Questions and Activities

  1. Find one or two students who have taken college literacy courses, and a few other individuals (e.g., classmates, friends, family members) who have not taken any literacy courses. Ask them to define literacy, and write down what they say. Bring your definitions to class and compare what your informants said compared to other students’ informants. Discuss how the definitions overlap and are different. What assumptions about teaching and learning accompany the definitions (e.g., if literacy were narrowly defined as being able to read and write, how might teaching and learning a subject like math or art look and sound different than if literacy were defined more broadly)?
  2. Using an online discussion board, a wiki, or in person, select someone to write a single sentence to define literacy. Have that person select a classmate to add to and/or refine the definition, with the new person then selecting someone else to continue the process. Add to the initial definition until everyone in the class has had an opportunity to contribute (be sure each person cites any sources he or she uses before passing the task to the next person). After reading this textbook and accessing other sources about literacy, revisit your definition. Are there aspects you want to stay the same? Are there aspects you want to change? Individually refine the class’s definition to represent your definition of literacy, and write a brief reflection providing justification for your definition. Save your definition and reflection for later use for when you write a teaching philosophy that incorporates literacy.
  3. In what way is literacy being shaped by the digital age? Discuss ways in which your own literacy experiences have broadened through the use of technology. Are there digital tools that you find essential to your own literacy learning? What concerns do you have related to the affordability and accessibility of digital tools for children in U.S. schools and around the world?
  4. What do you think about literacy being defined as a fundamental human right? Is literacy like other basic human rights or is it more of a luxury? If certain groups are denied access to literacy opportunities, such as in nations where some social norms may discourage access to schooling for girls, would you argue that this is a cultural difference, a human rights violation, both, or neither? Debate your thinking with a small group of classmates, while making sure to include peers who have different cultural backgrounds from your own.
  5. Begin to draft a learning plan that can lead to your becoming an effective teacher of literacy. First, talk to employers, inservice teachers, college instructors, advisors, and classmates about what you will need to know and be able to do when you are hired as a teacher. Next, identify goals you have not already attained related to your knowledge and practice of teaching. Your goals may be related to content you want to teach, student groups with whom you want to work, your own interests in literacy, and any certification tests you may need to pass. Begin creating a plan incorporating the knowledge and experiences you will need to develop. Revisit your plan each semester, and actively monitor your progress toward reaching your goals. Finally, be sure to include what you will need to know and be able to do after you are hired as a teacher in a school. Becoming an effective teacher is a process, not an event, so frequent reflection on what you need to do to remain effective is essential.