October 9, 2006

Differences in Literacy

I think these two passages once again tell us that there is n=much to learn from tutoring, even we are the ones assigned to teach. There are many things that affect the way a child learns, a major reason being their cultures. For this reason I believe it is important in school areas that we try to help everyone learn and understand the same type of things even though eeveryone won't be able to learn exactly on the same level. I think we cannot hold a student accountable for not knowing things they are not taught in their cultures because they do not choose how they are raised an d we must respect everyones cultures, beliefs and traditions.

October 8, 2006

Respecting Students Cultural Literacies

Originally I always thought what the author thought about literacy in the beginning, “…A quantifiable behavior that one learned in school.? But now after putting more thought into the topic, I agree more with the author’s second definition. Literacy is not only how we interpret texts but also the world around us. It seems like a lot of teachers (and by teachers I mean more elementary school teachers) think of literacy by more of the first definition. So a lot of student, like Robert Lake’s son, end up getting left behind, or labeled ‘slow? because they are not learning the way they are supposed to be learning, when really they just learn things in a different way than other students. I believe the best way to teach students would be like the way that Amanda Branscome taught her African-American students to understand Shakespeare. She took a subject that they already knew and understood and related it directly to the new subject she was trying to teach them. I don’t think the best way to teach students is strictly teacher teaches, student listens. Especially in a large public school where there are student from several different cultural backgrounds. For example, my high school was a very large high school. And students tended to do better in the classes where teachers allowed students the opportunity to relate the material that they were leaning to their personal experiences and lives. Where in the class that teachers stood in front of the class and lectured, students tended to do worse in the class, dread going to the class, or just not show up at all.

Different cultural literacies

After reading both of the articles, I decided that they were trying to get the same message across. I never thought about how we label some children as slow learners even though they are very bright kids. It mad me sad to hear that the reason some of these children are seen this was is simply because they weren't taught the same way in their homes as the apparent majority of children in this country are. I believe it is extremely important for teachers and schools to recognize this not as a problem, but a way to expand how they teach and view students of different backgrounds. After all, that is what America is, a melting pot of cultures. Why then should we assume that everyone has the same style of learning and the same understanding of what it means to be literate or smart. Maybe the reason that America is not quite as high on the education scale as, say, some Asian countries is because we have not learned to embrace what has made us so great . Those countries have no problem with different cultural literacies because there are simply not very many differences among them. We are the only country in the world that has such a vast array of cultures. We need to develop new ways of teaching and connecting with our students and accomodate the knowledge that they bring in order to help them learn with the majority. Once we stop trying to label different children and make excuses for our lack of ability to accomodate them, we can find new and better ways to help eveyone by using our knowledge of their lives to make connections to the majority style of knowledge. This also starts by learning their cultures as well as appreciating them for valid and accomplished just as our own.

October 7, 2006

Different Cultural Literacies

In the article by Elite Ben-Yosef, much of the emphasis was pun on the different literacies that we bring in to our typical education. Depending on where you live you bring many different perspectives into your education. One of the stories from the text that would be a good example for the development of this entry would be a young Native American boy who knew plenty about nature because of the environment he grew up in. From helping his elders the boy knew how to count, identify birds, the number of full moons in one year, and I'm sure there was a lot more that went unlisted. When this boy attended school a teacher labeled him as a slow learner, partially because he said there were 13 months in a year. He thought there were 13 months because he knew of the 13 moons and that there was one full moon per month. He reasoning was justified. Is he slow because of this? No! We need to take into account the backgrounds of people before we can judge there intelligence. There are so many different types of intelligence to judge our capabilities to learn at a "normal" classroom level in such a short amount of time. We as a culture need to be more sensitive to these conditions before passing judgment. I really think that a greater understanding of each other on all parts would be very beneficial to the world as a community.

