Beyond the four skills:
Structuring classroom FL
instruction with a multiple
literacies approach
Heather Willis Allen
Assistant Professor,
Second Language Acquisition & French
University of Miami
[email protected]
1
Introductory questions
1. What are your associations with the word LITERACY? Write
down the first three things that come to mind.
2. What does being literate in a given language mean for you?
3. In your opinion, what are the major challenges to developing
FL (foreign language) literacy in a U.S. university classroom
setting for students and/or teachers?
2
Overview
•Why literacy? What do we mean by literate?
•Key concepts for literacy-based FL teaching
•Thinking through the concepts of literacy in designing FL
instruction: The four curricular components
•Rethinking assessment from a literacy perspective
•Examples of literacy-based instruction & assessment
3
Defining what we mean by LITERACY
“[T]he use of socially-, historically-, and culturallysituated practices of creating and interpreting meaning
through texts. It entails at least a tacit awareness of the
relationships between textual conventions and their
contexts of use and, ideally, the ability to reflect critically
on those relationships ... literacy is dynamic—not
static—and variable across and within discourse
communities and cultures” (Kern, 2000, p. 16)
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Why MULTIPLE literacies?
“Dealing with linguistic differences and cultural differences
has now become central to the pragmatics of our working,
civic, and private lives. Effective citizenship and productive
work now require that we interact effectively multiple
languages, multiple Englishes, and communication patterns
that more frequently cross cultural, community, and
national boundaries ... When the proximity of cultural and
linguistic diversity if one of the key facts of our time, the very
nature of language learning has changed” (New London
Group, 1996, p. 64)
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Dimensions of literacy
sociocultura
l
cognitive &
meta-cognitive
linguistic
Kern, 2000
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What does it mean to be literate? (1)
républicain: partisan de la république
libéral: qui est favorable aux libertés individuelles
le gouvernement: ceux qui gouvernent
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What does it mean to be literate? (2)
i googled it
posted it on my blog
and then i IM’d
my friends (Kern, 2006)
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What does it mean to be literate? (3a)
•“The Expectation-Maximization algorithm was used to
generate maximum likelihood estimates of haplotype
frequencies based on the observed genotypes under the
assumption of HWE” (p. 2133)
•Source: Smith, Levine, Freimanis, Akman, Allen, Hoang,
Liu-Mares, & Hu (Carcinogensis, 2008)
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What does it mean to be literate? (3b)
“At the moment when content can be seamlessly
merchandised, a group has generally developed robust forums
in which the members (hoarders, mothers of twins,
bodybuilders) develop codes and hierarchies and a firm notion
that this is a place where they can finally be themselves ... a
nation-state in which all citizens have in common your
idiosyncrasy, you badge of honor, your sin ... comb through the
[NaturallyCurly.com] site and you’ll find a vocabulary that either
seems startlingly alien or like home ... these sites become a
way to stand out and to conform--both irresistable
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commodities” (Heffernan, NYT Magazine, 4/4/2010)
What does it mean to be literate? (4)
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Rationale for a literacy-based approach (1)
“In the context of globalization and in the post-9/11
environment ... the usefulness of studying languages other
than English is no longer contested. The goals and means
of language study, however, continue to be hotly debated ...
Freestanding language schools and some campus
language-resource centers often embrace an instrumentalist
focus to support the needs of students they serve, whereas
university and college foreign language departments tend to
emphasize the constitutive aspect of language and its
relation to cultural and literary traditions,cognitive structures,
and historical knowledge” (MLA Report, 2007, p. 2)
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Rationale for a literacy-based approach (2a)
“Communicative teaching programs have largely
succeeded in their goal of promoting learners’ interactive
speaking abilities.They have tended to be somewhat less
successful, however, in developing learners’ extended
discourse competence and written communication skills—
areas of academic ability that are extraordinarily important
in academic settings” (Kern, 2000, p. 19)
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Rationale for a literacy-based approach (2b)
“Communicative approaches generally emphasize the use of
appropriate comprehensible input; meaning is perceived as more
important than form ... Considerable instructional time is devoted to
so-called skill-using activities performed in small groups of learners
... Are communicative approaches and goals the most appropriate,
sufficient, and effective in terms of learning outcomes in the general
education language study sequence? I take the stance that
communicative competence is neither a realistic nor a sufficient goal
for the general education FL requirement ... unrealistic because
neither time nor instructional context is sufficient or appropriate to
develop a meaningful and lasting level of proficiency. It is insufficient
because short-lived communicative survival skills are taught without
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intellectually challenging content” (Schulz, 2006, pp. 252-254)
Rationale for a literacy-based approach (3)
The challenge:
“Replacing the two-tiered language-literature structure with
a broader and more coherent curriculum in which
language, culture, and literature are taught as a continuous
