Reading & Discussion Prompts

I’ll post prompts to help guide our reading and discussions here. They will often guide our class conversation or I’ll ask you to write about these ideas in class. Hopefully, they’ll be helpful as you read.

Aug 24

Write: What do you make of this Lunsford piece? What’s your literate life like? What do you read? What do you write? Why? What purpose do your literate activities serve?

As of today, how would you define literacy?

Read Szwed for Wednesday

Aug 26

In groups: How does Szwed understand literacy practices (what does he mean by the social meaning of literacy) (422-423)? How does he say others define literacy? Why is this narrow definition a problem according to Szwed?

“…the roles these abilities play in life”

Point us to a passage to consider as a class: What does it say, what does it mean, why does this matter?

Aug 31

Consider: In the Williams article on the way we construct readers, he writes:

“If literacy is not an autonomous set of skills but rather a concept whose definition is fluid and always determined by its cultural context, what does it mean to identify our students (or ourselves) as readers? What characteristics do we as teachers assume someone possesses when he or she is (or is not) a reader? And how does that affect what we expect from students when we assign them a text to read?”

 QW: What does it mean to be “a reader?” from your perspective?

In table group: share out ideas from QW. Then, Make sure you understand Williams ideas about cultural capital. Pick a passage from Williams for us to consider.

Share out. Ideas about readers, cultural capital, other ideas in Williams

Sept 2

Bring an image to share.

Hamilton. Let’s make sure we understand what is meant by “literacy practice” and “literacy event.”

Analysis work with our images:

Try to describe the image you brought for today (write this out). Try to describe: participants, setting, artifacts, activities…What is actually in the image and what do you have to infer? (you might refer to Hamilton’s ideas on p. 18: visible traces…)

Share you images with each other. Can you create any categories for your images like Hamilton discusses? (Literacy as defiance… Literacy as threat… Literacy as nostalgia…Literacy as evidence… Literacy as accessory… p. 20). What would we learn about how literacy functions in our culture from your images?

Week of Sept 7


Sponsors, as I have come to think of them, are any agents, local or distant, concrete or abstract, who enable, support, teach, model, as well as recruit, regulate, suppress, or withhold literacy-and gain advantage by it in some way. Just as the ages of radio and television accustom us to having programs brought to us by various commercial sponsors, it is useful to think about who or what underwrites occasions of literacy learning and use. Although the interests of the sponsor and the sponsored do not have to converge (and, in fact, may conflict) sponsors nevertheless set the terms for access to literacy and wield powerful incentives for compliance and loyalty. Sponsors are a tangible reminder that literacy learning throughout history has always required permission, sanction, assistance, coercion, or, at minimum, contact with existing trade routes. Sponsors are delivery systems for the economies of literacy, the means by which these forces present themselves to-and through-individual learners. They also represent the causes into which people’s literacy usually gets recruited.

QW:  Who “sponsors” your literacy practices? Both in productive and restrictive ways? What are you asked to do with reading and writing at this point in your lives? Start to list out sponsors and their purposes/effects.

Share QW with group, then work with section more closely:

  • Table 1: Sponsorship/Teaching and the Dynamics… (167-169 & 183-last paragraph)
  • Tabe 2 & 3: Sponsorship and Access (169-173)
  • Table 4 & 5: Sponsorship and the Rise in Literacy Standards (173-178)
  • Tables 6: Sponsorship and Appropriation In Literacy Learning (178-183)

As a group, summarize your section and talk about why it matters to us (prepare to share out with whole class). As part of your discussion: What do the case studies illuminate in your section? What claims is she able to make using the cases as examples?

In a nutshell: summary of your section (major claims), how the case studies function in your section (how do the cases connect to her claims), and why these ideas matter to us?

Week of Sept 14

What did you learn from your literacy narratives?

Unpack Brandt’s “piling up” and “spreading out” (652). We’ll write out on board.

Key ideas:

Piling up (vertically)—rising levels of formal schooling. Layers of earlier forms exist (ex: texting vs note passing). Both resource and barrier. Can you think of examples? What do we have “remnants” of? ecards…holiday cards. facebook bday

And spreading out (horizontally) reorganizing activities (economic, political, domestic). Helping family members get iTunes account. Text.

Re-Read p. 665  “What we have paid less attention to…” read from here to end.

We’ll watch a couple videos. Then think through some ideas:

  • play with the idea of producers and consumers (uploaders vs downloaders). The desire to control production and distribution. Perhaps make some categories: where are the artifacts of literacies past, present, and future. What does this mean for schooling?

  • Juxtapose some ideas from videos with Brandt. Look at how her call plays out almost 20 years later: Lessig, Wesch Web 2.0, and New Learners of the 21st C

Sept 21

Baron. Take aways from this reading. And, we will update his text by trying our hand at writing a paragraph about a new literacy.

Sept 23 & 25

Watch McWhorter

One side of the room summarize arguments of McWhorter, the other side Strommel.

Discuss: what value do we place on these micro-literacies (texting and twitter)? What values do these authors see in these practices? What do we think about their ideas?




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