Considering the Context of Texts

CanadaCollegeLogoSource: Taylor, Catherine G. (2004). Critical Literacy and the Un/Doing of Academic Discourse. Ethnologies, 26, 1, 125-143.

Taylor is situated within the socio-cultural perspective on schooling, emphasizing critical literacy, which for her, “emphasizes reading and writing as activities for personal empowerment and social transformation” (p. 125). “Critical educators currently use it across the curriculum and throughout educational levels as a method of teaching already-literate people how to think critically about language and perhaps spark a passion for social change” (p. 126).

Taylor provides a specific set of questions for students to consider about the way text is written:
• Who benefits from the way this story is told?
• Who’s telling the story? What different does that make?
• Whose voices are heard, and whose aren’t? What difference does that make?
• What relevant factors are missing? What difference does that make?
• What kind of evidence is offered? What kind of evidence is not offered?
• What is treated as a root cause? Who benefits from that?
• What is left until the end (when most readers have stopped reading) or barely acknowledged?
• How else could this story have been told? What difference would that make? (p131)

These questions invite students to read below the surface of a text and to analyze/evaluate the choices and moves a writer makes. As students consider questions like the ones Taylor offers here, they are prompted to think more critically about text – something we ALL want for our students.

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