Day 13: Leaders For Literacy Day! #AprilBlogADayChallenge

Prompt 13: Leaders for Literacy Day Challenge!
How is literacy critical to the advancement of society today?

It was 6:30 and I was still at school, like many of us, I’m sure.  Every other week I only have one class on Mondays- AP LANG which is always challenging and wonderful (well, most of the time).  I have learned more teaching this curriculum than I have since the boot camp of year one.  Despite only having one class today, I am always exhausted these Mondays and I am often at school late.  Andrew, who teaches AP Chem came in to check in re: test prep and time going into may.  We got onto talking about books and I was relaying a conversation I had with my husband about why he disliked the Game of Thrones series (he knows he is not the norm) after Andrew expressed that he had not liked them.  We moved fluidly from idea to idea, talking about literature, authors, genre. Then I told him about today’s April Blog A Day Challenge.  “This is what my blog post is going to be about…”  

I have never heard my students have a conversation about books the way Andrew and I just had.  Working in a CS school, I hear conversations about video games, which in their own right often have complicated and nuanced story lines, characters and each fall into genre of their own.  Does this mean that the reading of books is disappearing?  Can students cultivate literacy in new ways- like through classes like video game design-or do we need to foster literacy skills the way most of us built them- by reading books? 

I don’t think that video games are a substitution for reading.  In AP Lang the majority of the reading students do is nonfiction.  I made the choice, as I developed my curriculum to anchor each of the 4 units in a novel that is connected to a larger theme in the context of rhetoric. Our current unit is Language and Community and our anchor text is the perennial favorite, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston.  Today was the first day of a three day sequence and preparation and participation in Socratic Seminar.  I had spent the weekend creating a multitude of documents for students to use and to help them prepare for the two rounds of discussion they will each have to participate in on Wednesday and Thursday this week.  It’s essentially fancy Book Club for anyone not familiar with the discussion.  It works and it works well.  I am by no means an expert but I think it provides students to demonstrate mastery of a plethora of skills in a compact package.  The directions for the prep today were as follows:

1.  You will have 2 rounds today, in small groups to break down your assigned questions and then discuss informally, look for evidence and begin to collect evidence in your SocSem planning doc I put in your Google Drive.

2.  The first round will be in groups of 4 (there should be 8) and we will all be discussing Question 1

3.  The second round you will be in groups of 5-6 to discuss your second question.  There should be 6 groups, 2 for each question.


As I circulated around, listening in on conversations, I could not help but think, THIS is when the real learning happens. I could see it: ideas flowing, uncensored, unafraid of making mistakes, to be right or wrong, to challenge thinking and to BE CHALLENGED.  I sat down with a group discussing the evolution of the protagonist through the course of the novel.  It was fantastic.  They brought up great points that I had not ever thought about despite having read TEWWG a dozen or so times.  Fresh eyes brings new perspective, especially important for educators: we don’t know it all. I found myself getting excited about the discussion and stayed longer than I should have, caught up in the exchange and listening to the learning happening.  THIS is literacy at work.

When my students come into class on Wednesday, some of them will be nervous, they will feel the pressure of a grade and having to answer to a parent.  They may not have prepared enough, found enough evidence, been sure enough.  What they don’t know is that you can never be sure enough.  Life, knowledge and understanding is fluid and there is always something new to change what we may have been sure of just a few weeks earlier.


It’s now 7:30.  I am typing away on the R train and I am ready to be home.  This is what I know:  the real power of literacy is having the ability to read in the first place.  I am grateful that all my students can read.  They have this cultural collateral that will help gain them admission to great colleges, it will help them apply to amazing jobs after they graduate and it will help them in those moments when they are at work later than they planned and got to have a lovely conversation with a colleague about books.

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