ways that those living in the margins has created a space for testimonio to be shift between liminal spaces, ideologies, and cultures. conceptualized both pedagogically and Nepantla, thus, can be understood as a transitional methodologically to bring forth the voices of Latinas, and transformative space where those living on the Chicanas, children, queer people, people of color, and margins are positioned and, thus, are open to other marginalized groups (Benmayor 2012; Cruz, experience multiple perspectives and forms of 2012; Figueroa, 2013; Pérez Huber, 2009; Saavedra, knowledge. Through this positioning, various ways of 2011). For example, Figueroa (2013) used testimonio knowing come into conflict, and we begin to question with undocumented, migrant mothers living in the the “basic ideas, tenets, and identities inherited from United States to speak to the ways in which these [our] family, [our] education, and [our] different women navigated hostile, anti-immigrant discourses cultures” (p. 558). We develop a new sense of related to the legal system. Testimonios, for these awareness and begin to “see through” the competing women, as mothers of mixed status families, served as ideologies that surround us (p. 559). Anzaldúa (2002) a way to strategically participate in a legal system that explains that here is where we are “torn between denied them human and citizenship rights. ways,” (p. 558)—stretched beyond our own Cruz’s (2012) work with LGBTQ youth is another epistemologies to make sense of ourselves and what example of the possibilities of testimonio within we know (Burciaga, 2010). Nepantla, then, becomes a


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 space of possibility where we transition and shift as we move towards consciousness.

The transitional bilingual education (TBE) program (Torres-Guzman & Gomez, 2009) at Planas Elementary had evolved over the years and several of the bilingual teachers had helped raise awareness in the community regarding the benefits of native language instruction for students’ academic development. The (TBE) program was considered a late-exit model. This meant that beginning in kindergarten students received 80 percent of instruction in Spanish. Spanish was the language of instruction for all core content areas; art, gym, and music classes were taught in English. The bilingual teachers also provided additional English as a second language support in the classroom, most frequently by teaching one of the academic subjects in English, although this varied based on the grade level and teacher. Under this TBE program model, the percentage of English instruction was to increase each year and in the third grade, students were expected to have approximately 30 percent of their instruction in English. Due to many factors associated with the accountability framework set forth by NCLB, the program model shifted in the fall of 2010 when Lydia Perales, the third grade bilingual teacher, was directed to conduct language arts instruction solely in English.

Nepantla is a space that we inhabit in the process of being and becoming that allows for both selfreflection and conocimiento (Anzaldúa, 2002)—a shift in consciousness; our worldviews are shattered and we are left open to make sense of competing cultures and belief systems. Keating (2006) has posited that Anzaldúa’s conceptualization of nepantla can be thought of as a site for dis-identification and transformation where “we dis-identify with existing beliefs, social structures, and models of identity; [and] by doing so we are able to transform these existing conditions” (p. 9). In other words, our deep reflections move us along through a journey towards selfawareness, enabling us to maintain what is useful and discard what is problematic. Due to this, nepantla can be a painful and messy space. For marginalized identities and bodies, it is a liminal space used to negotiate competing cultures, borders, histories, and realities—physical, lived, created, and imagined. In considering the complex experiences of Latina/o students in U.S. schools, often emergent bilinguals with immigrant familial histories, nepantla becomes a theoretical tool for examining the painful, yet often transformative tensions that provide them with a critical awareness of their schooling.

Participants Lydia Perales, the third grade teacher, had taught fifth grade for several years prior to teaching third grade. She came to the United States as an adult from South America and learned English as a second language. She obtained her Master’s in Education and bilingual endorsement while teaching in the bilingual program and was very committed to ensuring that students had access to Spanish language instruction. The shift in the program model to all-English instruction was one of the reasons why Lydia was interested in identifying instructional approaches that would allow her to provide students with learning experiences that were grounded in and connected to what they knew. She felt the writing unit on memoir lent itself to exploring ways for students to reflect on their linguistic knowledge and bicultural identities. There were 19 students in the third grade class in the 2010-2011 academic year, and most of them had been in the bilingual program since kindergarten. The majority of the students (18) were of Mexican descent and self-identified as Mexican or Mexican American,

Method This qualitative study explored the use of testimonio in a third grade language arts class and was part of a collective case study (Stake, 1995) examining bilingual programs and instructional practices in the Midwestern region of the United States. The study took place in the spring of the 2010-2011 academic year at Planas Elementary (all names and locations are pseudonyms), the school that housed the only bilingual program in the mid-sized district for students who were identified as English learners and spoke Spanish. At the time of the study, 237 students were enrolled at Planas, 46.8 percent identified as Latina/o, 35.9 percent African American, 8 percent Asian, 5.1 percent European American or White, and 4.2 percent identified as representing two or more groups. The percentage of students identified as “limited English proficient” was 40.5 percent.


DeNicolo , C. P., & González, M. (2015) / Testimoniando en Nepantla and one student was of Guatemalan descent. Out of the 19 students, 14 participated in the research study, nine girls and five boys. All of the study participants were of Mexican descent, emergent bilinguals, with a range of English language proficiency levels and use of Spanish and English outside of school. While only 14 students participated in the study, all of the students in the third grade class received the same instruction across the writing unit.

Data Sources and Analysis To understand the ways that testimonio functioned as a pedagogical tool to disrupt deficit ideologies surrounding the students’ linguistic and cultural knowledge, ethnographic methods were used for data collection. We documented the students’ engagement across one unit of writing instruction through participant observation that took place four times a week across the four last weeks of the school year. Each of the 16 participant observation sessions lasted from one to two hours. The majority of the sessions occurred during the last hour of the morning before the students went to lunch, which was the time allotted for writing instruction. During each visit to the classroom, our roles as participant observers varied between limited participation to higher levels of participation across the span of the research project (Spradley, 1980).

Researcher Positionality Chicana/Latina feminist methodologies highlight the role of cultural intuition in research (Delgado Bernal, 1998) while also questioning positivistic approaches to data collection that position study participants as subjects understood only through the eyes of the researchers. As researchers, we brought into the research project our own subjectivities, lenses, and histories that shaped and reshaped the ways we looked at the testimonio unit, language acquisition, and learning in this third grade classroom. Chicana/Latina scholars continue to resist the binary of the insider/outsider, recognizing a multiplicity and complexity in identities and positions in relation to various institutions, like education (Tellez, 2005; Villenas, 1996).

As Christina had worked closely with the bilingual program over the years, she had visited the classroom many times prior to the start of the study and was often invited to attend events at the school. Lydia’s interest in collaborating was a natural continuation of this relationship. Our roles in the classroom reflected the mutual respect and understanding that had developed over time. Daily informal conversations with Lydia assisted us in reflecting on and clarifying our roles, and documenting our interpretations of the students’ engagement and learning.

While we both identify as Latinas, our histories differ in many ways from one another and from the participants in the study but inform our sense-making of language learning and schooling. As a Brazilian American and former bilingual teacher, Christina was aware of the differences between her family’s immigration stories, schooling experiences, and language learning and those of the students in Lydia’s third grade classroom. She had worked with the bilingual program for several years prior to conducting the study, and that provided her with insight into the complexity of teaching and learning at the school. While Mónica identifies as Chicana and shared many cultural practices with the student participants in the study, her experiences of being third generation and navigating White suburban schools with little to no cultural and linguistic diversity varied greatly from the transitional bilingual program at Planas. Our lived and professional understandings of bilingualism and on-going reflection contributed to the overall study.

Data were collected in the form of observational field notes of whole class, small group, and peer discussions, artifacts in the form of student writing from across the unit as well as copies of five writings assignments from across the school year, and interviews. Audio recordings were used to capture whole group discussions regarding the writing of testimonios and the students’ oral sharing of their testimonios. Informal interviews with the classroom teacher occurred prior to the start of the study and weekly during the course of the project (Spradley, 1980), and one semi-structured interview (Merriam, 2009) was conducted at the end of the testimonio unit. Interviews were conducted with 10 students at the end of the study. The students were selected based on their interest in talking about their learning and their availability. At the end of the following school year,


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 seven of the 10 students who were interviewed initially were interviewed a second time to gain a sense of their recollections of the writing unit as well as their experiences in the fourth grade. All semi-structured interviews were audio recorded and transcribed.

writing and providing the opportunity to learn from Latina/o university students. Christina communicated her interest in examining how testimonios in the language arts classroom could function as an identity text (Cummins & Early, 2011) and a tool to examine the students’ embodied literacies surrounding bilingualism and learning. Montero et al. (2013) write, “Identity texts showcase the intellectual, literary, and creative talents of Aboriginal youth, and in so doing, they challenge and repudiate the devaluation of student and community identities in most mainstream schools” (p.79). Lydia discussed the objectives for the curricular unit and they outlined the focus for each of the weeks of the project. Christina then invited three Latina graduate students who had all taken a course with her as their instructor the previous semester to write testimonios that reflected their experiences with bilingualism and schooling to be read by Lydia’ third grade students.

Data Analysis We began data analysis by reflecting on the research questions that guided the study: What are the ways that students’ cultural and linguistic knowledge is evident in their oral and written testimonios? What are the ways students’ testimonios reflect their embodied literacies? Reflecting on these questions led us to then look at the ways the students formed self-to-text connections with the literature and testimonios that were read, the languages used in writing and discussing, and the ways students engaged in the activities across the testimonio unit. Next, we identified patterns within the categories that emerged and compared the patterns across data sets (i.e. interview transcriptions, student work, field notes). Thus, the guiding questions for analysis became: How do the students’ oral and written testimonios highlight their embodied literacies? What are the ways the students’ testimonios function as a decolonial tool? What are the productive tensions and transformative nature of nepantla? We then reexamined the data sets to identify the ways the students’ discussions and writing challenged dominant ideologies regarding language, knowledge production, and academic writing. Content analysis (Strauss & Corbin, 1990) was used to examine the students’ written testimonios as described above. From this cyclical reexamination, themes were identified and the data was examined once again to ensure that the themes accurately portrayed what the students were identifying through their written and oral testimonios and responses.

At the onset of the unit, the class read and discussed the autobiographical picture book, La Mariposa, by Francisco Jiménez (1998) to help the students understand the purpose and potential of testimonio. La Mariposa [The Butterfly] recounts the narrative of Francisco, the main character’s first experiences navigating the all-English context of school and trying to understand his teacher and peers. While the students did not share the migrant experiences of the main character in the text, they identified with the struggles the main character faced while learning English and trying to fit into a new school. After responding to La Mariposa, the class read and listened to the testimonios written by the three Chicana graduate students. The testimonios were written with the third grade audience in mind and addressed their experiences with bilingualism and language learning. The third grade class, along with the teacher and researchers, engaged in discussions about the testimonios. Similar to when reading La Mariposa, students were invited to form connections, identify feelings, and discuss times that they were reminded of when listening to the testimonios. The final part of the unit focused on the students writing their own testimonios. Across several class sessions, the students developed ideas and recollected memories that represented the lived truths of their experiences learning language and becoming

Facilitating a Process of Testimoniando Prior to the start of the study, Lydia shared her goals for student learning across the last writing unit in the school district curricular sequence, which was memoir. She was very interested in providing her students with access to literature by Latina/o authors, modeling how to draw on their bilingualism in their


DeNicolo , C. P., & González, M. (2015) / Testimoniando en Nepantla bilingual as Latina/o students within the context of U.S. schools. They worked in small groups to share their ideas and write the drafts of their testimonios.

held within the bodymindspirit (Lara, 2002). Together, the students recognized the collective nature of testimonio and were able to be in solidarity with one another as they discussed the tensions and transformative shifts of becoming bilingual Latina/o students.

Throughout the testimonio unit, the students engaged in what Pérez Huber (2009) calls testimoniando, or the process of sharing testimonio. For the third grade students, this became the process of reading, writing, sharing and witnessing testimonio. Across the unit, the students shared pieces of themselves with each other, inviting witnesses to their narratives, and participated in a collective and powerful process that promoted unity and healing (Figueroa, 2013). Students engaged in this process through (a) responding to the various texts, (b) forming connections between texts and lived experiences, (c) discussing the sociopolitical issues surrounding bilingualism and Latina/o identity, and (d) the writing, sharing, and revising of their own testimonios. While this presentation is linear, the process of testimoniando was fluid and dynamic as students engaged in these multiple ways.

Through our analysis, we have identified four ways in which students articulated their lives in nepantla: 1. Through the identification of shared struggle: In response to the testimonios read in the unit, students identified, through discussion and writing, the feelings and challenges surrounding learning English in school. Through forming connections across texts, they recognized these tensions as not unique to themselves. 2. Feeling ideological tensions: As students shared their process of becoming and understanding bilingualism, many noted the constant negotiation between internalized deficit ideologies and feelings of pride.

Data analysis revealed that while the type of writing the students were asked to do shifted across the unit, the dialogue and critical thinking about the issues took different directions based on the types of connections and conversations that emerged. Through testimoniando, the students articulated their processes of living between worlds. In the following section we will provide examples of the themes that emerged through data analysis and unveiled students’ existence in nepantla.

3. Challenging dominant ideologies: Across the students’ writing and discussions, they identified clear ways that they enacted agency and challenged deficit perspectives of emergent bilinguals. 4. Redefining notions of bilingualism: In their recognition of deficit ideologies and dominant notions of bilingualism, students also actively redefined what bilingualism meant in a context where their linguistic knowledge was not welcomed. In the following section, we discuss each of these subthemes along with examples from the students’ work.

Findings To understand the students’ testimonios, we focus on nepantla to analyze the tension, including the rich yet transformative nature of navigating multiple discourses, cultures, and worlds. We argue that the process of testimoniando as an embodied literacy practice allowed for nepantla to become visible. Through the cyclical process of reading and discussing (as well as connecting and responding to) the students’ perceptions of themselves, their worlds, and their knowledge, we understand nepantla as home (Anzaldúa, 2002; 1987/2007). Nepantla is center, a place for reflection and redefinition. The fluid and dynamic process created a space for the expression of the experiences and feelings students

Identification of a Shared Struggle Although the majority of the students had started kindergarten together in a bilingual program within an English-speaking school, they communicated the discomfort they felt entering school and other settings without knowledge of English. After hearing about the experiences of Francisco in La Mariposa (Jiménez, 1998) and the testimonios of the graduate students as emergent bilinguals navigating the subtle hostilities of English-only institutions, students identified the


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 similarities with their own lived experiences across contexts and generations.

stark difference from current perspectives that show the fluid nature of bilingualism in students’ homes and communities (Velasco & García, 2014). Throughout the process of testimoniando, students shared similar memories lodged in the bodymindsprit (Lara, 2002). They were not only able to identify the conflicted feelings of becoming bilingual and being pulled in various directions by the various expectations of society, but they were also able to see the commonalities across experiences (Anzaldúa, 1987/2007).

Through testimoniando, a space was created for the students to share the painful realities associated with learning English. For example, in responding to a testimonio by one of the graduate students, Julia wrote, “When I was in school and I went to kindergarten, I didn’t know English and in school I need to speak English and at home I need to speak Spanish.” In this statement, Julia recollected feeling that she did not have the linguistic skills that were necessary for kindergarten. Responses such as this one surfaced as the students recalled and reflected on their experiences beginning school. Dulce also remembered the sense of loss she felt when she was not able to communicate: “When I was in kindergarten I couldn’t speak in English. I couldn’t understand my dance teacher. I was so, so, so sad.” Lorena’s response to La Mariposa added to the collective identification (see Figure 1). She wrote, “When I go to kinder I get in at the classroom I didn’t know what the teacher was saying I feel nervous and scare[d].”

These statements by the students reveal that they experienced sadness and discomfort, feelings they could not express without the English language skills they perceived as essential to navigating school and social spaces that value English. The process of testimoniando revealed the students’ feelings towards the process of learning English but also opened possibilities for normalizing the feelings through shared experiences and recognizing that they were not alone. Feeling Ideological Tensions Another theme that emerged through data analysis reflected the students’ understanding that the process of becoming and understanding bilingualism was a constant internal negotiation between taking on the deficit ideologies associated with their language(s) and bodies, and their embodiment of pride or orgullo. In a transitional bilingual program housed in a mainstream school, students were highly aware of the politics associated with bilingualism for brown bodies in particular. The students were subjected to administrative pressures to test well in English and maintain an English only classroom (Menken & Solorza, 2014). Throughout the process of testimoniando, students described the expectation from the dominant society for them to learn English. At the same time, they recognized the powerful implications of becoming bilingual within and beyond the school boundaries. They acknowledged the value of English but at times implied a sense of fear, nervousness, and shame regarding their younger days as monolingual Spanish speakers.

Figure 1. Lorena’s response.

Students identified commonalities across the memories and feelings they carried inside regarding their educational journey as emergent bilinguals. In her self-to-text connection to the testimonio written by Lucia, a graduate student who expressed a split between home and school, Ana, stated, “Lucia was divided, I talked in Spanish when I to go dinner and I talk in Spanish when I go to the park. And I talk in English when I go to school. When I go to the store.” Ana’s comments reflect the separateness she associated with her language use, which represents a

The following excerpt from Sara’s draft of her written testimonio illustrates this tension:


DeNicolo , C. P., & González, M. (2015) / Testimoniando en Nepantla I thought at that time I didn’t speak English. So I didn’t feel special. Because I didn’t speak English. And everyone wanted to speak English. My cousins speak English all the time. So in 2 grade I was feeling bilingual. And I was so much proud of my self.

our understanding of nepantla, we see this as a transformative shift where students challenged current deficit perspectives of emergent bilingual Latina/o students. Dominant educational reform narratives position bilingualism as a threat to English language acquisition (Faltis, 2013). The students in this study asserted how important and central bilingualism was for their education, community, and families. The following excerpt is from Lorena’s written testimonio: I was at the park with my friend we were playing and we sit on the grass and we talked and I ask a question I said it [in] Spanish, ¿Puedes hablar inglés? [Do you speak English?] She said yes claro que si [yes, of course], I tell her [in] Spanish, ¿Puedes ayudarme [h]ablar en Ingles? [Can you help me speak English?] She said yes so everyday I go to her house to show me English so I learned both lenguage [languages] and I said thank you for helping me speak [in] English. She said you speak perfectly in English and I said thank you.

In this excerpt, Sara expressed a sense of shame when she was a monolingual Spanish speaker due to the high value placed on English. She also wrote of developing a sense of pride when she was “feeling bilingual”. Similarly, Julia shared this sense of conflict in describing the joy she experienced when being able to speak in English in the second grade and the steps she had to take to ensure her linguistic skills were adequate due to the lack of interest of other people to learn Spanish: And in that time I was feeling so special to people. I want that people can show others that they are bilingual. And that they are special. I could not speak with them because they didn’t want to speak Spanish. So I started to see movies hearing and people talking in English. And that’s why now I can speak both languages.

Challenging Dominant Ideologies

In this example, Lorena demonstrated her active participation in becoming bilingual. In contrast to discourses that deem Latina/o students as resistant to learning English, Lorena’s testimonio not only expresses a strong desire to learn English but also to become bilingual. This sense of agency is also apparent in Teresa’s description of learning English. She described her motivation to understand her mother speaking English and began translating what she understood. Through that practice, she began to notice how much English she was learning (see Figure 2): When I saw my mom and her boyfriend talking in English I was trying to understand but I couldn’t because they talked so fast. I started translating everything they were saying into my head that’s how I got better and better in English.

As we have highlighted above, the students demonstrated their sociopolitical understanding of language, particularly how language is attached to bodies. Across the students’ writing and discussions, they identified clear ways in which they enacted agency in their language learning processes. Through

Here, Teresa explains how she took ownership of becoming bilingual. Her reflection also troubles the notion that parents do not possess the linguistic knowledge necessary for students to become bilingual. In addition, we began to see the students’ shifts in perceptions of bilingualism in their own

Both Sara and Julia’s testimonios attest to the marginalization of Latina/o students and their linguistic abilities. Working between the dominant ideas of bilingualism in the United States, Sara and Julia’s reflections reveal their shifts in owning the inbetween space of dominant ideologies and cultures. Through the students’ writing, we are able to see the often internalized, deficit notions of monolingual Spanish speakers, and how these notions impact their learning practices as bilingual students. This identification highlights their positionality within nepantla and the shift in self-recognition rooted in their deep reflection.


