Studying American Literacy

All, Teaching Tips

As I’ve written before, I like to build my classes around themes and this Fall my Writing I classes will return to exploring the issues surrounding the documentary American Creed. When I embraced this theme in Fall 2018 my students reported that they enjoyed thinking more about our country and exploring the current status of the American Dream. These are both important ideas to explore as American residents and citizens – especially as we approach a presidential election year. My hope is to break my students (and myself) out of our bubbles so we can all learn more about the lives and experiences of other Americans.

However, most important exploring American Creed will offer us an important framework to engage in critical thinking about information literacy. As we read about and discuss America, we will examine how our opinions are formed and how our personal values align with or contradict American laws and policies. As we write our own American creeds, we will examine ideas such a confirmation bias and propaganda so we can better understand our own fault lines.

One of the big mistakes I made last year was doing too much, so now that I understand that Less is More we will focus on four essential assignments:

  • Creed: We will write our own American Creeds using a This I Believe essay format.
  • Rhetorical Analysis: We will analyze a popular culture portrayal of a specific aspect of the American experience
  • Argument: We will craft an argument examining the status of the American Dream by focusing on one specific barrier or gap to achieving the American Dream
  • Project: We will respond to the American Creed documentary with a message to other Americans about what it means to be an American

While this plan looks a lot like the plan that I made last year (see Creeds and Comics) I have learned from my mistakes last year. These will be the only assignments we focus on which will give us more time to develop our projects and explore the information literacy topics mentioned above. These topics will play an important role in each of our assignments especially creed and analysis as that gives us opportunity to explore ideas such as the influence of symbols.

Do you think it is important to teach American literacy? What facets of American literacy are important for us to explore for ourselves and our students?

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