Teaching Literacy in Troubled Times
Identity, Inquiry, and Social Action at the Heart of Instruction
- Allison Skerrett - The University of Texas at Austin, USA
- Peter Smagorinsky - University of Georgia, USA
Foreword by Mariana Souto-Manning
English/Language Arts (Middle/High School) | Secondary English | Thinking Skills
“Upending deficit narrative of learning loss, combating broken approaches to racial equity, and wading deep into the contested waters of democratic principles of learning within today’s schools, Dr. Skerrett and Dr. Smagorinsky offer an accessible guidebook for making our classrooms sites of justice and joy. Perhaps most importantly, theirs is a book that reveals classroom practices as they really are--the voices of teachers are situated as co-authors in this important journey. I cannot think of a more timely or relevant book for English educators than Teaching Literacy in Troubled Times.”
— Antero Garcia, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Graduate School of Education, Stanford University
Relevant instruction to move education forward instead of “back to normal”
Educators often bemoan the so-called learning gap that followed the upheaval to schooling in 2020, but the real learning gap will occur if the watershed events and social shifts of the early 2020s are not integrated into school instruction and learning. For today’s learning to be relevant to today’s students, it must reflect their lives and the true social worlds they inhabit. But how?
Teaching Literacy in Troubled Times empowers educators to engage students in critical thinking, literacy activities, and inquiry to investigate the personal and social issues of pressing importance to today’s middle and high school students. Six units of study, each co-authored by a teacher who road-tested the activities in their own classroom, guide teachers through the process of teaching literacy around the topics of identity, social inequity, global justice, empathy, racism and racial literacy, and conflicting ideas of patriotism. This urgent, timely guide to creating a relevant classroom includes:
- Instructional methods, content knowledge, and learning activities for each unit that engage students in critical inquiry and social action.
- Insights and guidance from teachers who put the full unit plans in action with students.
- Reflection questions to help teachers envision the work in their own classrooms.
- Templates, rubrics, examples of student work, and other tools that help teachers to plan and implement activities that grow students’ capacity to understand and act in society.
Prime your students with the critical thinking, investigative, and communicative skills they need to connect themselves to broader social movements and create a new generation of educated changemakers.
This beautifully written, powerfully argued book compels educators to think about more than the learning our students have lost. It considers instead what our students might gain in learning contexts that focus on much more than the critical learning gap. The authors make plain that this gap isn’t a gap at all, but an apparatus tooled with formalist meanings: memorizing facts, speaking in textbook English, writing structured essays that may be vacuous in content as long as the preferred features are present, and so forth. By avoiding this trap, they position the current moment in education as a watershed, cautioning against returning to instruction oriented to formalism—which they suggest is the backbone of standards-based curricula—hollow and oblivious. Instead, the authors encourage teachers to reconsider how schools are structured, offering a model including a variety of activities and resources that can be used to reimagine schooling and, perhaps more important, position students as having agency. This book is not just a must read. For the educator desiring to make real change and real difference, this book is a must read now.
Allison Skerrett and Peter Smagorinsky have dared to write a war manual for justice-centered educators. I am overjoyed by their unapologetic commitment to name the moment while providing tangible examples of what K–12 educators have done in their classrooms to continue the struggle for accuracy and critical reflection through literacy. These are tough times, but white supremacy doesn’t have a chance if we take the authors’ lessons seriously.
Upending the deficit narrative of learning loss, combating broken approaches to racial equity, and wading deep into the contested waters of democratic principles of learning within today’s schools, Allison Skerrett and Peter Smagorinsky offer an accessible guidebook for making our classrooms sites of justice and joy. Perhaps most important, theirs is a book that reveals classroom practices as they really are—the voices of teachers are situated as co-authors in this important journey. I cannot think of a more timely or relevant book for English educators than Teaching Literacy in Troubled Times.
I love this book. It is both practical and inspiring, providing examples of thematic units that show how teachers can facilitate students’ inquiry into issues that matter to them including identity, activism, cultural and racial conflict, and patriotism. It’s full of questions for students, guidelines for teachers, resources, hands-on examples, and the kinds of student-created artifacts that show readers exactly what critical social inquiry looks like in the high school classroom. During these times of social upheaval and political silencing, teachers must dare to give students the tools they need to make sense of the distortions and disorder they find in the world. Allison Skerrett, Peter Smagorinsky, and the teachers whose masterful work they present show us how these tools work in the classroom. They explain why they matter. Their work explodes the conservative myths that pervade schools and traditional instruction. They show us education that is authentic purposeful, relevant, and designed to move the world toward justice.