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 conversations with each other regarding their writing and the use of both languages. Through the process of testimoniando, the students engaged their linguistic knowledge in supporting each other through discussions of life experiences as bilingual Latina/o students as well as in their writing and peer conferencing. As they shared and witnessed each other’s testimonios, they provided feedback and recommendations for ways to strengthen the written narratives. In several instances, this came in the form of peers advising one another to incorporate more Spanish as they further drafted their work.

mindbodyspirits, they were active in transforming what being bilingual would mean for them and their lives. In her final testimonio, Isabella wrote: Today I get to write in two languages and talk in two languages to and my life gets easy and I am proud of myself I know two languages. And if I know English I can teach people they don’t how to talk in English how my teacher teach me, I can teach people too. In this example, the sense of pride is no longer in relation to shame. Isabella recognizes the value of her linguistic knowledge and expresses her commitment to sharing it with others. Bilingualism, thus, begins to be repositioned as a strength, a resource to navigate the world she lives in. Similarly, Rafael expresses this transformative nature of nepantla as he positions bilingualism as a source of hope for the future. In his final written testimonio, he wrote (see Figure 3): Being bilingual will help me with the Carrera [career] it is important because I can earn a lot of money para mi familia [for my family] maybe when I am older I can go to the university to study science and math and get money for my family and I. I will like another people to read my testimonio because I will be happy and maybe they will like it.

Figure 2. Teresa’s testimonio.

Redefining Notions of Bilingualism Through their testimonios, the students redefined what bilingualism meant within a context where their linguistic and cultural knowledge was not welcomed. In their written testimonios, they actively reclaimed bilingualism. The following excerpts were taken from the students’ written testimonios to demonstrate the specific ways they reference their bilingualism as a positive quality that enabled them to contribute to their families and communities in their day to day lives, as well as how they envision possibilities for their future. As illustrated above, nepantla is a space that holds tension where these students had to make sense of conflicted and competing ideologies about bilingualism, for Latina/o students in particular. While Anzaldúa (1987/2007) has conceptualized nepantla as a painful space, she has argued that it is also a place for transformation and recreation. In the examples below, we argue that even while the students experienced attacks on their

Here, Rafael connects being bilingual to his future aspirations for higher education and the benefit for his family. With that, he highlights the importance of others to recognize the powerful implications of being bilingual as he mentions that he would like other people to read his testimonio on being a bilingual student. This is demonstrated through his choice to use Spanish to underscore the key points he is making—his career will support his family, and his bilingual abilities will assist him in achieving that goal. Pedro, another student, also wrote about the value of being bilingual in relation to his future. He expressed how bilingualism was an essential step on the path to achieve his dream of being an artist. He ended his written testimonio with the following statement, “Being bilingual helps me see two worlds. The world of my parents and the world of me.”


DeNicolo , C. P., & González, M. (2015) / Testimoniando en Nepantla

Anzaldúa (1987/2007) has conceptualized nepantla as a space for those living on the margins and between multiple worlds. In this excerpt, Pedro expresses the beauty of living between the worlds, and how bilingualism shapes his life on the margins. Nepantla shows us that the margins are not always painful but a productive space for being and becoming.

commonalities across their lives and through the various generations of Latina/o students involved in the project. The opportunity to read children’s literature like La Mariposa and testimonios that reflected their lives, supported the students in sharing memories, feelings, and moments of hardship. Maintaining a focus on language and culture within language arts created a space for students to identify their own knowledge production, abilities, and agency and to engage in the process of testimoniando—a space where their painful experiences of marginalization could be discussed and reframed towards transformative ends. One of the most powerful aspects of the project was seeing the high level of participation by two students whom Lydia had identified as frequently not participating in language arts lessons. In the interview with Lydia at the end of the project, she referred to both of the students as struggling readers and indicated her surprise in their contributions to the class discussions as well as their writing. The students were very engaged across the unit, and they were highly motivated to share with others their truth regarding how they learned English, and how they used both languages in their daily lives. We believe this enthusiasm was due to the opportunity to engage an alternative forma de ser (Cuero, 2009) through their embodied literacies and reconnect with themselves in a space that often requires a disconnect from the body (Brown, 2009). They had the schema, background knowledge, and language skills to create their own testimonio and be heard without judgment.

Figure 3. Rafael’s testimonio. Discussion

While not all the students participated with the same level of enthusiasm, a collective pride emerged regarding the students’ bilingualism and their writing through the powerful process of reading and writing testimonios. The specific attention to language learning and bilingualism, enabled the students to recognize the complexity of developing academic skills across two or more linguistic codes. This meaningful literacy experience drew on their funds of knowledge (González et al., 1995) to create new understandings regarding their individual and collective potential. Lydia shared in this pride stating, “Another thing that came out of this project, [they] started valuing the fact that they were bilingual – they

Nepantla is a productive space, a place to question and notice ideological clashes. Out of that process, a transformation occurs, a redefining of being in relation to these ideologies. The process of testimoniando unveiled the ways that the students reflected on their lives in nepantla. Through examining student writing, discussions, and engagement in the process of testimoniando, we identified four themes that reflected their experiences making sense of themselves and the ideologies that surrounded them in school and out of school. Testimonio was a pedagogical tool that functioned as a way for students to voice the struggles associated with learning English in school and expose the


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015

used more Spanish.” The value they held in their testimonios was apparent as they read their final drafts to their peers. This was also evident in the covers many of the students made for the final draft of their testimonios, incorporating imagery and a title, Mi Testimonio (see Figure 4).

Conclusions Testimonio is not limited to Latinas/Chicanas, but we continue to consider the question: who can testimoniar? While critical, particularly considering that the U.S. teaching force continues to be made up of predominately White women (Obiakor & Green, 2014), we feel that it is most important to identify and discuss pedagogical practices that create spaces for the process of testimoniando. In conceptualizing critical witnessing as part of a pedagogy of the incomprehensible, Dutro (2013) argues that even in creating spaces for life stories to be witnessed, we also invite an “overwhelming sense that we can’t know or hear or tell all stories that reside in any space where people exist together” (p. 308). In other words, as educators inviting life stories, trauma narratives, or testimonios into the classroom, we can always only partially understand, feel, and access what is being illuminated. While in our study the presence of Chicana graduate students involved in the process of testimoniando was powerful in the sense that the students were able to connect with sociopolitical themes of the testimonios, a powerful implication is in the reciprocity and space that was created that served as an invitation and support for vulnerability and embodied literacies to emerge. We recognize the existence of multiple pedagogical approaches for educators to reflect on their roles in creating and supporting spaces for testimoniando.

Figure 4. The cover of one student’s testimonio with imagery and a title.

Embodied knowledge plays a role in learning whether it is acknowledged in the language arts classroom or not. For this reason, students need a space within the classroom and the curriculum for making sense of their experiences and understanding how their cultural and linguistic knowledge is positioned in school. These classroom spaces must be established with critical awareness and a willingness on the part of teachers to engage in reciprocal and vulnerable moments alongside students (Dutro & Bien, 2014). When marginalized students have opportunities to examine how they make sense of their identities as readers, writers, and language users, connected to

Testimonio is an embodied narrative of individuals who have been placed at the margins and that is shared in the name of collective healing and growth. Multicultural children’s literature written by Latina/o authors that authentically represents the language use, cultural practices, and diversity within the Latina/o community can function as a model for writing testimonios or identity texts. Key to drawing on models for this type of reading and writing are teachers who are reflexive about their beliefs regarding language learning and bilingual students.


DeNicolo , C. P., & González, M. (2015) / Testimoniando en Nepantla social and political systems, educators can support them in recognizing the inaccuracy of deficit interpretations of their lives and reframe their narratives to reflect the breadth of their knowledge and abilities (Dweck, 2000). For these students, having space within the language arts classroom to

redefine their identities, claim their linguistic repertoires, and stand in solidarity with others, rescripts language arts as a transformational literacy experience that challenges the normative structures and ideologies that silence and distort.

References Anzaldúa, G. (2007). Borderlands: La frontera. The new mestiza (3rd ed.). Aunt Lute Books: San Francisco, CA. (Original work published 1987) Anzaldúa, G. (2002). Now let us shift ... the path of conocimiento ... inner work, public acts. In G. E. Anzaldúa & A. Keating (Eds.), This bridge we call home: Radical visions for transformation (pp. 540-578). New York, NY: Routledge. Bartolomé, L. I. (2008). Ideologies in education: Unmasking the trap of teacher neutrality. New York: Peter Lang Publishing. Benmayor, R. (2012). Digital testimonio as a signature pedagogy for Latin@ studies. Equity and Excellence in Education, 45(3), 507-524. Beverley, J. (2005). Testimonio, subalternity, and narrative authority. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of Qualitative Research (3rd ed., pp. 547-557). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications. Branscombe, M., & Schneider, J. J. (2013). Embodied discourse: Using tableau to explore preservice teachers’ reflections and activist stances. Journal of Language & Literacy Education [Online], 9(1), 95-113. Retrieved from http://jolle.coe.uga.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/embodied-discourse.pdf Blommaert, J. (2013). Ethnography, superdiversity, and linguistic landscapes: Chronicles of complexity. Tonawanda, NY: Multilingual Matters. Brown, R. N. (2009). Black girlhood celebration: Toward a hip-hop feminist pedagogy. New York: Peter Lang. Burgos-Debray, E. (1984). I, Rigoberta Menchu: An Indian woman in Guatemala (A. Wright, Trans.). London: Verso. Burstein, J. H., & Montaño, T. (2011). Maestras dedicadas: A portrait of Chicana teacher activism in troubled times. International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, 3(3), 37-53. Carrillo, R., Moreno, M., & Zintsmaster, J. (2010). Cultural production of a decolonial imaginary for a young Chicana: Lessons from Mexican immigrant working-class woman’s culture [Special issue]. Educational Studies: A Journal of the American Educational Studies Association, 46(5), 479-502. doi: 10.1080/00131946.2010.496696


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 Cruz, C. (2001). Toward an epistemology of a brown body. Qualitative Studies in Education, 14(5), 657-669. Cuero, K. K. (2009). Authoring multiple formas de ser: Three bilingual Latina/o fifth graders navigating school. Journal of Latinos and Education, 8(2), 141-160. Cummins, J., & Early, M. (Eds.). (2011). Identity texts: The collaborative creation of power in multilingual schools. Stoke-on-Trent Staffordshire, UK: Trentham Books Ltd. Delgado Bernal, D. (1998). Using a Chicana feminist epistemology in educational research. Harvard Educational Review, 68(4), 555-579. Retrieved from http://her.hepg.org/content/5wv1034973g22q48/fulltext.pdf Delgado Bernal, D. (2002). Critical race theory, Latino critical theory, and critical raced-gendered epistemologies: Recognizing students of color as holder and creators of knowledge. Qualitative Inquiry, 8(1), 105-128. Delgado Bernal, D., Burciaga, R., & Flores Carmona, J. (2012). Chicana/Latina testimonios: mapping the methodological, pedagogical and political. Equity and Excellence in Education, 45(3), 363-372. Retrieved from https://canvas.harvard.edu/files/99820/download?download_frd=1 Dutro, E. (2013). Towards a pedagogy of the incomprehensible: trauma and the imperative of critical witness in literacy classrooms. Pedagogies: An International Journal, 8(4), 301-315. doi: 10.1080/1554480X.2013.829280 Dutro, E., & Bien, A. C. (2014). Listening to the speaking wound: A trauma studies perspective on student positing in schools. American Educational Research Journal, 51(1), 7-35. Dweck, C. S. (2000). Self-theories: Their role in motivation, personality, and development. Philadelphia, PA: Psychology Press. Dyson, A. H., & Genishi, C. (2005). On the case: Approaches to language and literacy Research. New York: Teachers College Press. Elenes, A. C. (2000). Chicana feminist narratives and the politics of the self. Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, 21(3), 105-123. Elenes, A. C. (2013). Nepantla, spiritual activism, new tribalism: Chicana feminist transformative pedagogies and social justice education. Journal of Latino/Latin American Studies, 5(3), 132-141. Retrieved from http://jollas.metapress.com/content/w3528w365m860188/fulltext.pdf Faltis, C. (2013). Language, language development and teaching English to emergent bilingual users: Challenging the common knowledge theory in teacher education and K -12 school settings. Association of Mexican-American Educators, 7(2), 18-29. Figueroa, A. M. (2013). ยกHay que hablar!: Testimonio in the everyday lives of migrant mothers. Language & Communication, 33(4), 559-572. doi: 10.1016/j.langcom.2013.03.011 Frรกnquiz, M. E., Salazar, M., & DeNicolo, C. P. (2011). Challenging majoritarian tales: Portrait of bilingual teachers deconstructing deficit views of bilingual learners. Bilingual Research Journal, 34(3), 279-300. doi: 10.1080/15235882.2011.625884


DeNicolo , C. P., & González, M. (2015) / Testimoniando en Nepantla García, A., & Gaddes, A. (2012). Weaving language and culture: Latina adolescent writers in an after-school writing project. Reading & Writing Quarterly, 28(2), 143-163. doi: 10.1080/10573569.2012.651076 García, O. (2009). Bilingual education in the 21st century: A global perspective. Malden, MA: Wiley/Blackwell. García, O., Kleifgen, J. A., & Falchi, L. (2008). From English language learners to emergent bilinguals (Equity Matters: Research Review No. 1). New York: Teachers College, Columbia University. González, N., Moll, L., Floyd Tenery, M., Rivera, A., Rendon, P., Gonzales, R., & Amanti, C. (1995). Funds of knowledge for teaching in Latino households. Urban Education, 29(4), 444- 471. Gutiérrez, K. D., Baquedano-Ló K. D., Baque, ., H. H., & Chiu, M. M. (1999). Building a culture of collaboration through hybrid language practices. Theory into Practice, 38(2), 87–93. doi: 10.1080/00405849909543837 Hornberger, N. H., & Link, H. (2012). Translanguaging and transnational literacies in multilingual classrooms: A biliteracy lens. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 15(3), 261-278. doi: 10.1080/13670050.2012.658016 Hughes-Decatur, H. (2011). Embodied literacies: Learning to first acknowledge and then read the body in education. English Teaching: Practice and Critique, 10(3), 72-89. Retrieved from http://edlinked.soe.waikato.ac.nz/research/files/etpc/files/2011v10n3art5.pdf Jiménez, F. (1998). La Mariposa. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. Johnson, E., & Vasudevan, L. (2012). Seeing and hearing students’ lived and embodied critical literacy practices. Theory into Practice, 51(1), 34-41. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00405841.2012.636333 Lara, I. (2002). Healing sueños for academia. In G. Anzaldúa & A. Keating (Eds.), This bridge we call home (pp. 433-438). New York: Routledge. Keating, A. L. (2006). From borderlands and new mestizas to nepantla and nepantleras: Anzalduan theories for social change. Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge, 4(3), 5-16. Retrieved from http://scholarworks.umb.edu/humanarchitecture/vol4/iss3/3 Kontovourki, S. (2014). Backstage performances: A third grader’s embodiments of pop culture and literacy in a public school classroom. Literacy, 41(1), 4-13. Latina Feminist Group (2001). Telling to live: Latina feminist testimonios. NC: Duke University Press. Menken, K., & Solorza, C. (2014). No child left bilingual: Accountability and the elimination of bilingual education programs in New York City Schools. Educational Policy, 28(1), 96-125. doi: 10.1177/0895904812468228 Merriam, S. B. (2009). Qualitative research: A guide to design and implementation. San Francisco, CA: JosseyBass. Montero, M. K., Bice-Zaugg, C., March, A. C. J., & Cummins, J. (2013). Activist literacies: Validating aboriginality through visual and literary identity texts. Journal of Language and Literacy Education


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 [Online], 9(1), 73-94. Retrieved from http://jolle.coe.uga.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/ValidatingAboriginality.pdf Monzó, L. D. (2014). A critical pedagogy for democracy: Confronting higher education’s neoliberal agenda with a critical Latina feminist episteme. Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies, 12(1), 73-100. No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001, Pub. L. No. 107-110, 20 U. S. C., § 6301 et seq. (West 2003). Obiakor, F. E., & Green, S. L. (2014). Educating culturally and linguistically diverse learners with special needs: The Rationale. In F. E. Obiakor & A. F. Rotatori (Eds.), Multicultural Education for Learners with Special Needs in the Twenty-First Century (p. 1). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing. Orellana, M. F. (2009). Translating childhoods: Immigrant youth, language, and culture. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. Pérez Huber, L. P. (2009). Disrupting apartheid of knowledge: Testimonio as methodology in Latina/o critical race research in education. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 22(6), 639-654. doi: 10.1080/09518390903333863 Prieto, L., & Villenas, S.A. (2012). Pedagogies from nepantla: Testimonio, Chicana/Latina feminisms and teacher education classrooms. Equity & Excellence in Education, 45(3), 411-429. doi: 10.1080/10665684.2012.698197 Saavedra, C. M. (2011). Language and literacy in the borderlands: Acting upon the world through testimonios. Language Arts, 88(4), 261-269. Retrieved from http://www.academia.edu/462076/ Language_and_Literacy_in_the_Borderlands_Acting_Upon_the_World_Through_Testimonios Saavedra, C. M., & Nymark, E. D. (2008). Borderland-mestizaje feminism: The new tribalism. In N. K. Denzin, Y. S. Lincoln, & L. Tuhiwai-Smith (Eds.), Handbook of critical and indigenous methodologies (pp. 255276). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Spradley, J. P. (1980). Participant observation. New York: Harcourt Brace College Publishers. Stake, R. (1995). The art of case study research. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications. Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1990). Basics of qualitative research: grounded theory procedures and techniques. Newbury Park, CA: Sage. Tellez, M. (2005). Doing research at the Borderlands: Notes from a Chicana feminist ethnographer. Chicana/Latina Studies, 4(2), 46-70. Torres-Gúzman, M. E., & Gómez, J. (2009). Global perspectives on multilingualism: Unity in diversity. New York, NY: Teachers College Press. Valenzuela, A. (1999). Subtractive schooling: U.S.-Mexico youth and the politics of caring. New York: State University of New York Press. Velasco, P., & García, O. (2014). Translanguaging and the writing of bilingual learners. Bilingual Research Journal, 37(1), 6-23.


DeNicolo , C. P., & GonzĂĄlez, M. (2015) / Testimoniando en Nepantla

Verttovec, S. (2007). Super-diversity and its implications. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 30(6), 1024-1054. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01419870701599465 Villenas, S. A., GodĂ­nez, F. E., Delgado Bernal, D., & Elenes, C. A. (2006). Chicanas/Latinas building bridges: An introduction. In D. Delgado Bernal, C. A., Elenes, F. E. Godinez, & S. Villenas (Eds.). Chicana/Latina education in everyday life: Feminista perspectives on pedagogy and epistemology (pp. 1-9). New York: State University. Villenas, S. (1996). The colonizer/colonized Chicana ethnographer: Identity, marginalization, and co-optation in the field. Harvard Educational Review, 66(4), 711-734. Retrieved from http://emurillo.org/documents/Villenas.pdf Yosso, T. (2005). Critical race counterstories along the Chicana/Chicano educational pipeline. New York: Routledge. Zacher Pandya, J. (2011). Overtested: How high stakes accountability fails English language learners. New York: Teachers College Press.


“Who are Our Mockingbirds?”: Participatory Literacies in a Community-Wide Reading Program Deborah Vriend Van Duinen Kathryn Schoon-Tanis ABSTRACT: Drawing on sociocultural perspectives of literacy, this Voices From the Field paper presents artifactual data collected during a community-wide reading program of To Kill a Mockingbird. During this program, over 400 high school students and community members participated in an art project in which they artistically responded to the question, “Who are the mockingbirds?” by reflecting on marginalized or oppressed people in their community. Findings suggest that there was significant variation in how participants artistically responded to the question prompt; there were differences in how participants drew on their own literacies to complete the project, how they visually communicated their ideas, and how they defined the community or audience for their work. These findings suggest that more attention to embodied literacies, visual and critical visual literacy practices, and place-based pedagogies, is needed in both school and out-of-school contexts. Throughout the article, we provide several images of the completed individual mockingbirds as well as an image of the final collaborative mockingbird project.

