ML2 – Second Language Literacies

A blog for the Second Language Literacies course from the MA in Learning and Teaching Processes in Second Languages (ML2) at UPB-Medellín

Textbooks related to critical literacy

Textbooks Related to Critical Literacy

When somebody writes or designs a book  proposes a world in which the reader gets involved, the reader  most of the times has the intention to get information and nowadays as almost always the information comes and goes through reading and writing and many people learn many things through literacy ,it is the case of  English as a foreign language .

The editorials have an important role in the mass of the information through the text books, they  have the books as a business and for that reason they should fulfill with the requirements not only for teachers ,but also for students as customers  and they know it is not only to design a book, it is to take into account the readers, creating a world inside the books that take them into a trip ,they should provide enough interesting information that make readers, in this case students, go further ,for that reason is important to take into account all the aspects of the modern world, especially those concerning  the way in which the information is obtained, students not  only learn how to read and write but also learn how to use the technology, according to Kalantzis &Cope (2012 chapter 1) “…We will consider aspects of the new cultures of meaning- making that emerged during the twentieth century, supported first by photographic technologies and more recently by technologies for the electronic production and distribution of meaning.”

Books provide us multiple possibilities, some books that I use as a teacher have cd for listening activities, cd room to develop some skills and also have addresses in internet to go further in some topics, then when we have in front of us the page of a book we can understand it in different ways, even more, each one of us have different experiences when is in front of a page of a book, a textbook in English demands for us as students many abilities and sometimes we feel Lost, is the relation of this book with our world or with our context which make us feel comfortable and invite us to continue exploring and understanding what we want.

It is not only motivation, the topic that everyone talks about, it is connection with the pictures, the topic and the kind of exercise or the activity that the book proposes, there should be a connection between my previous knowledge and the book that I am beginning to explore, but a previous knowledge is not only according to grammar or language rules, my previous knowledge is also my experiences and my surrounding. “I would like to go back to a time when I was a secondary school student. Then I gained experience in a critical interpretation of texts I read in class with the Portuguese teacher´s help .these moments did not consist of mere exercises aimed at our simply becoming aware of the existence of the page in front of us to be scanned, mechanically and monotonously spelled out ,instead of truly read” (Freire &Macedo,chapter 1 ),with this quote  I remember a picture from a newspaper that Doctor Mora show us in a class of critical literacy where appeared some indigenous children from a specific region in Colombia with tablets in their hands and the headline of the newspaper was trying to say that those tablets would help indigenous children to learn .

The questions in the class were:

Is it that these children have not knowledge? , to learn what? , What specific purpose does the government have trying to implement technology in a scholar environment where exists a different point to see life, where the meaning of technology for them is different, or not only the meaning but also the use or the need. Do the indigenous people understand the technology in the same way as the people who lives in the city do?, or maybe the government is wasting the time forcing some of them to jump from a natural world most of the times lacking of essential Resources to a world of technologies that they maybe do not understand, because they do not need that kind of technologies in the world they live. “I learn to understand things, objects and signs through using them in relationship to my older brothers and sisters and my parents” (Freire&Macedo ,chapter one). Perhaps one of the objectives the Colombian government have with the implementation of these technologies with indigenous children is to solve the barriers and the inequalities that the new literacies causes, but the same happened in earlier centuries with the privileges that people who know how to write had compared with those who did not, generally or always is people with low resources who have not access to literacies.

Also textbooks should not be the same into all the spaces is according to the environment how you can implement a text book as a real tool into the classroom, for example when you as a teacher talk about hobbies or likes and dislikes have to be careful to whom you are teaching because even with this topic some students can get lost if they do not have what a hobby is What happened with the text books we have been using in the class, is that most of them have not had any sense for us, because we have been learning mechanically, and that is the reason why teachers and students are demanding different ways to learn, so technologies are playing an important role nowadays, but we as teachers do know how to use them in an appropriate way? , or are the technologies part of the resources we do not present as a tool to begin a new trip, or to get from the students all the abilities they have? , but we do not know because we do not know their world ,and I do not mean we should be detectives to investigate personal lives ,what  I mean is to understand the real world of a child according with many aspects of his /her life. And it is not to be a different teacher for each student ,is to comprehend all of them face their textbooks in different ways, for that reason many times is so value when a child work in pairs or small groups, because sometimes their partners’ get the appropriate vocabulary to help the student to face the textbook.

