Multiple Literacies

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Our first discussion in this class revolved around our narrow views on the question “What is literacy?” We answered the question based on how literacy is required in America. It serves as a vehicle for social mobility and is used to determine economic status. Our definition of literacy as reading, writing and comprehension of written texts was shaped by our experiences in our lives and our beliefs about the trappings of illiteracy. By the end of that first class my definition of literacy included multiple literacies such as technology, oral storytelling, visual representation and collective literacy practices. This is exactly what is described in the KEEPS claim Knowledge 6 when we use unconventional pedagogical resources to construct new knowledge. After reading, Judy Kalman’s “Beyond Definition: Central Concepts For Understanding Literacy” (2008), I realized that making meaning of texts through discussion was not only a collective literacy practice but also one that I utilized every day. Our ability to co construct meanings through discussion is one of the most important elements of the learning communities that we create in our classrooms. Kalman discussed the different types of literacies that are evident in different communities and how the needs and functionality of literacy can determine how it is used in different societies. We discussed the function of literacy mediators, members of the community that act on others behalf when they lack the literacy skills needed in certain situations. When we began to explore the concept of language acquisition and the ease or stress level with which students adopt other English(es) into their everyday language this quote from Lisa Delpit’s book, “The Skin We Speak” resonates with me "When instruction is stripped of the children's cultural legacies, then they are forced to believe that the world and all the good things in it were created by others." (Delpit, pg. 41) As defined in KEEP claim Pluralism 1, I cannot express how powerful this statement is when we speak about African American students and the socio-cultural/linguistic pluralism in New York City. Aside from the manipulation of both oral and written history by Europeans, tests dictate what children learn, comprehend and recall. There is little reference to both African Americans, Africans and Native Americans contributions to the world at large that students learn about in school in the United States. How do we think this makes students feel? They neither see any evidence of nor hear about their ancestors contributing anything of worth to American History or World History. The belief that they stand in front of a worthless legacy and they are not inventors, creators and dictators of their future. The concept of “trilingualism” incorporates students retaining their home language, the language they learn and speak in the street and the adoption of the LWC all for their own purposes. The idea that children feel the way they communicate with each other is respected creates the sense of ease and control that aids them in adopting other ways of expression and the idea of code switching. As I read in “Beyond Definition: Central Concepts for Understanding Literacy” (2008) by Judy Kalman, language carries with it the social and cultural contexts of the speaker. "Speakers or reader/writers bring their world view, language practices, history, and experience with the other participants to a given situation." This concept of languaging as a collective literacy practice was something I had never considered but acknowledged simply from our discussions in this class. The idea that we are engaging in the co construction of literacy when we speak is simply amazing. The nuances that accompany every dialect and language are numerous and when we learn these through interaction we are becoming more literate about the world around us. I would never have acknowledged the worth of that practice if I did not attend this class, this idea of...
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