Critical Literacy in the ESL Classroom: Bridging the Gap between Old and New Media
Research recently conducted at the University of Stavanger found that teachers of English at upper secondary schools experience difficulty in getting their students to read longer fictional texts, and have witnessed negative attitudes towards reading. At the same time, the past four years have shown a 22% decline in enrolment across Norway in the Literature and Culture subject in the third year of upper secondary. How can the objectives set out in the basic skills section of the English subject specialization program—“understanding, exploring and pondering demanding texts”—be met if students are losing the cognitive mode of deep attention that helps them read novels and other longer texts? As digital reading has proven to be sloppy, and exhaustive reading is rare online, to what extent can students be expected to gain “insight across cultures and special fields”? Can the overall aims for teaching literature in the ESL classroom, especially those aims regarding the ability to ponder and gain insight, still be achieved through new media and popular culture? This study raises questions concerning the future of reading and offers a critical literacy approach through which teachers and learners can investigate different types of media. Implementing a critical literacy approach in the ESL classroom offers rich possibilities for teaching both language and culture at all levels through both traditional and new media.
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