Drop that Knowledge: youth radio stories in the beginning chapters focuses on the three core parts of their teaching methodology: converged literacy, collegial pedagogy, and point-of-voice. The most immediately interesting section to me was on collegial pedagogy and the dichotomy of working with students while also guiding and advising them.
The power dynamics between teachers and students is always a tricky area of classroom management. It is necessary to establish relationships with students managing the student’s authority is an important part of making connections with the class. Too much and you are an authoritarian and too little and students start trying to get away with actions they should not do. Maintain the “right” amount of authority is an important skill to learn.
This dynamic gets even more complicated in project-based-learning like Youth Radio and in student centered writing workshops. It seems implied in many books on PBL and writing workshop that teachers should minimize their authority. However, on one hand the teacher can never disregard authority entirely due to the education system an institution as a whole that lend power to the teacher. A student will not forget entirely how much power a teacher has over them in a classroom.
Complimenting that critique of disavowing the teacher’s authority, which I first read in Lensmire’s, Powerful Writing, Responsible Teaching, is the notion in Drop that Knowledge, and also found in other texts, that teachers need to retain some authority in order to properly guide students. For Youth Radio they covered Simon’s editorial process on his reactionary letter. The editorial process is not fun as is pointed out, but it is necessary, so author’s do not become “stuck” in their point-of-view. The other anecdotes illustrate also point at a similar point but complicate it. Sometimes adults are more into with what audiences want but what the audience want can become the “safe” choice.
Going back to writing in a general ELA classroom, my own personal context, guiding students especially on creative writing projects is difficult. While teachers want to help students strengthen their writing, we do not want to say, “no your ideas are bad” or “your feelings are invalid.” To help navigate this tricky area I borrow from Kamler’s Relocating the Personal. In order to have students make connections to what they write students need to be shown how argumentation, social advocacy, informational pieces and more genres of writing are all inherently personal, and to some extent biased and influenced by power structures. In order to critique personal thoughts especially in students’ emotional pieces we need to walk that back some as Kamler does.
Kamler relocates the personal by focusing on post-structralism on showing students and helping student learn that writing is a representation of an idea or event and critiquing the writing artifact is not inherently a critique of the person. Kamler leads students to this understanding by having students rewrite the same piece for different purposes and from different perspectives while covering the theories of power in post-structuralism. A similar thing could be done in advanced ELA classrooms during a creative writing unit. It would be interesting to try to create a unit plan with a focus on the ideas found in these books to incorporate in a general ELA classroom and not only in writing and PBL workshops.
Freire and Ladson-Billings have strong thoughts on what teaching is and should be so I've written a teaching philosophy, one of many to come, that will at least get me started as I figure out what teaching is to me and how I want to go about doing it.
My educational philosophy is based on the foundation that all students can learn, and that learning is best done through inquiry. People are naturally curious. Everyone naturally seeks out knowledge whether that be a baby experimenting, a toddler trying new foods, a primary student performing a baking soda experiment, and on up to cutting-edge researchers. Teachers need to encourage their student’s natural curiosity, so they become self-motivated learners. Effective education encourages curiosity and inquiry while pushing students forward; however, poor education makes individuals avoid learning.
Effective education takes advantage of humanities inherent curiosity. Lessons and curriculum should be tailored to consider student interest and prior knowledge while focusing on guiding students to develop critical literacy so they can become increasingly independent learners. Since an effective English Language Arts classroom should help develop student’s own discovery of knowledge, instruction needs to focus on giving students tools. We want to teach them to fish not give them a fish. Teaching literary theory is one aspect of this approach. Literary lenses are a “tool box” students can use when looking for themes and ideas in novels to help them process what they read. Another aspect of the “toolbox” approach is giving students reading strategies they can use that scaffolds them through more difficult texts. Some example strategies are re-reading, summarizing, note-taking, and more. Filling students’ “toolboxes” teaches them ways to understand and approach texts so they can work progressively more independently using the methods that they have learned.
To compliment this toolbox approach, the method of instruction should put focus on the student. Most of the classroom time should be spent on students tackling discussions, texts, and ideas themselves so they can practice utilizing the tools they have been taught. As the year progresses the teacher should do progressively less scaffolding and instead moderate as students produce ideas, create research projects, and discuss topics. Less is more when it comes to the teacher talking. A student focused classroom can be worked towards throughout the year by teaching students the tools and strategies they need so they can work with progressively less direct support from the teacher.