Key words: Literature, Aesthetic Education, Community Literacy, Critical Visual Literacy, To Kill a Mockingbird

Deborah Vriend Van Duinen, Ph.D is an assistant professor of Education and a Towsley Research Scholar at Hope College in Holland, MI where she teachers content area literacy and English Education classes. Her research interests include adolescent literacy and YA literature. Deborah has published in a variety of journals including Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy and English Journal. She recently wrote a chapter in Research on Teaching and Learning with the Literacies of Young Adolescents (2015). She can be contacted at vanduinen@hope.edu

Kathryn Schoon-Tanis, Ph.D teaches rhetoric and composition of popular culture in the English department at Hope College. She recently co-authored Can Pop Culture and Shakespeare Exist in the Same Classroom?: Using Student Interest to Bring Complex Texts to Life (2014). She was previously a high school English teacher. She can be contacted at schoontanisk@hope.edu

Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 Michelle M. Falter, Editor -- http://jolle.coe.uga.edu

Vriend Van Duinen, D., & Schoon-Tanis, K. (2015) / “Who are our mockingbirds?” Vignette 1

there were 30 book discussions and several art projects that encouraged participants to explore ideas from the book in visually creative ways. Seven area schools (public, private, and charter) participated in the program by having English Language Arts (ELA) classes read the book, attend main events, and collaborate with a professional artist.

With trembling hands, Alan clutched a paper in the shape of a mockingbird and stood in front of his 9th grade English class. “I think that mockingbirds today are gay people,” he said, his voice shaking. He continued, “And people who think that maybe they are gay but don’t feel like they can talk about it with anyone.” He paused and then held up his mockingbird, a rainbow of colors filled the body of the mockingbird. “GLBTQ” was written across the breast of the bird. The classroom was silent, and then, as if on cue, Alan’s fellow students started enthusiastically clapping.

Our experiences as organizers of this communitywide reading program offered us a way to explore how, as Behrman (2006) noted, “The community in which the reader or writer participates may shape both the content and form of the literate action” (p. 26). In this Voices From The Field article, we share our reflections on one aspect of this community-wide reading program—a mockingbird art project that involved over 400 people ranging in age from school children to senior citizens. With crayons, markers, colored pencils, and paint, participants drew in, and sometimes around, a mockingbird template after reading To Kill a Mockingbird, or in the case of young children, a similarly themed book. The final product was a large, colorful mockingbird collage that included over 100 of these individually decorated mockingbirds and that was revealed during the closing event of the reading program, an art reception at a local art museum. Today, the large mockingbird is displayed in the college library.

Vignette 2 “Come over here Mom and Dad!” Amanda said in an excited voice. “That’s my mockingbird! That’s the one that I did! Can you see it?” Amanda pointed to one of the many mockingbirds in the large collage that was displayed in the museum lobby. Amanda’s parents and older sister crowded around and looked closely at the black and white striped mockingbird that she was pointing to. Across the bird’s body were the words, “Mental Illness,” “Crazy,” and “Depression.” On the rest of the bird, concentric lines filled the space. Behrman (2006) wrote, “Reading and writing are social as well as personal activities. Literate action requires the transposition of thought into symbolic form that can be conveyed to others or to self. Therefore, literacy is particularly affected by our involvement in a community” (p. 26). In this quote, two questions are implied: What does it mean to transpose thought into symbolic form? How does community involvement particularly affect literacy? These two questions—questions about embodied (transposing thought into symbolic form) and participatory literacy (involvement in community)— set the stage for the two vignettes described above.

We focused our attention on the mockingbird project because of the ways it encouraged participants to embody literature by enacting a response to a literary text through the creation of a piece of art. We observed that the project encouraged a deeper response to a well-known piece of American literature but, perhaps more importantly, a space in which to use themes in the novel to speak to others. This space, much like what Greene (1986) called “aesthetic education” (p. 57), helped participants in our project “to create, to think, and to imagine beyond the literary text” (Pinhasi-Vittorio & Vernola, 2013, p. 69). This project helped to provide a space for marginalized voices to be recognized and, for some, the opportunity to speak out.

Both vignettes took place during a one-month community-wide reading program of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird (1982) that was led by a small liberal arts college located in a Midwest city in partnership with the local public library and a number of local organizations and businesses. As part of the programming, there were seven main events that were free and open to the public. In addition,

In sharing our reflections, we hope to encourage others—ELA classroom teachers, teacher educators, community literacy leaders, and literacy researchers—to try out their own versions of this


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 project using their own variations of art education, embodied literacy, critical visual literacy, and placebased pedagogy.

book, Scout Finch asks her neighbor, Miss Maudie, what her father, Atticus, meant when he said that “it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” Miss Maudie responds, “Your father’s right … Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy … they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird” (Lee, 1982, p. 90). At the end of the book, Scout realizes the truth of this when she tells Atticus that hurting Boo Radley would be “sort of like shootin’ a mockingbird” (Lee, 1982, p. 276). Scout’s ability to identify an embodied mockingbird changes her perspective on Boo—a symbol of people who are marginalized and oppressed—on her community, and on herself.

The Mockingbird Art Project

In envisioning this collaborative, communal art project, we drew on sociocultural perspectives of literacy and the idea that literacy is “multiple and situated … [and includes an] interplay between the meanings of local events and a structural analysis of broader cultural and political institutions and practices” (Hull & Schultz, 2001, p. 585). We also drew on concepts within critical literacy (Freire, 2007; Lankshear & McLaren, 1993) and, specifically, In this spirit of social justice, we The project helped to critical visual literacy that wanted our project to encourage provide a space for suggests language (spoken, participants to do the same. Using marginalized voices to be written, and heard), texts, the question, “Who are the and images offer ways to mockingbirds?”, we designed the recognized and, for some, question the social mockingbird activity so that the opportunity to speak construction of self and participants could reflect on the out. others (Shor, 1999), and mockingbirds that might exist in that public art and the their own lives as well as in the life collaborative creation of it can help develop notions of our community. We developed a mockingbird of civic literacy and engagement (Charest, Bell, template (see Image 1) and a set of instructions on Gonzalez, & Parker, 2014; Johnson & Vasudevan, how to respond to the question we posed (see Table 2012). 1). Given this, we hoped to accomplish several goals with our mockingbird project. We wanted to involve as many people as possible; we wanted to accommodate different ages and experiences with the novel as well as varying time constraints and resources. We also wanted to encourage participants to connect current events to the book’s themes by drawing on their personal interests and literacies to inform and guide their work. In this, we wanted them to be more than just consumers of texts; we wanted them to be producers of texts that showed evidence of “questioning the world and the word” (PinhasiVittorio & Vernola, 2013, p. 69). Lastly, we wanted the final product to be a large art piece displayed in a public setting.

Image 1. Mockingbird template (created by artist Joel Schoon-Tanis).

Together with professional artist Joel Schoon-Tanis, we decided on the mockingbird as our motif for the project because of how the mockingbird is used as a central theme in the novel. Halfway through the

During our month of programming, we distributed mockingbird templates at our main events, public book discussions, and children’s activities. In each of these contexts, the mockingbird project was used


Vriend Van Duinen, D., & Schoon-Tanis, K. (2015) / “Who are our mockingbirds?” differently. At our main events, we encouraged people to take the templates, complete them at home, and then bring them back to the public library. At the book discussions, we encouraged participants to use the particular book discussion to inform their creative work. At the children’s activities, we asked children to decorate and color the mockingbirds. We also gave the templates to our five main partner schools so that teachers and students could participate. While not all of these completed mockingbirds were used in the final piece, over 100 of them were collaged in the shape of a large mockingbird that was revealed at our closing event (see Image 2).

Image 2. Completed collaborative mockingbird project.

Table 1 Mockingbird Art Project Instructions

Who were the mockingbirds? Collaborative and Communal Art

Mockingbird art project instructions


We analyzed a randomly selected sample of 100 of the completed mockingbirds and created five categories to describe the different ways they were completed.

1. Think about the mockingbird as a symbol. 2. Identify mockingbirds in our world today. 3. Write a paragraph that identifies your mockingbird and explains your rationale for choosing it. 4. Pare your paragraph down to a phrase or single word. 5. Think about images that the phrase or word evokes. 6. Sketch this image(s). 7. Graphically transfer this (these) word(s) and image(s) to the mockingbird template. 8. Submit the mockingbird for inclusion in the final art piece.

Decoration: These mockingbirds were decorated or colored. While many of these mockingbirds were artistically beautiful, there were no references, at least no decipherable references, to the book, its themes, or the project instructions. There could be many reasons for this. Some of these mockingbirds may have come from younger children participating in activities during which the instructions were not read or from participants who did not fully understand the instructions. Others may have come from participants who were not feeling safe or secure enough to use the project to communicate their thoughts and ideas.

In the paragraphs that follow, we share some of our initial findings from an analysis of the mockingbird project both in its individual and collective moments. The significant variation in how participants artistically responded to the project as well as the embodied nature of this literacy task raises many questions and new possibilities for us as educators. In sharing these, we hope that we might prompt other educators to experiment with using arts and aesthetic education in their own literacy contexts.

Illustration: These mockingbirds illustrated or reinforced the major themes of To Kill a Mockingbird by including written or visual references to the book. Examples included: “Walk in someone’s shoes,” “Left out,” “Misunderstood,” “Innocence,” “Looks are deceiving,” as well as scenes visually portraying the book’s characters or events. Celebration: This category of responses did not identify oppressed groups but instead highlighted


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 and celebrated the importance of diversity, love, or respect. These mockingbirds extrapolated themes from To Kill a Mockingbird to a moral lesson or idea to be highlighted. Some of these included: “Love is love,” “Different is good,” and “Diversity needs to be celebrated.” Different from the “illustration” mockingbirds, these mockingbirds celebrated rather than simply acknowledged themes from the novel.

Embodied Literacy: Drawing On Experiences and Interests In asking our participants to physically create art in response to literature through the use of their hands, we were asking them to respond to literature in a way that required something other than the traditional acts of reading and talking (often while sitting) about literature. Embodied literacy, as we consider it, concerns the ways we construct, participate, and perform in the world through our bodies as well as how we learn about the world as bodies positioned in specific contexts (Fleckenstein, 2003; Blackburn, 2003; Johnson & Vasudevan, 2012).

Identification: These mockingbirds most closely followed the project prompt in the way that groups of people or individuals were identified as “mockingbirds” through words, pictures, symbols, or a combination of words and pictures. Some of the identified groups (in order of frequency) included: LGBTQ, Race/Ethnicity, Religion, Mental Illness, Women’s Rights, Poverty, Ability/Disability, Ageism, Physical Appearance (Obesity), Character Traits, Bullied people (specifically, cyber-bullied), and Political Affiliation (see Image 3).

While our artifactual data does not speak directly to the ways our participants involved their bodies as they completed their individual mockingbirds, the task itself had a performative nature. Participants knew the final collaborative mockingbird would be displayed in a public setting and in some cases, participants like Alan (Vignette 1) were asked to present their mockingbirds to their classmates and teachers. Furthermore, participants used their bodily interactions with material and cultural texts in order to conceive of and complete their mockingbirds. One of the ways that this was most evident was in how participants performed and positioned various identities in their mockingbird creations. It was our hope that participants would draw on their personal interests, experiences, and literacies in creating the mockingbirds so that when collaged, the final mockingbird not only would dramatically speak of marginalized or oppressed people, but also would reveal the myriad literacy practices and people represented in our community. Our analysis of the completed mockingbirds, across the five categories, reveals that this did occur. Many participants engaged in the project in their own unique and embodied ways that often showed local and daily texts of their bodies (Johnson & Vasudevan, 2012).

Image 3. Example of an individual mockingbird “Color doesn’t matter.” Action: These mockingbirds encouraged action or response from the audience/viewer. They tended to question the treatment of “mockingbirds” in the world with a written quote or posed question. Some examples include: “If the world was black and white and everyone dressed the same [sic] would anyone be misunderstood or judged? We are all mockingbirds,” and “Fight back.” While these mockingbirds did not specifically identify marginalized groups or individuals, they seemed to show evidence of using the word to question the world.

For some, it was evident in the choice and manner of written words on the mockingbirds—words like “No H8,” “Stop Hatin’,” “Smurf,” and “Guero” (see Image 4). As language and literacy scholars, we are fascinated by the fact that many of these words are not school-sanctioned words. This causes us to reflect


Vriend Van Duinen, D., & Schoon-Tanis, K. (2015) / “Who are our mockingbirds?” on the importance of including activities in ELA classrooms where students can write or express ideas in the ways (and words) that they most often use, hoping to move “from a focus on the study of individuals to an emphasis on [the] social and cultural interaction” (Hull & Schultz, 2001, p. 585) of language and literacy.

These examples illustrate that participants were open and willing to risk demonstrating their understanding of the themes and ideas by visually representing their particular literacy practices and preferences. We see great hope and potential in this manner of embodying themes from a piece of literature through visual, creative expression. Concurrently, we wonder how the project could have furthered encouraged embodied literacy practices. While there were a wide variety of mediums used in the completed mockingbirds, it is clear that participants generally used the materials made available to them. In a few instances, however, participants took their mockingbirds home, worked on them, and finished them outside of a prescribed setting. In these cases, it was interesting to see what new materials were used. For example, one participant glued rice to a mockingbird (see Image 5).

Image 4. Example of an individual mockingbird “Hope and purity.” For other mockingbirds, participants demonstrated out-of-school literacy practices in their visual choices. One participant employed the graffiti technique of “bombing”—the use of bubble letters and two colors—to draw the word “insecure” across the mockingbird’s body. Another participant filled a mockingbird with tattoo flash art: the words “It’s a work of ART,” “Proud,” and “Express yourself” written on the outline of the mockingbird. One mockingbird had the words “Anime is for girls” as well as a boy’s name scribbled alongside of the mockingbird body. Other mockingbirds included Pink Floyd lyrics (including “Welcome to the machine” and “Another brick” from their album The Wall, an album that was banned in South Africa in 1980 because those protesting racial inequalities in education during the apartheid regime used the same lyrics), quotes from the Koran and the Bible about the importance of treating others well, Harry Potter characters who were misunderstood and mistreated (e.g. Hagrid, muggles), and a video game character, Wreck It Ralph (who is a villain but who desperately wants to be a hero and change the way people see him).

Image 5. Example of an individual mockingbird“Different.” Another used thread to sew around the mockingbird; and yet another participant used computer graphic designs. These unique and interesting representations of embodied literacy practices makes us wonder about what possibilities open up when students are able to draw on out-of-school literacy practices to complete school assignments or community-wide literacy projects. Would new ideas and materials surface? Would more embodied literacies occur and be celebrated?


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015

Critical Visual Literacy: Effectively Communicating Through Art

individuals, but some relied on words rather than images and words or used words with images that did not seem to reinforce their meanings. Other mockingbirds included visuals but the meanings of these visuals were not clear; others identified marginalized or oppressed groups in words but the visuals did not seem to connect to these words. For example, one mockingbird had the words “Teachers,” “Teenagers,” “Students,” but did not include supporting visuals to illustrate what aspect of these groups the creator of the image considered marginalized.

Community-wide reading programs such as ours often foreground print literacy; communities come together around to read and discuss a printed text. The mockingbird art project attempted to use visual art as a way to encourage “multiple ways of interpreting and learning text” (Pinhasi-Vittorio & Vernola, 2013, p. 60). It was our hope that participants would use art as a way of engaging with a text and within a community. Our analysis of the completed mockingbirds reveals that, while many mockingbirds did this effectively through the use of words and visuals, there were many that did not seem to effectively communicate ideas in this way.

It is important to note here that we hesitate to define what “effective” means for each of the completed mockingbirds. Given the multiple and situated nature of literacy, it is possible that we were outsiders to particular ways of expressing meaning or of using 21st century language and literacy practices. There were a number of instances, for example, when we had to Google words in order to figure out their possible meanings. Nonetheless, we raise the topic of visual literacy skills, and critical literacy (Gee, 2002; Hobbs & Frost, 2003; Morrell, 2004; New London Group, 1996) in an effort to reflect on how the project could have been better designed and defined. As Behrman (2002) has noted, “The challenge … is to describe more precisely the dimensions of the literacy situation” (p. 32). In our conversations with the teachers who participated in the project, we learned that when students were able to talk and write about their written and visual decisions for completed mockingbirds, the project experience was more meaningful. This gives us pause to consider how the project could have better scaffolded the creative art process for participants and addressed the ways in which visuals can effectively communicate ideas. While we observed profound engagement with the themes of To Kill a Mockingbird through the creation of the mockingbirds, we see even greater potential with more scaffolding and more communication regarding the collaboration of a communal art piece. We wonder about changing the instructions to emphasize the need for the individual mockingbirds to communicate, on their own, through words and images. Furthermore, perhaps the project could have been framed as an opportunity to reflect on how texts work to position us as well as on how to produce

The mockingbirds that were the most effective in communicating ideas tended to be the ones that used both words and visuals in ways that complemented or extended each other. Visually supported words, for example, were evident in Alan’s mockingbird with its rainbow colored wing and GLBTQ written in wavy letters across its breast. On a different mockingbird, words were not needed as in the example of a blue mockingbird with a female gender symbol delicately placed around its foot (see Image 6).

Image 6. Example of an individual mockingbird – GLBTQ. While the “decoration” mockingbirds were often beautiful and eye-catching, they did not effectively communicate a message, or at least did not communicate a message that we could decipher. The “identification” mockingbirds identified groups or


Vriend Van Duinen, D., & Schoon-Tanis, K. (2015) / “Who are our mockingbirds?”

visual texts that are aware of and foreground social and political interests (Newfield, 2011). We could have done more, for example, to foreground the need for participants to construct their viewpoints in their mockingbird creations as well as to learn from the ways that others express their perspectives. After all, in the tradition of critical literacy, a text is not a “transparent window on reality [but] constructed from a viewpoint, with someone’s communicative purpose and a calculated effect in mind” (Duffelmeyer & Ellertson, 2005).

from a classroom setting. For others, the audience was a school community, or a family unit, or the city, or the world (see Image 7).

One way to do this might be through the use of Schieble’s (2014) critical visual literacy questions or through Callow’s (2005) three assessment dimensions of visual literacy. These helpful frameworks address the color, angle, image syntax, and shot distance of images and could be used to encourage participants to think more deeply about their visual choices.

Image 7. Example of an individual mockingbird “Disabilities.” Looking back on our project design as well as on the specific project instructions, we realize that we were not clear about the proposed audience for the mockingbird messages; we did not define community for our participants. Given that the project was part of our community-wide reading program, our assumed audience was the geographical community, the city involved in the reading program. The varied understanding of audience evident in the mockingbirds suggests to us that not everyone identifies or feels comfortable identifying with—as a member of—this community. For example, a number of the mockingbirds contained references to “Teens” and “Child ren”. This prompts us to wonder in which contexts some teens and children might not feel included. Additionally, more surprising and distressing for us was the striking absence of mockingbirds representing our city’s growing and vibrant Hispanic/Latino population (23%) given that many of our participants were of Hispanic/Latino background. We wonder what our geographical community might learn about itself from the identified groups on the mockingbirds and, just as importantly, what we might learn about the absence of certain groups. Would making space and time for discussing and listening to how participants define or envision community bring about different mockingbird results?

Place-based Literacy: Defining Community In Different Ways In designing our mockingbird project, we also drew on concepts within place-based pedagogy, an approach to education that foregrounds the physical setting or context of a learning environment and encourages understanding of the relevance of this context as well as real-world and hands-on learning experiences. Its goal is to provide opportunities for students to learn more about the local place where they live and to use this learning to work for change (Smith, 2002; Gruenewald, 2003; Lesley & Matthews, 2009; Bartholomaeus, 2012). In reflecting on our mockingbird project, we realize that defining this context, community, or place is more complicated that what we originally anticipated. In our case, one complicating factor was an issue of audience. During the project and since the completion of the programming, we have been asked (and have asked each other), “Who was the intended audience for the individual mockingbirds and for the final mockingbird project?”. Our analysis of the completed mockingbirds reveals that, to our participants, this was an open and fluid response. For some, the audience was a group of peers most often


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015

We had hoped that our project would help participants further their understandings of civic literacy and engagement and re-envision their roles in the community. To be honest, we are not sure whether or not, or to what extent, that occurred. While we observed a plethora of mockingbirds referring to or commenting on community, we are not sure what that reference or comment meant for the creator of the mockingbird. Perhaps a more unified definition of audience or community could have helped. Whatever the case, evoking community change requires an art project like ours to be embedded in conversations and relationships about community.

