Course Content (Syllabus)
The way language is used in interaction to facilitate communication and the way by which language use shapes learning in school contexts constitute very important topic of discussion in current educational research. Recent work (especially in the field of literacy studies) has illustrated that interaction in school contexts constitutes a complex process of negotiating meanings through the production and interpretation of oral and written texts. Indeed, these texts as well as the way they are used in various social contexts – including school-based ones – cannot be seen as neutral means participants use for conveying information; they rather comprise a system or a set of social practices – a set of literacy practices. Literacy and specifically the notion of school literacy is used in current research in reference to the way in which the activities of reading, writing, speaking and listening relate to each other for the attainment of specific communicative purposes as well as for the construction of students as specific kinds of literate subjects. In other words, the kinds of texts school regards as important
This course investigates the nature of school literacy by attending to and analyzing the various processes by which the members of a school community, teachers and students, interact with each other; this interaction is mediated by the oral and written texts teachers and students co-construct. As proposed, the kinds of texts school regards as important and the way children participate in various activities concerned with the production and interpretation of texts cannot be seen as neutral. They rather index and constitute a system of positionings against language, knowledge and the world in general. It is through the interlacing of these positionings that students emerge and are shaped as particular kinds of literate subjects with a critical orientation to knowledge.
Additionally, this course outlines and discusses the various proposals that have been outlined in the literature with regard to language teaching. Although the notion of ‘language teaching’ in the Greek context indexes a very specific orientation to teaching practices, i.e. one that place more emphasis on the structural character of language and its sociolinguistically-conditioned uses, more recent developments advice us that teaching should be analyzed within a wider perspective. This newer perspective foregrounds the notion of critical literacy and attends to the development of students as critical learners.
Critical literacy – i.e. seen as an inquisitive stance against texts but also against the world members of a local community of learners - is analyzed through the various kinds of processes participants in local classroom communities interrelate with each other, created in and through the oral and written texts they co-construct. The course presents the various kinds of difficulties students and teachers confront as they appropriate, negotiate and resist the elements that constitute the nature of school literacy. Among the themes discussed: What do we mean by the notion of ‘oral language’ and ‘oral proficiency’? Through what processes are the metalinguistic and communicative knowledge relate to the acquisition of early reading and writing or with text production? Is oral language a homogeneous entity or can we identify different kinds of oral texts which can be develop din different ways? What is the relationship between oral and written language, and the processes of text production and interpretation? How do text types work? What are the kinds of cognitive, metacognitive strategies that work during the interpretation of various speech and multimodal texts that constitute the threads of meaning in the school context?
Developed in 3 sections, the course discusses in detail the basic theses, terms, assumptions and ideological meanings that have informed the study of language and literacy in school communities. Specifically:
In the first section under the title ‘Basic notions’ the basic terminology is introduced as regards the study of language as a structure and as a system of use. The various levels of language description are outlined, as well as the units of analysis and the ways linguistic units relate to each other. The emphasis is not on simply outlining these developments but rather on illuminating the way by which these notions can be taken up by teachers to enrich their understanding of the linguistic and communicative competencies with which children come to school.
The second section entitled ‘literacy in the preschool and early school years’ presents the psycholinguistic theories that have been proposed with regard to early literacy acquisition, outlines the various kinds of competencies constituting emergent literacy and discusses topics on early reading and writing.
In the third section, beginning with early school years, reference is made to the difficulties teachers and students face as they are involved in early reading and writing activities. More specifically, the section entitled ‘teaching early reading and writing’ outlines the way oral and written language relate to and differ from each other and the way such differences shape children’s routes to reading and writing in the early school years. Emphasis is directed to school practices. The section outlines and critically discusses the various methodological perspectives that have been proposed with regard to early reading and writing.