Linguistically-Responsive Literacy Pedagogies Across Primary and Secondary Classrooms

Linguistically-Responsive Literacy Pedagogies Across Primary and Secondary Classrooms

Earl Aguilera (California State University, Fresno, USA), Ilana Greenstein (California State University, Fresno, USA), and Linda A. Shannon (California State University, Fresno, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2722-1.ch023
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In this chapter, three educators outline a pedagogical framework for enacting Linguistically Responsive Literacy Pedagogies (LRLP), founded on the sociocultural dimensions of literacy, the multilingual realities of many contemporary educational settings, and the institutional expectations of the teaching profession. The chapter overviews how the LRLP framework has been enacted across three different developmental groups across multiple school sites. The authors bring experiences as classroom teachers, teacher-educators, and school leaders working to understand and support the diverse literacy and language practices of learners in the 21st century. The chapter illustrates how pedagogical approaches that share a commitment to sustaining sociolinguistic diversity and promoting educational equity can be enacted across primary and secondary classrooms to benefit all learners.
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Over the course of the past several decades, a growing body of research has demonstrated the value of contextually sensitive, culturally responsive approaches to classroom teaching, particularly in the diverse and multilingual contexts that are coming to characterize classrooms around the world (Banks & Banks, 2004; Ladson-Billings, 2008; Nieto, 1994; Paris & Alim, 2017). Classrooms in the United States constitute an important example of how these approaches are becoming more essential than ever, as recent research estimates that over 50% of the public-school enrollment are composed of students of color (National Center for Education Statistics, 2013). In contrast to this, the U.S. has had a history of emphasizing curricular models that center on the cultural legacies, values, and linguistic practices of its predominantly white1 demographic groups. This often occurs at the cost of marginalizing the histories and social language practices of groups labeled as “diverse,” including Black students, Hispanic students, and students of indigenous origin (Emdin, 2016). While many of these students are considered monolingual English speakers, the varied social language practices they bring to the classroom, often influenced by deep cultural histories and everyday experiences, are typically labeled and treated as non-standard, limited, or otherwise deviating from so-called ‘proper’ dominant forms of English. In this chapter, three educators from the United States offer their approaches for responding to these realities, with a particular focus on classroom literacy instruction across multiple grade-level contexts.

While the particular labels have changed over time, pedagogical approaches grounded in a meaningful responsiveness to the realities of cultural difference have been supported by research in linguistics (Gee, 1996), neuroscience (Hammond, 2014), and numerous classroom-, school-, and community-based studies of education over time (Paris & Alim, 2017). Educators, scholars, and researchers alike have developed various pedagogical approaches informed by principles of multicultural, critical, and equity-based perspectives on education (Adams & Bell, 2016). And while structural inequities, such as de-facto segregated community schools, remain a challenge for students of historically marginalized backgrounds, these approaches have yielded powerful insights into student engagement, school culture, and academic achievement (Gay, 2010).

Despite these promising findings, classroom approaches to literacy instruction have been typically informed by pedagogical models that narrowly reduce literacy to purely cognitive, often de-contextualized components. In the United States, for example, standardized assessments, public school curricula, and commercial materials draw largely on a five-component model of reading endorsed by a report by the National Reading Panel (NRP, 2000). The NRP model emphasizes phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension as the five essential elements of reading, and has influenced almost two decades of policy, teacher education, and curricular design. The latest Common Core State Writing Standards’ emphasis on vocabulary, syntax, and normative grade-specific evaluation reflects a similar ethos (National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, 2010). Despite the widespread adoption of these models, gaps in standardized test performance between white students and students of historically marginalized linguistic backgrounds have persisted over time (Rothstein, 2015).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy: An approach to teaching and learning that recognizes the varied cultural perspectives present in any learning context and teaches according to these realities.

Multimodality: A field of study that examines meaning-making through signs beyond just written language, including image, composition, gesture, and sound.

Social Languages: Varieties of language that exist beyond geopolitically-defined categories such as English or French. In the U.S., for example, a great variety of Englishes can be found spoken across sociocultural affiliations, affinity spaces, regions, and many other areas.

New Literacy Studies (NLS): An approach to studying literacy as it is tied specifically to social and cultural contexts (see also: Literacy Practices).

Multiliteracies: A term coined in the late 1990s that refers to both the linguistic diversity of literacy practices as well as the ways literacies are communicated across modes beyond just language.

New Literacies: Literacy practices enabled by emerging technologies such as social media and mobile applications.

Sociolinguistics: A branch of linguistics that studies the relationship of language to social factors, including region, class, and occupational dialects, gender differences, and multilingualism.

Literacy Practices: Socially-situated ways of exchanging meaning that vary across cultures and contexts, involve artifacts such as words composed on a page or digital screen, and are constantly evolving and changing.

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