Guest Author - Mary Ann Graziani
Author and professor of literacy education, Stephen B Kucer says that the four functions that work together in literacy are linguistic, cognitive, socio-cultural, and developmental functions. Letís examine what these functions are and how they need to work together.
Linguistics is the study of language form, meaning, and context. Form would be the rules of language, such as how words and sentences are formed and phonetics. Cognitive is how we produce and understand language through attention and memory. We first develop language in infancy by using gestures and vocalization to get our needs met and then as humans we develop words and new forms of communication to replace these gestures and vocalizations. This development continues throughout a personís lifetime.
Language does not exist by itself, it is connected to the culture and society in which it is used. The meaning of language is influenced by the socio-cultural context that it is being used in. This is important because curriculum in schools do not place much importance to this function of language or the dimensions are looked at separately and donít realize the impact of each of the dimensions in literacy. Literacy needs to be developed using all four dimensions to be effective. The multidimensional framework of literacy is a more encompassing and relevant approach to literacy in the real world as opposed to very discipline-specific views of literacy.
Some classroom activities that would be good in the classroom for teaching literacy that would raise awareness of socio-cultural context include using stories, analyzing newspaper headlines, and looking at slang and idioms in movie scripts. Writing letters and cards will teach students how language is used differently for different purposes. Making shopping lists, or looking at a restaurant menu will teach students that writing serves many purposes.
Comics can be a great educational tool to utilize multidimensions. Comics are something that most students enjoy reading and they appeal to different learning styles and levels. They are also easily and inexpensively obtained by most people through a newspaper. The comic text uses real-life language that is used in most of society and they have interesting images to go with the text to engage students. Comic books and comic strips can be used in the classroom to teach a wide variety of skills such a writing adjectives to describe cartoon characters, using onomatopoeia, for writing dialog, and for using political cartoons to explore social and political issues our society faces. Comics are multidimensional in nature and they are a great teaching tool that allows teachers and students to explore language in a creative way.