Some textbooks are really good though, taking into account that images are important, the type of the letter is though depending on who is targeted especially primary books, most of them are really good and now the designers and the authors of the books adapted devices to them, but that kind of books are not cheap and this aspect creates a division between those who have access to such books and those who do not.

All English books have a part of grammar teaching, but all of the teachers know to teach grammar as we used to is boring, a waste of time and is unproductive and not only teachers know that, also researchers in this topic and designers of text books, for that reason all of them are helping to adequate English text books according to the demanding of the new world full of possibilities and the awareness that is not learn just for learn, is to learn to get information according to my needs.

One of the main competences that a student of English a second language should develop is the communicative competence, but to communicate is not only to speak it is also to give  information and ideas through writing, images and technology. “Communicative competence requires an ability to use language appropriately”.

Both, children and adults have the ability to adapt their language to the meaning they want to give through the message, children can communicate using the vocabulary they get from the environment and are able to copy the words their relatives use and when they are able to recognize the images they are accustomed to see, they can recognize words in an advertising even if  they do not know how to read just relating the image to the word, and obviously the images correspond to the social environment which they belong, then I assume that  this is one of the reasons because textbooks for children are plenty of images in which they associate the word with the image .

When children begin to socialize they also begin to learn how to communicate in an appropriate way with their partners and to learn the social rules to establish good relations with other people, is here where the communicative approach plays a good role in the learning process of the children so textbooks in primary and also in secondary school emphasizes in communicative approach and also some textbooks try to relate more than one subject   “Transversely” to develop in the students more than one ability and some of the topics their treat are related to social aspects or relationships or topics related to daily life or how to solve problems but maybe Critical literacy is still not well implemented in them.

Textbooks are a good tool to teach a foreign language, but as tools they should be perfectioned day by day and off course adapted to the needs and understanding the relationship between language, text and context. See ( Janks, 2008).


Kalantzis &Cope, 2012 (chapter 1) ,Literacies.

Freire &Macedo, chapter 1 ,literacy:reading the world and the word.

Janks, 2008.,the importance of critical literacy.

Jack c.richards ,interchange third edition.

Munn kara , targeting English lower primary.


luz Elena s.



2 comments on “Textbooks related to critical literacy

  1. ML2
    April 2, 2014

    Dear Luz Elena,
    I read your paper and I found some relevant information that promotes discussion and analysis. In the first part you brought up the issue of policies regarding ICTs to support literacy and language learning in Colombia. The point here, I think, it is not how much money a current governement invest in technology for education, but how institutions, teachers, and learners are using them to produce satisfactory outcomes regarding learning and teaching. I would like to know if you see any changes (according to critical literacy) between the coursebooks you used to read when you were in Secondary school with those you are using now as a teacher and as a student in terciary education.

    Best regards,
    Adriana Teresa Rozo Carvajal

  2. Dr Berry
    April 17, 2014

    Dear Luz Elena,

    Your essay provided an interesting attempt to analyze textbooks in general from a critical literacy perspective. Engaging in this discussion is not easy because we’re always walking that thin line between praising and demonizing. You tread that line very carefully (sometimes too carefully, I would argue, but that’s just me) and I think your essay would be an interesting entry point for those interested in making sense of critical literacy. I’m thinking here that novice teachers would benefit from your essay most, which is not a bad thing.

    Treading into critical frameworks is not an easy path to follow, as all the essays here attested. Being critical is about taking risks, making fearless (albeit not reckless, it’s not about YOLO, as today’s youngsters would say, after all!) stances about education, language, learning, and even life, and about committing to consciousness-raising. Maybe a starting point in that path for teachers might be, as you hinted, looking at how we can exploit the textbook and gradually begin to raise bigger questions.

    Some of those questions only come with experience and, sometimes, age. Your reflections here, then, are along the lines of how to ease into critical literacy while maximizing the use of the textbooks. But, sooner or later, I think that we need to use different tools to “dismantle the master’s house” (making reference to the famous quote by Audre Lorde) and, at that point, we must revisit the question of whether textbooks are the right tool. But, as I said, that path must begin somewhere and your article provides an interesting entry point.

    Thanks for sharing,

    Dr Berry

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This entry was posted on March 20, 2014 by in Assignments, Uncategorized.
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