Literacy Tools in the Classroom: Teaching Through Critical Inquiry, Grades 5-12

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This innovative resource describes how teachers can help students employ “literacy tools” across the curriculum to foster learning. The authors demonstrate how literacy tools such as narratives, question-asking, spoken-word poetry drama, writing, digital communication, images, and video encourage critical inquiry in the 5–12 classroom. The book provides many examples and adaptable lessons from diverse classrooms and connects to a Web site ( where readers can join a growing professional community, share ideas, and get frequent updates.

This dynamic text will inspire teachers to:

Work together to create richer and more equitable literacy curricula.

Develop purpose-driven activities and projects.

Identify and showcase students' strengths through their use of literacy tools.

Foster learning and critical inquiry across all content areas.

Use “change-based assessment” to encourage student reflection and growth.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807750568
  • Publisher: Teachers College Press
  • Publication date: 4/4/2010
  • Series: Language & Literacy Series, #99
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 348,296
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Table of Contents

Foreword Jerome C Harste ix

Introduction 1

Perspectives Informing This Book 2

Theorizing from Practice: Summarizing the Chapters 4

The Wiki Resource Site 5

How Educators Can Use This Book 5

Acknowledgments 6

1 What Are Literacy Tools and How Can We Use Them?: Moving Legacies into the 21st Century 7

“The Raft Is Not the Shore”: Honoring Our Literate Legacies 9

Defining Literacy Tools 14

Literacy Tools for Projects of Change and Transformation 16

The Art of Teaching and Change-Based Assessment 21

From Past to Future Uses of Literacy Tools 24

2 How Do We Use Literacy Tools to Engage in Critical Inquiry and Create Spaces? 25

Critical Inquiry Literacy Tools 26

Using Literacy Tools to Create Spaces 33

Activities for Studying Spaces 41

3 How Do We Use Literacy Tools to Enact Identities and Establish Agency? 43

Using Literacy Tools to Enact Identities 43

Using Literacy Tools to Explore and Question Identities 48

Implications for Enacting Identities 52

Constructing Agency Through Literacy Tools 52

Fostering Use of Literacy Tools to Achieve Agency 55

4 Narrative: Surfacing Buried Histories 57

Narrative as a Literacy Tool 59

The Power of Narrative 60

Recommendations for Valuing Narrative 63

5 Dramatic Inquiry: Imagining and Enacting Life from Multiple Perspectives 69

Dramatic Inquiry as a Literacy Tool-of-Tools 71

Imagined-and-Real Spaces 74

Dramatic Improvisation 76

Agency in Dramatic Inquiry 78

Critical, Dialogic, Dramatic Inquiry 80

Dramatic Inquiry Is a Literacy of Possibilities 82

Dramatic Inquiry Is a Literacy of Power Relationships 84

Performing Possible Selves and Changing Identities 87

Dramatic Inquiry as Collaborative Social Imagination 89

6 Spoken Word: Performing Poetry and Community 90

Youth Literacy Practices Evident in Spoken Word 91

Witnessing: Voicing Experience 92

Returning to Tish's “March for Me” 95

Spoken-Word Poetry and Inquiry, Space, Identity, and Agency 99

Using Spoken-Word Poetry in the Classroom 101

7 Digital Literacies: Virtually Connecting and Collaboratively Building Knowledge 105

Using Digital Literacy Tools in 21st-century Classrooms 107

Constructing Online Identities 108

Acquiring Digital Literacies 109

8 Reflective Writing: Nurturing Exploration of Our Lives 118

Features of Reflective Writing Tools 119

Freewriting 121

Note-Taking 122

Mapping 128

9 Images and Video: Envisioning the World 130

Responding to Images 131

Critical Inquiry of Images or Video 135

Identity Construction 136

10 Assessing Uses of Literacy Tools: Reflecting on What Really Matters 142

Toward Change-Based Assessment 143

Use of Question-Asking to Foster Self-Reflection 145

Use of Teacher and Peer Feedback to Foster Self-Reflection 150

Using Learning Stories to Reflect on Literacy Tool Uses 152

Using e-Portfolios to Foster Self-Reflection 153

Teacher Self-Assessment 155

Invitations and Recommendations 157

Conclusion: The Importance of Purpose in Using Literacy Tools 158

References 159

Index 169

About the Author 181

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