Critical Literacy at LJA: Asking Questions

One of the key pieces of our instructional framework is critical literacy. Through critical literacy, we live out our motto of Asking Questions, Making Choices.

What is critical literacy?

Critical literacy is an approach that encourages the reader to actively analyze and deconstruct the texts they encounter in and out of the classroom. In this approach, literacy is about more than the ability to decode or “sound out” the words on the page, or the ability to summarize the main points of a story or article. Critically literate students see any text, whether it is a novel, picture book, textbook, song on the radio, or advertisement, as something that was created by a person or people with their own particular perspective in society, and are able to analyze those texts and reflect on their layers of meaning. Paolo Friere, the educator, philosopher, and author of Pedagogy of the Oppressed, said that critical literacy was a vehicle for students and their teachers to learn to “read the world.”

What might you see in classrooms that promote critical literacy, and how is it different from other approaches to literacy?

At LJA, you will see classrooms in which:

  • teachers guide students in encounters with multiple viewpoints rather than presenting one voice as definitive or authoritative.

  • students and teachers ask and discuss questions such as: Who created this text? What is this text about, and how do we know? Who is allowed to speak, and what are their perspectives on the world?  Who benefits from the text?  Who or what has been left out from this text?

  • when textbooks are used in the classroom, they are not presented as the ultimate authority on a topic, but rather as another text to be analyzed and deconstructed with a critical lens. Texts are not considered to be universal or unbiased.

  • students see themselves in the curriculum. In language arts, students see characters with which they can identify in the stories and books they read; in science and math, students explore how these disciplines relate to their experiences and communities, and in social studies, students learn about the “people’s history,” not just the history from the point of view of the powerful.

  • teachers regularly consider questions together such as: How are members of the learning community participating in the cycle of making meaning? How does knowledge work in both democratic and undemocratic ways (to liberate or dominate)? To what extent does the study in question have value beyond the classroom and how will students take this learning and own it beyond the walls of LJA?

  • the learning community is engaged in work that aims to learn about and act on social inequalities and injustice.

How does critical literacy empower scholars at LJA?

Critical literacy enriches our inquiry-based learning environment, in which challenging problems are posed and challenging questions are asked on a daily basis in every classroom. This kind of higher order thinking is interdisciplinary in nature, experiential, and the kind of highly rigorous work that helps students prepare for their future educations in high school and college. Critical literacy prepares students to become engaged, critical, and justice-oriented participants in our democratic society, and empowers the marginalized and oppressed by building critical consciousness, including the ability to name, act on, and transform injustice in our communities.

Please contact Ms. Emily for more information at emilyb@laurajeffreyacademy.org.