Language and Literacy

This is a course from a previous year. View the current courses

This two-semester course focuses on the making of meaning and knowledge through listening, speaking, reading, and writing in early childhood and childhood. All children—English speakers and English language learners—are recognized as capable of learning and of becoming competent English language and literacy users. Emphasis is on teaching that takes into account each child’s approaches to learning and pace in learning, valuing the complexity in developing instruction that builds upon what the child already knows and can do.

  • Learning is a process by which each person actively constructs meaning from experience, including encounters with print and nonprint texts.
  • Language and literacy are social acts.
  • Language and literacy develop in the pursuit of real-life enterprise.
  • Reading and writing, as with spoken language, are best learned in rich, interactive environments where they serve real purposes.
  • Reading and writing do not develop in predefined stages; rather, literacy understanding is complex and unique to the individual.
  • Language and literacy cannot be separated from the total expressiveness of the person.
  • Literacy is power, and children must have every opportunity to know its power.
  • Literacy teaching and learning must be re-envisioned to accommodate a multimodal, multilingual, multimedia world.

We will build our knowledge of language and literacy learning upon these assumptions by reflecting on ourselves as readers, writers, and language users. We will explore how children learn to read and write by observing them as they use language and literacy for real purposes. We will consider new media and technologies as modes of communication and expression and consider how they are reshaping the future of literacy. Our observations of children and our own literacy stories will help us understand the range and complexity of meanings and approaches among any group of learners. Our observations and recollections also will provide an entry point for discussions regarding differences in race, class, ethnicity, gender, and learning style. The challenge for schools to be inclusive of the diversity—to enable each child to differ, yet belong to the community of learners—lies at the core of our work. We will, through our Child Studies, our recollections, and the readings, begin to develop a picture of inclusive classrooms and schools in which children have the “space to dance with others” and the “room to differ” (Patricia F. Carini). The course paper will be an in-depth inquiry focused on language and literacy teaching and learning and on classroom practice and work with children, examined through the lens of your own philosophy, thought, values, and standards.