Conclusion Our community-wide mockingbird art project experience speaks to us of the importance of art integration in classrooms and communities as well as of connecting classrooms to the communities that surround them. As teachers, researchers, scholars, and community members, we are reminded of the need to encourage embodied literacy through the transposition of thought into symbolic form while at the same time acknowledging and celebrating that literacy is affected by community (Behrman, 2002). When this occurs, the connections between classrooms and communities become “sites of legitimate inquiry” (Charest et al., 2014, p. 196). They become opportunities to listen to and learn from each other.

References Bartholomaeus, P. (2013). Place-based education and the Australian curriculum. Literacy Learning: The Middle Years, 21(3), 17-23. Behrman, E. H. (2002). Community-based literacy learning. Reading, 36(1), 26-32. doi: 10.1111/1467-9345.00181 Blackburn, M. V. (2003). Disrupting the (hetero) normative: Exploring literacy performances and identity work with queer youth. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 46(4), 312-324. Callow, J. (2008). Show me: Principles for assessing students’ visual literacy. The Reading Teacher, 61(8), 616626. doi: 10.1598/RT.61.8.3 Charest, B. C., Bell, L. D., Gonzalez, M., & Parker, V. L. (2014). Turning schools inside out: Connecting schools and communities through public art and literacies. Journal of Language & Literacy Education [Online], 10(1), 189-203. Retrieved from http://jolle.coe.uga.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Turning-SchoolsInside-Out-Charest-et-al.pdf Duffelmeyer, B. B., & Ellertson, A. (2005, December 03). Critical visual literacy: Multimodal communication across the curriculum [Special issue on WAC, WID, ECAC, CAC, CXC, LAC – VAC? Incorporating the Visual into Writing / Electronic / Communication / Learning Across the Curriculum]. Across the Disciplines, 3. Retrieved from http://wac.colostate.edu/atd/visual/dufflemeyer_ellerston.cfm Fleckenstein, K. S. (2003). Embodied literacies: Imageword and a poetics of teaching. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press. Freire, P. (2007). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum Gee, J. (2008). Social linguistics and literacies: Ideologies in discourses (3rd ed.). London: RoutledgeFalmer.


Vriend Van Duinen, D., & Schoon-Tanis, K. (2015) / “Who are our mockingbirds?”

Greene, M. (1986). The spaces of aesthetic education. Journal of Aesthetic Education, 20(4), 56-62. Gruenewald, D. A. (2003). The best of both worlds: A critical pedagogy of place. Educational Researcher, 32(4), 3-12. doi: 10.3102/0013189X032004003 Hassett, D. D., & Schieble, M. B. (2007). Finding space and time for the visual in K-12 literacy instruction. English Journal, 97(1), 62-68. Hobbs, R., & Frost, R. (2003). Measuring the acquisition of media-literacy skills. Reading Research Quarterly, 38(3), 330-355. Hull, G., & Schultz, K. (2001). Literacy and learning out of school: A review of theory and research. Review of Educational Research, 71(4), 575-611. Jester, J. M. (2003). Of paint and poetry: Strengthening literacy through art. The Quarterly, 25(4), 32-39. Johnson, E., & Vasudevan, L. (2012) Seeing and hearing students’ lived and embodied critical literacy practices. Theory into Practice, 51(1), 34-41. Lankshear, C., & McLaren, P. (Eds.). (1993). Critical literacy: Politics, praxis, and the postmodern. New York: SUNY Press. Lee, H. (1982). To kill a mockingbird. New York: Warner Books. Lesley, M., & Matthews, M. (2009). Place‐based essay writing and content area literacy instruction for preservice secondary teachers. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 52(6), 523-533. Morrell, E. (2004). Linking literacy and popular culture: Finding connections for lifelong learning. Norwood, MA: Christopher-Gordon Publishers, Inc. New London Group, The (1996). A pedagogy of multiliteracies: Designing social futures. Harvard Educational Review, 66(1), 60-92. Newfield, D. (2011). From visual literacy to critical visual literacy: An analysis of educational materials. English Teaching: Practice and Critique, 10(1), 81-94. Pinhasi-Vittorio, L. & Vernola, S. (2013). The arts to encourage multiple perspectives and promote social justice. Journal of Language and Literacy Education [Online], 9(1), 54-72. Retrieved from http://jolle.coe.uga.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/The-Arts-to-Encourage-Multiple-Perspectives.pdf Schieble, M. (2014). Reading images in American Born Chinese through critical visual literacy. English Journal, 103(5): 47-52. Shor, I. (1999). What is critical literacy? Journal of Pedagogy, pluralism, and practice, 1(4). Retrieved from http://www.lesley.edu/journal-pedagogy-pluralism-practice/ira-shor/critical-literacy/ Smith, G. A. (2002). Place-based education: Learning to be where we are. Phi Delta Kappan, 83(8), 584-594. 10.1177/003172170208300806


Review of Moving Ideas: Multimodality and Embodied Learning in Communities and Schools Carolina Blatt-Gross Georgia Gwinnett College, Lawrenceville, GA

Katz, M. (Eds.) (2013). Moving ideas: Multimodality and embodied learning in communities and schools. New York, NY: Peter Lang. ISBN: 978-1-4331-2207-1 Pages: 221 Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 Michelle M. Falter, Editor -- http://jolle.coe.uga.edu

Blatt-Gross, C. (2015) / Review of Moving Ideas

Although pedagogical traditions have typically recognized students’ bodies as forces that demand suppression, appeasement, or reconciliation, postCartesian cognition paints a new picture of the body’s role in learning. As our understanding of cognition emerges from the isolated and decontextualized approaches of the past, the educational tide seems to be shifting toward more dynamic notions of learning (Damasio, 1994; Lakoff & Johnson, 1980). Toward this goal, accommodating movement in the classroom is a growing trend, but merely tolerating the body’s intrinsic need to move is a far cry from implementing practices of embodied learning, where the body itself is integral to pedagogy. Embracing the body as an active and meaningful part of the learning process is a more daunting ideological and pedagogical hurdle, given our habituated reluctance to consider cognition as embodied. No longer perceived as a distraction from academic activity, the body can be utilized as a powerful vehicle through which educators can reach students and embed content. The demand for more holistic approaches to education is on the rise and, as a result, educators are becoming increasingly creative with their pedagogy and the means through which they reach the whole student. Some of these creative approaches to embodied learning are detailed in Moving Ideas: Multimodality and Embodied Learning in Communities and Schools, edited by Mira-Lisa Katz (2013). Authors from a range of disciplinary and educational contexts, who “consciously conceive of their bodies as multimodal material for and sites of pedagogical sense making and organization” (Katz, 2013, p. 5), have penned the chapters of this volume.

chairs is not only tedious and painful, but also counter-productive to learning” (p. 2). As children progress through formal education, these physical restrictions become increasingly canonized, socially and culturally. A quote from a TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson (2006) appropriately summarizes this tendency; “as children grow up we start to educate them progressively from the waist up. And then we focus on their heads. And slightly to one side.” Katz contrasts that ideology with the aim of the book’s authors to “suggest accessible and engaging educational practices where teachers and learners are literally moving ideas, making use of perhaps the most ubiquitous yet underutilized educational tools we have at our constant disposal—our bodies.” (p. 3) Katz deftly speaks to the latest research on embodied learning, supported by newer interpretations of cognition that are currently being unfurled from research in multimodal communication, embodied literacies and neuroscience. Citing the findings of Jewitt and Kress (2003), Katz situates the text within our existing understanding of multimodal education and urges for the re-conceptualization of education to include more varied and often marginalized modes. Katz elaborates on existing pedagogies by building on expanding conceptions of literacy and translating literary terms such as “text,” “image,” “composition,” “reading” and “writing” into bodily contexts. Although this book incorporates a variety of educational contexts, disciplines and educational levels, the connection between embodied learning and language arts is clearest and the emphasis of a number of chapters. According to Katz,

Preceded by James Paul Gee’s forward and a poem titled “The Body is the Text” by Elizabeth Carothers Herron, Katz’s introduction to Moving Ideas provides a clear argument for the need to incorporate the body into educational contexts. Drawing from personal experiences coping with the physical discomforts of traditional secondary school contexts, Katz outlines the need for bodily participation in learning. Research from Crantz (1998) on the history of the chair and the ways in which classroom furniture and spatial organization affect the nature of learning and the flow of information support Katz’s inquiry: “[M]ust schools be physically inhospitable places? For numerous people, perhaps especially for children, sitting in

Embodied literacies and communicative practices are what sustain and enable the corporeal pedagogies described in Moving Ideas; authors helpfully recast many dimensions of effective teaching…to build habits of mind/body in domains where learning and teaching are simultaneously corporeal, intellectual, emotional, psychological, and or course, deeply social. (p. 5) Katz’s thesis for situated learning also draws support from emerging findings from neuroscience. Antonio Damasio’s empirical research connecting the


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 cognitive, the affective and the embodied nature of the mind forms the foundation from which embodied learning, socially-situated learning, emotional thinking, and other manifestations of post-Cartesian education leap. Katz summarizes, “If emotions and feelings are the foundation of reasoning processes such as prediction, choice- and decision-making, as Damasio persuasively argues (1994), then we especially need schools that honor our simultaneous needs for physical, emotional and intellectual engagement” (p. 9).

With twelve chapters from a range of educational contexts and disciplines, Moving Ideas begins with a chapter by the book’s editor titled “Growth in Motion: Supporting Young Women’s Embodied Identity and Cognitive Development Through Dance After School.” In it, Katz explores through a multi-year study how an after-school dance class for teenage girls can support social and cognitive development, specifically through a pedagogy that embraces mistakes rather than punishing them. Katz builds on existing research establishing the benefits of afterschool arts activities as vehicles for youth to create social networks around self-identified interests. Further, she states, “when young women in particular are involved in physical activities such as sports or dance they tend to perform better academically; build more constructive relationships with peers and adults; learn to collaborate, think critically, and solve problems; and develop more confidence and self-esteem” (Katz, p. 32). Using a clear qualitative research design, Katz explores the connection between dance and the development of young women’s identities, their cognitive, social and emotional growth as well as the nature of learning that occurs through dance and implications for rethinking education both in and out of school. In doing so, Katz reiterates the value of multimodal learning environments and the fear that our ever- narrowing curricula is missing a promising opportunity for constructing meaningful educational experiences.

Katz draws additional support for learning through physical imitation from a growing understanding of mirror neurons, which enable our brains—through observation alone—to mimic the neural activity generated by the actions that are being observed. Pioneered most prominently by Marco Iacoboni (2008), mirror neuron research is transforming our understanding of how the brain works through contextual and socially-driven means. Further evidence of the multimodality of communication comes from gesture, which we do with or without access to visual input (whether resulting from a lack of lighting or ability). Arguing for the interconnectedness of the visual and the verbal, Katz cites gesture researcher David McNeill, who states that “language is inseparable from imagery…It makes no more sense to treat gesture in isolation from speech than to read a book by only looking at the ‘g’s” (2005, p. 4). Because gestures and the relationship between the movement of the hands and the activity of the voice offers valuable insight into the mental processes of a speaker, they have added value for education. Katz concludes,

Chapter two, written by Catherine Kroll and titled “Chroma Harmonia: Multimodal Pedagogies Through Universal Design for Learning,” delves into the use of multimodal methods in a pedagogical grammar class for pre-service English Language teachers. Noting the mismatch between professors’ expectations and students’ actual work as well as recent findings from neuroscience, Kroll re-envisions her course using Universal Design for Learning (UDL), a curricular design that emphasizes flexible learning through multiple modes of communication, action and expression, and engagement. Kroll hypothesizes “that it is the very experience of observing an active teacher/learner investigating the course material with her students that produces, in turn, a shared space of active learning in which students are stimulated to create their own self-instructional strategies” (p. 51). Kroll goes on to detail some of her instructional

If educators focus too narrowly on speech and discourse, we risk overlooking the degree to which other modalities systematically contribute to successful human communication, cognitive growth and development, and how they could be strategically tapped to support (and at times supplant) other dominant modes of classroom literacies, discourses and forms of interaction. (p. 13) Chapter Summaries


Blatt-Gross, C. (2015) / Review of Moving Ideas strategies as well as her attempts to understand her students and what might motivate them to learn grammar. Kroll postulates that gesture, intonation, vocal exaggerations are not only in line with UDL brain-based learning, but that they require activity within a greater number of areas of the brain, thereby increasing the likelihood of a student remembering the content. Of the techniques employed in Kroll’s classroom, her use of color- and symbol-coding to identify grammatical structures seems to have had the biggest impact – causing students to implement and independently elaborate on this particular learning strategy. Supported by research on mirror neurons, particularly Rizzolatti and Sinigaglia’s (2008) notion of a shared space of action, Kroll notes that mirror neurons activity is dependent on a shared sense of purposefulness or intentionality. She further suggests that students’ assimilation of the color- and shapecoding technique required a “shared understanding of the goal of that lesson” (p.54) and concludes that mirror neurons respond not to the sensory input of observed actions, but to their meaning and intention. Based on student responses, Kroll ultimately finds that “what may be most important about multimodal instruction is the very fact of its flexibility within and across multimodalities rather than any on particular type of instruction through visual, aural, or kinesthetic means” (p. 57). The teacher’s ability to model engagement and play with materials represents the crucial factor in activating student’s connection with various modalities. Kroll also warns that we should not expect our students’ learning to look exactly like what we have taught them.

accomplished musician. The co-founders, author David Leventhal and his colleague John Heginbotham, lacked experience working with persons with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) but intended to employ embodied learning strategies to help participants choreograph their movements and start to move like dancers. Determined that the physical, cognitive and emotional benefits of dancing alone would benefit participants, Westheimer stipulated that this was to be a dance class, not a therapy session. Leventhal describes the collaborative process of learning from their students; Approaching the class as a mutual collaboration, we watched and listened to what the participants did and said in response to our exercises. From the two-way process, we began to understand the elements that would help our Parkinson’s participants use mind, body, and spirit to embark on a journey away from disease via artistic expression. (p. 64) Structured like any other dance class, Leventhal describes some of the teaching strategies they utilized and the transformative effects of place as well as the sense of fun that artistic learning can evoke. Muscle memory also played an important role in allowing the participants to move on autopilot rather than having to choreograph every move. The pressure of performance also seemed to bring an elevated sense of focus and increased commitment to the dancers’ movements. Leventhal concludes, At its core, Dance for PD reflects one of the primary objectives of all arts education: to change the way we understand, experience and engage with the world around us. Learning to dance helps people with Parkinson’s see movement in an entirely new, positive way—as a creative, joyful path to agency rather than as a frustrating problem. (p. 77)

In chapter three, titled “All the World’s A Stage: Musings on Teaching Dance to People with Parkinson’s,” dance-educator David Leventhal describes a dance class specifically tailored to sufferers of the physically debilitating, degenerative neurological disorder. As Leventhal states “Professional dancers and people with Parkinson’s disease share a similar challenge: to execute difficult movement with ease and natural grace….Both populations must use learning strategies to fill time and space with fluid, fluent action ” (p. 61). The brain child of Olie Westheimer, executive director of the Brooklyn Parkinson Group in New York, the class was held at the Mark Morris Dance Center, taught by two professional dancers and accompanied by an

Martial artist and educator Keli Yerian penned chapter four titled “The Communicative Body in Women’s Self-Defense Courses,” which details the ways in which we communicate through our own (and read others’) bodies. Yerian examines a self-defense course for women, in which they are taught to use physical and verbal cues as powerful means of


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 communication. Co-taught by a female and male instructor (usually wearing a protective suit to safely play the role of the assailant), the class members enact various hypothetical situations and learn to expand their multimodal repertoires for avoiding an assault. Gender differentiation between the communicative styles of men and women become an apparent source of miscommunication in conflict situations and warrant an adjustment of learned gestures and vocal tones. Based on over 100 hours of videotaped data, Yerian’s analysis reveals that “multimodal learning thus leads to greater potential for empowerment and agency at personal, interactional, and societal level” (p. 82).

Professor of dance Nina Haft wrote chapter six, “36 Jewish Gestures,” exploring the nuance of embodied cultural and gender dispositions. Stemming from a solo performance of the same name, this chapter divulges some of the challenges faced by the author as she attempted to teach a group of non-Jewish female dancers to move convincingly like Jewish men. Haft wrote, “the body speaks even when the mouth is silent. My movement signature may be entirely unique to me, but it also embodies information about gender, age, and ethnicity, among other things” (p. 140). Haft investigated the cultural role of gesture, how it can help students critically analyze stereotypes and give voice to questions about various aspects of their identities. This dialogue informs her teaching methods.

Titled “Pasture Pedagogy: Field and Classroom Reflections on Embodied Teaching,” chapter five, by Erica Tom (with Mira-Lisa Katz) uses case studies to understand communication in the absence of spoken language. Translating bodily communication from one context to another – and from one species to another – Tom’s approach to teaching a collegiate first-year reading and composition course takes pedagogical cues from her involvement in a community-based program in which teen women work with horses. Tom writes, “although the immensity of the horse makes its body language easy to read (when one knows what to looks for), people less often consciously read one another’s body language. This is, perhaps especially, the case in the classroom.” She goes on to explain “Because a horse’s or a person’s fear of new experiences can manifest in ways that are not overt, close listening—or reading— is essential for creating a productive learning experience” (p. 111). Using her experience teaching horsemanship as a model, Tom urges a more developed awareness of the power of bodily communication and the opportunities that it generates in an academic classroom. Tom also details some of the “whole body” pedagogical methods and spatial configurations that she uses in her language courses. Perhaps the most interesting application of her experience with horsemanship is the notion that misbehaving often makes sense as a reaction to fear, and that perceiving and understanding a student’s fear can enable educators to work with the grain of student attitudes (rather than against them).

The dialect between codifying my own movement and being a vehicle for the movement of others is one that has trained me to notice habit and choice. I use this sensitivity to honor the gestural and cultural foundations of my students’ dance styles and to push them to excel at their own chosen ways of moving. (p. 152) Like Catherine Kroll’s shared space of action, Haft envisions “modeling art as a form of investigation,” (p.152) and students see Haft mining her cultural background, sexual orientation, religious beliefs and personality as part of her artistic identity. “In doing so, my students begin to see me as negotiating the same shifting territory of finding and performing identity that young adults everywhere confront” (p. 154). Chapters seven through nine describe various embodied learning methods that can be integrated into more traditional classroom settings from preschool through college. In “Thinking With Your Skin: Paradoxical Ideas in Physical Theater,” by Eliot Fintushel, theatrical traditions of intuitive action take center stage. “In the tradition of physical theater… you have to think with your body,” Fintushel explains. “The conceptual mind is just too slow, too shallow a device to be able to handle the barrage of shifting information – proprioceptive, social, and environmental—to which a performer must respond” (p. 157). Fintushel borrows the phrase “hollow flexibility” from former teacher Philip Kapleau to coin


Blatt-Gross, C. (2015) / Review of Moving Ideas a term for the kind of reflexivity required for genuinely responsive acting. Fintushel observes that students who are less successful at traditional academic subjects often excel at these dramatic exercises, noting that our current hierarchy of academic subjects is “accidental.” He explains,

the import of tapping into “the unique strengths and experiences of each group” in order to make content accessible to students (p. 183). Truss also elaborates on the significance of creating a space that allows room for physical and intellectual movement and support for adventuresome thinking and risk-taking. According to Truss,

It’s not hard to imagine a world where those priorities are reversed—only think of traditional societies in which people spend more time sculpting, painting, chanting, or dancing than doing business. Then those who fall ‘behind’ in our current order might actually be the ones out in front. (p. 160)

Although inspiration and creativity can have a chaotic feel that may at times seem antithetical to traditional notions of classroom order, in courses where multimodal pedagogy involves students in lifting the words off the page and into the body, students’ individual and collective movements and social exchanges help them ‘master the script’ on multiple levels. (p. 184)

What follows is a descriptive list of exercises that can be put to use in a drama classroom and possibly be generalized to other disciplines. These exercises help students communicate physically and generate an understanding of how to read the emotions that speak through our bodies. “We are cultivating an inner and outer eye—an aliveness to body language, not only others’ but our own” (p. 169).

