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The Application of Critical Literacy to Timely Issues in Economics: The Case of Microfinance, Poverty, and Entrepreneurs Russ Walsh, Montgomery Township.

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Presentation on theme: "The Application of Critical Literacy to Timely Issues in Economics: The Case of Microfinance, Poverty, and Entrepreneurs Russ Walsh, Montgomery Township."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Application of Critical Literacy to Timely Issues in Economics: The Case of Microfinance, Poverty, and Entrepreneurs Russ Walsh, Montgomery Township Schools, NJ Cynthia Mershon, West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School District, NJ Yana Rodgers, Rutgers University

2 Critical Literacy and Economics Teachers can use critical literacy methods that incorporate economics ideas Teachers can use critical literacy methods that incorporate economics ideas –provide students with exposure to wide range of economic concepts in state standards This approach achieves two objectives as teachers face increasingly crowded curricula: This approach achieves two objectives as teachers face increasingly crowded curricula: –take an active and challenging approach to reading –empower students to understand economics Almost all states have economics content standards in every grade Almost all states have economics content standards in every grade –beginning with kindergarten!

3 Critical Literacy and Economics Effective strategy for teaching content standards in the early grades: Effective strategy for teaching content standards in the early grades: –take a critical stance toward childrens literature that revolves around economic themes Idea of using picture books and read-alouds to teach economics is not new, but: Idea of using picture books and read-alouds to teach economics is not new, but: –Recent Nobel Peace Prize award (2006) generated a timely opportunity to apply critical literacy to important economic lessons Winner: Dr. Muhammad Yunus, a banker and economist who founded the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh Winner: Dr. Muhammad Yunus, a banker and economist who founded the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh Recognized his contributions in developing the idea of microfinance Recognized his contributions in developing the idea of microfinance Small loans to low-income people (mostly women) in developing countries to start their own businesses. Small loans to low-income people (mostly women) in developing countries to start their own businesses.

4 Critical Literacy and Microfinance Proliferation of microfinance has been the fodder for many economics studies Proliferation of microfinance has been the fodder for many economics studies Microfinance has also become the subject of a childrens picture book: Microfinance has also become the subject of a childrens picture book: –A Basket of Bangles: How a Business Grows by Ginger Howard (The Millbrook Press, 2002). Our objective: demonstrate how to use this book and other acclaimed childrens books to teach important economics lessons about Our objective: demonstrate how to use this book and other acclaimed childrens books to teach important economics lessons about –microfinance –poverty –entrepreneurship –social justice

5 Defining the Critical Stance Rosenblatt (1938, 1978) – –Defines stance as the orientation the reader takes toward a text during reading event – –Identifies two stances Aesthetic – the lived through experience of the text Efferent – a concentration on the information and concepts – –The distinction between aesthetic and [efferent] reading, then, derives ultimately from what the reader does, the stance that he adopts and the activities he carries out in relation to the text. (Rosenblatt, 1978, pg 27)

6 Defining the Critical Stance A third stance for the reader: The Critical Stance The focus of the reader is not on the lived through experience of the text, nor on the information to be extracted, but on the attitudes, values and beliefs that lie beneath the surface of the text.

7 What is critical literacy? An active, challenging approach to reading An analysis and critique of the relationships between texts, language, power, social groups and social practice A way of looking at written, visual, spoken, multimedia and performance texts to question and challenge the attitudes, values and beliefs represented

8 Critical Reading vs. Critical Literacy Critical reading is the text analysis level of reading. A critical reader analyzes the reliability of the message. Ice Cream and Crime Critical literacy goes beyond analysis to issues of social justice and social action.

9 Critical Literacy Comprehending with a critical edge means moving beyond understanding the text to understanding the power relationship that exists between the reader and the author – to knowing that even though the author has the power to create and present the message, readers have the power and the right to be text critics, by reading, questioning, and analyzing the authors message. Understanding this power relationship is the essence of critical literacy……[The reader needs] to be actively engaged…in order to find new ways of seeing beyond the text, inside the text, and around the text (McLaughlin & DeVoogd, 2004).

10 Critical Literacy Critical literacy views readers as active participants in the reading process and invites them to move beyond passively accepting the texts message to question, examine, or dispute the power relations that exist between readers and authors. It focuses on issues of power and promotes reflection, transformation, and action (Freire, 1970).

