Academic journal article Australian Journal of Language and Literacy

Young Learners: Interpreting Literacy Practice in the Preschool Years

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Language and Literacy

Young Learners: Interpreting Literacy Practice in the Preschool Years

Article excerpt

Introduction

Conceptualisations of literacy differ over time and across theoretical framings, and it seems axiomatic that the one constant of literacy education is change. Further, political and public debate about literacy often promulgates the view that teachers choose between disparate and competing sets of pedagogical approaches or work to narrowly defined views of literacy to meet standards that contrive to limit the curriculum (Mills, 2005; Snyder, 2008). In response to this educators are placed in the position of defending the differentiated and multifaceted range of literacy practices required to address children's specific learning needs. In recent times, the most promising development has been reconciling perspectives on literacy that were previously considered divergent, with particular emphasis on implications for practice. Towards this end Purcell-Gates and colleagues (2004, p. 81) attempt to reconnect the social and cognitive, considering the development of print literacy through a 'widened lens'. These authors envision the relationship between the socio-cultural and the cognitive as relating transactionally in a nested relationship, with literacy learning occurring within the context of socio-culturally constructed literacy practices. Similarly, Lo Bianco and Free-body (2001) in Australian Literacies state that 'optimally, skills development for all children should be an explicit and priority objective but one that is delivered richly embedded within meaningful pedagogies' (p. 56).

The contemporaneous development of integrated literacy skills fits well with early literacy practices prevalent in many preschool contexts. Further, the notion of supporting 'authentic' learning as a way of ensuring that what is experienced by the children does not stand outside the sociocultural practices of the children is not uncommon for teachers in the early childhood field (Raban, 2012). However, what is required is a more nuanced understanding of the literacy experiences young children see modelled around them during their preschool years, and the ways in which adults involve and include young children in every day literacy events and activities. Perhaps missing from many preschool teacher's repertoire is an explicit understanding as to what they are foregrounding, with respect to their role in relation to early literacy teaching, and a clear means of articulating their practice as they support young children's learning.

To support teachers to effectively coordinate the wide range of complementary skills and understandings associated with becoming literate, when literacy is envisioned as a social activity embedded within cultural practice and evolving technologies (Fleer & Raban, 2007), a number of useful frameworks have been developed. The Four Resources Model of Luke and Freebody (1997; 1999) assists teachers to analyse and plan for the teaching of reading, as this examines the ways readers decode, comprehend, use and critique texts. In addition, the multiliteracies pedagogy of the New London Group (1996; 2000) involves the related components: situated practice, overt instruction, critical framing and transformed practice (New London Group, 2000). These authors consider situated practice as building on the experiences children bring to the learning environment, with meaning making emphasised in authentic contexts; overt instruction whereby teachers focus on developing children's skills and understanding particular to a wide range of texts; critical framing as children interpret the social context and purpose of texts; and transformed practice when children translate what is known to new contexts. Similarly, Unsworth (2002, p. 70) describes three overlapping dimensions of literate practice: recognition, reproduction and reflection. Recognition involves learning to recognise and produce the range of codes that are used to construct and communicate meanings. Reproduction engages children in understanding and producing conventional visual and verbal text forms to construct and communicate established cultural knowledge. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.