A blog for the Second Language Literacies course from the MA in Learning and Teaching Processes in Second Languages (ML2) at UPB-Medellín
MA in Learning and Teaching Processes in Second Languages (ML2)
English Language II:
Literacies in Second Languages.
Luis Javier Pérez Ramos.
The purpose of this document is to explore the different textbooks that I am using as English teacher in a private university from Medellin, In view of the Critical Literacy instruction, learned in the first session in the course English Language II from the Master Program. In order to analyze these aspects, is necessary to inquire within the textbooks, to reach it, is fundamental to have a clear and deep idea about the theories related to Critical Literacy and its role in language instruction. As we know how important is this resource in our teaching learning process, in our daily teaching, and in our classroom, because a textbook is a way to connect to the students with a real world to deepen their knowledge.
Critical Literacy Instruction
Critical literacy theory and pedagogy is operationalized through understanding and
Critically engaging with the material economy of the present. Anderson and Irvine (1993) presented an early conceptual platform that looked at critical literacy through cultural studies, writing: The importance of critical literacy being grounded pedagogically in a politics of difference offers learners, regardless of their particular classed, raced, or gendered subjectivities, opportunities to become ‘border crossers.’ Critical literacy, then, is learning to read and write as part of the process of becoming conscious of one’s experience as historically constructed within specific power relations.
Janks (2014) recently argued that critical literacy should empower us to connect more deeply the texts we bring to our classrooms with our students’ lives. Janks’ ideas provided the backdrop for a reflexivity exercise (Mora, 2011)
The idea of literacy among policy-makers, and many members of the general public is that literacy references the ability, on the part of individuals, to read and write. While this conception of literacy is useful and important, there are some educators who conceive of literacy in broader, sociocultural and political terms, sometimes referring to it as “critical literacy” (Luke, 1997). Educators who are interested in critical literacy are interested in written text, or, indeed, any other kind of representation of meaning as a site of struggle, negotiation, and change.
Analysis of the textbook
I am an English and French teacher, I have almost ten years working as an English teacher, I consider myself as a privileged teacher, because I have had the opportunity of working in different fields, places, with different social statues students, ages so on. Many of these schools have not resources (textbooks, software, programs) just work with photocopies and it may be an obstacle to foster reading and writing skills with the students.
In other hands, there are some private schools that have many tools to empower students to develop and strength these skills.
Currently, I am working in two universities, and both of them are using the same textbooks, it looks an easy and useful way for teaching, because it is a support for our job, these books are from a recognized editorial here in Colombia, which I am using with students from level I,II,and III.
The textbooks are planned to enhance, enrich and increase the English level in order to achieve the standards proposed by the Common European Framework and the national standards by MEN, so that students finish the English classes in an A2 level more or less.
This is a topic-based textbook, because it takes contents and topics rather than language structures, in order to give specific and meaningful themes; it focuses on some micro topics such as staying in hotels, cars and driving, personal care and appearance, eating well, about personality, arts, ethics and values.
In this book, we will find many options or activities to work or develop the four English skills (reading, listening, speaking and writing), the textbooks have 10 different units, with topics really interesting and based on real life situations or events that they have to face every day, at the end of each units, it requires students to review the previous topics learned in class with extras and funny activities as crosswords, puzzles so on. This aims to encourage autonomy, self-assessment and creativity. The textbook tries to integrate transferable skills in its activities like conversation strategies, listening, communication skills, pronunciation, organizational skills, reading, writing, problem solving, and analytical skills among others.
This book develops confident, culturally fluent English speakers who can successfully navigate the social, travel and business situations that they will encounter in their lives. It delivers immediate, demonstrable progress through its proven pedagogy and systematic recycling of language. Its components maximize the impact of the lesson. A digital tool provide an interactive classroom experience that can be used with or without an interactive whiteboard, also, it includes full array of digital and printable features.
The book is organized by units; there are ten units in total, each unit is divided into four lessons. Each unit works with a different topic, it contents grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, conversation model, reading, writing, listening, and some pair work it is a project, in which at the end students perform the project; the unit starts with an introductory section where students explore the topic, many of them are picture where students have to identify the main idea or make some description, the expected language learning outcomes and the project.
The textbook has updated topics and they are contextualized in what nowadays calls the world’s attention, such as describe and recommend movies, choose a hotel, rent a car, make an appointment at a salon or spa, and express personal values among others, these all activities engage students in communicating oral and written and reading.
It is necessary to mention that in some cases as a teacher we have the possibility and responsibility for modifying some activities planned in the units because we are aware about the level, in some cases we need to show them in an easy way for a better understanding as (Shor,1999) mention, teachers have the big responsibility to make some modification to the texts proposed in the textbooks, into challenging activities that take students beyond their own perspectives, and adapt what they learn to their own contexts, where they can question, judge, critique and generate events that help them to transform their reality.
In this way, Teachers can use those texts and modify their purpose by changing the strategy and giving them an intention where they can be performed from a critical perspective.
Edelsky (1993) considers that teachers can foster critical literacy by problematizing texts: for critical debate, for weighing, judging, critiquing, and looking at issues in their full complexity. Green (2001) states that the relationship between student and texts changes when teachers and students as researchers of language, respect minority cultures literacy practices.
Another aspect to examine from the book is the review that we can find at the end of each unit, we can see an oral review and grammar and vocabulary review in order to assess students´ knowledge and in this way starts the new units, additionally there are some corner students can write about an interesting topic, such as describe an interesting experience, complete the chart with three movies among others.
It is necessary to mention as a positive aspect from the textbook, it offers many possibilities for students to use media texts; within all the activities proposed, this book offers some components such as My English lab, an optional online learning tool, classroom audio program, grammar coach videos, digital full color vocabulary, flash cards, tv videos program so on. The university has or offer an English lab, a place where we can apply and develop all these kind of tools for a better understanding.
Alvermann and Hagood (2000) state that Critical Media Literacy must be represented as the ability to reflect on the pleasures derived from the mass media and popular culture practices like radio, TV, videos, music, movies, Internet, graffiti, among others. Media must be included in the textbook as an essential practice, because it allows students to have a wider perception of real world so that they can judge and critique based on actual events.
It is our task, as English teachers, we have to permit students in the inquiry of going beyond texts, as you know textbooks are an essential tool to involve students in Critical Literacy, because these books present some kind of reading that allows to the students analyze them and identify them taking into account their social and cultural context and the transformation they can make to their realities.
Alvermann, D., & Hagood, M. (2000). Critical Media Literacy: Research, Theory, and Practice in “New Times.” Journal of Educational Research , 93, pp. 193-205.
Edelsky, C. (1993). “Education for democracy.” Address to the U.S. National Council of Teachers of English Annual Conference, Pittsburgh, PA. 1993.
Green, P. (2001). “Critical literacy revisited.” in Fehring, H. and Green, P., Eds. (2001). Critical literacy: A collection of articles from the Australian Literacy Educators’ Association. Newark, Delaware: International Reading Association. pp. 7-13.
Menezes de Souza, Lynn Mario T. “Beyond Here’s a Culture, Here’s a Literacy: Vision in Amerindian Literacies” ms 2007
Mora, R. A. (2014). Critical Literacy as Policy and Advocacy. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, pp. 16-18.