Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Is This Literacy?

It’s so hard for the casual observer to tell when literacy instruction is going on in a classroom. So many people—from parents to politicians, and from administrators to teachers—expect to see students hunched over books or scribbling away on paper. From this perspective, literacy is reading and writing. It’s books and essays, literature and research papers.

What I like about the Language Arts article “Literacy All the Livelong Day: A Picture Portfolio of Kindergarten Teaching and Learning” (E) is its visual display of ways that 21st century literacy goes far beyond conventional expectations of reading and writing. When I look at the images in that article, I wish that I’d had the foresight to take pictures of all the classrooms where I taught to document the literacy skills that students explore and extend as they work together on individual and group projects.

If every teacher had a Flickr album that showed literacy in action, what a rich resource we’d have. I wonder what we might learn and what we might teach all those casual observers with such collections. If everyone could see and hear images and videos of students exploring the many varied texts that they encounter, could we eliminate the observer’s question “Is this literacy?” and replace it with “Look at the ways literacy is happening here!”