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Becoming Literate Together: Notes Towards Day 1 (Tues, Jan. 17)

Anne Dalke's picture

I. Get-acquainted carousel:
1) if you were an imaginary (literary, filmic, gaming) character, who would you be?
2) what is your name and preferred pronoun?
(tell each other all the pronouns you’ve ever heard of)
how do you identify yourself racially and/or ethnically?
(how have others identified you racially and/or ethnically?)
3) what do you remember about learning to read?
where were you, who was with you, what was happening?
4) what do you remember about learning to write?
where were you, who was with you, what was happening?
5) what are you looking for/why did you sign up for this pair of courses?
6) what might you be worried/concerned about our talking with regard to these classes?
7) back to imagining: if you were an institution (a school, a church, a community organization?) what might that be?
8) what get-acquainted question should we have asked, but didn't?

II. Jody: What emerged that surprised/ interested you?
[be sure to get names/pronouns]

III. (Anne, by 3:10): The arc for our becoming (more? differently?) literate t/here together/
overview of what will be happening among us this semester.

The “arc” of this cluster:
what it means to become literate--
about literacy,
in schools,
about schooling,
about prisons,
in and outside prisons, 
and in resistance to them.

Course is hosted not on Moodle, but Serendip, an "digital eco-system,"
open to the world, with many other virtues that will become clear in time!
Our overfull "syllaship" is on-line @

bookmark it, check in prep for every class; will change as the semester goes on, be sure to "re-fresh" each time you go back.

A lot of our class readings are available via active on-line links from the syllabus;
you should print these off and mark 'em up, or read 'em on-line using digital annotation tools;
DO NOT COME to class without an accessible text!
(we'll talk soon about class-wide agreements re: using computers in class, etc.)

Buy, check out, or plan to share five book-length works--
Kirk Branch, Eyes on the Ought to Be: What We Teach About When We Teach About Literacy
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself
Jennifer Gonnerman, Life on the Outside: The Prison Odyssey of Elaine Bartlett
Angela Davis, Are Prisons Obsolete?
[a trickster novel to end....!]
all available from the Bryn Mawr Bookshop and on reserve in Canaday.
If you are buying the books, we urge you to use the Bookshop: want to keep it,
prices are competitive, sometimes even better than, Amazon. Try it!

The basic pattern for our reading-talking-thinking-and-writing:
you'll have new material to read for each Tues/Thurs class;
Wednesdays we will focus mostly on our praxis experiences
(often some reading in preparation for those discussions, too).
Once/week on Thursdays by midnight, you'll post a
reflection about these readings/discussions.

Once/week you'll also go to your praxis site (Jody will discuss momentarily!);
every Sunday by midnight also post about those experiences.

Along w/ these twice-weekly postings, you will also
have more “formal” writing assignments:
three 6-pp. "web events," due once/month;
we'll have individual writing conferences,
and in-class writing workshops in preparation for these.

What is (probably) distinct about these 2 classes is the form of evaluation:
we will not grade any of your individual work. At the end of the semester,
you will complete a portfolio of all your work, and evaluate yourself.
We'll prepare a checklist of our expectations and put it on-line
(this is not mysterious: be present in class and conferences,
contribute in-person and on-line, post your web events on time,
be responsive to instruction, engaged in the conversation...).

We'll put up notes towards our class discussions; if you need to miss a class,
please tell us ahead of time, and why, read over the notes,
and do an extra posting on "what you would have said," if you had been here.

N.B.: our belief in education as a collective endeavor,
our shared responsibility for each other's learning....
dialogic/co-constructed: making knowledge together,
challenging, testing what we think we know...
will focus more next week on how to make that real

What else?

Questions about any of these details of "course-keeping"?

reminder that links to all these pages--on-line course forum,
syllabus, instructions for posting, a growing file of "course notes"
--are available as links from our cluster home page @

IV. (Nell, by 3:15): Review of praxis placements: this is a complicated process!
* what we know
* what we need to know

V. (Jody, to end): For tomorrow: becoming literate about prisons
Brian Stephenson, Introduction: “Higher Ground,” Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption (Spiegel & Grau, 2015), pp. 3-18:

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams, “Ava DuVernay's 13th Reframes American History,” The Atlantic (October 6, 2016):

In-class viewing: 13th. Directed by Ava DuVernay, featuring Michelle Alexander, Cory Booker, Angela Davis, Henry Louis Gates, Van Jones, Bryan Stevenson and others. Kandoo Films, 2016 (100 minutes).