Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Working Weekend: Collaborating on this Literacy Tools Book

"What is literacy? Why is literacy important? How do we assess anyone's literacy? (How do I know if I am literate? ....Who am I?!)

These are some of the initial questions* I asked myself back in March, when Rick Beach wrote inviting me to co-author a literacy tools book for educators with Gerald Campano. I think back on that day in March, and my head spins.....I think a lot of things are still spinning....(I write this and chuckle.)

Ahhh! But seven months later: we have a contract from Teacher's College Press, we have an outline for this text, and we have our first weekend of collaborative writing, thinking, working, under our belts! Amen!

What follows are some pictures from our gathering at Professor Beach's home in south Minneapolis, and a meal out with Nancy Beach and colleague Cynthia Lewis. What a privilege to hold space with these lovely people! What a privilege to be invited into this work, to spend time in meaningful questions and theories and stories -- in an attempt to make an impact on the critical literacy of all students -- including ourselves!

Enjoy the photos! Stay tuned....

Note the light reflecting on the table...

Rick always providing structure, an outline...

Source Materials: including some of the "books" produced at North High

Dinner at Peninsula (From Left to Right:)
Rick Beach, Gerald Campano, Nancy Beach, Melissa Borgmann, Cynthia Lewis

University of Minnesota Literacy colleagues in discussion...

Dr. Campano happy with this fine menu of Malaysian cuisine...

In conversation with one of our lovely hosts: Nancy Beach

Fed on so many levels...

Rick gives us a tutorial in PBWiki navigation (our collaborative, online writing tool.)

More instruction...

Our ensemble at the weekends' close...

*Posted to the PB wiki sites' notes (thank you, Dr. Beach!)
Grounding Questions (Melissa, 3/8)

What is literacy?

Why is literacy important?

How do we measure and assess anyone's literacy?

(How do I know if I'm literate? Who am I?)

What does literacy look like? Sound like?

Who cares?

What do we want students to know?

What is good teaching?

What are the tools that good teachers use?

What are tools for good living?

What is empowered living?

What does an empowered, emancipated human being look like? Sound like?

Is this something we want on the planet? In our society?

Does honoring all voices, all intelligences matter? Does it happen? How?

What happens if we don't honor all people?

What happens if we do?

What assumptions am I making in posing these questions?


Sondra Samuels said...

Okay so who knew you were co-authoring a book!! Your experience to date sounds remarkable. Thanks for sharing the photos. You of course were the perfect person for this assignment. Those men knew that- God spoke to their hearts and I'm sure they didn't even know it. You are so creative, so brilliant, so vivacious, and so thoughtful when it comes to the literacy and creative expression of our children. YOU GO GIRL!!

Keep your emails flying. You inspire me. The root of in-spire has to do with being in the spirit- of God. From Deep unto deep, God speaks. I'm listening to your life- thanks!!

Sondra Samuels
PEACE Foundation
1119 W. Broadway Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55411

Catherine Mathenge said...

Hi! Melissa,

This is just way too funny .. funny coincidence ... not funny ha ha!

That you should send an email out about your literacy project this weekend, when I just finished reading a book that talked about how people in this country just don't read anymore. The statistic in the book said that 4 out of 10 adults say they haven't read a single book in a year. Wow! Is that disconcerting or what?!
And everything (politics and who people vote for, the current mortgage crisis, religion, etc.) all tie into this.
Remember once upon a time in the church when only the priest/pastor read the Bible and nobody else could?

We get so much of our information these days in sound bites .. be it from the TV or newspaper or web. Nothing is ever in detail. And you notice it in water cooler conversations around the office where people just regurgitate these sound bites to each other, exactly as they heard them.
No reading means .... no deep thinking contemplation ... no original ideas/thoughts .... group think ... scary!

So as I read your email, I thought, if the adults are doing so poorly at this and they are the ones making the rules/laws, can you imagine how much the children are suffering for it!?!

Which makes your project, all the more important. Way to go!!


Gina Woods said...

You have my total support and congratulations.

Yeeeee haw!

Love your list o' questions. They wake up my brain! Wrapped up in your questions is the following, but changing the wording helped me think of it pointedly: Is it possible to be literate yet not be able to read? (The wisdom of oral tradition.. people who know poems, tales, legends, and religious texts by heart.... actors and singers memorizing scenes and soliloquies by ear... linin' a hymn... etc....) Is the converse true? (I think of students who could mechanically read something fluidly but have little or no comprehension.... kind of like me reading a French menu.)

Your questions make me think about Henry who is so curious about reading. It all seems especially ripe at this moment. He is a sponge for letters, sounds, and words... as well as pictures, facts, and smells, songs, objects, patterns. It's crazy fun to watch him grow and learn. Inspiring!

He's also very LITERAL right now.... which is a whole different story, but related in many ways -- as well as hilarious and sometimes frustrating.

Carry on with your awesomeness~

Peg Timmer said...

Great pictures Melis, and I enjoy your questions.

Empowering everyone is so very important. I for one can tell you how it feels to not feel empowered. I often feel that way around my two older sisters, mainly because they talk loud and overlap conversations and I'm always waiting for a break in order to get in there. After awhile I quit trying or if I feel overly aggressive I overtalk them, which doesn't happen very often.

Sometimes I have to say, "I am talking". I don't know if I have ever told you the story of being at the big noisy dinner table at home as kids, and I would try to say something, always to be interrupted. Well Dad noticed this and said, "Let Peggy talk". I then got so shy that I started crying, and couldn't talk. This is the way I still feel sometimes. I would imagine that Barb also feels the same. Brian just says something like, I know you all have short attention spans, but can you listen?

Discuss and write on Melissa.


Aunt Peg