LEARN with Marginal Syllabus (April): Cultivating Urban Literacies on Chicago’s South Side Through a Pedagogy of Spatial Justice

April 01, 2019
By Educator Innovator

Our April, 2019 reading for Literacy, Equity + Remarkable Notes = LEARN spotlights a middle school teacher’s approach to teaching through a pedagogy of spatial justice. In a piece written for Voices from the Middle, authors Andrea Vaughan, Rebecca Woodard, Nathan C. Phillips, and Kara Taylor, describe the way Taylor and her class of middle school students studied the city around them, critiqued deficit narratives about their neighborhood, and developed urban literacies to advocate for food justice.

This is the sixth month of LEARN, a Marginal Syllabus co-developed with the National Writing Project (NWP) and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). Each month during the 2018-19 academic year, we’ll collaboratively read and discuss an article, published by NCTE, that investigates the intersection of literacy and equity. Refer to the syllabus for information on all the annotatable readings, which will go “live” on the first Monday of each month, along with related events hosted by CLTV and others.

April Topic: Reading the city and writing counter narratives to promote food access and equity.

Throughout this unit, Kara asked her students to make use of their knowledge of their own neighborhoods, positioning them as experts about the places they inhabit.

Cultivating Urban Literacies on Chicago’s South Side through a Pedagogy of Spatial Justice, by Andrea Vaughan, Rebecca Woodard, Nathan C. Phillips, and Kara Taylor.

In April, we read about a middle-school unit that engaged students in a study of food access and justice in their neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. Taylor cultivated a pedagogy of spatial justice that posed critical questions to her students about race, class, and power in the dense ecology of the school’s urban setting. While studying food systems and inequities, she invited students to write poetry about their community, as well as to research and author position papers about how to address issues of obesity and wellbeing. The class read traditional academic texts, and also “read” their neighborhood through place-based activities as a source of local knowledge. Taylor supported her students to think critically about food justice through the use of documentary films, statistical information, and their knowledge of place. Students ultimately made meaning of their surrounding sociopolitical context and developed counter narratives to conventional wisdom about obesity, food, identity, and messages that negatively portrayed their community. The authors illustrate how, through an exploratory pedagogy focused on equity and spatial justice, a teacher can invite students to consider the complexities of their urban setting while developing an advocate’s voice about the assets and challenges of their communities.

We invite you to engage in a conversation about pedagogies of spatial justice that position students as experts of their everyday places by annotating in the margins of this hopeful and instructive article.

Join the Annotated Conversation

We invite you to read “Cultivating Urban Literacies on Chicago’s South Side through a Pedagogy of Spatial Justice” and annotate the text with your own thoughts and reactions. Annotations may be added using the web annotation tool Hypothesis. To add your own annotations, as well as to respond to others, sign up for your free account.

Share your annotations as you read or any time throughout the month. We also encourage you to use these readings and the opportunity to annotate however it best works for you—organize a study group, bring a class you are teaching, engage as an individual, or connect it to a meeting.

Author Discussion at CLTV

View the author discussion of our April Marginal Syllabus reading that highlights Kara Taylor’s approach to teaching through a pedagogy of spatial justice with guest readers Betina Hsieh and Christopher Rogers.