Dancer and educator Jill Randall investigates the intersection of language and movement in a dance class for 3- to 5-year olds in “A Trio: Combining Language, Literacy and Movement in Preschool and Kindergarten Community-Based Dance Classes.” Integrating language and literacy into her dance curriculum, Randall describes a number of exercises that address multiple levels of learning, including social and collaborative skills that connect children with their peers and teachers. Using written language as a starting point for activities, matching terminology to movement and including children’s names and nursery rhymes, “combine[s] verbal, rhythmic, and kinesthetic learning.” Randall explains, “These approaches create multimodal scaffolding that is dense with physical learning, vocabulary building, and social interaction” (p. 188). Randall offers a sample lesson plan as well as five big ideas that can be applied to the classroom: Naming movement, cuing open-ended dance explorations with verbal prompts, using written language as a launching pad for movement and literacy connections, incorporating children’s names into movement activities, and reading and moving to nursery rhymes to create culturally relevant learning. Randall concludes, “If we indeed care about education, especially early childhood language and literacy education, then it is imperative to include movement that invites them to experience the joy and magic of language in many rich and varied ways” (p. 205).

Actor and educator Tori Truss (with Mira-Lisa Katz) writes “Visceral Literature: Multimodal Theater Activities for Middle and High School Language Arts” in which she advocates for a more full-bodied experience of reading in a course in reading pedagogy for pre-service English teachers. Based on students’ “sense memories” of their first reading experiences, Truss concluded that sharing literature is “an act of love and nourishment” and now bases her pedagogy in English and Theater courses on the idea that “literature is love” (p. 172). Truss catapults the often isolating act of reading into a public forum by emphasizing reading aloud. “For both the novice and experienced readers, voicing the text aloud changes the interaction by making the literary experience social rather than solitary” (p. 172). Further embracing the interpretive nature of expressive reading, Truss suggests that “using dramatic forms of reading to lift the words off the page and into the body can open up possibilities for a host of learning opportunities that can enhance literature” (p. 173). Performance is ultimately transformative for both the performer and the audience, cultivating attentiveness and commitment for both parties. Truss expands on this approach in a middle school classroom and explains


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 The final three chapters provide theoretical analysis of embodied learning contexts and offer suggestions for future research. Chapter ten, “The Paramparic Body: Gestural Transmission in Indian Music” by Matt Rahaim, explores the profound connections and the sustained relationship between student and teacher in the Hindustani tradition of music. Rahaim explains how gestures that accompany Hindustani vocals are unintentionally passed from teacher to student and from generation to generation. Rahaim examines the ways in which the bodily disposition of the teacher becomes imprinted on the student, whose singing always retains traces of these habituated movements, despite the fact that they are never an explicit part of the singing lessons. Although each singer tends to have individual qualities in their gestures, their movements always bear traces of their teacher, and hence of the musical lineage and training that sculpted their voices. Rahaim explains the relationship between movement and vocalization: “Just as gestures accompany speech without replicating the meaning of every word, the bodily actions of musicians complements vocal action without duplicating it, projecting melody into space as dynamic motion” (p. 210). Paired with vocalizations, movement articulates a parallel, alternate musical language and ethical context. “Melodic gesture embodies a special kind of musical knowledge, transmitted silently from body to body alongside the voice; it is knowledge of a melody as motion” (p. 210).

Through this case study, we argue that there is something multimodal not just in the product of writing—that as teachers it is not enough to require students to produce multimodal products—but also in the process of writing, and that it is important to attend to both in theory as well as in pedagogy. (p.231) Lastly, Julie Cheville’s “The Embodiment of Real and Digital Signs: From the Sociocultural to the Intersemiotic” concludes Moving Ideas by revisiting neuroscience and recent findings relevant to teaching and learning multimodally. Using scholarship from social cognitive neuroscience and biosemiotics to support qualitative data harvested from a study of embodied learning on the basketball court, Cheville demonstrates how athlete’s sign-reading and encoding abilities (often used to decipher teammates’ intentions and anticipate their actions) do not translate to the traditional classroom where visualspatial skills are undermined by a linguistic bias. In doing so, Cheville reminds readers of the body’s educational potential and the importance of “presence,” similar to Csikszentmihalyi’s notion of “flow” (1990), as well as “co-presence,” which is a shared, collaborative version of “flow.” She then shifts the article’s attention to new media, questioning how we can incorporate new strategies for embodied learning in an increasingly digital world, specifically through virtual-world avatars. Games that allow participants opportunities and agency that is inaccessible in the real world as well as recent data from social cognitive neuroscience “begus to consider how the intense experience of presence may involve particular neural processes that make engagement with spatially-situated signs different and, for many, more efficacious than interactions with linguistic signs” (p. 248). Because our mirror neurons only activate when the viewer perceives the observed actions to be purposeful, Cheville suggests “that it is the experience of presence induced by spatially situated signs in digital and real activity that triggers the neurons most responsible for agency, presence, and co-presence” (p. 251).

In “Literacies of Touch: Massage Therapy and the Body Composed,” teachers and researchers Cory Holding and Hannah Bellwoar reveal the physical, tactile elements of literary composition, which are often disregarded. Through an ethnographic portrait of a massage therapist coupled with scholarship on sensation and gesture, the authors consider the numerous sensory interfaces between the writer and the ultimate physical format of the written word. Holding and Bellwoar draw a parallel between the creation of literature and massage therapy, suggesting that massage therapists “read” their client’s bodies through touch but also “compose” those same bodies by physically editing their muscular tensions. In their words,

Ideas on Moving Ideas The success of this book hinges on the fact that most of us can relate to the discomforts of sitting still and


Blatt-Gross, C. (2015) / Review of Moving Ideas the expectations of stillness that often accompany formal education. The case for embodied learning is best made in the book’s introduction, in which Katz so eloquently states that our bodies are “the most ubiquitous yet underutilized tools that we have at our constant disposal” (p. 3). The beauty of this argument, as with much of the very best scholarship, is that it yields—what suddenly appears to be— an obvious and intuitive conclusion. Much like Elliot Einser’s (1985, 2002) work describing “forms of representation” and “aesthetic modes of knowing” as an argument for multimodality, Katz translates the complex and nuanced relationship between our bodies, brains, and contexts into clear, relatable ideas that will ring true for educators and students across the curriculum. Katz adds more recent empirical research to the poetry of her argument, re-casting embodied approaches to education as simple common sense. Among the highlights of the book, the introduction to Moving Ideas is certainly worth a read.

Fintushel; Truss), dance (Katz; Leventhal; Randall) and language (Kroll; Tom; Truss; Randall; Holding & Bellwoar) are well represented, but those connections, unfortunately, feel a bit repetitive by the end of the book. Readers with an interest in language and literacy or the performing arts will likely find this book full of valuable mind/body connections and inspired pedagogy. Others, myself included, may turn the last page hungry for expanded connections to the visual arts and other disciplines that are ripe for embodied learning. (Full disclosure: the visual arts are my area of educational expertise.) While this book is full of dancers, actors, singers and athletes, which offer obvious potential for embodied learning, the visual arts are nearly omitted, with the sole connection being Catherine Kroll’s use of color- and shape-coding, which could only be categorized as the visual arts in the most generous use of the term, and represent a rather subservient notion of the arts (see Bresler, 1995). There is no mention of the embodied potential of building, sculpting, painting, or drawing. What could be more embodied as a form of representation than manipulating physical materials and surroundings with your body? Ultimately the visual arts occur at the intersection between our bodies and the tangible world, and this seems to be a missed opportunity for Moving Ideas.

The diversity of chapters in Moving Ideas is both the greatest strength and weakness of this collection of essays. Using a range of educational contexts from community-based to more traditional collegiate settings, the book covers a broad range of ages and interests. The span, however, at times seems a bit too broad. Although all of the essays include interesting approaches to embodied teaching and learning and often fascinating content, several chapters seem short on generalizability and may be relevant to a relatively limited audience. Attempts to formally tie the chapters together by beginning each with an anecdote succeeds in making the writing engaging, but otherwise the authors’ interpretations of embodiment and teaching contexts are so disparate that the collection feels a bit loose. The split between community-based and traditional school settings could be partially at fault. From a research perspective, the chapters also vary widely with some well-designed and articulated studies (Katz; Yerian) and some detailed theoretical papers (Rahaim; Cheville) while others are more reflective or narrative in nature (Fintushel; Haft).

Although there are few sweeping interdisciplinary leaps, David Leventhal’s chapter on dance classes for sufferers of Parkinson’s Disease deftly—and unexpectedly— links the performing arts with medical science. Most impressively, he accomplishes this without diminishing the value of arts education or making it subservient to the sciences. In fact, the arts seem to triumph over it, accomplishing a fluidity of movement and confidence that no drug can provide. I found this chapter profoundly moving, perhaps because I wish I had stumbled upon it 20 years ago, before watching my own grandmother deteriorate under the inescapable claw of Parkinson’s disease. Another successful interdisciplinary paper is Erica Tom’s application of lessons learned from observing the body language of horses to her more human pupils. As she observes, comparing students to horses may seem slightly strained, but we humans are, after all, animals and share many characteristics. However odd, the comparison thoughtfully generates a sensitivity to students’ fears, imploring educators to

There is an obvious concentration on links between the performing arts and language, however, the scope of the arts included in this volume was surprisingly limited. The connections between theater (Haft;


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 understand the causes of our potentially reactionary natures. Holding & Bellwoar’s attempts to connect massage therapy with the physical act of composition, on the other hand, seem less successful at clearly establishing the link between their case study and ultimate conclusions.

introduction. While I was able to cover several chapters of Moving Ideas on a stationary bike, I read most of this text on a transcontinental flight, where the limitations of physical restriction are acutely felt and the insufficient nature of merely reading about movement is apparent. This text ultimately underscores the fact that most information about embodied learning (which generally includes a cry to upend the academic primacy of language) remains transmitted through written word and leaves readers thirsting for a more satisfyingly complementary means of conveying the content. Ultimately, this field yearns for a more innovative presentation of scholarship, but this is no easy hurdle to surmount, with issues of transmission, reliability, and consistency impeding the implementation and presentation of alternative forms (such as arts-based research). A concluding chapter in which the seeds for this discussion are planted, however, might offer a suitable start to this much-needed dialogue.

Recasting educational repertoires requires that we “wrestle language away from its historically privileged place at the center of social science research and educational practice” (Katz, p. 6). Text, however, seems inescapable in academia. I t appears incongruous that this body of scholarship, which so eloquently touts the value of embodied learning through rich descriptions of movement, is distributed primarily via books, articles, or even presentations that require us to sit still for hours on end. Silently reading a book is a decidedly disembodied form of learning, causing physical discomfort akin to sitting in the carefully arranged classroom chairs that Katz describes in her

References Bresler, L. (1995). The subservient, co-equal, affective, and social integration styles and their implications for the arts. Arts Education Policy Review, 96(5), 31-38. Crantz, G. (1998). The chair: Rethinking culture, body and design. New York, NY: W.W. Norton. Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York, NY: Harper & Row. Damasio, A. (1994). Descartes’ error: Emotion, reason and the human brain. New York, NY: Avon Books. Eisner, E. (1985). Aesthetic modes of knowing. In E. Eisner (Ed.), National Society for the Study of Education: Learning and Teaching the Ways of Knowing. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Eisner, E. (2002). The arts and the creation of mind. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Iacoboni, M. (2008). Mirroring people: The science of empathy and how we connect with others. New York, NY : Picador, Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Jewitt C. & Kress, G. (2003). Multimodal literacy. New York, NY: Peter Lang. Lakoff, G., & Johnson, M. (1980). Metaphors we live by. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. McNeill, D. (2005). Gesture and thought. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.


Blatt-Gross, C. (2015) / Review of Moving Ideas Rizzolatti,G. & Sinigaglia, C. (2008). Mirrors in the brain: How our minds share actions and emotions (F. Anderson., Trans.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. Robinson, K. (2006). TED Talk. Retrieved from: http://www.ted.com/talks/ ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity?language=en


Review of Cultural Transformations: Youth and Pedagogies of Possibility Mary Elizabeth Hayes The University of Georgia, Athens, GA

Jocson, K. (Eds.). (2013). Cultural transformations: Youth and pedagogies of possibility. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN: 978-1-61250-614-2 Pages: 288 Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 Michelle M. Falter, Editor -- http://jolle.coe.uga.edu

Hayes, M. E. (2015) / Review of Cultural Transformations

In this volume, various educators, counselors, and other pedagogues come together to present an imaginative text that explores creative pedagogies at intersections of youth identity and cultures. Cultural Transformations: Youth and Pedagogies of Possibility, edited by Korina M. Jocson, focuses on applied and ongoing multi-media cultural projects that serve young adults at the fringes of already marginalized social identity groups, demonstrating how such projects can be transformative and opportunitycreating for those youths involved (p. 3).

simultaneously challenging for readers who may not have experience with such diverse populations. For example, chapters 2, 6, and 8 feature projects supporting African American youth. In keeping with the theme of intersectionality in identity, however, each of these chapters relates the application of pedagogies of possibility in specific communities within this larger African American demographic. Chapter 2 is a transcript of discussion between two authors involved in an urban arts festival, Life is Living, that uncovers the theoretical and pedagogical underpinnings of their work. Chapter 6 is situated within a more traditional school setting and focuses on student-parent interactions in navigating race in classrooms and afterschool programs. Chapter 8 highlights a unique demographic and takes on the difficult issue of youth sexuality by exploring the experiences of two transgender African American young adults as participants at an HIV/AIDS prevention center. Other chapters focus on Native American youths (chapter 7), post-incarcerated young women involved theater projects (chapter 3), youths in Cuba and interaction with musical movements (chapter 9), and poetry and remix (chapter 2), to highlight a few of the ten total chapters in demonstration of the volume’s diversity.

Jocson introduces the volume by retelling a chance conversation with a classroom educator. This encounter inspired Jocson to inquire into artistic, creative projects going on in “contested terrains of schooling, work, and life” (p. 4) with the purpose of helping youths to meaningfully interact with their social realities. Cultural Transformations is a step down this path of inquiry, being preceded by a seminar series and special journal edition. Also in the introduction, Jocson identifies and defines key terms that tie the chapters of the volume together. Her introduction also serves to strengthen the title of the book by edifying the concept of pedagogies of possibility by drawing from educational theorist such as Maxine Greene, Roger Simon, Henry Giroux, and William Ayers. For Jocson and the authors featured in this book, pedagogy “enables young people to pursue meanings and effect change in their life trajectories,” and it “implies a struggle—over realities, over tensions and modes of expression, and over versions of self” (p. 7). For the purposes of this volume, youths are individuals ranging in age from twelve to twenty-four, and refers “racial minorities, immigrants, and transgender youth” (p. 4). The authors collectively strive to highlight the individuality of the young people with whom they are working, and are careful to reiterate that their approaches may not be generalizable at certain levels, but that pedagogies promoting openness and self-expression can be transformative in any situation.

Also of interest is the book’s afterword, written by Shirley Brice Heath—author of titles such as On Ethnography: Approaches to Language and Literacy Research (2008) and Handbook for Literacy Educators: Research in the Visual and Communicative Arts (1997, with a second volume in 2008). The afterword highlights what Brice Heath considers to be the three largest contributions of this volume: the individual participant-learners “were not targets towards which outsiders directed their curricula or methods”, the volume focused on the involvement of youth in the arts for “transformational learning”, and—along the same thread as the previous two contributions—the volume demonstrates that learning need not be “centrally owned or controlled by formal schooling” (p. 228). To conclude the volume, Brice Heath recommends future lines of inquiry for further research concerning transformative learning across age groups, as well as social and developmental factors that influence such learning in youth, specifically (p. 229).

The chapters themselves vary in approach, learning context, and youth demographic. This range in approaches and communities is a definite strength for this volume, making it widely accessible while


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015

The volume is an accessible and pleasant read that gleans much of its strength from the diversity of the participant groups and pedagogical practices presented. While the volume itself was born from a chance encounter with a classroom teacher, the majority of the chapters are not set in traditional classrooms, and may not at first read seem directly applicable to classroom or institutional pedagogy. What is entirely applicable to classrooms, however, is the opening of spaces for these diverse and specific— perhaps even underrepresented in the research to date—intersections of youth cultures. The data and experiences presented in this book could serve both pre-service and in-service teachers alike, facilitating imaginative multi-modal pedagogies that create transformative learning environments for youths with unique needs springing from unique and interacting identities.

approach, while others share artifacts embedded in theory, and yet another is a discussion between two project leaders. This variation in representation embodies the message of the volume, as does the authors’ reiteration in their chapters that the youths with whom they work and of whom they write are individual, and that their experiences are not necessarily generalizable. This is not pointed out as a weakness, but rather is noted as an opportunity for pedagogues in the readership to be creatively sensitive to their own learners and environments. Jocson’s volume sets out with the clearly defined purpose of exploring the application of pedagogies of possibility across various identifiers—language, race, gender, etc.—while maintaining a strong theoretical bearing. The book achieves its purpose, although it (purposefully) does not in most instances make specific suggestions for classroom application, nor do the chapters spend much space explicating the theories upon which they draw. The authors and editor seem to assume a certain familiarity with teaching practice, the current state of education and education research, as well as general social and education theory, making it a volume recommendable for the experienced pedagogue with an interest in bridging the perceived gap between theory and application.

Two additional yet related strengths of the volume are brought by the chapter authors. As can be seen through reading, the majority of the authors were involved in the experiences that bore data, either as concurrent pedagogues or volunteers, or previous to conducting their various studies. This proximity to the experiences being studied shines through in their narration and retelling. Each chapter is unique in how it chooses to represent transformative learning, with some taking a more traditional structured essay


Review of American Circumstance Margaret A. Robbins The University of Georgia, Athens, GA

Leavy, P. (2013). American circumstance. Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers. ISBN: 978-9462092853 Pages: 166 Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 Michelle M. Falter, Editor -- http://jolle.coe.uga.edu

Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015

Patricia Leavy’s arts-based research novel American Circumstance is part of a new social fictions series from Sense Publishers. In the Preface, Leavy (2013) states that for her, “American Circumstance is a pure a/r/tographical rendering—that which fully merges my artist-researcher-teacher identities” (p. xiii). The book is fictional, yet based on her autoethnographic observations “and more than a decade of teaching and sociological research about gender, class, race, identity, and relationships” (p. xiii). The three main characters of the book, Paige, Mollie, and Gwen, represent a microcosm of issues that American women of the upper class face, and how their problems compare and contrast to those of women in other parts of the world. Leavy shows that the lines between fiction and scholarship are beginning to merge, and that an academic can write an effective fictional account to represent the data of her sociological findings. As a researcher and creative writer who is interested in the concept of social fiction, I would have liked to have known more about Dr. Leavy’s data collection methods, particularly because I am intrigued by autoethnography as a methodology. However, I appreciated her introducing herself as an a/r/tographer. I am familiar with this term from my arts-based inquiry course, and I too see my identities of artist, researcher, and teacher as interrelated and influential of my scholarship and my worldview.

way that helps the reader to ask important questions about class issues in America and why we choose the people whom we eventually marry. Due to their class and background differences, Paige and Jake’s relationship is ill fated, in spite of their intense connection to each other. When Paige goes to college at Columbia, she meets and eventually marries Spencer Bradley, a man whose family background and social class more closely align with hers. Years later, Paige and Jake reconnect at Paige’s mother’s funeral. Will their love reignite, in spite of their betrayal toward each other years before? Is Paige willing to give up her wealth and influence for this connection? This engaging story keeps the reader interested and wondering why women make the choices they do. Part II focuses primarily on Mollie, a kindhearted woman who has recently moved to the upper east side of New York in hopes of living a glamorous life. Although Mollie’s husband clearly loves her for who she is, Mollie struggles with her weight and is not always comfortable in her own body. She also worries she is not as wealthy, or as thin, as Paige and Gwen. Although she enjoys spending time with these two women, she constantly tries to buy the right outfits and to show up at the right events to impress the two women and their spouses. However, Mollie only knows Paige and Gwen on a surface level, initially. While they appear to have ideal lives, Mollie, along with the reader, learns that not everything that glitters is gold. Throughout her life, Paige struggled to make authentic connections to her own parents, and her marriage to Spencer has secrets and rocks in the river. Gwen’s husband Redmond is rich and influential, but a business deal gone bad could leave the affluent couple with almost nothing. Eventually, Mollie learns to better appreciate her relationship with her husband and to feel comfortable in her own skin. A key part of the book, for me as a reader, is when she purchases her flats, in which she feels comfortable and also like her artistic self.

