“A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures” and “Teaching Composition in the Multilingual World”

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            When thinking back on all the professional development I have sat through in college, at work, and at literacy conferences, the topic of English language learners vaguely comes to mind. Each year there is a dreaded faculty meeting where a person from the language department goes over WIDA standards and tells the group about what students “can do” at each level of the program (https://wida.wisc.edu/teach/standards/eld/2020). This meeting is dreaded because it usually occurs on a beautiful, sunny, Monday afternoon in the springtime, after a long day of work. Educators from all disciplines are busy thinking what’s for dinner, how much traffic will I hit on the way home, will I make it in time to the daycare pick up… The presenters of this meeting often begin with an uninspiring statement about this “not taking long” and that there will be an easy to use handout in our mailboxes to display in case the mysterious someone comes looking for our standards. 

            After reading these two articles, it is apparent that the schools, language departments, universities, and individual educators need to put a greater emphasis on learning how to teach international ESL students and resident ESL students how to communicate effectively. After reading “A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures” from 1996, the article even lets readers understand that it is merely, “a tentative starting point for that process” (89). The chapter “Teaching Composition in the Multilingual World”, pairs nicely with this article in terms of pointing educators in the direction of starting this process in their classrooms as well as continuing the discussion on meeting the needs of our students. 

            “A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures” makes readers aware of the ever-changing modes of literacy and our need as people (not just educators) to work on our communication. The contributor’s purpose in delivering this text to the audience is their belief that “all students benefit from learning in ways that allow them to participate fully, in public, community, and economic life” (60). The article discusses the need for education reform in terms of the way the classroom is designed, more diversity in the curriculum, and a need to increase student motivation. A common trend in writing theory emerges again in this text in terms of multiliteracy being multimodal, culturally inclusive, and flexible. The text asks readers: What are we teaching? – and – What do we need to learn to become better teachers? In order to change the present and the future, educators from various backgrounds need to have meaningful discussions about our understanding of how language is used at work, in private, and in public life in order to change the way we educate others about language usage. 

            “Teaching Composition in the Multilingual World” discusses the changes that need to be made in terms of aligning the dated teaching methods with the ever-changing language of the Union. The article reminds readers that all educators are language teachers, it is not just the job of the specialist. This article goes over the history of how our need for education revision began and how we have a variety of English dialects or vernaculars within our own country that need to be addressed. In addition to addressing the issues that will arise in education, the article also talks about how these same issues will arise in a regular person’s work life, personal life, and educational career after K-12 schooling. Once again, this article offers suggestions for changing the way we design our courses, but it also highlights the need to focus on the global expression issues of content, organization, and idea development, instead of the local issues of grammar, style, and mechanics. 

These texts let readers know that change needs to happen and that the United States is behind in terms of the way we think about education, communication, and monolingualism. Where do we start?

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Multilingual and Multiliteracies in the Classroom

This week’s readings brought light to some important educational inquiries. First, Paul Kei Matsuda’s “Teaching Writing in the Multilingual World” discusses the challenges that ELL students have. Not only is it difficult for the students to learn the proper English that education requires, but it is also difficult for teachers and professors to teach them because of their lack of knowledge on how to (if that makes sense). People who only speak English and know the ways in which schools teach the writing/speaking of that English do not have as much as a hard time with it, which in turn would make it extremely challenging to teach someone else. I for one found it that way, at least.

The section about writing centers spoke to me the most just because I have worked in one. When handling a situation where English is not the student’s first language, it is important to pinpoint the most crucial aspects of their writing, the ones that will actually benefit them. More often than not, their ideas and thoughts are all great, it is just the execution that needs work (grammar, spelling, etc.). That being said, for appointments like this, I spent more time talking about grammar and spelling than their actual paper, but that is okay because their actual paper was technically well written.

Something I noticed with these students is that they get easily discouraged so it is vital that when trying to explain something to them you also point out something good that they did. For example, I noticed that a lot of the time students would have the correct word just not the correct tense. In cases like this, I would point out that they are correct in their thinking they just did not put the right form of the word. I found that this made them more motivated because they knew they were on the right track.

That being said, I think it is so important to acknowledge the hard work and dedication these students put in to their education; they are doing what everyone else is doing but while simultaneously trying to learn one of the most complicated languages there is (and yes, I believe English is the most complicated language — so many rules and similarities that don’t make sense!).

Schools are always finding new, better ways to help these students learn in a positive environment, and although I acknowledge how far we’ve come I believe we still have a lot to learn. It is not the same as me taking Spanish/Italian all throughout elementary school to college; these students aren’t doing it for school credit or for fun, this is something they are required to do in order to “succeed” (at least that is what we are all told). For that, they deserve a non hostile environment and a good support system that will make them WANT to keep going and who will make it easier for them to learn by being patient with them. I have seen plenty of ELL students get discouraged and say they will “never get it” and that just isn’t true and I think that in itself says a lot about the ways in which they are being taught.

There are also ENGLISH teachers I have had where English was not their first language, and I got just as much out of their class in regard to writing as I did with any other teacher. This says a lot as well because it shows that you can be a learner AND an educator at the same time and I think that is so special.

*Sidenote: I don’t want it to seem like teachers/professors aren’t doing a good job because I have seen them at work and that is not the case. I am more speaking about the education system as a whole. 🙂

Cope and Kalantzis’s “A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures” discusses multiple ways in which we can use literacy. They emphasize the point that literacy does not just have to be words on a paper, rather it can include pictures, be comprised of ONLY images, be used in an interactive way, and so on.

I really enjoyed reading this article because I took a Multimodal Lit class during my undergrad, and although I was not very good at it (I am very traditional when it comes to writing — creativity is not really my thing) I loved the class because it was so interesting to see all the ways you can talk about the same thing. For example, I wrote a research paper that was published as a website rather than a typical paper. I created a website, much like this one for my blog posts, and had a homepage with the title and introduction of my research and then split up my different points into separate blog posts that people could then click on at their own leisure and in whatever order they wanted. It was definitely a challenge but the end result was so eye opening to me.

Another aspect of multiliteracies that I learned in that class was the use of Infographics. We used Canva to make these and the goal was to use the least amount of words as possible, only images were allowed. This was definitely the hardest part for me because I like to ramble, but, again, it opened my eyes to a new way of writing.

The authors talk about the importance of multiliteracies in regard to future careers and just in general to make something more interesting for people. I do believe courses like this should at least be offered in schools, especially with this generation’s reliance on technology. Also, some people do not find joy in writing or just find it to be too difficult, so giving people new ways in which they can “write” can be vital to how they learn and what they get from their education. If they can have the option to explore new ways of getting their ideas and thoughts out, they can use that to their advantage, which will then help them in their future endeavors.

Overall, I feel multiliteracies are important to learn about and practice because everyone learns/expresses themselves differently, and for the people who are not good with words but are good with artwork/images, this could be make or break for them. The idea of multiliteracies can only help, especially in education, because it gives more students the ability to succeed and express themselves.