Keeping expectations high, guiding students to consistent modest improvements, and using materials and topics relevant to the student body keeps motivation and curiosity high. Since my philosophy rests on the natural inclination of everyone’s curiosity it means that every student wants to learn. While ability, speed, and areas of interests will vary it still should come as a relief to educators everywhere that what we want our students to do is a natural part of life. Every student can and should be taught up to their potential because they both deserve the wonders of literature and critical thinking and every person deserves to embrace their love of learning. In order to have students take intellectual risks, failure may happen when students push themselves, classrooms need to be a safe and welcoming place. Open communication free of abuse and ridicule should be at the forefront of any classroom’s norms.
My classroom will be a welcoming place that pushes students to take risks in order to learn and develop their skills and knowledge. Working together my class and I will make learning an active and ongoing process throughout the year with a focus on developing critical literacy so that students can continue to educate themselves even when they leave my class.
theory blog: Trauma novels
The Hate U Give serves as an excellent high school level trauma text and as a way to discuss social equity in a classroom. It compares favorably with the likes of Slaughter House Five and The Things They Carried as a trauma novel while also approaching it from a new direction, racial violence rather than war trauma.
The focus on Starr’s community and the spaces she lives in connects with Michelle Balaev’s account of trends in trauma novels. The effect of the traumatic killing of Kahlil has a great effect on the community space and Starr. Starr oscillates between being silent and later her desire to speak out. Balaey says that silence is used to a variety of rhetorical effects. In The Hate U Give Starr uses silence to protect herself and try to understand the murder of her friend. The Hate U Give can be a way to approach not only social inequity and racism but also the messiness of trauma and how people understand and try to recover from trauma.
With The Hate U Give and other works that focus on racism against people of color inevitably it comes up about how should the n-word be addressed in a classroom. Grinage’s “Combating Huck Finn’s censorship” provides an excellent frame-work on how to tackle this discussion in a classroom. The biggest takeaway from the article is the purposeful build up to the addressing and tackling of the n-word and other emotional charged words. Building up classroom practices that support effective classroom discussion and building background on the subject are done purposefully over a period of time. This approach seems to be an effective way to discuss any traumatic or heavy subject. Discussions on important social ideas cannot be done lightly or off the cuff. The lessons need to be planned, scaffolded, and designed usefully well in advance in order to best serve the students and generate beneficial discussion and ideas and not repeat previous trauma.
theory blog: forms of texts
The importance of visuals in texts of all kinds is an important point to reinforce in order to avoid the privileging of traditional novel reading. While analysis of ads and social media has become more common in education it still seems the literacy is still overly focused on traditional novels.
The emergence of graphic novels and comics as “legitimate” forms of text and their use in classrooms is a positive change however. Graphic novels and comics allow for ample space to discuss the effects of visuals, space, time, and blocking. At the same time, there are many different comics to choose from depending on what literary idea a teacher wants to focus from with topics anywhere from immigration and refugees to the power of dreams. Comics provide a inherently strong starting point to discuss imagery, blocking, representation, and more due to the combined visual and literary nature of the medium.
Expanding beyond advertising and marketing to incorporate more comprehensive interpretations of critical literacy is important so students have a greater variety of practice and so they do no get bored. Bludgeoning students with the constant message that advertising has bad messages. Showing them how everything represents and shows different aspects of power and cultural dynamics is necessary. Even educational documentaries have hidden meanings despite their outwardly innocent appearance.
However, learning to recognize power dynamics and infer unstated ideas but also what they can do. Without giving students tools to actively engage with critical literacy they will likely become defeatist or apathetic. How can a student fight against media conglomerations? Teaching them about culture jamming, successful boycotts and other tools will give them actionable ideas so not only will they become critical readers, but they will also be activists.
Pop culture, along with comics, also needs to be taken more seriously. Music, fashion, popular brands, movies and more can all have a large impact on students, and they need this brought to their attention and given opportunities to practice. Focusing only on marketing analysis does students a disservice. Movies, good and bad, allow another way for students to engage in critical readership and since film analysis is not a commonly offered course it seems English Language Arts will need to fill in the gaps.
Critical Literacy encompasses a broad range of materials and ideas so teachers need to be prepared to give students the opportunity to practice it in a variety of ways and within a variety of contexts.
An excellent resource on the starting point for comic analysis is Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud.
Morrison’s Playing in the Dark and Carey-Webb’s Literature and Lives connect well under the discourse topic of how to connect traditionally Eurocentric literature, Cary-Webb’s example uses Shakespeare specifically The Tempest, to a more multicultural and inclusive approach. Morrison discusses how even in literature and literary analysis that Africans are a part an important part of the story and criticisms through the “shadows” made by their lack of focus.
