Saturday, March 14, 2009

What is literacy?

One of our four, KEY, provincial/district/school goals is literacy. A very impressive amount of work has been done throughout this year in our district to review the approaches used in our schools to teach and promote literacy. The same committee that undertook that has reviewed what we already do is also providing their recommendations for what we need to (or should do) in the future to help our students develop these skills.

The people from our district who are working on this literacy committee are many of the people I have on my list of ‘gurus’ in the area of literacy and when they talk I try to ‘listen hard’ because I know I will often learn something new. I am not a literacy expert, so I’m not sure if my thoughts are accurate or not, but through all of our recent discussions I am wondering if we might be better off making our focus ‘21st Century Literacies’, or something like that, as a way of addressing our future needs. Comprehensive literacy is a CRITICAL skill that we must develop in our students and I feel that to focus our discussion about reading and writing puts us at risk of excluding those who do not see themselves as teachers of literacy skills. Which all teachers should be.

Perhaps we should be making a district focus on BUILDING KNOWLEDGE, and have specific sub-groups focus on developing 21st Century Skills their areas: i.e. Shop Teachers could focus on reading plans and numerical literacy, SCI/SS teachers could focus on reading texts for main ideas and comparing and contrasting, technology teachers could focus on digital literacies and related skills, math teachers could focus on the development of the language of math, etc.

I’ve been reading a lot of ‘futurist’-type books lately and trying to focus on where we need to go to best prepare our students for the future. Perhaps I’m just worrying too much, but I think we need to start doing things in a NEW and DIFFERENT way in education if we want different results. We know how the brain works and we know how people learn best, let’s start re-designing our system to put what we know into practice.

Or, I’m all wrong and we are just fine proceeding as we always have. But I don’t think so…….we NEVER stop learning to read, so shouldn't we stop using language like that then?


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