October 6, 2006

Similarity between community service and teaching

The articles that we read on a community service a few weeks ago introduced the idea that community service is a "give-and-take" experience. The volunteers help the people and in return learn new things about themselves and learn new skills from the people he/she is helping. The articles we read this week showed that teaching is also a "give-and-take" relationship. At first glance, I didn't believe this idea. However, after reading the rest of the article I am convinced that this idea is true.
Now that I look back on my volunteering as a tutor this year, I would say that I have acquired a lot of information than taught. I may have taught some Somali kids how to say the ABC's and construct sentences, but I feel as if I have learned more from the students that I have been helping. I have learned so much about their cultures in the past few weeks. I am continuously learning new things about their culture and tradition. For example, this past week was Ramadan. Prior to volunteering, I knew that it was a religious holiday, but I never knew the tradition behind it or how it is celebrated.
Also, I really liked the part of the article on Mayann Nuckolls and her class. I think it is a great idea to teach by relating the topics to the lives of the students. Also, I am rather jealous that those kids were taught how to write rap songs. If anybody knows the secret behind writing good rap songs, they should comment on this post and spread the word!

Alex Christianson

Reactions towards the Readings

After reading "Respecting Students' Cultural Literacy," I realized two things. The article was well written, but the events that are taking place are horrible. When I read the part about a kid being labeled a "slow learner" after a few months, I was in a way, angry. We are the reasons for the stunted development of our students. We need to realize that there are numerous literacies that need to be taken into consideration to truly capture the students interest and be able to expand their knowledge. Even if a kid is a "slow learner," find a way to relate to the kid, through your own and his/her personal experiences. Just because a kid is slow, doesn't mean that he/she does not have to capability to learn about a broad amount of information. As Amanda Branscombe explained, teachers need to learn from the students as they teach. From there, once you have found out what they do know, you can use that to teach them in a more efficient way.

As for "Becoming literate: A Lesson from the Amish," there was not a whole lot that I found very controversial. It was more of an article that I just wanted to read. I really enjoyed the new perspective of musical literacy. It is interesting that so much can happen from learning and singing certain songs. Especially when you have to interpret the music without any notes, just by memory and what other people do.

Literacy challenged

Respecting Students’ Cultural Literacies:
(? #1)It is important for children to relate words they know outside of school to words they learn in school because it is what makes that word part of their vocabulary, and in general- literate. When children are able to achieve making connections between words in and out of school, they will be able to use the word in both contexts and it will have meaning to them. When children are unable to relate words, they may remember them but not be as familiar with how to use it and it will not have a lasting effect in their mind. When I have tried to help kids I babysit for with their homework, I find I get them to understand words by telling them a story that goes along with the word than simply the definition.
(? #4) As wrong as it sounds, it is the truth that students with different backgrounds are seen as less intelligent than others. This is due to the stubborn notion that learning has to be from ‘our way’ and it is unfortunate that a kid like Wind-Wolf from the article was viewed this way. We mentioned this in our discussion last week how we, as Americans can be viewed as illiterate from other cultures but we are not accustomed to this happening. That is why standardized tests, and sometimes reflecting our schools are arbitrary when it comes to evaluating intelligence.

A Lesson from the Amish
After 8 years of education I think the Amish can become literate in their terms. Because it has been established that literacy is not just reading and writing but includes functioning in our society I think they would lack too much cultural literacy to be considered complexly literate. Although the story clearly proves the boy does not meet our standards but he is still competent, the points of writing with analysis, understanding, third person and most poignantly originality are elements of being literate in our society, but not theirs.

Respecting Students culturalLiteracies/ A lesson frrom teh Amish

After reading the first article it really brang me back to my blog from last week. Last week i said that i couldn't believe how many different cultural literacies we have even here at the University Of Minnesota. There are so many people here I wouldn't be surprise if we at least at a little bit of each cultural literacy there is in the world! Like the man in the article who just "discovers"(the word he used) the cultural literacy of Jewish people even though they always exsisted in his community. I feel like many of us are so caught up in our "cultural literacy" and with "our people" that we really dont notice these other groups and expand our knowledge beyond what we already know. He asked the question, "How can we make a respectful space for them within our classroom dynamics?" This is a tough question to answer. The only answer i can think of is that we need to stop not noticing other cultures and their literacy so we can become familar with them, what their family values, and why they might be the way they are and become more accepting then just assuming that they have troubles reading what's taught at school so they need to be moved to a lower level. One thing that the author said that i totally agree with was, "We usually expect everyone to leave their differences outside the school doors." All the schools i went to i fit in perfect, all the other people who were there also came from similar backrounds. I never had to worry about the differences between my school and my family values. I cant imgaine the kids,like the amish, is they were to come to a school in the cities, and having to totally change their learning style around after thats what they've been taught to do, just so they can fit into "our cultural literacy criteria."
Kathryn Grayson