whole ... will reinvigorate language departments as
valuable academic units central to the humanities and to
the missions of higher education” (MLA Report, 2007, p. 3)
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Literacy-based and communicative
(CLT) approaches
CLT
Literacy-based
Emphasis
Doing
Linguistic functions
Expressing personal
experiences
Doing & reflecting on doing
Form/function relations
Personal readings of texts
Role of
reading &
writing
Language practice
four skills orientation
Design of meaning (social,
cognitive, linguistic)
Integrated communicative acts
Predominant
learner role
Active participation-Using language in faceto-face interaction
Active engagement-Using language, reflecting on
language use, & revising
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Key concepts for literacy-based teaching
(1): Design of meaning
“We propose to treat
any semiotic activity,
including using language
to produce or consume
texts, as a matter of
Design involving three
elements: Available
Designs, Designing, and
The Redesigned”
(New London Group,
1996, pp. 73-74)
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Reading & writing as designing meaning
•dynamic communicative acts, both individual and social; creating
discourse from and through texts
“reading and writing are always socially-imbedded activities
involving relationships, shared assumptions, and conventions as
well as individual, personal acts involving imagination, creativity,
and emotions” (Kern, 2000, p. 111)
•writing in a FL allows learners' language use to go beyond purely
functional communication and opens the possibility "to create
imagined worlds of their own design" (Kern, 2000, p. 172)
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Key concepts (2): Available designs
Available designs: learners’ existing knowledge & resources that
are drawn on, consciously or unconsciously, in understanding &
making meaning from texts
Linguistic
Schematic
writing system
rhetorical org. patterns
vocabulary
knowledge of genres
syntax
stylistic choices
cohesion/coherence
stories
cultural models
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Key concepts (3): Focus on genre
•Emphasis on increasing learners’ awareness of discourse
conventions & rhetorical “moves” considered appropriate in a given
genre -> learning to write as an apprenticeship
•Rationale: “[Process-based approaches] tend to favor students who
are already familiar with a variety of culturally-appropriate academic
genres over those who are not. The lack of explicit models can make
it especially difficult for second language learners to discover the tacit
expectations for various types of writing ... At stake is learners’
understanding of links between form and communicative conventions
that will allow them to construct meanings in ways that are
appropriate within the immediate academic context as well as the
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larger societal context” (Kern, 2000, p. 182)
A framework for literacy-based teaching
“[P]edagogy is a complex
integration of four factors: Situated
Practice based on the world of
learners’ Designed & Designing
experiences; Overt Instruction
through which students shape for
themselves an explicit
metalanguage of Design; Critical
Framing which relates meanings
to their social contexts &
purposes; and Transformed
Practice in which students transfer
& re-create Designs of meaning
from one context to another” (New
London Group,1996, p. 83)
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Situated practice

Immersion in language use

Focus on learners expressing thoughts, opinions, feelings

Involvement in legitimate communicative activities using the FL

Examples: wiki/blog writing, reading journal, digital voice
recording, paired oral interview
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Overt instruction
•Focus on development of a meta-language to explicitly identify,
discuss, and learn elements contributing to meaning making in the
FL (e.g., linguistic/schematic resources) to help learners
communicate more effectively
• role of grammar = tool ≠ an end in & of itself
•Involvement in scaffolded learning opportunities (e.g., noticing
the gap, input enhancement, inductive grammar presentation)
rather than drill-type exercises
•Examples: text mapping, revising/editing, analyzing word/syntax
relationships
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Critical framing
•Focus on understanding the social, cultural, historical, &
ideological contexts of texts
•Development of an awareness of how rules of communication in
the FL are tied to context / culture / communities of use
•Involves reflection on how meaning making in the FL converges
or diverges from the learner’s own worldview & norms of the
learner’s culture -> cross-cultural & inter-cultural comparisons
•Examples: research/presentation activity, reflective journaling,
comparison reading/analysis activity
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Transformed practice
•Focus on learners recreating designs of meaning by transferring
them from one context to another by creating new texts on the
basis of existing ones or reshaping existing texts
•Allows learners to take the lead and use what they know to
create something original / personal
•Can be used to link one lesson/class to the next or can serve as
a more formal / summative form of assessment at the end of a unit
/ module
•Examples: story retelling, stylistic/genre reformulation of a
(written) text, oral presentation / debate / panel
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Assessing FL development in a
literacy-based course
•Literacy-based assessment should be multi-dimensional, aiming to
evaluate learners' ability to use language as a tool of creative and
critical thought
•Close integration of how instructional activities are designed / the types
of language-learning activities students engage in with the types of
assessments used
•Focus on both formative (process-oriented, providing ongoing feedback
to facilitate improvement) and summative (to evaluate performance /
achievement at the end of a unit / the course) assessment
