Writing Our Civic Futures (December): Bringing Students’ Lives to the Fore

December 01, 2017
By Educator Innovator

Our December edition of Writing Our Civic Futures, our annotation collaboration with Marginal Syllabus, explores critical literacies that center students’ lives with a recent article from Linda Christensen.

This is the third month of Writing Our Civic Futures, a collaboration of the National Writing Project and Marginal Syllabus that supports conversations about civic engagement and learning over the course of the 2017-18 academic year. 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.

This Month’s Topic: Bringing Students’ Lives to the Fore

For December’s reading, we explore what it means to bring students’ lives to the center in the classroom, using their unique experiences, perspectives, and talents as the bases for learning and teaching and the development of a critical literacy that supports students’ agency and power in the world.

We invite you to read Critical Literacy and Our Students’ Lives by Linda Christensen, and annotate the text with your own thoughts as you go. You might want to reflect on your own educational setting and the social and historical contexts in which you and your students are situated. How do these affect your experiences in and out of the classroom? What particular opportunities and challenges do they present?

This article was originally published in March 2017 in Vol 24, Number 3 of Voices from the Middle and is used with permission from the National Council of Teachers of English.

In this self-reflective piece, Christensen examines her discomfort with the description of her students as “disadvantaged,” explaining that the term elides the wide range of abilities her students bring to the classroom. By focusing on these existing skills and taking into account the social, racial, and political contexts of both her school and students, Christensen is able to fully support them as both learners and changemakers. This pedagogical stance allows Christensen to help students develop a critical literacy that extends beyond the classroom and to connect their own experiences with the those of other groups who have experienced oppression.

Access the full text via Educator Innovator. Using this link will enable you to view annotations (yellow highlights indicate annotations; the annotation tool displays along right side of your browser) others have added to the text.

The Conversation

As you read Critical Literacy and Our Students’ Lives we encourage you to read through annotations that others have added as well as add your own. Annotations are being added via the web annotation platform Hypothes.is. To add your thoughts, as well as to respond to others, sign up for your free account.

Check out Linda Christensen’s conversation with fellow educators Kevin Hodgson and Andrea Zellner, as well as Marginal Syllabus founders Remi Kalir and Joe Dillon.

For more support, see this annotation tutorial from Marginal Syllabus or this overview of Hypothes.is from KQED Teach. You can also refer back to previous annotated articles at the Educator Innovator blog to access additional resources and connect conversations in this series.

Share your annotations as you read or any time throughout the week. While we encourage your participation in the week-long annotation of the text (December 4-10), the readings will remain online for annotation and discussion through the month and into the new semester. 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.