The idea of minorities “shadows” can also be used and expanded upon through Carey-Webb’s thoughts. Using New Historicism allows the taking of Eurocentric literature and using I to think more broadly. Such as The Tempest and what it tells us about prior perspective on natives and colonialism and minorities. Texts that seem to lack a voice on outsiders by virtue of that lack saw a lot and that too can be discussed. Just as negative space in art helps create the picture so does an absence in literature send its own message.
Using New Historicism as basis for teaching literature allows for a comprehensive view on the historical and cultural placement on the text. This naturally encourages the incorporation of additional artifacts and supplementary texts to the core piece that further develops its significant. This helps answer the oft heard “Why are we reading this” uttered by students. Connecting different texts together and then discussing the political and cultural situation allows for moving the past to the present by making connections between the two and encouraging discussion on how the historical debates progressed to now.
Creating a textual web also gives students more pre and post information to help them anticipate and process respectively the central text. Giving a more concrete framework around the novels in class will help motivate students and help the teacher learn any areas that students may need help with before starting to read independently.
Another positive aspect of this approach is its ability to be used with any novel. All novels used in schools speak to some cultural aspect of their times and ones that lack an inclusive stance can be used to talk about exclusion through the “shadows” created by the voices left out. Learning to recognize who is not represented or not represented equitably is an equally important skill for students to master as critically analyzing what is explicitly in the text.
Using New Historicism and keeping in mind those left out of text is a flexible way to keep all novels culturally relevant and currently relevant. Even Shakespeare can be made relevant to modernity and made to be cultural relevant through this flexible approach
theory blog: Christensen
Christensen’s Building Communities Out of Chaos was exactly the example and anecdote that I have been looking to read. “Build relationships” has been an Education buzzword I have heard over and over, but I have been left wondering, how? Making friends individually can be difficult enough but getting a disparate group of 30 or more students to take part in a “community” seems like a tall ask.
However, Christensen’s personal experience at Jefferson helps show how to do this. The most important line to me was, “Building community begins when students get inside the lives of others in history, literature, or down the hallway, but students also learn by exploring their own lives…” (Christensen, 6). For students to become a community they need to know each other, and the teacher. By using relevant books as a starting point for discussions on topics that interest students Christensen provides an avenue for students to share their personal stories.
I also appreciate the piece pointing out the value in a teacher being open with themselves. I have heard arguments for and against being an open teacher, but I am a relatively open person and would prefer to not hide” myself from my students. I have had friends say I talk a lot about myself, not in a bad way, but relating personal and family anecdotes and fun facts. Hearing that did not surprise me since I do it on purpose. It is hard to get other to open up to you if you are not open to them. So far, I have had success with being open with others and plan on continuing that strategy. It is nice to be validated by this article.
Using books to build community means that using culturally relevant books will be important. Most classrooms will have a diverse spread of literature will need to be read. A single story will never be enough to understand others, “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story” (Chimamanda Nogzi Adichie). In order to get into the lives and history of others mean taking a focused effort to understand others and to avoid stereotypes this means hearing as many stories as possible.
Another excellent part of the article is “When students’ lives are taken off the margins and placed in the curriculum, they don’t feel the same need to put down someone else.” (7) If students are uncaring, bullying, or abusive to each other than it will be impossible to build a community or relationships. However, Christensen’s quote bring sit back to making students feel heard and like they have agency. If they are part of the curriculum and involved in the learning process, there will be greater buy in to lessons and once they get to know one another they will not hurt one another.
Building Communities Out of Chaos helped put the pedological theory I have been studying this Fall into context and see demonstration if it in action. Hearing an experienced teacher own struggles with a classroom also helped ease my own anxiety. It will not be perfect from day one, but I do have a whole semester to work with my students and bring them to where they need to be.
resource: Facebook, there are a lot of teaching groups on Facebook with resources and advice. I encourage everyone to take a look around for groups relevant to your content area and grade level.
“Culturally sustaining pedagogy exists wherever education sustains the lifeways of communities who have been and continue to be damaged and erased through schooling” (Alim and Paris, 1) is an important part from Rodriguez’s “Chapter 4: School and Education of Young Adult Characters” connects culturally diverse literature to culturally relevant pedagogy. Multicultural literature can be used to create culturally sensitive pedagogy by creating “windows” or “mirrors” to cultures that have or are being “damaged and erased through schooling.” America is not a singular entity, so neither should the literature we teach be singular in perspective or voice.