Part I of the book introduces the reader to all three central characters, yet focuses on the backstory of Paige Michaels. Paige is an attractive, perfectionistic, and intelligent woman who does fundraising for WIN, an organization that provides aid to women who live in high-conflict areas of the world. In Part I, the reader sees Paige’s life as a teenager. She lives a sheltered life with high-income parents in New England. However, her life changes forever when she starts tutoring Kayla, a.k.a. “Kay-Kay” Washington. Through this originally professional rapport, Paige is exposed to a part of her city that she was previously unfamiliar with and gains a new perspective about her privileges. Additionally, she meets Kayla’s neighbor Jake, and their story evolves into an intense first-love romance. The story of an affluent girl who falls for a boy from the “wrong side of the tracks” is one we have heard or read before. However, Leavy writes it in an engaging

In Part III, the lives of the three women truly merge together. Gwen and Redmond face a crisis, which encourages Paige and Spencer to work as a team again, in their efforts to help their friends. Paige reevaluates her life, past and present, and bestows words of wisdom on her daughter Chloe, who is soon


Robbins, M.A. (2015) / Review of American Circumstance to make important decisions about college and romance. While Redmond and Spencer are out of town for business, the three women come together for a ladies’ dinner, where they learn to put their guards down, at least to a degree. The end of the book presents a charity event for Paige’s WIN organization, during which her important, but key past relationship with Kayla comes full circle. All three women appear with their spouses to dance and to appreciate Paige’s efforts. Their lives are not perfect, and many issues still brew below the surface. However, the women have learned about open communication, appearance versus reality, and the importance of true friendships.

questions about why women love who they do and why they have to put on an appearance of perfection. For additional inspiration in my own social fictions writing, I am now reading Low-Fat Love, also written by Patricia Leavy (2011). This novel has received acclaim and attention and also raises important questions about why women make the romantic and career choices they do to the point of self-sacrifice. I am excited about the Sense Publishers’ Social Fictions Series and eager to see what else it will produce. Both of these books show Leavy’s ability to use her fiction writing talents to effectively tell the story of modern women while raising research questions about women’s roles. American Circumstance is a strong contribution to arts-based research and a/r/tography.

The characters in the book were intriguing, and I enjoyed the combination of dialogue and description. There were areas of the story of which I wanted to know more, including Spencer and Paige’s relationship and why they chose each other, Paige’s work with WIN, and Gwen as a character. In a relatively short piece of fiction, it can be hard to develop each character sufficiently. However, I found this novel very engaging and enjoyable to read. Even hours after I read many chapters, I was still thinking about the issues it raised related to social class and gender roles. This book, as the back cover notes, can be read for pure enjoyment and could also make for fruitful discussion in a sociology or women’s studies courses. In particular, it raises important

As Irwin & Springgay (2008), note, “a/r/tography is a methodology of embodiment, of continuous engagement with the world: one that interrogates yet celebrates meaning. A/r/tography is a living practice, a life-creating experience examining our personal, political, and/or professional lives” (p.117). Hopefully, more a/r/tographers will produce strong creative writing based on their life experiences and research that is both inviting to a larger audience and invigorating to academic communities.

References Irwin, R. & Springgay, S. (2008). A/r/tography as practice-based research. In M. Cahnmann-Taylor & R. Siegesmund (Eds.), Arts-based research in education: Foundations for practice. New York, NY: Routledge. Leavy, P. (2011). Low-fat love. Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers


Review of Teaching Truly: A Curriculum to Indigenize Mainstream Education Timothy J. San Pedro The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH

Four Arrows (Jacobs, D. T.), England-Aytes, K., Cajete, G., Fisher, M., R., Mann, B. A., Mcgaa, E., & Sorensen, M. (2013). Teaching truly: A curriculum to indigenize mainstream education. New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishing. ISBN: 978-1-433-12248-4 Pages: 282 Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 Michelle M. Falter, Editor -- http://jolle.coe.uga.edu

San Pedro, T.J. (2015) / Review of Teaching Truly

A teacher’s primary task is to help students overcome their fears and discover they can do more than they think they can. —Kurt Hahn

dominant hegemony) that assume the “[human] superiority over other creatures, races, cultures, spiritual beliefs and Nature, along with the continued dismissal of Indigenous, nature-based values” (p. 2), he sees this work as a key component to our liberation and salvation from ourselves.

If you believe people have no history worth mentioning, it’s easy to believe they have no humanity worth defending. —William Loren Katz

The power of this book lies in its questioning of the purpose of education in a pluralistic world: If that purpose is to create plug-and-work citizens into a global economy, the continued dominant paradigms will persist and the destruction of our world eminent, according to Four Arrows. If, however, the purpose is to raise human critical consciousness and to understand a better balance between humanity and our intricate relationship with the natural world (using generalizable tenets of Indigenous knowledges), then we may begin the process of healing by moving closer to the spiritual aspect of nature rather than our dependency upon the material.

Whoever controls the education of our children controls our future. —Wilma Mankiller, Principal Chief, Cherokee Nation, 1985-1995 I think we’re on the brink of disaster on many fronts. I believe that Native people can help us out of that, help us push back away from that brink. —N. Scott Momaday, in Nabakov, 1992, p. 436. Words only point to truth, genuine knowledge must be experienced directly. —Francesca Fremantle

There are many ways to read this book: In its entirety, absorbing the small details and the storied flow of the “Four Directions,” or the skimming of sections that might personally help with subject-specific lessons/units or administrative plans. I fear that educators who are continually asked to do more and more while not being afforded more time may read parts and pieces without fully investing in the whole. As this book seeks for balance using the “Four Directions,” I find it important to consider each of the sections, understand how each part interconnects with the whole, so that readers may better absorb what the authors collectively are attempting to tell. This holistic reading starts by spending some time reading quotes that introduce each section, much like I have done with this review in which I took parts of chapter introductory quotes in order for these powerful voices to have an opportunity to speak with each other, resonate with the other, and to preface what is to come. The carefully chosen chapter quotes speak to each other and prepare the reader for what is to come in the chapter that follows.

Teaching Truly: A Curriculum to Indigenize Mainstream Education by Four Arrows (Don Trent Jacobs) is fueled by the urgency to respond to “our era of crisis[:]…Every major life system on our planet is at a tipping point” (p. 2). Envisioning a solution to this crisis, Four Arrows along with six contributing authors offer an American Indian interdisciplinary approach to teach/practice harmony and balance in schools. This approach is mostly written with “nonIndian” teachers and administrators as their primary audience. His call is not simply to use Indigenous content and curriculum as an additive approach to build upon current mainstream educational practices, but for generalized Indigenous epistemologies and ontologies to permeate and become re-centered in schooling spaces. As such, he envisions a “partnership between mainstream and generalizable Indigenous approaches to education” (p. 2). The authors collectively embark on what indigenizing mainstream education looks like, who it benefits, how it can be done, and the importance of “teaching truly.” Because Four Arrows places a large responsibility of our current worldly problems upon mainstream education, which operates on paradigms (to sustain

Structurally, Teaching Truly is divided into “Four Directions” in relation to a medicine wheel. It begins in the West, which focuses on Introspection by grounding the discussion on the effects of anti-


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 Indianism (the discrediting and demonizing of Indigenous knowledges) particularly in the consciousness of many educators. Four Arrows begins here, in the consciousness of the reader, because if this book is to be used as a roadmap, we must first “…discover where we are” in order to better understand “…where we must go, and how we can get there!” (p. 29). So, where are we? According to guest author, Kathryn England-Aytes, we are in states of trauma. By foregrounding the ways mainstream colonial education has impacted communities, discussions of trauma (cultural, historical, and intergenerational) are defined because

to renew or deny funding for this charter school. When the mainstream realities come face to face with the hope and vision of such a program rooted in indigenous principals, Sorensen reveals that definitions of “success” can get muddled. The North section, in building upon the lessons learned in the STAR program, recommends strategies teachers should understand about Indigenous perspectives in order to better include them into their classes. If one is having to read quickly, Chapter Four titled “Indigenous Teaching and Learning Pathways” is a must read as it relies on a number of Indigenous scholars and elders to ground what Four Arrows means by “indigenizing” mainstream education: “Prior to conquest by Europeans, traditional Indigenous education in the Americas emphasized oral histories, teaching stories, ceremonies, apprenticeships, learning games, formal instruction and informal tutoring. …The goal of these forms of education is to maintain and sustain relationships among the human, natural and spiritual worlds” (p. 72). He emphasizes that “Indigenous teaching and learning paths are ultimately about cultivating cognition and consciousness via spiritual awareness and reflection of lived experiences” (p. 65). What does this look like, particularly in a mainstream educational system that continues to be extremely linear? The East attempts to address this question.

“…it is important that educators understand how historical trauma, unresolved grief and cultural decimation over an individual’s lifespan and across generations has affected Native students, families, and communities. …For non-Indian students, this awareness is of significance…because non-Indian students themselves may be suffering their own forms of trauma resulting from structural inequalities their families have experienced” (England-Aytes, p. 32). The West further foregrounds how societal injustices that have historically reached (and continue to reach) branches of government continues to impact the education of children, particularly Native American children. However, this section moves toward resilience and hope by offering multiple suggestions on where we must go with education, which transitions nicely into the next section.

The East: Energy and Action is where the bulk of the content of this book lies (8 of the 13 chapters are located in this section). While the previous two sections discuss the limiting parameters of mainstream paradigms (West) and schools (North) that view education as an assembly line of linear and separate parts, Four Arrows understands the reality of our current schooling situations and collects a number of supplementary lesson resources based on content specific subjects including the following: Health, Music, English Language Arts, United States History (written by Barbara Alice Mann), Mathmatics, Economics, Science (written by Greg Cajete), and Geography. He prefaces this section by stating, “…a truly Indigenous approach would not focus as we do here on individual subjects without connecting them to the others” (p. 81). The emphasis, then, in indigenizing mainstream content is to see how the intersections between and amongst subjects “can

The North: Wisdom focuses on larger educational programs that take more holistic approaches to the inclusion of Indigenous paradigms; as such, this section seems to be aimed more for administrators. Mark Sorensen, the director of the STAR (Service to All Relations) discusses the successes and battles of attempting to “indigenize a mainstream state curriculum” while working from the foundational principals of “K’e,” a Diné (Navajo) concept referring to seeing “relations as encompassing all life on this planet” (p. 52). While much success has been collected about this program, Sorensen honestly reveals that that “success” may not be fully realized in the standardized tests that the State Charter Board uses


San Pedro, T.J. (2015) / Review of Teaching Truly serve the teacher’s highest goals” (p. 81). While there were brief moments that talked about the importance of intersecting subjects, an extended introduction or concluding chapter to this section where explicit recommendations of the ways teachers could work with one another to create more holistic and overlapping curricula was needed.

action upon another, rather than a change through internal reflection of lived experiences with our communities and families. In my humble opinion, the threat of our current educational system is in its attempt to disseminate knowledge and truth as though there was one knowledge and one truth that should be shared by all. It forgets about place, where people are located, and the multiple truths that exist in our pluralistic society (Grande, San Pedro & Windchief, 2015). Likewise, Indigeneity, when generalized, attempts to combine the many nuances that make Indigenous peoples and places unique. In such combinations, it gets messy and the messiness lies in the attempts to learn from Indigenous people as though they all operate upon the same paradigms, ontologies, and epistemologies. They do not, and we should not.

The South: Spirituality and Emotional Awareness attempts to reconnect with the first section, The West, by emphasizing emotional and spiritual awareness. The two chapters are written by guest authors, Ed McGaa and R. Michael Fisher. McGaa’s chapter emphasizes the binary of fear and fearlessness: “Man has established a religious hierarchy that controls by using fear and false promises that are endangering all of life on Mother Earth today. Through religious-based fear rather than spiritual fearlessness, people are programmed and medicated to exist as if we were not part of the Great Mystery” (p. 242). Fearlessness grounded in spirituality, then, lies in our ability to regain balance by trusting in the interconnectedness between each other and with nature. Fisher extends McGaa’s thinking as his chapter connects fearlessness to the overall goals of this book (to indigenize mainstream education) by shifting the paradigms of what wisdom and education are: “Indigenous wisdom teaches that the only true source of authority is personal and honest reflection on lived experience in light of the spiritual understanding that everything is connected” (p. 252).

So, I revert back to the goal of the book — to indigenize mainstream education — and I wonder: What does indigenizing education mean when it is delivered in classrooms void of Indigenous peoples? How do those “generalizable” tenets of Indigenous epistemologies, ontologies, and paradigms translate when it is separated from the people and the places from which they originated? How might non-Native peoples with few relations with Native peoples embark upon this work? Let me be clear, these questions are not to diminish the important work of ally-ship in humanity that this book encourages, after all, “A pluralistic society needs both the many and the one to remain vibrant” (Paris, 2012, p. 95). Rather, these prompting questions are rooted in an attempt to better understand the purposes and goals of Indigenous education and indigenizing education. Hopi/Tewa and Diné scholars Jeremy Garcia and Valerie Shirley state: “The goal for Indigenous education is to enact a schooling experience that is rooted in self-education, self-determination and sovereignty for Indigenous peoples,” (2012, p. 78). Based off this understanding, I worry that the movement from Indigenous (as a noun) to indigenize (as a verb) in relation to education may, inadvertently, story over and story past the very peoples and communities this book roots its (generalized) knowledges in.

In attempting to translate what this connectedness looks like, Fisher, I think inadvertently illustrates the messiness/confusion that goes with trying to teach what spirituality (which, as stated in the previous quote, is very much based on the individual and ties to community and place) looks like through the written word. While he provides steps to re-connect one’s self with nature and, through extension, humanity (pg. 240-250), the discussion reveals a fundamental and structural shortcoming not only in the chapter, but in the purposes of the book itself: To “indigenize” mainstream education. After reading this book, I wonder: What are the dangers in using Indigenous as a verb, to “indigenize”? What does it mean to “indigenize mainstream education”? In the movement to a verb, it becomes an

I have no doubt that there is much power in this book, and that it will resonate with a broad, compassionate,


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 and critical audience. There is much to learn within these pages and from these multiple authors. My questions (above) are rooted in hope and purpose: I hope that as steps are taken, however small or large, to enact the main tenet taught within Teaching Truly:

A Curriculum to Indigenize Mainstream Education, that they are done so with the experiences, stories, perspectives, and voices of local Indigenous peoples and communities.

References Arrows, F. (2013). Teaching truly: A curriculum to indigenize mainstream education. New York, NY: Peter Lang. Garcia, J. & Shirley, V. (2012). Performing decolonization: Lessons learned from indigenous youth, teachers and leaders’ engagement with critical indigenous pedagogy. Journal of Curriculum Theorizing, 28(2), 76-91. Grande, S., San Pedro, T. & Windchief, H. (2015). 21st century indigenous identity location: Remembrance, reclamation, and regeneration. In D. Koslow & L. Salett (Eds.). Multiple perspectives on race, ethnicity and identity. (3rd ed.)(pp.105-122). Washington, D.C.: NASW Press. Paris, D. (2012). Culturally sustaining pedagogy: A needed change in stance, terminology, and practice. Educational Researcher, 41(3), 93-97.


Review of After Pedagogy: The Experience of Teaching Elizabeth Davis The University of Georgia, Athens, GA

Lynch, P. (2013). After pedagogy: The experience of teaching. Urbana, IL: CCCC/NCTE. ISBN: 978-0814100875 Pages: 171

Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 Michelle M. Falter, Editor -- http://jolle.coe.uga.edu

Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015

In this slim, but thoughtful volume on the postpedagogical “crisis” in composition pedagogy, Paul Lynch raises the subject of reflection by riffing on the phenomenon of the Monday morning question: What is a teacher to do with the pedagogical theory du jour in the crucible of the classroom? This question, Lynch notes, construes a failure to immediately transform the latest theory into practical application as a failure of theory writ large. As he points out, the field of composition has been long troubled by the division between theory and practice despite numerous efforts to heal that rift. Part of the problem lies, of course, in the fact that the subject of composition studies is, essentially, pedagogy, though, as Sidney Dobrin (2011) has asserted, this focus on the teaching holds writing scholars captive to such quotidian managerial concerns as students and classroom techniques.

approach to writing instruction, Lynch here argues for a postpedagogical practice that focuses on what comes after the actual teaching moment. In the “Prologue,” Lynch seizes on kairos and experience to situate pedagogy as a “post” practice activity focused on “repurposing and learning from everyday living” (p. xix). Here, Lynch establishes the foundations for this vision of pedagogy as an emergent act, noting that he will draw heavily on the work of John Dewey to establish an argument for pedagogy as casuistry (and for reclaiming the concept of casuistry from disrepute), as experiential and case-based “practical reasoning” that can help us develop an academically rigorous approach to pedagogy that resists the tendency to turn praxis into a one-size-fits-all formula. While the idea of reflection as the real site of teaching and learning may be hard to square with current problems in and attitudes toward higher education, Lynch takes on a difficult problem and draws effectively on the work of some key figures in rhetoric and composition scholarship. The rest of the book presents his effort to construct a rigorous approach to pedagogy that both accepts and refuses to give into the problematic argument that teaching is fundamentally situational, provisional, and contingent.

For most teachers these days, at both the secondary and postsecondary levels, such a larger existential argument about the relationship between theory and practice seem esoteric and out of touch. What matters for many (thanks to legislative and administrative mandates) is results, as measured by test scores, data points, job placement statistics, and debt-to-salary ratios. With higher education feeling the pressure that has long been felt at the elementary and secondary levels to justify its methods and quantify its value, theory is only valuable if it can be assimilated into a praxis that produces measurable results. If compositionists are to abandon pedagogy, won’t that simply make the field as useless to the bean counters and STEM proselytizers as philosophy and the classics? Will we be digging our own disciplinary graves if we turn our attention away from the practical aspects of writing instruction? And, even if we do shift our focus to theory, the fact remains that we still have to teach students the writing skills that are often defined and mandated from on high and on which our value, in a culture of quantification, depends.

In Chapter 1, Lynch outlines the ambivalence toward teaching writing that has long troubled the field of rhetoric and composition. Starting with Quintillian’s insistence that rhetoric is non-codifiable, Lynch evokes a current dictum of the digital age when he notes that (like those jobs that we’re preparing students for that haven’t been invented yet) teaching is likewise relative to the case at hand, not a code of laws that can be applied to any situation and produce the same outcome. The problem here is obvious, however: if teaching (and writing) is purely situational and those situations are inherently unpredictable, is there any point in trying to construct a pedagogy for writing? Lynch makes a smart move in not attacking the postpedagogical heritage that emerges from the work of such scholars as Cynthia Haynes, Victor Vitanza, Dobrin, and J.A. Rice and Michael Vastola, but in applying a Latourian approach of assembling these arguments, both in the sense of bringing them together and of re-assembling their emergence as

What such an insistence on measurement and practical application misses, however, is the other term that identifies our field - rhetoric. The rhetoric in rhet/comp is what Lynch attempts to restore here by way of another “R,” reflection. Rejecting both postcomposition nihilism and a rigidly systematized


Davis, E. (2015) / Review of After Pedagogy arguments, in order to show how we have arrived at this point and what this point even is.