11 Components of Critical Literacy Critical literacy includes – –Examining meaning between texts – –Considering the purpose of the text and the authors motives – –Understanding that texts are not neutral, that they represent particular views and silence other points of view – –Questioning and challenging the ways in which the texts have been constructed

12 Components of Critical Literacy (contd) – –Analyzing the power of language – –Emphasizing multiple readings of texts – –Having students take a stance on the issues – –Providing students with opportunities to consider and clarify their own thinking – –Providing students with opportunities to take social action

13 Why is critical literacy important? Prepares students for a rapidly changing, information overload society Recognizes literacy is as much about ideologies, identities, and values as it is about codes and skills Asks students to actively engage with the ideas in a text Provides students with ways of thinking that uncover social inequalities and injustices

14 Teaching for the Critical Stance Texts are never innocent; even seemingly innocent picture books for young children have an implicit and sometimes explicit ideology (Mallan, 1999)

15 Why Picture Books? By choosing the deceptively simpler vehicle of picture books to illustrate a particular concept such as irony, students may not only more easily comprehend the concept, but may also more readily understand its use in more challenging literature. Picture book themes have universal value and appeal for all age levels.

16 Why Picture Books? Pictures expand a short text so that words and illustrations work together to clarify ideas with a literary punch. Students live in a visually oriented society that has conditioned them to use pictures as comprehension aids. Picture books are relatively short, so they can easily be read and analyzed in one class session.

17 Why Reading Aloud? Reading aloud is an opportunity for teacher and students to interact with text, thus supporting a deeper understanding of and appreciation for the text. Reading aloud to students develops their listening skills. Reading aloud to students develops their vocabularies.

18 Why Reading Aloud? Reading aloud is the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading. (Anderson, et al. [1985]. Becoming a Nation of Readers.) Reading aloud exposes students to good books. Reading aloud whets students appetites: it serves as a springboard to students independent reading.

19 Why Reading Aloud? Reading aloud to students develops their reading comprehension. Reading aloud helps become better speakers. Reading aloud helps students become better writers.

20 Why Reading Aloud? Reading aloud offers the opportunity for integration of subject areas – science, social studies, character education themes, etc. Reading aloud creates a community of readers and writers; it creates momentum in workshops which builds skills and will: When people share a powerful story, that story begins to live in their lives and extends beyond the bounds of the book.

21 Questioning to Scaffold Critical Literacy The Other Side, Jacqueline Woodson Critical Literacy Questions See handout

22 Scaffolding Critical Literacy with Think-Alouds Peppe the Lamplighter, Elisa Barton Think-Alouds to develop knowledge of content, vocabulary, and reading strategies See handout

23 Concepts in Microfinance Origins: Started in 1976 by Dr. Muhammad Yunus in Bangladesh with his own money, became the Grameen Bank Origins: Started in 1976 by Dr. Muhammad Yunus in Bangladesh with his own money, became the Grameen Bank Today Grameen Bank serves more than six million poor families with loans, savings, insurance and other services. Today Grameen Bank serves more than six million poor families with loans, savings, insurance and other services. –Grameen Bank fully owned by its clients and is a model for microfinance institutions around the world

24 Concepts in Microfinance Spread with fairly small, independent programs in Latin America and South Asia during the 1970s. Spread with fairly small, independent programs in Latin America and South Asia during the 1970s. Since then, movement has provided approximately 65 million low-income individuals around the globe with: Since then, movement has provided approximately 65 million low-income individuals around the globe with: –access to small loans without collateral, and –opportunities to acquire assets and purchase insurance Source: de Aghion and Morduch, 2005.

25 Concepts in Microfinance How is microfinance different from conventional banking? How is microfinance different from conventional banking? –Idea of group lending: microfinance institutions make loans to individuals who are members of a group –Group members are poor and have no credit history or collateral. –Cannot get loans from conventional banks –Sometimes live in remote villages with no banking sector –Sometimes group members need to provide evidence of literacy –Peer pressure serves as an incentive for loan repayment. –If all group members repay their loans, then they can apply for more loans –Sometimes group members take turns receiving a loan

26 Concepts in Microfinance How is microfinance different from conventional banking? How is microfinance different from conventional banking? –Repayment responsibility rests with individuals, but group members try to ensure that everyone acts in a responsible way and does not get into repayment difficulties –Loan recovery (pay back) rates are typically higher than conventional banks –Current loan recovery rate for Grameen Bank is 98%. –Loans are often very small and used to finance small business start-ups (entrepreneurship) – Loan recipients do pay interest rates –Rates typically higher than what conventional banks would charge (if these people could get such a loan) –Rates typically lower than what loan sharks would charge

27 Concepts in Microfinance Economists assessments of microfinance are generally positive for reducing poverty, stimulating entrepreneurship, and giving women more autonomy. Economists assessments of microfinance are generally positive for reducing poverty, stimulating entrepreneurship, and giving women more autonomy. There are some criticisms: There are some criticisms: –Within-household difficulties: if loans target women, may cause problems between spouses (jealousy, men forcing women to give them the money). –Such programs rest on individuals (poor womens) own efforts to get out of poverty. may subvert the government funding for poverty reduction and signal hardship for the poor may subvert the government funding for poverty reduction and signal hardship for the poor –Microfinance has become a magnet for large financial-sector firms they view the relatively high interest rates as profitable they view the relatively high interest rates as profitable

28 A Basket of Bangles Anticipatory Set – –Why do people want to start a business? – –If you wanted to start a lemonade stand, what qould you need? Key Concepts – –Loan – –Interest Story Specific Vocabulary – –Taka – –Muri – –Sari

29 A Basket of Bangles Anticipation Guide Directions: Next to each statement state whether you think the statement is likely or unlikely to be true. Be prepared to defend your answer. Likely ______ _____ Unlikely _____ Some banks are willing to loan money to people who are very poor. Banks treat people fairly. People can accomplish more working together than they can working alone.

