Multiple Literacies, Communities, and Code Switching — Oh My!

Hello, colleagues! Reflecting on the first two weeks of this new approach to ENG 1121, I think that as a class we have covered a lot of ground in creating awareness about how multiple literacies play a huge role in how my students address writing assignments. I’m also getting some ideas about how we can continuously and explicitly talk about the writing process in general, in terms of drafting, reflecting on a draft, reviewing, planning revisions, and reflecting on a revision. It’s been a wild ride so far!

I want to echo others’ feelings about being in unchartered territory. While I have taught Literacy Narratives before, the idea of showing up ready to define terms and make explicit our goals of transfer for the students has really framed this assignment in a new light for me. The first day, we defined “rhetoric” and “literacy” as a group, and it was seriously a revelation. KEY TERMS!!!! I think in my college experiences, professors just talked in their fancy words and it all sailed over my head until I started making connections on my own. But it doesn’t have to be that way!! A few students have even volunteered on their own that different communities require different literacies and I feel like we are laying all this good groundwork for discourse communities in the next unit.

One thing I found quite interesting was that our discussion of Amy Tan’s “Mother Tongue” the first week quickly turned into small-group conversations about students having to translate for parents or speak a whole different type of English among friends or in school. I learned that many of my students are really connecting to the idea of multiple literacies in their own lives as bilingual speakers of English. This example really hit home for them.

This was deepened when we looked at Vershawn Ashanti Young’s “‘Nah We Straight’: An Argument Against Code Switching,” and could really explicitly target the idea of code switching as problematic in the academy when it turns into translation and replacement rather than expansion of literacies. As a class, we agreed that audience really matters so much in this idea, because some of our students could pronounce and translate the “Spanglish” examples in the text while others (including me) could not. So I told my students that if they want to incorporate different literacies into their writing in our class, the first consideration was audience and clarity, and that they could decide whether or not such inclusions would need some kind of context or explanation. I was surprised at where this went, and I think it set some good ground rules about trust and inclusion as we move forward as writers and readers together.

I am hopeful that students will use our “model texts” as guides when drafting to foreground their experiences into narratives that continue to draw on and deepen this awareness. But so far, I would say that we are on track! (But I am really missing that extra time that the lab hour provided in ENG 1101!!)

Students are drafting their narratives and Peer Reviewing each other’s work this week… and I have many questions for others about how Open Lab is going!!!!

Re: Open Lab, on the one hand, it’s so amazing to have a digital archive of the drafts being turned in. On the other, I think it was an uphill battle for students at first to figure out how to login and post, and I kind of wish I had computer lab access to get everyone squared away during a class period. Not sure how you guys are using Open Lab or dealing with tech issues so far? I like the idea of updating it more often with what’s happening next, but have set up my site to be more static since I wasn’t initially sure about posting on it all the time.

Looking forward to seeing everyone tomorrow!

2 thoughts on “Multiple Literacies, Communities, and Code Switching — Oh My!

  1. Aaron Barlow

    I agree with you completely about OpenLab. In the past, I have created my own WordPress sites, tailoring them to the particulars of the semester. I feel much more constricted by OpenLab, but i also understand the virtue of a common site as a home for all sections online. i just wish there were more flexibility and, quite frankly, a “stats” section so that we could follow usage of our pages and posts.
    Your code-switching exercises sound fascinating. I’ve been trying to work through the pros and cons of it for a quarter of a century (much more, on a personal level) and am coming to see it, at its best, as an expansion, not a constriction, of one’s communicative universe–though I’m not 100% sold. I do understand how it can be repressive (I repressed my own cultural ancestry for decades–only over the past ten years have I been able to embrace fully my Appalachian heritage and the language even I, who can still speak it, once referred to derisively as “hillbilly”)–but I also understand the realities of succeeding within the contemporary American milieu where people are expected to speak and write in particular patterns. I had to learn those for academia (fortunately, I started quite young, making it easier). My mistake lay in repressing my more native background. I did not understand that I could master both.

  2. Robert Lestón

    Great post, Kim. I’m really impressed that you taught Young, and it sounds like they really responded well. This point of multiple literacies and thinking about audience, and how that connects to trust. This is really important groundwork. Awesome!

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