•Opportunities for learners to reflect on their linguistic development,
classroom experiences, and goals related to FL learning
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Example 1: Forms of assessment,
elementary or intermediate FL course
FORMATIVE>
Informal journal writing (weekly)
Oral participation
-teacher feedback using a rubric once/month (e.g., Week 2,
6, 10, 14)
-self evaluation using a rubric one/month (Week 4, 8, 12)
Online workbook activities
-graded holistically 4X /semester
Brief chapter quizzes focused on form/structure (4/semester)
SUMMATIVE>
Genre-based writing portfolio (3X /semester)
-includes opportunities for revising/editing + self evaluation
Oral partnered interview (1) and digital recording (1)
Contextualized written examinations (midterm & final)
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Example 2: Forms of assessment,
third-year cultural studies course
FORMATIVE>
Reading journal (1 entry per class: summary, key concepts, questions)
Oral participation
-teacher feedback using a rubric, each module (4X / semester)
Short quizzes (1-2 per module)
-not graded numerically, count toward specific participation
criteria (e.g., “displays sufficient preparation for each class”)
SUMMATIVE>
Formal genre-based writing portfolio (3X /semester)
-includes opportunities for revising/editing + self evaluation
Oral presentation (“talk show”) and in-class debate (3X / semester)
Final written examination (essay, definition of key concepts from each
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module)
Example 3: Forms of assessment,
advanced writing course
FORMATIVE>
Thematic & stylistic analysis activities (graded holistically, 8X /
semester)
Oral participation
-self evaluation using a rubric (4X / semester)
Wiki writing
-self reflection on writing development (8X / semester)
SUMMATIVE>
Genre-based writing portfolio (4X /semester)
-includes opportunities for revising/editing
-self evaluation with each of the four texts
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Example 1: Literacy-based instruction elementary level
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Example 1: Literacy-based instruction elementary level
critical
framing
-images/biographical info on Cocteau
-activity comparing US v. France table manners or
parent/child communication
situated
practice
-reading matrix: table wherein learners focus on
text’s themes, who is speaking, who is addressed
+ note answers
overt
instruction
-inductive grammatical activity wherein learners’
attention is drawn to repeated use of imperative
tense; learners categorize verbs based on -er, -ir, re ending
transformed
practice
-rewrite the story as a dialogue
-rewrite the story based on your own experiences
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Example 2: Literacy-based instruction elementary level
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Example 2: Literacy-based instruction elementary level
critical
framing
-pre reading activity on the social networking
phenomenon
-post reading activity incorporating statistics on computer,
internet, social networking in U.S. versus France
situated
practice
-before reading the survey results, have students
interview a classmate using it, summarize class results
afterwards
-reading activity to verify comprehension of survey
overt
instruction
-activity focusing on how to transform information from a
survey into a descriptive text
transformed
practice
-interview 5 friends from your university on their uses for
social networking & summarize their responses in a short
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descriptive text or digital recording
Example 3: Literacy-based instruction intermediate level
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Example 3: Literacy-based instruction intermediate level
critical
framing
-activity incorporating statistics on current trends in travel
and travel planning in U.S. and/or France
situated
practice
-paired interview on travel preferences & which
media/tools you use to plan travel
overt
instruction
-activity wherein students identify elements that constitute
an ad (e.g., image, slogan, descriptive text) & note how
each inform the meaning that emerges from the SNCF ad
transformed -design a travel ad that incorporates an image, slogan, &
short text; also prepare a “an campaign” text that
practice
describes in 2-3 paragraphs the significance of each of the
3 elements as well as who the ad targets and what the
goal of the ad is.
35
Example 4: Literacy-based instruction intermediate level
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Example 4: Literacy-based instruction intermediate level
critical
framing
-pre reading activity: for each text, research 2 cultural
products or places mentioned in it; describe or define
each & post in our course’s discussion board
situated
practice
-reading matrix: read & compare two “Lieu d’enfance”
texts and note key thematic elements from each
overt
instruction
-activity focusing learners’ attention on repeated pattern
of imperfect tense in the texts
transformed -beginning with an image/photo, describe your own
treasured “Lieu d’enfance” in a one-page text
practice
-rewrite one of the two texts as a poem, retain the existing
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vocabulary and dominant verb tenses
Your turn: Propose literacy-based activities
related to the following text
Context: elementary course, food chapter, focus on
expressing preferences
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Literacy-based pedagogy:
The four curricular components
critical
framing
situated
practice
overt
instruction
transformed
practice
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Your turn: Propose literacy-based activities
related to the following text
Context: intermediate course, environment/social issues
chapter, review of subjunctive mood to express necessity/wishes
40
Literacy-based pedagogy:
The four curricular components
critical
framing
situated
practice
overt
instruction
transformed
practice
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