Chapter 2 continues by tracing of the influence of Victor Vitanza’s calls for composition scholars’ resistance to anything programmatic. Lynch notes Vitanza’s influence on such thinkers as Diane Davis, whose “pedagogy of laughter” is another effort to break up (as in laughter) the rhetoric and composition field by allowing for, appropriately enough, disruption. As Lynch notes, however, a pedagogy based on disruption – “a rhetoric of comedy” (p. 45) – still leaves the question of the teacher’s role unanswered. What is a teacher supposed to do in a classroom (and field – writing) in which there is no method, no process, nothing but moments and acts that are always in flux? Lynch begins to chart a path out of this morass through the work of Thomas Rickert and Byron Hawk, who suggest that the act of teaching is a following, rather than a leading, but the problem remains of situating teaching as post hoc. He concludes the chapter with the idea that we must learn from experience yet resist the urge to systematize that experience into a rigid pedagogical method.

The problem of a postpedagogical philosophy that views teaching as purely situational and unsystemizable is that we exist in a world of pure invention. If we have to make things up as we go along, make things anew in each situation, then we exist in the “House of Lore” in which all classroom experience might as well be superstition: I did this and it worked, so it will work for you! What is missing in this approach is the application of reflection, which allows for abstraction and the emergence of knowledge that can then be drawn upon when a practitioner is faced with a new situation. Lynch argues against a “distracted and purposeless” pursuit of adhocism and introduces the idea of “case-based moral reasoning” (p. 21) as a potential solution to the problem of the ever-shifting ground beneath our feet. If we must ad-lib, then we must do it by drawing on past experience in a way that allows for the construction of theory and for the considered application of – or deviation from – that theory in light of a given situation.

In chapter 3, Lynch contrasts the concepts of tuche (luck/happenstance) and techne (craft) to foreground the primary problem of postpedagogy: how do we create (craft) situations in which learning can happen (luck)? Is it even possible to occasion the opportunities for learning if it is impossible to predict or systematize any act of writing? In this chapter, Lynch will rely heavily on the work of John Dewey to make his claim for the primacy of experience as the foundation of a “sustainable” postpedagogy (p. 64). Acknowledging the complexity of Dewey’s work and the expansiveness of his thought over an exceptionally long career, Lynch does a careful reading of several Dewey scholars’ efforts to reclaim the key concepts in Dewey’s work from the popularized (mis)readings that have taken his focus on the child in the educational ecosystem as exemplary of a stereotypically liberal antipathy to content and rigor. But Dewey’s approach to learning, which focused more on the content as a site of learning than an end in itself, provided a way for compositionists like David Russell and Kent to argue that the subject of the writing course – writing itself –cannot be taught. Lynch is careful, however, to draw out of these scholars’ engagement with Dewey the concepts that may, in fact, provide the foundation for a different

In chapter 2, Lynch continues to assemble the network from which our postpedagogial moment has emerged. Starting with an analysis of Cynthia Haynes’s call for composition to distance itself from what has become its primary focus, argumentation, Lynch sets up the resistance to pedagogy as emergent from the third sophistic school and Lyotard’s paralogy. The formulaic approach to the writing process and to argumentation as the ur-genre of the composition classroom simply re-introduce the grand narrative problem and elide the highly situational and situated nature of every act of writing. The argument that emerges from this heritage of postprocess, in which there is never a single writing process (or genre) that can work for every writing situation, is the idea that the teaching of writing itself is, thus, impossible. Lynch cites Kent’s assertion in Paralogic Rhetoric (1993) that writing is unteachable and tracks the evolution of this idea through the work of other writing studies scholars to get to the ultimate problem that arises from this legacy of thought: “What we are left with, then, is the fundamental problem of teaching for uncertainty” (p. 35).


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 way of thinking about the transactional and constitutional aspects of language and communication.

as an ethical approach to teaching, one that allows for exceptions within an economy of experience-based rules, and that allows for those exceptions to then become folded into the fabric of experience through a “taxonomy” of cases that form a genealogy of connections.

When Lynch notes in chapter 3 that Dewey’s empiricist critique of philosophy requires that we put theory into practice in order to test it through experience, he lays the foundation for an exploration of how experience and reflection can come together as a potential solution to the problem of the impossibility of teaching. Dewey views language as a means of acting, not simply communicating. Language is experience and it is a means of sharing that experience. If experience is emergent from language acts, then that experience is “available for meaning” (p. 79). The task, then, is to take the primary experience that emerges from language acts and to transform it into “secondary experience – experienceas-equipment for living” through reflection and a continual process of re-testing against future experience (p. 79). In this way, we create a method, but a method that is open to revision and that, like writing, is part of a recursive ecosystem in which new experience refashions the old and the old shapes what new experiences are possible. Postpedagogy emerges as a way of making experience both a response and precursor to learning.

Lynch acknowledges that taxonomy may evoke Foucauldian nightmares for compositionists sensitive to classification systems and the way that they exert power, and he makes recourse to Donald Schön’s concept of “repertoire” as a way out of that particular concern, but there is no good way to reconcile a fundamental problem with casuistry-as-pedagogy: the problem of knowing “surprise by knowing the familiar” (124). Though Lynch attempts to get out of the house of lore, when one enters the house of knowledge, there is always an ordering that makes some things knowable and others unknowable. This may give some compositionists pause as it does insist on othering, even though it allows for the other to be acknowledged and embraced (or, less pleasantly, perhaps, co-opted). Still, by the end of this chapter, Lynch has made room for an approach to pedagogy that, through a focus on problem-solving and making student experience primary, is perhaps the most ethical approach to teaching that I can imagine. By applying rigorous application of analysis to experience in the classroom, we can re-situate the site of learning as post-pedagogy.

In the fourth and final chapter, Lynch makes his case for casuistry as a “method” for a non-methododical approach to teaching. In a sentence that teachers everywhere and at every level will adore, he scathingly critiques the notion of the “teacher-proof curriculum” as “contemptuous and contemptible” (p. 98) due to its utter disregard of the experience that teachers bring to the classroom, experience that could and should form the foundation of a non-formalistic approach to learning that makes room for contingency and improvisation. We cannot turn experience into an algorithm because algorithms cannot adapt to the unexpected or unaccounted for in the way that a casebased approach to teaching can. We need a pedagogy, Lynch argues, that recognizes the recursivity of experience and allows for prior theory to become passing theory and vice versa. Tracing the history of casuistry from Aristotle’s phronesis through Cicero and early Roman Catholic philosophy, to the Jesuits and their nemesis Pascal, Lynch sketches a more nuanced picture that allows him to argue for casuistry

This is a complex and challenging way of thinking about the art and craft of teaching. It perhaps requires us to be artists more than craftsmen, in that while both may use similar techniques, the goal of art is to evoke a more heightened response than mere replication of something, even if that replication is finely wrought (think here of that beautifully crafted, yet conventional, five-paragraph essay). However, this is where theory collides with the practical issues raised by an increasingly formulaic approach to higher education. For the many teachers who are adjunct and part-time, or bound by rigid and pre-fabricated curricula, or required to use online course content created by others, or who are subject to evaluation and review criteria based on standardized data points, it may be nearly impossible to implement such a reflective, adaptative, and situational approach to pedagogy. The maxim Lynch proposes near the end of


Davis, E. (2015) / Review of After Pedagogy the text, “A lesson should never work three times” (p. 136), will certainly not go over well with the curriculum designers who wish to standardize pedagogical practice for “replicable” results.

succumbs to the axiom that writing is simply unteachable. In After Pedagogy, Lynch attempts to answer the question of “how we bring rigor to the expression and experience of contingency” and suggests that we combine art and action, data and method through a continual rethinking of past experience in the face of the new (p. 137). While this [anti]method may be difficult to implement, teachers of writing (and administrators of writing programs) would do well to attend to his arguments for how we can, through rigorous application of reflection to experience, perhaps craft a method for occasioning and understanding the unexpected.

Still, Lynch’s text is a valuable contribution to current discussion of composition pedagogy. As Santos and Leahy (2014) wrote in their discussion of a postpedagogical approach to web writing, “Writing is an elusive, complex practice, not the stilted activity codified by so many textbooks” (p. 85). Postpedagogy has been an effort to address the fact that effective writing pedagogy must be as mercurial, contingent, and emergent as its subject, but in practice it too often

References Dobrin, S.I. (2011). Postcomposition. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press. Santos, M.C., & Leahy, M.H. (2014). Postpedagogy and web writing. Computers and Composition, 32, 84-95.


Children and Young Adult Book Review High School Girls Like Us Educator Reviewer: Helene Halstead Student Reviewer: Stephanie Wallace

Giles, G. (2014). Girls like us. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press. ISBN: 978-076362677 Pages: 224 Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 Michelle M. Falter, Editor -- http://jolle.coe.uga.edu

Giles, G. (2014)/ Girls Like Us

Educator Review: Biddy and Quincy share their stories, which becomes their story, through alternating chapters of Girls Like Us (Giles, 2014). As is implied in the title, our two protagonists feel they are different than other girls, yet their stories of hope, worry, support and understanding will resonate with most readers. The story begins as the girls are graduating high school, the only two “speddies” to do so that year. Through the school’s special education department, the girls are provided with a place to live in exchange for cooking and cleaning an older woman’s home. This is where the adventure of life begins and by the end we are all hoping for the girls to continue their life adventures together. While this book is truly a study of the characters, Giles shows us who they are through both big and small moments; the girls tell us who they are as they navigate their experiences. Giles gives us plenty of time to get to know our characters through their own voices. In fact, we continue getting to know them, piece by piece, as they get to know themselves. We learn that Biddy’s grandmother, who calls her granddaughter white trash and retard and doesn’t want Biddy to live with her any more because the “state don’t send no more checks now” (p. 5). We learn that Biddy is sweet and caring, is a cleaning fiend, and is usually terrified of the world around her. We meet Quincy who explains that she entered foster care at the age of six after her mama’s boyfriend hit her on the head with a brick. Quincy shows us that she is fierce, independent, direct, and usually hides her feelings under a protective shield of armor. The girls’ stories, story, engage the reader emotionally. While their words are simple, their voices are powerful. We invest in them as individuals and as friends. As observers, we see that they have more similarities than differences, and we rejoice when they begin to see this as well. We hope that they will grow stronger individually and know that they will as an “us.” While middle school students can enjoy this story, the ideas are complex and might be better appreciated by students in high school who are also getting ready to discover the world. A younger reader would benefit from having a conversation with a more experienced reader to discuss the sexual situations, the concept of being without power or voice and the different ways people can live with challenges.

Helene Halstead The University of Georgia, Athens, GA

While the words are simple, their voices are powerful.


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015

Student Review: Girls Like Us is one of the best books I have ever read. This book is about two special education girls who just graduated from high school, and are learning and living together on their own. One girl is named Biddy, who cleans the house of an old lady named Ms.Elizabeth who also own the apartment Biddy lives in. The other girl is named Quincy and she works at a grocery store called Brown Cow, and cooks breakfast and dinner for Ms. Elizabeth. This book has an outreach to those who are more special than the usual, and if they can read they should read Girls Like Us. I would recommend this book to my sister, who is in special ed. She is the most smart and amazing person I know and she would love this book. I believe that people who want to become teachers in the special ed. department or who are should read Girls Like Us. This book has a relationship of people, animals, and life, which I wish people would see out of books and in our world. The best thing about this book is how I love reading how close Biddy and Quincy get towards the end. I love books and this book has really opened my eyes to what people can do. Stephanie Wallace Clarke Central High School, Athens, GA 11th Grade


Children and Young Adult Book Review High School Bombay Blues Educator Reviewer: Helene Halstead Student Reviewer: Deonna Hensley

Hidier, T. D. (2014). Bombay blues. New York, NY: Scholastic. ISBN: 978-054538478 0 Pages: 560 Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 Michelle M. Falter, Editor -- http://jolle.coe.uga.edu

Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 Educator Review: Reading Bombay Blues by Tanuja Desai Hidier (2014) is, in itself, a journey. Hidier takes us not only on a voyage through the smells, textures and colors of Mumbai, but also on journeys of love. Through the experiences of our protagonist, Dimple, and her sister-cousins Kavita and Sangita, we travel through first love, love at first sight, planned love as well as anlove of family, country and aesthetics. Beginning Bombay Blues is similar to falling in love. For some, there will be hesitancy; Hidier’s rich descriptions of India are as much a part of the story as the characters and this slows the story down. Others will be captivated by the book’s layout, falling for the visually appealing pages. These lovers will notice that Hidier uses no quotation marks in a novel filled with dialogue and after tentatively learning how to navigate the pages, will be hooked by the aesthetics of the page. Still others may tumble head over heals into the story as they realize that the adventurous Dimple has many escapades to share. While this novel is a sequel (although it can very much stand alone) to Born Confused, our story begins as Dimple returns to India for Sangita’s planned wedding. Her boyfriend, Karsh, is right behind her, returning not only to DJ the wedding but to launch his DJ career in India and deal with the loss of his father. Each character we encounter is a work of balance. As they lose one part of themselves, they gain another. This happens not once, but over and over throughout the 560 pages of our tale. As Dimple explores and photographs Mumbai and the surrounding towns, readers are treated to snapshots of her trip, her heart and the sum of her parts. Students who read to explore the world around them will enjoy Bombay Blues. The book is appropriate for high school students; younger students may struggle with the language Hidier uses in her descriptions. The novel is poetic and cerebral; understanding the story means delving into the head of a displaced college student who loses her map—to Mumbai and her life.

Helene Halstead The University of Georgia, Athens, GA

Beginning Bombay Blues is like falling in love.

Student Review: Bombay Blues was the most meaningful book I have ever read. Once I read the first three chapters I was hooked. The story is told through the eyes of an Indian teenage girl. She leads a highly complicated life because she takes photographs, is having trouble with her boyfriend and is visiting India and her family for her cousin’s wedding. While reading about the main character, Dimple, the reader is taken on a magical adventure of love and romance. Bombay Blues is a book that will captivate the reader, making them want to enter the life of the main character. People will enjoy this book if they like to travel and if they enjoy reading about romantic adventures.

Deonna Hensley Clarke Central High School, Athens, GA 11th Grade


Children and Young Adult Book Review Middle School Elena Vanishing Educator Reviewer: Helene Halstead Student Reviewer: Lindy Buxton

Dunkle, E. & Dunkle, C. (2015). Elena vanishing. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books. ISBN: 978-1452121512 Pages: 288 Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 Michelle M. Falter, Editor -- http://jolle.coe.uga.edu

Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 Educator Review: I had the pleasure of seeing daughter Elena Dunkle and mother Clare Dunkle speak on a panel at the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of NCTE (ALAN) conference of 2014. Their stories, narrated in Elena Vanishing (2015) chronicles primarily Elena’s experiences with Anorexia Nervosa. Their heartfelt talk piqued my curiosity, yet I was hesitant to read another tale of a struggling teen dealing with an eating Elena’s matter-of-fact disorder. I say this not because the market has been overwhelmed narrating style explains with books on this topic, but from the perspective of one who as faced this battle herself and read extensively on the topic. Memoirs what her experience was and fictional tales dealing with the topic, as Elena herself points like, but makes no claim out in her Afterward, often glorify the topic or focus less on the day-to-day experiences and more on the recovery. that others have had the

same experience.

Elena Vanishing does neither of these things. Her story is both engaging and off-putting, as a story dealing with this topic cannot help but be. On page one she plops the reader down in the middle of one of her many hospital visits, immediately exposing the reader to the conflicts she felt between dealing with intense pain and craving the admiration of the hospital staff. In the three-page chapter, Elena spells out the dichotomy she faced daily: fears of eating and a loss of control, the need for outside validation of her perfection and the agonistic pain that comes from starving. Elena’s matter-of-fact narrating style explains what her experience was like, but makes no claim that others have had the same experiences. She interacts with others in an out-patient facility dealing with the same mental illness and manages to show similarities and discrepancies between the patients living there. She succeeds in personalizing her experiences while including enough information that others can see themselves in her story. This brings us to the question of who might enjoy or benefit from reading Elena Vanishing. It is often the case that readers of books about eating disorders experience the disease themselves or know someone who has. These books become a guide for recovery or a validation of one’s own trials. Dunkle’s story is different. It does provide us with an understanding of the experience. However, it also tells a story of being human and how we manage terrible incidents in addition to our concerns of how we are perceived by others. It is, thus, a book that can be read by anyone, as well have all lived; and, therefore, have all struggled. That being said, there are over 24 million individuals in the United States alone who cope with this mental and physical illness. It has the highest mortality rate of young girls, aged 15-24, than other causes of death combined (retrieved from: https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/general-information ). It is likely that educators will interact with students who are, in some way, dealing with an eating disorder. Reading this book provides an understanding of what these young people may be feeling as well as the seriousness of the disease. This understanding will help anyone who feels overwhelmed or combative as they live their lives with this or other struggles. Helene Halstead The University of Georgia, Athens, GA


Dunkle, E. & Dunkle, C. (2015)/ Elena Vanishing Student Review: Elena Vanishing is truthfully one of the best books I have ever read. The book was about a seventeen year old girl who struggled with the eating disorder known as Anorexia Nervosa. The book is based on a true story of how Elena lived with her eating disorder. My favorite thing about the book is probably the choice of wording the author uses. The details were incredible and so pure. I found this book to be extremely well written with attention to small details that brought the story to life. I personally really connected with the book, as I am also a teenage girl struggling with an eating disorder. The book is very emotional and could possibly be too upsetting for some people, so I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone under fourteen. This book is amazing and I highly recommend it.

Lindy Buxton Hilsman Middle School, Athens, GA 7th Grade


Children and Young Adult Book Review Middle School Anything Could Happen Educator Reviewer: Margaret Robbins Student Reviewer: Stacee Dillard

Walton, W. (2015). Anything Could Happen. New York, NY: Scholastic. ISBN: 978-0545709545 Pages: 288

Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 Michelle M. Falter, Editor -- http://jolle.coe.uga.edu

Walton, W. (2015)/ Anything Could Happen Educator Review: Tretch Farm is a teenager who lives in a small town where everyone knows each other. He has a kind family and steadfast friends who support him through tough times at school where not everyone is kind to sensitive kids. However, his family and friends do not know his biggest secret: he’s gay and in love with his best friend, Matt Gooby. Both Tretch’s parents and Matt make well meaning, but misguided attempts to encourage his romance Tretch is an interesting with fellow bibliophile Lana Kramer, but really, Tretch’s heart and multifaceted belongs to Matt. But how will Matt react when he finds out? How will Tretch’s world change when people learn his secret? character with a voice Eventually, Tretch becomes more comfortable in his own skin that is charming, and even manages to save the school dance with moves that believable, and sincere. he used to dance only with himself. He comes to realize that not everything in life gets resolved the way we want it to, but he will still continue to be happy. This book is a heartwarming and refreshing story about a gay teenage boy who enjoys his small town life, but who is learning how to articulate his true thoughts and feelings. He faces struggles, such as getting bullied at school, but he finds solace in his grandparents’ farm, the local bookstore, and his loyal friends. This book will appeal to all pre-teens and teenagers, as all people can relate to the feeling of loving someone and knowing it will never be fully reciprocated. In particular, it will appeal to LGBTQ young people who are learning to appreciate their identities and who are searching for true friends. Tretch is an interesting and multifaceted character with a voice that is charming, believable, and sincere.

