"All humans are members of the same body Created from one essence"

"Human beings are members of a whole in creation of one essence and soul. If one member is afflicted with pain, other members uneasy will remain."

Wednesday, 30 March 2011


Schools are responsible for developing students’ critical thinking skills in order to prepare them to become active, engaged and responsible citizens. What is critical literacy and how does it relates to adolescents?
Freire (1970) defined critical literacy as an attitude toward texts that questions the social, political, and economic conditions under which those texts were constructed (as cited by Ann S. Beck, 2005). Adolescents need to question the text, to understand the “socio-cultural influences and to comprehend the text with a critical edge” (McLaughlin & DeVoogd). 

According to Irvin (2007), critical literacy helps students analyze bias, perspective, audience, and the underlying assumptions of a piece of writing (42). By using critical literacy, adolescents use an authentic approach for thinking about texts and engaging a critical dialogue with texts. 

In the Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy (2005), Ann S. Beck pointed out that critical literacy encourages students to apply critical awareness beyond the classroom. With the help of critical literacy, students learn to sharpen their critical thinking tools in order to transform their environment and become responsible citizens. Indeed, the significance of critical literacy as it relates to adolescents is essential because it develops their comprehension of the “words and the world” so students will not be “manipulated” by it (Freire, 1970). 

Critical literacy encourages readers to “adopt a questioning stance to work toward changing themselves and their worlds” (McDaniel, 2004). Adolescents like to be engaged in authentic tasks which will transform them and will transform their world. Teachers should understand that students are not “passive receptacles” but instead they are active members of our community (Freire, 1985). 

Consequently, teachers need to use books which will develop adolescents’ critical thinking. Teachers should use books which present credible voices and the themes should be about issues such as gender, class, tolerance, and prejudice. So, when students will engage in critical literacy, they will become “open-minded, active, and strategic readers who are capable of viewing text from a critical perspective” (McLaughlin & DeVoogd). 

Besides, texts are “infused with subjectivity and based on assumptions (Irvin, 2007, p. 43). So, adolescents who have mastered the tools of critical thinking can use their background knowledge to understand the author’s point of view. In addition, they know how to ask the right questions in order to participate in the class debate. 

Class debate is an important tool in order to construct critical literacy and develop critical thinking skills. Surrounding a variety of texts that can be used to represent critical literacy, teachers can scaffold the students’ learning. They will explain, demonstrate, practice and help students reflect on the theme through a well-constructed class debate. 

Therefore, researchers have understood that critical literacy develops students’ potential and it encourages them to be involved in authentic tasks. Critical literacy helps students develop a critical stance towards texts and it motivates them to be involved in tasks beyond the classroom. They are encouraged to ask questions and act as responsible members of their community.

I believe that critical literacy is an important skill which allows students to reach a higher-level of thinking. Critical literacy is an accurate and authentic approach for studying geography texts because it develops students’ critical thinking skills. 

It is very important in geography class because it helps students develop a critical stance towards history sources. I use critical literacy to teach adolescents the following critical thinking skills: (1) evaluate information and its sources critically; (2) understand the social, economical, and legal issues of some information; (3) to read from a critical stance; (4) to question who is writing the text; and (5) to expand their reasoning. 

I am going to share with you the following strategies which I use every day in order to engage students in critical literacy. Firstly, I use two anticipatory activities: (1) I set a purpose for reading and I ask students questions to make them use their prior knowledge; (2) I read the text aloud and I engage students in small groups to be engaged in shared readings. Secondly, I ask my students to identify the main ideas with supporting details from the expository text presented in their geography book. For example, for the lesson about weathering, rivers and coasts, I ask them to compare landforms from photos. I use videos, photos and sketches to explain the difference between weathering and erosion. 

Then, in order to understand erosion, transportation and deposition, I use the analogy of digging in the garden (erosion), moving the material in a wheelbarrow (transportation), then dumping it elsewhere (deposition). Then, I give the students a narrative text about what happens on a river bend and the narrative had three diagrams (a cross-section of a river, deposition on the inside of a river bend, and erosion on the outside). Then I ask students to draw the cross-section and to describe through their writings why one side of the river bend is different from the other. In addition, I ask my students to write down in their notebook two reasons why the flood plain of a valley is good for farming. Then, in group of three, I ask my students to give one problem of farming the flood plain and they should suggest what could be done to reduce the problem.

Secondly, if I was teaching a science class, I would use critical literacy. In science, critical literacy is the ability to read texts in an active, reflective and analytical manner. I think that critical thinking is an essential skill for adolescents to acquire in the science classroom. I insist that science is more than just memorizing facts. I think that science is about asking and investigating questions. Before reading the text, I will encourage my students to read the list of key concepts because they introduce the big ideas of the text. Then, I will ask my students to read to one another in small groups about one concept. I will teach them to ask each other the “what if” question in order to apply what they have learned through their shared reading. Then, through the scientific inquiry question, students are practicing their inquiry skills and they learn to develop hypotheses, analyze research data, and develop hypotheses. Students read narrative texts about scientific inquires and they test their critical thinking by answering the “what if” question. I will ask them to illustrate important scientific concepts by using three-dimensional drawing. The drawings help them visualize biological concepts. The students use also diagrams to help understand the science narrative lesson. For example, I can ask them to draw, structure and annotate a figure, or a graph experimental data. Then, I will engage my students around critical literacy by asking them to write a self-quiz in groups of four about the chapter they have completed. 

In the following content-area classrooms, English literaturehistory and geography (and it is possible in the science class), I have used narrative texts and graphic organizers in their practicum activities. The students have understood the importance to think and to use anticipatory activities to master critical thinking skills. I have used “transportable and transparent strategies for content literacy instruction.” I have used anticipatory activities, read-alouds and shared readings, graphic organizers, vocabulary instruction in order to engage my students in critical literacy activities. 

No comments: