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.
9/22/2019 08:16:03 pm
Hi Kyle! I really appreciate hearing your thoughts on critical literacy. I was also struck by the action piece, which I think is often left out of the conversation due to the effort and resources it can take to achieve. Like you, I think it really is a critical component. Even in college, I was very often left wondering how can I put what I'm learning into action? How does this translate into making a change? So I think for students to really understand the importance of what they're doing they need to see what they can do with it.
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Hello I'm Kyle. A Secondary English teacher and educational theory enthusiast.