I remember, in one of my first years of teaching, having a conversation with a “seasoned vet” about the language students were using. She was horrified that students were using “u” to replace “you” and “r” to replace “are”. She felt it was a sign of laziness or lack of intellect, when really it was just she was used to a more traditional sense of literacy. She liked her students to share their understanding in the form of written essays. I often think back to that conversation and wonder if sometimes I get stuck in a mindframe similar to that teacher. There are so many ways for people to be literate. Written, spoken, digital, visual, critical, informational, cultural the list goes on. As a self declared “old person” I am beginning to realize how important it is for me to appreciate that my students have unique strengths and that they share their understanding in different ways. What is more important – what we say or how we say it?
Social Media has majorly changed how people communicate. Yes, sometimes it means shortening already very short words but sometimes it means thinking a little deeper. I often use tik tok trends to teach different concepts in my classroom. For example the #tellme challenge is great for teaching different types of figurative language. Also, it’s very interesting to hear them explain the meaning behind different slang terms! For example, the other day our director of education stopped by my classroom to say hi. After he left, one of my grade 10s said “Woah, Mr. (so and so) is looking drippy!” Now I’ll admit. I was a little taken aback but I got him to explain what that meant. He said it means like hes “drippin’ with class” and I thought that was pretty cool!
Students need to be able to interpret and understand information from various context. I need to teach my students to be able to sift through content and use that to formulate their responses. Although I believe that students should always be able to share their understanding in the ways that work best for themselves (Think of the Dr Seuss quote “If You Judge a Fish by Its Ability to Climb a Tree, It Will Live Its Whole Life Believing that It is Stupid“) I also think it is important to teach students that there is a time and place for specific literacies and they usually begin with a question. I found this great infographic that I wanted to share:
As teachers, we need to make sure to provide students with various opportunities to practice their literacy skills. Confining students to printed materials and text books, only works for some of our students. A mixture of digital resources, photos and videos are necessary to ensure a wide range of success in the classroom. I make sure to keep that conversation with the “seasoned vet” close to the front of my mind whenever I think about my assignments. Do my students really always have to share their understanding in written form, or could they create a digital presentation instead? Change isn’t easy. This takes time to get comfortable with, but it is worth the effort!