Kumashiro’s Troubling Education covers four approaches to anti-oppressive pedagogy: Education for the Other, Education about the Other, Education that is Critical of Privileging and Othering, and Education that Changes Students and Society. The beauty of multicultural literature is that it allows an avenue to approach all of the kinds of anti-oppressive pedagogical approaches. Literature allows for the creation of windows and mirrors to and between cultural which helps cover Education for the Other (mirrors) and Education about the Other (windows). Further appropriately chosen novels can criticize Privilege and Othering and show students how to resist and recognize systemic oppression.
The Hate U Give has gained popularity in High School classrooms due to its current relevance and its ability to serve as a window and mirror. Further, The Hate U Give dives into the topics of oppression and privilege. It serves as an excellent avenue to trouble education through all four of the approaches that Kumashiro outlines. Knowing what area to focus on will depend on each individual educational setting but the flexibility of the novel demonstrates the importance of multicultural literature in an anti-oppressive classroom.
An interesting take away from Troubling Education is putting oppression into the perspective of repetition of harmful citational practices. Putting oppression into the lens of repetition puts the onus on teachers and educational professionals to draw attention to the reproduction of oppression. Critical Literacy therefore is tied back into the classroom in order to teach students how to “read” many types of multimedia and not stick to reading and analyzing traditional books and texts. Therefore, curriculum should not only include multicultural books but other forms of media that can be used to address Kumashiro’s four approaches to anti-oppressive pedagogy. To create an effective inclusive and anti-oppressive classroom educators need to include a wide breath of texts and perspectives in their curriculum that tie together. This is not a simple thing to create but a necessary one nonetheless.
ere to edit.
Resource: https://teachoverseas.uni.edu/ A yearly job fair at Northern Iowa University for international schools.
theory blog: Diversity in ya lit
Rodriguez’s Chapter 3 in Teaching Culturally Sustaining and Inclusive Young Adult Literature focuses on the inclusion aspect of the book. Adolescent concerns often center around identity and belonging. Adolescents that identify as members of out-groups, those that are not part of the dominate cultures norms, often have trouble finding belonging or being happy with their identity. The importance of incorporating diverse young adult literature should be readily apparent from the needs of adolescents. While students that identify with minority populations may feel excluded from main stream norms if they can see parts of themselves in literature it can help them feel like the belong at least in our classrooms and hopefully instill a learning space with a sense of inclusion that all are welcome.
Miller’ Queer Literacy Framework offer one literary lens approach to analysis literature beyond just selecting a wide variety of novels. Actively engaging with the novels is necessary to bring students to understand diverse and foreign perspectives. Critically thinking through even diverse texts as Sensoy and Marshall’s piece “Save the Muslim Girl!” illustrates. Young adult fiction, and all literature, can either intentionally or unintentionally reinforce stereotypes and norms. The example used in the piece covers how the typical girl in Western authored literature about Muslim girls puts them in a passive position, condemns the veil and burka wholly, and that they need to be saved by the West. This then puts forth the message that the “East” needs to be saved, that they do not work to save themselves (therefore serving as propaganda pieces that encourage foreign military intervention), and that individuals religious choices can be offhandedly condemned.
Even diverse literature with good intentions can be problematic which just increases the need to apply critical literacy consistently and continuously in a classroom. Approaching topics on marginalized groups in a way that further stereotypes them will only push them away and continue the cycle of suppressing differences while at the same time making a classroom setting hostile. As Ari says in the novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, “I hated being volunteered. The problem with my life was that it was someone else's idea.” Adolescents do not want to be someone else’s idea. They want to be themselves just as everyone does.
Providing mirrors to our oppressed student groups is important to give those students a voice and sense of belonging while telling them it’s okay to be them. However, a great amount of care is needed to select literature that avoids stereotyping. Along with that engaging with the texts is necessary to both critically think on literature so we can further prevent harm and also so that students that do not find themselves looking into a mirror can instead use diverse young adult literature as a window to better understand their peers as individuals.
Resource: The Queer Literacy Framework has been attached so other educators and readers can look it over and potentially use it as a literary lens in their classroom to further student critical reading.
theory blog: critical literacy
Coffey’s Critical Literacy article sets out to describe what exactly “Critical Literacy” is and how it can be done in a classroom. With how much the term gets bandied about it is surprising that care is not taken to ensure everyone knows what critical literacy is. In summary, Critical Literacy is reading and critiquing the messages that appear, both intentional and unintentional, in texts in order to identify and name relationships. As Freire phrased learning to read consists of learning to name and rename the word and the world. Readers must understand the text and the world in order to recognize patterns and point them out so they can critique the relationships they find.