A Lesson From the Amish

The Amish have a very kind society. I learned this because of the recent events in the news. However, I never knew that they focused so much on music. The article says that "singing requires knowing what is in the text and because Amish singing, which is unaccompanied and highly stylized, requires knowing how to interpret the text exactly as veryone else does, the songbooks represent a kind of reading particularly important tot eh community, a kind that must be mastered to be considered literate (page 85). This really interests me because I was raised with a love of music and I have taken piano and voice lessons for as long as I can remember. Most people do not think of being able to read music and sing is a way of being literate, however, in my family and apparently in the Amish community, it is very important and if you cannot read music, then you are considered illiterate. The article also talked about all of the music being in German and everyone still knows exactly how to sing the songs. I think that is great. I do not know very many people that can read German, let alone sing in German. I think it is a good idea for the Amish to keep up their way of life, because it seems to be working for what they want it to work for. If they keep teaching their children how to sing in German, then they will always have something in common. I think the Amish way of life without television or any electronics is a simple way of life and it would make it a lot easier for the world to become literate if we all lived like that. However, I do not think it will ever happen and that is fine with me.

Respecting Students' Cultural Literacies/A lesson from the Amish

After reading these two articles a couple of things really stuck out to me. In the first article about cultural literacies they talked about how some students didn't do very well in school but when asked about other subjects they seemed to know just about everything about them. I noticed this when doing my service hours. Some of the students aren't at all interested in school work but when you ask them what they were going to do over the weekend they will get really excited and explain everything you need to know about bike racing to you. Also, some of them seem to really break out of their shell during circle time, when they dance aorund the drum and burn sage as sort of a cleansing ritual, they all seem to really know what they are doing. Another part of the article that I liked was when the author touched on different types of literacy. I believe that there definatley are different types of literacy. Although I don't tend to excell in computer or musical literacy my literacy of protest and family literacy seems to be well intact.
In the second article about the amish community I honestly got really excited when I read about the book Lambert, The Sheepish Lion.... I had forgotten all about that one. I highly recommend it. I enjoyed reading this article because my family has always been very supportive of the amish community. Every Summer we go to a little town when they have their sales and purchase jams and other delicious items and we also buy some artwork and even furniture. My dad is a cabinet maker and insists that the amish make some of the most beautiful and well crafted furniture (particularily rocking chairs) in the world. I am actually named after an amish painting that was hanging in my great grandmothers house. It was a little girl sitting in front of a fire holding a hand made doll, the title of the painting was simply, Rachael. Then when my mom saw that Harrison Ford movie with the amish girl in it named Rachael when she was pregnant I guess it was some kind of sign. I think I would like to live in an amish community for a week or so, just to see if I could handle it... but I need someone to tape Greys Anatomy for me.

Again, what is literacy?

The article “Becoming Literate: A lesson from the Amish? by Andrea Fishman was a very interesting perspective and brought to light many ideas that we as a class had never really considered before. For the most part, we have been discussing definitions of literacy and determining what makes a person a “functional literate? in society. Personally, I never had really thought of the idea that many people have drastically different definitions of literacy- much different than the ones we discussed in class. For some, like the Amish, the kind of literacy that we see as vital in our society is not necessary for theirs. In a culture focused on their religion, they mainly needed it for their songs and worship. I think these differences are a part of the reason for the number of illiterates in the United States. People’s views of the necessity of literacy is so varied that some do not feel that it is necessary to learn how to read at all. For example, some families that have been working the same trade for a long time may feel that it is better for their sons and daughters to learn that trade than attend school. They may consider “functional literacy? reading and writing enough to make simple business agreements. On the other hand, in our culture, we are taught that we must not only be able to read but to comprehend and not only write, but also write with meaning. Considering this, I believe that America does not a have a literacy problem, but merely a difference of opinions. Yes, there are some that wish to read but cannot, but a large number of people just feel that it is not necessary for their culture.