Margaret Robbins The University of Georgia, Athens, GA

Student Review: Anything Could Happen was about a teenage boy who was dealing with the situation of being gay with no one knowing and having a crush on his best friend. This book is significant to me because it told a romance story that did not end in the traditional guy getting the girl, the girl getting the guy, the girl getting the girl or the guy getting the guy. It was different. In the end, Tretch did not end up in a relationship with Matt, his best friend, that was more than friends. Instead, he lost his romantic feelings for him. In the end, Tretch cared for Matt the way Matt cared for him. I would not recommend this book to anyone who has something against homosexuality or to someone who is the in the seventh grade or below. Perhaps people who have lived through this same situation or someone who enjoys a different type of romance story would enjoy this book. What I liked most about this book was the quirky humor of it. It had this way of making you giggle at the simplest moments. Stacee Dillard Burney-Harris-Lyons Middle School, Athens, GA 8th Grade


Children and Young Adult Book Review Elementary School The Book With No Pictures Educator Reviewer: Khanh Bui Student Reviewer: Ja’Saya Muckle

Novak, B.J. (2014). The book with no pictures. New York, NY: Dial Books. ISBN: 978-0803741713 Pages: 48 Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 Michelle M. Falter, Editor -- http://jolle.coe.uga.edu

Novak, B.J. (2014)/ The Book with No Pictures Educator Review: What do you think about reading a book without any pictures? Have you ever thought about a narrator speaking directly to you? Just explore the book titled The Book with No Pictures written by B.J. Novak. Novak created a very unique picture book, although it does seem strange to put it in the picture book category since there are no pictures in it. The fundamental message is reading is fun, and silly stories are fun. Novak makes an enthralling case that a book without pictures can be as interesting and fascinating as one with pictures. Yes, I am a

monkey. The Book with No Pictures carries no specific plot but simply contains nonsense sentences jumping from one page to another. It is unique in that it does not have any illustrations but a judicious use of colorful words, varied typeface and font size to visually convey a changing tone to guide readers. Moreover, the text implies a shared reading transaction in which an adult has to read the text aloud, no matter how ridiculous it is. Meaningless words, petty words to be sung and even a bit of trivial talk for good measure all join together for an undisciplined read-aloud performance. What is fun for both the reader and the listener is that the reader must say (no matter what!) what the words in the book say. So when the pages turn, adult readers must speak out loud words such as “blork” and “bluurf.” They must speak in a monkey voice and then a robot voice. Even though the closing section asks for the child reader to “please please please please/please/choose a book with pictures” for subsequent reading, there is a likelihood that this request will be denied. This book is particularly suitable for families or teachers to talk about silly words and noises. Moreover, it also gravitates to children’s interest in amusing sounds, made-up words, and unbefitting words such as “butt.” The reader (one assumes an adult) is supposed to change voices and tones according to the words described in the book to make the child laugh. This book, therefore, will be more effective and more entertaining when red to a large group of children. The domino effect of laughter will make the children and the atmosphere of storytelling more cheerful. This book also has an educational value. The uncomplicated words may be accessible to newer readers. Young readers can decide if made-up words such as “blurff” convey any meaning. Young children may even be inspired to create their own words and sounds or tell a story with made-up words. The most important attribute that makes this book successful is the reader’s competence in terms of humor and story-telling techniques. When I gave the book to my nephew, he read through some pages and then threw it aside. I was so surprised. Then I read the book to him. With my elicitation, mimicking and singing, he became more interested in the book. Thus, the book requires the strategies of more expert readers in order to help engage younger children. Children will love listening to their teachers or other readers who are forced to say ridiculous things such as “Yes, I am a monkey,” and “my head is made of blueberry pizza.” This complete non-picture book goes a long way toward stimulating a love of reading.

Khanh Bui The University of Georgia, Athens, GA


Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 Student Review:

Translation: I love all the parts of this book! The funniest thing I read was about “Boo Boo Butt,” a hippo. I like reading this silly book. I learned some new words! I think my cousins would enjoy this book because they will learn how to read better.

Ja’Saya Muckle J.J. Harris Elementary, Athens, GA Kindergarten


Children and Young Adult Book Review Elementary School Jim Curious: A Voyage to the Heart of the Sea in 3-D Vision Educator Reviewer: Xiaoli Hong Student Reviewer: Darwin Gutierrez-Martinez

Picard, M. (2014). Jim Curious: A voyage to the heart of the sea in 3-D vision. New York, NY: Abrams. ISBN: 978-1419710438 Pages: 52

Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 Michelle M. Falter, Editor -- http://jolle.coe.uga.edu

Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015

Educator Review: After his graphic novel Jeanine, the graphic artistic Matthias Picard, who now lives in Paris France, presents anther comic-style book, which is wordless, in picture book format and rendered in 3-D version. Readers of this book follow the young boy, clad in an enormous diving suit, into the depth of the sea for explorations. The 3-d experiences make the whole adventure incredible and amazing for readers as they share the boy’s journey in meeting various marine animals, being stalked by a shark, seeing a sunken fighter plane, and finding what appears to be the ruins of Atlantis under the sea. The illustration is intricate, detailed and, on occasion, a little too dense. Overall, the comic-book style adds fun to the adventure. There are two pairs of red-and-blue 3-D glasses at the back of the book, which provide the possibilities of children reading with their friends, parents reading with their children, teachers reading with their students. The glasses offer readers a true immersion into the undersea wonderland. The deeper readers go, the more mysterious it gets. Originally published in France, this imported book will surely bring much fun to children and adults. Parents can read with their children to explore shipwrecks, sea creatures, and teachers can encourage children to discuss the details and progression of the adventure. Overall, it is a book that holds great pleasure and sophistication of undersea experiences for both children and adult readers as well.

Xiaoli Hong The University of Georgia, Athens, GA

The 3-D experiences make the whole adventure incredible


Picard, M. (2014)/ Jim Curious

Student Review: The student who read this book is not yet able to write. After reading the book, he was asked questions and the answers follow. Can you tell me what this book is about? It is about an adventure in the water. Will you tell me what you saw in the book? I saw a bear*, a monster and a shark. Why do you think Jim wanted to go on an adventure? Because it would be fun! Have you ever been on an adventure? Yes. Where? The beach and the zoo. If you went on this adventure like Jim did, what would you look for? If I went on this adventure I would look for fish and [a] shark. The fish don’t bite and the sharks do. What was your favorite part of this book? The animals (points to different animals in the sea). This (he also points to a fold-out page with all the sea creatures spread across four pages). Do you think other kids might enjoy this book? Yes. Who? My friends at school. Is there anything else you want to tell me about the story? The pictures are colorful. He lives in the water. Jim looks happy (he points to Jim smiling). *There is no bear. Jim Curious, however, in his diving suit facing backwards does look remarkably like a bear. Darwin Gutierrez-Martinez Early Childhood Head Start


Spinning Straw into Gold – A Teacher’s Plight Sheryl Lain They toss the shocks at my feet. The king requires gold. Four walls stare me down. I’d spin the yellow into gold with all my heart if I could against all odds, making good falsehood’s promise. In the dark, I wrestle alone to do the impossible. A visitor, who never belonged in a classroom, trades counterfeit help for my desperation. The trade is not fair. My faith in good intentions steals away the sun. What name shall I call you to retrieve my soul, Rumpelstiltskin?

Author’s note: I wrote Spinning Straw into Gold after a teacher friend told me she just resigned mid-year. Her supervisor required her to replace writing workshop, where students grew from writing four lines a day to four pages, with a canned grammar program. “Look at this writing,” her boss told her as she overlooked the kids’ journal ideas. “The kids can’t spell!”

Before participating in the Wyoming Writing Project, Sheryl was a closet poet, never dreaming of sharing her little snippets about her students with them. But when she did give the poems to students, they wrote her back. Tom Romano’s lines of trust crisscrossed the classroom. Besides teaching, Sheryl is a national presenter and has published poems, essays and monographs. Sheryl loves kids and the teachers who teach them. She can be contacted at sheryllain@aol.com.

Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 Michelle M. Falter, Editor -- http://jolle.coe.uga.edu

Lain, S. (2015) *The poems that follow are titled for students, all pseudonyms.

Ryan Sheryl Lain You dream of another world where reality is measured in drumbeats and stories are told in guitar chords. The music world mirrors at times the chaos and pain of the real one where parents lock the door with you outside and your grandma falls ill. But here, waiting for the bell, you reject parsing and rules as not just irrelevant but heresy. No match for the integrity of drumbeat and guitar whine.

Hale Sheryl Lain You learned science young: years of fluid movement down the country road, you, your bicycle, the earth synchronized. You knew the physics of balance, pressing your leg muscles against the curve of black asphalt, riding heat wrinkles. You took the corners faster than the safe speed of black tires’ grip on summer soft surface. Prisoner of time from bell to bell, you daydream. Like Einstein, you know your energy still spins somewhere out there, another boy maybe, another bike, another country road You both skim the heat waves defying too much measured time.

Thank you for all you have given me this year it has been more beneficial than any other subject in school and it is something that I can never repay you for, you understood what others did not and that is something that means a lot. Hale.


Blowing and Bursting Bubbles Sharon Verner Chappell Created from a child’s breath Blown from a wand of any shape A perfect sphere Surface tension holds strong as it Spins alongside the others Reflecting iridescent colors in sunlight To catch them, my daughter reaches through her whole body Fingertips almost touching their strong Yet fragile whole Personal space is a bubble Built from invisible energy I burst it once When I was four, prancing around another child at preschool chanting his name, foreign on my tongue While he cried under the blanket we wrapped him in Pop A school burst it once— the bubble so delicately and intentionally blown through the coos of parent to baby, her name in whispers— pale pink, golden yellow, cerulean blue swirls— the many I love yous Heard in languages unspoken at school Those words kept her bubble whole Until one day in kindergarten It bobbed onto a pencil tip That wrote a new name for her. Her American name.

Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 Michelle M. Falter, Editor -- http://jolle.coe.uga.edu

Chappell, S. (2015) Pop I wonder about The blowing and bursting of bubbles Who gets to dip into the sticky substance of life’s self worth? To hold the wand and blow? Who gets to burst? And what follows— a squeal of excitement, a tear of loss Some other quiet rupture? How can I be a mother now based on what I wished I had known as a girl, About the fragile sureness of belonging? About our actual selves Whose differences are held in stark relief from the cookie cutter body the news anchor accent the kids on TV shows who fit in without even trying— How can I attend to those who feel the sticky bursts of bubbles everyday From the not-saying and not-hearing, From being on the outside of assumptions and privilege. What if I cannot work in the school to do it, What if those four walls box the bubbles in What if everyone in charge says there is no time or space in the curriculum To start a new bubble blowing project. I am too old to be young, too young to forget And my daughter is just right when it comes to the joy of bubbles Our bodies stretch to the open sky She shows me what is possible I must work with her, we have bubbles to burst, and so many new ones to blow.

Sharon Chappell is an assistant professor in the department of Elementary and Bilingual Education at CSU Fullerton. She specializes in diversity and curriculum issues, English language learning, bilingual education, and arts education. She also is interested in building communities of learners in online instruction. Dr. Chappell earned her Ph.D. in curriculum studies from Arizona State University. She can be contacted at schappell@exchange.fullerton.edu


The 451 App (22 August 2022) P. L. Thomas “So! A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it.” Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury everyone had electronic devices of course when it began appearing harmlessly (it seemed) a red fireman’s hat icon with 451 in yellow

no one could delete the 451 App (if anyone tried) and no one could ever determine just what it did until of course the date 22 August 2022 arrived

hindsight they said even then is 20/20 (foolishly) but in the days that followed there was a certain clarity about the words and ebooks forever wiped away

the 451 App turned from fireman’s hat to flame that flickered and glowed on everyone’s device as if waving good-bye to something no one could name

P. L. Thomas, Associate Professor of Education (Furman University), taught high school English in South Carolina before moving to teacher education. He is currently a column editor for English Journal (National Council of Teachers of English) and co-editor of Social Context Reform (Routledge). Follow his work at http://radicalscholarship.wordpress.com/ and @plthomasEdD. He can be contacted at Paul.Thomas@furman.edu

Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 Michelle M. Falter, Editor -- http://jolle.coe.uga.edu

Burning Hell Blanca Licona

Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 Michelle M. Falter, Editor -- http://jolle.coe.uga.edu

Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015

Dream Blanca Licona


Licona, B. (2015)

According to Dictionary.com, The American Dream “is a life of personal happiness and material comfort.” However, for immigrants, the real “American Dream” has become a constant fight against humiliation, abuse, racism, and stereotypes. Everything starts in that Burning Hell where millions of people die searching for “better lives;” the Burning Hell where that border stands being the abysm between many families, that border that gives you the name of “immigrant.” Seeing many Hispanic parents work from sun up until sun down just to have enough money to make their families survive, seeing smart young students turn into gang leaders just because they don’t have the right documentation or the money to continue on with their educations has made my dream stronger than ever. I’m a first generation student from a family with minimal education and very low incomes. I want to live the real dream by becoming educated. I want to be a symbol for my whole community just like The Statue of Liberty has been the symbol of progress and success for all those who came to America looking for that, American Dream, that we all wish to find.

Blanca is a recent high school graduate and a lover of the arts. Her inspiration stems from my desire to bring to light injustices and my desire to achieve my dreams in the United States. She wants society to understand that just because she doesn’t have a “Social Number”, it doesn't mean that she’s different; she still has a heart and blood running through her veins and the desire to work hard and become someone important in life. Blanca can be contacted at blanca.licona@gmail.com


Benjamin Rodrigo Joseph Rodríguez after seeing Sir John Everett Millais’s painting Bubbles: A Child’s World (1886) Standing beside the cedar kitchen table, he places a yellow Post-it note and pencil in my hands. As if by genius instinct, his quick hand is followed by a pointed gesture for me to begin the assignment. “Joey, Joey!” he calls. “Write me some questions, okay? Write me some questions!” I listen and follow. His voice invites me to work beside him as his unstoppable curiosity and energy bubble up. Ben’s six. I ask, “What kinds of questions do you want?” He grimaces, and his brown eyes extra blink. “The kinds with bubbles to pick the right answer.” Oh, I wonder, puzzled and confused. “Hmm, like this,” Ben adds, and takes a pencil in hand and shapes, curves letters to words. Soon symbols appear in pairs and strings to make sentences bellowing with meaning. As if with training, Ben creates a question. One bubble here with words and then another. The bubbles he’s drawn are clear, precise. Round. Circles. Ready to be filled in. A–D. Bubbles balloon before us as he blots them. His strokes and penmanship say he’s a master of this act. The question stem suddenly appears with multiple-choice options. The options written include three distractors and, yes, of course, the correct one, the key.

Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 Michelle M. Falter, Editor -- http://jolle.coe.uga.edu

Rodríguez, R. J. (2015) Next, Ben’s on his toes, waiting and watching for me to write. “Now you, okay? Now you, Joey!” he cajoles. His watermelon grin invites me to write with precision and results. He hovers over my pencil marks while I handwrite and struggle. I’m learning about form. Bubbles are what we’re after. As a professor, I create the possibility of a new exercise for us. “What about the other kinds of questions?” I ask. “Which ones?” Ben wants to know. “I want to write some without bubbles, like, ‘Tell me a story about an elf.’ Or ‘How do you know if a dinosaur’s really a dinosaur?” “Okay, write them,” Ben says. I draft a list: 1. Describe what Fuzzy and Lucy like to read. 2. Why do Fuzzy and Lucy ride in a truck? 3. Tell me about Elfie. 4. How many dinosaur teeth do you have? Ben gathers the yellow pencils we sharpened. On a few sticky notes, he writes: 1. Lucy likes to read Charlet Wed. Fuzzy likes to read trucks. 2. Lucy and Fuzzy love to ride in a truck because they like to read in it. 3. Once upon a time there was an elf named Elfie. And he lives in the north Pole. He went to a boy named Ben. Elfie is nice and kind. 4. I have one. “It’s time to eat, Ben,” his mother calls and waits. Ben’s left our writing table and grabs the bubbles solution and runs with a wand in hand.

Rodrigo Joseph Rodríguez is an assistant professor of literacy and English education in the Department of English at The University of Texas at El Paso. His research areas include language acquisition and the teaching of academic writing, socially responsible literacies, and children’s and young adult literature. He is an advocate of El día de los niños / El día de los libros (Children’s Day / Book Day), which is an initiative and daily commitment to link all children, adolescents, and families to books, languages, and cultures. He can be contacted at rjrodriguez6@utep.edu Photo credit: Gustav A. Verhulsdonck, 2015


Failing Students Allisa Abraham They are children we cannot teach – statistics that prevent AYP year after year. No amount of intervention will help. Been on the path of Does Not Meet Expectations so long, they never look to land anywhere else. Accustomed to less than 51percent. That’s life on the bubble. We talk about them as if we know them – Bless his little heart. No home training to speak of. That’s why he blurts out in class. Doesn’t know any better. Won’t do any good to write him up – they’ll just send him back to class. So we tell them we want to help them be successful – whatever that means. We give them granola bars and Gatorade – out of our cabinets and desk drawers. Pencil and paper with every assignment. Of course, they aren’t prepared. Second chances – retakes galore, a little help after school, that bump from 68 to 70. It’s only two points in the scheme of things. We fix it, so they pass, but we never point the way out.

Allisa Abraham is a 10th Grade high school English teacher at Rockdale Career Academy in Conyers, Georgia and a doctoral candidate in the Department of Language and Literacy Education at the University of Georgia. Her poems have been published in NCTE’s English Journal. She can be contacted at lisahall@uga.edu

Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 Michelle M. Falter, Editor -- http://jolle.coe.uga.edu

The Yellow Crayon, A Kindergarten Fable Niki Tulk The desk crushes her knees; it is a vice, it keeps her small. She places her piece of cream paper carefully in front of her, where her hand strokes it once, twice. Now children intones a female voice, (solid like a metal tube) “Here comes the fun part. Free Choice Drawing.” At last, after a whole aching day of having to publicly beg permission to go to the bathroom, the excruciating may I/can I dance (oh the hot face and hands) and still she does not know the difference, only the way she feels small, like her legs under the hard desk, small like a stone, or a dead bird on the side of the road. “You can choose any crayon.” Any crayon? Is this can I? May I? Really? Any colour? “Weren’t you listening?” (Oh the cold of the metal tube) “Try listening the first time and you won’t need to waste everybody’s time by asking again!”

Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015 Michelle M. Falter, Editor -- http://jolle.coe.uga.edu

Journal of Language and Literacy Education Vol. 11 Issue 1 -- Spring 2015

The youngest ones have to wait; bigger children first, then oh so finally the small ones, she trembles at the crayon box— the desperate rainbow— which one? The color chooses her; it always does. Yellow. Yellow, warm afternoon sunshine through dry leaves, bright honey toast, how she grabs this token of life outside— and walk don’t run back to the cramped desk. The small girl draws big shapes; the lines curve, dreams release, she swims in the lines, soars through the colour, the crushed small girl starts to sing— until the bigger children laugh. “Do you always sing while you draw?” sniggers one girl, new like her, but not new now, not now that all the rest have joined in. The teacher stops one boy taking two colours: “Just one I said!” Another boy throws his crayons— he is two years older and brave. The small girl’s song now a whisper across the yellow lines on her cream paper. “Now let’s look over here.” The voice, flanked by the tall thin teacher, leans over the yellow shapes, dragon breath; it burns. “You have used yellow crayon!” The class is silent.


Tulk, N. (2015) “This girl has used yellow crayon. On yellow paper.” The teacher pivots on one sharp-tooth heel, her eyes sweep everyone into her loud, cruel laugh: Come gather, help me eat this child. What’s wrong? the child whispers. “Speak up. I can’t hear you.” You said any color. “Yes. But not that one.” The girl’s song disappears, the lines close over her hand. “When you draw with yellow crayon on yellow paper nobody can see it! Now go and choose another colour and get another piece of paper and start again.” And the girl? She grew up to be a teacher who, whenever she asked children to choose any colour, did everything she could to mean it.

Niki worked for many years as an English and Drama teacher in Australia; she has a M.F.A (Creative Writing) from the New School, and a Masters of Education in Children’s Literature from the University of Georgia, Athens, where she also ran theatre workshops for at-risk teens. She is on part-time faculty at Parsons The New School for Design in New York City, where she teaches writing to undergraduate artists and runs professional development training for New School faculty. Niki works as a freelance theatre director in the NYC area, as well as monthly book reviewer for Antipodes: A Global Journal of Australian and New Zealand Literature. Her debut novel, Shadows and Wings was published in April 2013; she has poetry and fiction published in The Saranac Review Tenth Anniversary Edition, Rock River Review, The Sheepshead Review, Antipodes, and The Feminist Wire. She can be contacted at nikitulk@gmail.com


Announcing the JoLLE@UGA 2016 Winter Conference: Lived Words and Worlds: Community Engaged Literacies. This year’s theme invites teachers and researchers to examine ways in which communities and literacies inform one another in pedagogy and in scholarship.

January 30-31, 2016 Georgia Hotel and Conference Center 1197 South Lumpkin Street Athens, GA 30602-3603 Be sure to check the website http://jolle.coe.uga.edu/conference/ for information on the conference theme as well as when/how to submit a conference proposal.

Profile for Journal Language

Spring 2015 Issue--Volume 11(1): Embodied & Participatory Literacies  

Spring 2015 Issue--Volume 11(1): Embodied & Participatory Literacies  

Profile for jolle_uga