In Coffey’s piece I found the focus on action an interesting and important part of the puzzle of teaching critical literacy. When acknowledging inherent biases and problems in text and therefore society (word and the world) students can be discouraged that everything is terrible and nothing they do will solve the many problems in the world. As teachers we do not want to encourage nihilism, disillusionment, and apathy. The purpose of critical literacy is to identify the world in order to confront and resist challenges and problems we recognize. Showing students that not only can they be critical readers and leaners but also agents of change will lead critical literacy to be a liberating activity instead of a merely depressing one.
It has been covered many times in education that when students feel the curriculum is related to them and their problems and interests, they become more engaged and better learners. Critical literacy is an ideal spot to help every class become more involved. When students identify problems in texts and curriculum the teacher can extend the lesson into acknowledging, addressing, and working on solutions to those problems. Turning a classroom of students that can use critical literacy to identify problems and then extend that into project-based learning seems ideal.
Instead of acknowledging defeat teachers need to extend critical literacy into action. Projects based on writing letters to activist and politicians, forming research projects, investigating more sources and possible solutions, designing advertisements advocating for social change and more will involve students into problems they care about and provide them with a greater sense of agency.
Critical literacy needs to part of advocacy and change and not merely a pacifist acknowledging of problems. Involving problems solving and projects into curriculum that involves critical literacy is necessary to create a beneficial curriculum for students.
Resource idea: https://www.gutenberg.org/ is a library of open source books. Don't have a book on a certain idea you want to cover in class? Take a look through Project Gutenberg and see if they can have something you can use.
Kumashiro talks on the difficulties of reading literature of any kind in an liberating rather than oppressive way requires using a variety of lenses and asking meta questions like “Why do we say some interpretations are more correct than others.” Reading and learning is an inherently political and biased act since each reader bring their own world and ideas into the discussion. Using literary lenses and asking probing questions as Kumashiro suggests can help students learn to interpret not only texts but also the politics behind texts and interpretations.
Appleman asserts that literary lenses will enable students to read critically. Both Kumashiro and Appleman seem to agree that literature can lead students to thinking critically and fighting oppression. Appleman though calls explicitly for the use of Literary Theory in classrooms to teach students to think about issues that concern them. Kumashiro indirectly leads the reader to the idea that students should be taught to read under lenses in order to prevent oppression. An important part of Kumashiro’s writings is:
The ‘classics’ are not inherently oppressive: They can be useful in an anti-oppressive lesson if teachers ask questions about the ways they reinforce the privilege of only certain experiences and perspectives. Conversely, “multicultural” literature is not inherently anti-oppressive: They can reinforce stereotypes if teachers fail to ask questions about how students are reading them. (Kumashiro, 2015)
With this perspective it allows an educator to potentially teach any text, even one they find oppressive or even just dislike. Having a collection of curriculum, activities, and teaching strategies that allows for questioning and inquiry into any kind of text. A teacher will not always have total control over what they need to teach for any of numerous reasons. Therefore, teachers need to be able to utilize all sorts of materialize in ways that will positively engage their learners.
Appleman covering Literary Theory Lenses offers more direct suggestions for possible ways to cover texts in a variety of ways. By utilizing different lenses, we can show students how to approach text from outside their own from Feminist lenses to Critical Race Theory and more. Freire says the teaching is an inherently political act and most would agree. Learning theories, texts, and hierarchies are all inherently political due to their nature. Everyone has inherent biases and outlooks based on their world experiences. Teachers should not be dissuaded from using different critical lenses because it is “too political” anyone that makes that claim has not seriously considered the work that educators do. Appleman even shows how she engages learners in her book by using Ray Ban sunglasses and short poetry to demonstrate how literary lenses can be applies and help use learn through them. With this sort of open approach learners of a multitude of levels and engagement can learn through hem and become critical readers.
Appleman and Kumashiro offer a way to show students how to become a critical reader which a goal for teachers everywhere. The potential in literary theories covered by Appleman and Kumashiro should not be ignored of forgotten even if traditionally literary theories are though of as to “academic” for K-12 education, they have real and direct meaning for our students.
Today's resource: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/
While having a number of lesson plans you can adapt to the material you have is the goal sometimes that's not possible. TPT has resources other teachers have made that can get you a head start on your lesson planning if you have a time crunch.
Hello I'm Kyle. A Secondary English teacher and educational theory enthusiast.