Alverman and Appleman Sitting in a Tree

In Donna Alverman’s chapter on ‘Multicultural Youth in the Time of Scientific Reading Instruction,’ she states early on the importance of breaking with tradition as the definition of reading instruction continually narrows. This is due mainly to her frustration over why the powers that be feel it is necessary to keep reading instruction cut and dry as we continue on into the 21st century, a time that has already seen many mass media, cultural explosions.

She continues by describing the youth culture of America as Digital Natives who have mastered various modes of communication through the use of symbols and signs (ie. internet chat, blogging, text messaging, etc.) and have become dynamic members of society, seemingly on their own. Alverman then introduces the “movement, largely driven by policy makers at the state and national levels,” whose “agenda is to make high-stakes testing the impetus driving our students to become better prepared, ready to take their place in an increasingly competitive global market” (p.21). As she looks at Gee’s notion of New Literacy Studies and his idea that “literacy is singular in neither form nor function” (p. 23) she eventually comes to the conclusion that “how [students] choose to solve a problem, and how they learn from nonverbal cues, have a lot in common with scientific reading instruction” (p.25) hence what “they” would call literacy.

Note: Her citation of McLuhan and his views on video games and literacy on p. 24 is quite interesting if you get a chance to read it.

Ultimately, Alverman asks whether or not we should support a one-sided pedagogy (ie. turning our youth into vacuous automatons who will perpetuate the status quo) or if we, as teachers, should break from what is expected in the classroom and help the youth become well rounded individuals who have the proper tools to propose their own ideas and choose between what they think is right and wrong based on their, own personal, well-educated opinions.

The chapter goes hand-in-hand with Deborah Appleman’s “Notes on Reading with Adolescents,” in which the author poses the question, what is and isn’t too sophisticated? I don’t think anything is too sophisticated, especially when thinking of Gee’s statement about literacy being non-static and Appleman’s statements where she describes adolescents as constantly reading the world around them. Considering what Alverman proposed with the idea of mass media opening up new doorways in education, this article suggests that our job as teachers is to make the work they do in school matter. What better way to make it matter than to choose course material that is relevant to their culture?

This has been Raph with a facilitation of a prospective discussion on the works of Alverman and Appleman. See you all in class tomorrow.

Godspeed.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Alverman and Appleman Sitting in a Tree

  1. sunyprof

    Hi Raph, Alvermann and Appleman are heavy hitters in our discourse and they make such perfect sense don’t they! What is your own personal reaction to the readings? That is, how do they challenge (if they do?) your own constructs–see the Kelly piece–the understandings of what English is that you bring to 541? KES

  2. Appleman Hits Home

    I could relate to much of what Appleman revealed about her past: her love of English, how reading “saved” her, and her desire to teach others to love reading as well. I also think she raises a very important point: the need to introduce high school students to various literary theories. I could have benefited tremendously if I had been introduced to these lenses while in high school. I didn’t interact with texts while considering these different theories until I was in college, and sometimes it is still a very new process for me and I often resent that I struggle with this due to lack of exposure and experience. I definitely don’t think theoretical approaches to literature are too sophisticated for high school students. Why can’t they learn about these in high school? What differences really are there between a college freshman who encounters these theories vs. a high school senior who encounters these theories? I would argue not much, aside from a few months of summer vacation. To suggest that high school students aren’t ready to critically analyze texts is hypocritical, because isn’t that essentially what they are asked to do on the SATs? Further, if the excuse is that they simply aren’t ready to encounter these theories, my retort is that someone better get them ready. Maybe instead of redundantly focusing on theme, point of view, characterizations, etc., while in 8th grade, they should somehow be getting prepared for more intensive studies of ELA. Once again, we need to remember not to underestimate the abilities of our students. Further, I think Raph said is nicely when he wrote that a great way to make English class matter more to students, is to bring their culture into the classroom through the course material or other supplements.

  3. canadawr5

    In some ways I agree with creating your own pedagogy in attempting to turn your students into leaders instead of followers.
    I also believe that students should be more well rounded and I am absoloutely an advocate for Multicultural Lit.

    Ray C.

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