Building Connections Between Teacher Education Candidates and Urban Middle School Students Through Social Action: A Community Literacy Partnership

Building Connections Between Teacher Education Candidates and Urban Middle School Students Through Social Action: A Community Literacy Partnership

Anne Katz
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9232-7.ch014
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For faculty to be effective in supporting pre-service educators' learning, they must connect with Association of American College and University tenets. The purpose of this collaboration was to provide teacher candidates with a meaningful opportunity to interact with local public school students. College students exchanged letters, created and implemented technology-based mini-lessons, participated in close reading and critical thinking discussions, and dialogued with middle school students around issues presented in the book It's Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired, and Get Going (Clinton, 2015). The question it seeks to answer is, “Would the use of targeted reading, writing, technology-based discussion, and creation of a social justice project with public middle school student literacy leaders improve pre-service educators' commitment to their field and expand their learning?” This chapter explores a community literacy partnership.
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Theoretical Framework

Since Fall 2012, the author has served as university liaison for the Teens for Literacy program in an urban school in the southeastern United States. Research has reflected that the purpose of school-based writing is often unclear to many middle school students (Yancy, 2009). While students often use text messaging and social websites, they rarely acknowledge the connection between the writing they do socially and the writing tasks required at school. My goal with this initiative was to motivate students to utilize literacy as a vehicle to express themselves in meaningful ways. These adolescent readers remind us that reading and writing are social endeavors that cannot be reduced to mere technical skills (Ivy, 2014). Roskos and Neuman (2014) note that it is “important to consider multiple genres and how these different genres may contribute to children’s knowledge and desire to learn” (p. 508).

Reading in any setting has social, cultural, and political ramifications. When students become aware of the messages about race, gender, and power within the text, they can better connect with their own views about how these issues influence their interpretation of what they read (Hall & Piazza, 2008). Critical literacy “accounts for ways that literacy can be used in service of self-actualization and social change” (Riley, 2015, p. 418). Critical literacy allows students to understand what they are reading from diverse perspectives (Norris, Lucas, & Prudhoe, 2012). A goal of my collaboration was to introduce pre-service teachers to critical literacy so that they can teach their students how to utilize these skills in the future. An additional goal was for the middle school “Teens for Literacy” student leaders to learn how to approach all information from a more critical perspective.

Afflerbach and Harrison (2017) explain that “positive motivation leads to increased engagement, increased engagement leads to continuing reading success, and this ongoing reading success leads to increased motivation.... a key to students’ reading achievement is creation of classroom environments in which motivation and engagement thrive” (p.218). In addition, Baugh (2017) notes that a “comprehensive reading program incorporates effective instruction, multiple resources, and a wide variety of experiences to help each student achieve optimal reading progress every year” (p. 229-30). As a result of their collaboration with college students, the “Teens for Literacy” middle school students branched out to cultivate advanced reading comprehension skills, connect as a community of learners, and inspire their peers to participate in literacy endeavors.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Andragogical Model: An adult learning theory that influenced the design, planning, and implementation of the college classroom environment.

Motivation: Strategies for encouraging active learning and authentic participation.

Discussion Board: An online forum for college students to generate, converse, and implement ideas, as well as reflect upon issues presented in the course.

Writing To Learn: A valuable informal performance assessment tool to determine content understanding.

University-School Collaboration: A partnership with a defined goal between a university and a school that enriches both parties through the exchange of resources and ideas.

Differentiation: Adapt instruction based upon students’ interests, learning styles, and readiness, which are critical elements to consider in addressing the diverse needs of students.

Adolescent Literacy: Strategies that engage middle school readers in authentic reading and writing practices.

Student Leadership: A forum for students to generate and implement literacy-based ideas for the school community.

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