October 5, 2006

"Respecting Students Cultural Literacies" and "Becoming Literate; A Lesson from the Amish"

I thought that the article on the Amish way of learning was extremely insightful. For them literacy goes back to the functional literacy, that has been described in many of our readings thus far in the class. For them, this kind of literacy is all they need to know and is most useful to them. Often when we are in English class I often ask myself why do we have to know this stuff? Like for example, how the diction and syntax helps to portray the author’s mood, or how the author uses a synecdoche effectively in his writing. If literacy is what we are trying to obtain, why not focus on some of the more basic aspects of reading and get them down fully, like the Amish. Only once everyone has mastered these steps, should progress into a more analytical approach arise.
I was also very interested in the different ethic illiteracies that we can all have, and how this labels some students slow learners. Now it makes since to me. Some of the smartest students I knew were foreign exchange students. They made not have stood out at first as some of the brightest students in our class because they often had a language barrier. But if you looked at them a couple of months later, after they mastered English, they really excelled and did well. If we jumped to the conclusion that they were slow learners upon first meeting them without knowing their situation, they would have missed out on the opportunity to learn. One of my best friends last year was from Japan. When she came here she knew very little English, but by the end she was as fluent and was holding her own in AP Calculus. I always thought she was amazing, because it was hard enough for me to learn calculus in English let alone a language like Japanese.

Family literacy is risky stuff

If you're curious about how exactly Maryann Nuckolls uses her students' family literacy in her class, you can find a fun excerpt from her book chapter here: (Ben-Yosef quotes her on page 82.)

October 4, 2006

Questions to Consider

Here are some questions to consider while and after reading “Respecting Students’ Cultural Literacies? and “Becoming Literate: A Lesson from the Amish?.

Respecting Students’ Cultural Literacies
1) Why is it important for children to relate words they know outside of school to words they learn in school?
2) What is your opinion on the idea of “building bridges between school and out-of-school literacies?. Do you think that this is a good way to teach children how to read?
3) Several questions from the reading asked “how do we make a respectful space for them within our classroom literacy dynamics? How can we create teaching and learning environments inclusive of all of our students, echoing the multitude of voices of the different communities from which they come?? How do you feel these questions should be answered?
4) Why is it that students with different backgrounds are seen as less intelligent then others?
5) What is “family literacy??

Becoming Literate: A Lesson from the Amish
1) What is the difference between the ways that the Amish teach their children to read and how children are taught to read in public schools?
2) Do you feel that the Amish can completely become literate after 8 years of education?
3) What do you feel is the difference between the Amish definition of literacy and our definition?
4) Do you feel that the reading material made available to the Amish can create a literate person? Why or why not.
5) How do you feel the way that Amish children are taught in schools is different from the way that public schools teach their students?

An Indian Father's Plea

In "Respecting students' cultural literacies," Elite Ben-Yosef quotes an excerpt from Robert Lake's article, "An Indian father's plea." If you want to read a more complete version, click on this link: It includes a lot of fascinating details about this native American boy's life and cultural literacy.

Summary of "Becoming Literate: A Lesson From the Amish"

The work “Essay: Andrea Fisherman, Becoming Literate: A Lesson from the Amish? informed the reader what the term literacy can mean in an Amish household and community. The reading begins by explaining a family meal with guests, and the Father of the household, Eli Sr., reading a Disney story to his six-year-old son, Eli Jr. The six year-old, Eli cannot read or write by mainstream standards, however, through his participation and understanding of written words either read to him or explained to him, he is considered fully literate member of his Amish family.

The reading goes on to explain how Eli Jr. copies written works in his home, plays scrabble and word games with the family, and even dictates letters to be sent in his name. The author explains just how Eli is able to gain a valuable understanding of literacy, and how he is able to become a part of a literate community without necessarily learning to read and write conventionally. When Eli Jr. finally does go to school, however, his reading and writing is further embraced as the teacher may finally begin to teach the young boy how to write and read texts, instead of dictating or being read to. In Eli’s head he is a fully literate, reading and writing member of the community; and it is then the teacher and his family’s job to embrace is positive outlook on literacy so he can further continue to succeed in his education.

The reading also explains some extreme differences between the Amish standards of literacy and those of main-stream America. Their students are not required to continue education past the eighth grade, nor are they expected to go on to any type of professional career with schooling either. Although the Amish requirements of schools differ greatly from American ones, they still have a great value on literacy and its impact on their communities.

The reading concludes with the consideration that if Eli had gone to an American Public School, he may have been discouraged about his reading and writing abilities and may have been labeled behind or as a problematic student. The author then concludes by expressing a desire for all people who encounter children and adults of different cultures to be sensitive and welcoming to new ideas and concepts of literacy that they may have even if they are extremely different from main-stream America’s.