Required Text
  • Christenbury, Leila, Bomer, R, and Smagorinsky P., eds.

Handbook of Adolescent Literacy Research. New York: Guilford Press, 2009.

Elective Texts
  • Fels, Dawn and Jennifer Wells. The Successful High School Writing Center. New York: Teachers College Press, 2011.
  • Langer, Judith. Envisioning Knowledge: Building Literacy in the Academic Disciplines. New York: Teachers College Press, 2010.
  • Sullivan, Patrick, Tinberg, H. and Blau, S., eds, What is College Level Writing? Urbana, IL: NCTE, 2010.
  • Wessling, Sarah Brown with Danielle Lillge and Crystal VanKooten. Urbana, IL: 2011.


Literacy is an academically and politically volatile term: we will examine definitions, issues, and theories of literacy and how these inform approaches to writing instruction, especially in secondary and college classrooms. Historically literacy has been associated with mastery of Standard Written English, reading and writing of printed text, and proficiency on standardized tests. However, literacy study over the past three decades suggests more complex perspectives:
  • that literacy is a social practice that varies across cultures and contexts. Through reading, writing about, and discussing theories of literacy, we will try to define how it operates in our local contexts.
  • there are multiple literacies: gestural, oral, digital, and kinesthetic, as well as linguistic.

To this end we will write personally, reflectively, ethnographically and authoritatively to explore versions of literacy. We will investigate a case of young adult or adult literacy. We will demonstrate classroom models of new literacy and their implications for theory and standards. We will respond thoughtfully and civilly to each others’ writing and speculations and seek to understand our local versions of literacy. Finally, we will patiently educate each other in the new media of literacy, considering ourselves as a professional network on digital and visual media.

Participation Requirement for English Department Classes
Students enrolled in English Department classes are expected to participate in daily interactive activities. They will, for example, routinely discuss reading assignments, write in class on impromptu topics, participate in collaborative activities, or engage in peer review of drafts. Students who miss these activities cannot reasonably make them up. As a result, students who do not participate regularly should expect to receive lower grades in the course, and students who miss more than the equivalent of two weeks of class should consider withdrawing and taking the class in a future semester. Students who know that other commitments will make it impossible to attend at certain times should enroll in classes that do not meet at these times.

1. After two absences (or the equivalent of two weeks of classes) your points will be lowered by 10% for the next absence and for every three absences after that. All assignments must be completed on time regardless of absences.

2. Collaboration and borrowing of ideas are encouraged in this course. Plagiarism will apply only to unacknowledged use of copyrighted material or others’ writing.

3. Grading is based on points earned divided by possible points.


Blogs / Responses (100)
For the first twelve weeks, you are required to post to a personal blog, which can be created, or use your current blog. Link to the wiki , so others may read and respond. You may write on any of the following: response to readings for the coming week, assigned writing-in-progress, reflections on field observations (using pseudonymns), literacy topics from the news or school events, or other course-related writing. For eight of those weeks, you should also respond to a colleague’s most recent posts. It is important to post in a timely fashion, so we can extend the discussion to class time, when the occasion arises. You must also keep a log of posters to your blog to submit at the end of the “blogging season.” Posts could vary from 250 to 500 words, responses from 150 words and up. Examples of posts from last year are located on the personal pages at

Literacy and Writing Experiences Memoir (5-10 pages) (30)
Reflect on on the relationship between in-school and out-of-school literacy you have had as a writer, student-writer, or as a teacher of writing. Write a focused memoir that shows how key experiences, both in school and out, might influence your thinking about literacy and/ or writing instruction. On the syllabus examples of literacy memoirs are labeled “LM.” Excerpts from memoirs written in 2008 can be read at


Curriculum Framework Analysis (4-6 pages, plus appendix) (30)
Examine a published curriculum framework at your level of teaching for its theoretical implications. This may include local, state, national or referential literacy standards for a limited range of literacy levels (e.g high school, First-year writing, disciplinary writing, developmental English, etc.)
This means characterizing the kind of literacy it represents, the level of performance implied, the breadth of genres and media, and the local and cultural characteristics, if any. You may extend your analysis to evaluation of these elements, but most important is that you analyze it for a peer audience, i.e. this class. An appendix will contain the curriculum document you are analyzing. In the syllabus, curriculum analysis articles are labeled (CFA) Excerpts from Curriculum Framework Analyses written in 2008 can be seen at

The Practicum (30)
The purpose of the practicum is to put our reading and discussion in context, to identify what definitions of literacy are functioning in local situations, and to become systematic in documenting social practices of literacy. Please choose a setting other than a classroom in which you are already a teacher. You will learn more from a literacy site different from the situation in which you teach.
You must observe or tutor for ten hours at a literacy site and document your time in a journal. A “literacy site” is any place people are working to improve their literacy, such as a tutoring center, a writing group, a classroom, or some social agency. Submit a weekly journal of times, places and activities and a “literacy event analysis” described below.

Literacy Event Analysis (6-10 pages, not including the text appended) (50)
This is a detailed observation and analysis from regular observations, interviews, and artifact analysis during this course, based on Heath’s definition: “any occasion in which a piece of writing is integral to the nature of the participants’ interactions and their interpretative processes.”
The event should contain: a setting or context
telling of the event
an analysis during or after the event
the text that is the subject of the event
Heath’s article serves as the best model of analysis of literacy events (LEA).
Examples of Literacy Event Analyses are also atverbafacture and an especially good one is at
Scott's Literacy Event
Bridget's Literacy Event

Literacy Action Proposal (4-6) (50)
In this proposal you will define some literacy/ies and its/ their standards and performances, for a specific audience and school setting. Ideally the audience includes colleagues with whom you might teach or share common literacy interests. Whether you actually follow-through on this proposal is up to you, but it should be written as though you intended to address this audience on literacy and with an authoritative voice. “Literacy” may include reading, media, digital formats, but most certainly should include writing. The proposal will include a Background, a Purpose, a Literature Review of relevant sources, and an Action Plan.

Class Discussion/ presentations

We will address the weekly reading assignments in class, by responding to online posts, responding to simulations or cases, or by sharing expertise on topics, such as digital literacy, nonstandard dialects, for special populations, or other topics of research.

Reading Groups
Beginning February 21, we will form book groups around the elective texts or other texts about literacy theory and practice that can attract three or more readers. The purpose of the groups will be to articulate the theory or theories of literacy represented in the text and how they are enacted in specific school contexts. The discussion would ideally lead each group member to develop his or her own literacy action proposals.