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I began my course on Adolescent Literacy with what I considered to be the definition of

literacy. I had previously taken a course on the rhetoric of literacy where I had learned that
everything is a text that can be read, from computer codes to a buildings design. However, I
had not considered literacy as an issue of social justice, a marker and maker of identity, knew of
the subtle literacy of academic language, or thought knowledge as a communal fund. These
concepts now help to supplement my understanding of what literacy is, or to say it another way:
they further my literacy on literacy.
I was first introduced to the concept of literacy as a social justice issue by Margaret C.
Hagoods article, Critical Literacy for Whom? In it, she cites the claim of various social
theorists that critical literacy is a commitment to form a more socially just and equitable society
through literacy users scrutiny of relations between and among language, literacy, meaning, and
power (249). Education is often discussed as a means for social change, but as a way to better
navigate systems already in place, not to question them. I had considered my role as a teacher to
create students who examine the world around them, but in a less serious way than as a force of
social justice. This idea will now be at play as I consider which texts to include and how to shape
discussions so students may scrutinize societal systems.
Hagood also argues that identity and subjectivity are different concepts that begin from
different premises and work in conjunction with one another (261). It is important for me as a
teacher to examine the various ways identity and subjectivity interact in my perceptions of my
students and to have them query their perceptions of these concepts. Having a static view of
identity and subjectivity can project harmful stereotypes and alter behavior towards an
individual. In her case study, Hagood details the harmful stereotypes projected on a student
Timony, who although bright, is disruptive in class. Perhaps if his teachers could alter their

perspective, Timony would be better engaged in class. Otherwise, Timony, and students like him,
may be turned away from education and miss opportunities they should have.
Another literacy factor that can inhibit education is academic language. Jeffrey D.
Wilhelm defines academic language as the linguistic processes and patterns for delving deeply
into and operating upon [] content (44). Growing up in a strongly academic household I had
never realized the area of academic language until I studied Spanish. When I would write an
essay, I would struggle to make it fluent and was disappointed in the choppy essays I was able to
produce. I knew I was lacking words but because it wasnt vocabulary typically taught in a
lesson I could not explain it. I know have a way to describe what I was lacking and a better
understanding of what my future students may be struggling with and that I can improve their
literacy by teaching academic language.
Lessons from Research with Language-Minority Children by Moll and Gonzlez also
imparted knowledge on how to help students struggling with literacy that do not speak English as
a native language. Moll and Gonzlez describe a number of ways teachers can include the
students native languages into the classroom. I chose to study Spanish to engage with native
speakers who struggle with English and to communicate with parents. However, it had not
occurred to me to encourage students to use their native language to write summaries or to find
documents written in their native language that they could use as a source for a paper.
Incorporating students primary languages can allow them to feel comfortable with the work, the
class and myself.
Moll and Gonzlez also describe funds of knowledge as those historically accumulated
and culturally developed bodies of knowledge and skills essential for household or individual
functioning and well-being (443). These funds of knowledge are discourses that every student is

fully literate in, but is usually not apparent in the classroom. It is important to find out about
students funds of knowledge so they may be used in class and students can value their home life
and as an access point to regular scholastic content. It also fosters a greater relationship among
the teacher, student and community, as knowledge is exchanged and shown to be valuable.
Funds of knowledge can be used to foster collaboration and community, promote
understanding across languages, and optimize relevance, value, and authenticity of content.
These goals are part of the Universal Design for Learning Guidelines. These guidelines outline
numerous ways to ensure everyone in the classroom is active and engaged. They are especially
useful in classrooms with mixed ability levels as they offer strategies to promote understanding
for different learners and various ways for them to express themselves. It is an invaluable tool in
fostering literacy for all.
However, the guidelines do not assess how rigorous a class may be. Although students
may be engaged, if they are not cognitively challenged, learning and literacy is not being
furthered as it should. Hess Cognitive Rigor Matrix allows the instructor to evaluate how
challenging a lesson is and what kind of learning is happening. This resource can help instructors
ensure that all students are being challenged no matter their needs. It also allows instructors to
check that they are engaging their students in various aspects of literacy so students are rounded
and can engaged by a variety of tasks. Using this matrix along with the guidelines and what I
have learned from Hagood, Wilhelm, and Moll and Gonzlez, I can ensure that no matter who is
sitting in my classroom, they will be taught literacy in an environment that values their
knowledge, respects their identity, and asks them to question their surroundings.