30 Processing the Discussion – The Response Prompt Sheet (Vasquez, 2003) Why do you think people should or should not read A Basket of Bangles? What questions do you have about this story? What surprised you about this book? Write one or two writing topics from your own life that connect with this story. Write one or two statements from someone whose point of view is represented in the book. Write one or two statements from someone whose point of view is not represented in the book.

31 Taking Action – Writing a RAFT Letter (Santa, 1988) RoleAudienceFormatTopic Bank Manager Banks Trustees Report Why small loans can be good business SufiyaHer brotherLetter How to run a successful small business PoliticianVotersSpeech How working together, saving and being responsible can pay off.

32 Looking at Other Books Several other high-quality picture books introduce similar economics ideas (programs that target poverty in developing countries) Several other high-quality picture books introduce similar economics ideas (programs that target poverty in developing countries) –Beatrices Goat (by Page McBrier, 2000) based on work of Project Heifer, also covers saving and child work/schooling based on work of Project Heifer, also covers saving and child work/schooling –Armando and the Blue Tarp School (by Edith Hope Fine and Judith Pinkerton Josephson, 2007) based on work of David Lynch school project, also covers child work/schooling based on work of David Lynch school project, also covers child work/schooling

33 References Beck, I., & McKeown, M. (2006). Improving comprehension with questioning the author. Theory into Practice. Bomer, R., & Bomer, K. (2001). For a better world: Reading and writing for social action. Heinemann. Calfee, R., & Nelson-Barber, S. (1991). Diversity and constancy in human thinking: Critical literacy as amplifier of intellect and experience. In Literacy for a diverse society: Perspectives, practices, and policies. E. H. Hiebert (Ed.), pp. 44-57. Teachers College Press. Cowhey, M. (2006). Black ants and Buddhists: Thinking critically and teaching differently in the primary grades. Stenhouse. Dozier, C., Johnston, P., & Rogers, R. (2006). Critical teaching: Tools for preparing responsive teachers. Teachers College Press. Duncan-Andrade, J.M.R. (2005). Developing social justice educators. Educational Leadership, March, pp. 70-73. ASCD. Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. 30 th anniversary ed. Translated by Myra Bergman Ramos. Continuum.

34 References (con.) Freire, P., & Macedo, D. (1987). Literacy: Reading the word and the world. Gergin & Garvey. Harste, J. What do we mean by literacy now? Voices in the Middle. 10(3). pp 8-12. Herber, H. (1978). Teaching reading in content areas. Prentice-Hall. Lapp, D., Fisher, D., Grant, M. (2008). You can read this text - Ill show you how: Interactive comprehension instruction. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 51:5, 372-383. McDaniel, C. (2004). Critical Literacy: A questioning stance and the possibility of change. The Reading Teacher. 57,5. pp 242+. McLaughlin, M., & DeVoogd, G.L. (2004). Critical literacy: Enhancing students comprehension of text. Scholastic. Michener, D.M. (1988). Test your reading aloud IQ. The Reading Teacher, November, 118-122. Rodgers, Y.V., Hawthorn, S., & Wheeler, R.C. (2007). Teaching economics through childrens literature in the primary grades. The Reading Teacher, 61(1), 46-55. Rosenblatt, L.M. (1978). The reader, the text, the poem. Southern Illinois University Press. Santa, C.M. (1998). Content reading including study systems. Kendall/Hunt. Sweeney, M. (2000). Critical literacy in a fourth-grade classroom. In Trends & issues in elementary language arts, pp. 219-235. NCTE. Vazquez, V. (2003). Getting Beyond I like the book. International Reading Association.

35 Childrens Books Barton, E. (1993). Peppe the Lamplighter. Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books. Fine, E., and Josephson, J. Pinkerton. (2007). Armando and the blue tarp School. Lee & Low Books. Hopkinson, D. (2005). Saving Strawberry Farm. Greenwillow Books. Howard, G. (2002). A Basket of Bangles. Millbrook Books. McBrier, P. (2000). Beatrices Goat. Aladdin. Steig, W. (1982). Dr. DeSoto. Farrar, Straus Giroux. Woodson, J. (2001). The Other side. G.P. Putnams Sons.


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