If we examine the traditional definitions of
reading, the inference of critical skills is there, but these skills are not
stated explicitly. There are generalized statements made that reading allows
one to make connections and to make meaning of words. However, if we accept the
redefinition of literacy that is proposed in this learning object, we must embed
the definition of critical literacy into our instructional repertoire.
For example, our
provincial definition of literacy infers critical literacy skills, but, the term
is not directly referenced in this definition:
involves a continuum of interrelated skills, practices and learnings that
contribute to development of an individual’s ability to understand, communicate,
and participate in a variety of roles ( i.e., parent, citizen, and worker) and
settings, in the home, at work, in education, and in the community.
Listening and speaking,
Reading and writing,
Observing, viewing and representing,
Use of technology such as computers and
Literacy is essential to and can influence the
problems, and resolve conflicts.
amount of information available today demands that we are critically literate.
Critical Literacy Defined
One of the key elements of 21st
century learning is critical literacy. This literacy is embedded in the
Thinking and Problem-solving Skills identified in the “Milestones for Improving
Learning and Education (MILE) Guide for 21st Century Skills. (Retrieved
March 10, 2005 from
Download a printable version of
the MILE Guide for 21st Century Skills
Download just the wide version of the MILE
Guide Chart for 21st Century Skills
These skills require critical Thinking and
Systems Thinking. That is the exercise of sound reasoning in understanding and
making complex choices and understands the interconnections among systems.
Problem identification, formulation and solution require the skill to frame,
analyze, and solve problems. Creativity and Intellectual curiosity are the
final sub set of skills under this category. These skills require the
developing, implementing, and communicating new ideas to others, staying open
and responsive to new and diverse perspectives.
Lori Jamison on critical literacy - click play button above -
The following sites offer “practical classroom”
suggestions for enhancing instruction in higher-order thinking skills and
critical and creative thinking.
Critical Thinking Activities
This site provides an exhaustive list of suggestions for critical thinking
activities to be used in K-12 classrooms.
In her research, Karen Tankersley expands on
the findings of the National Reading Association (2000) research on strategies
for literacy. In her book, The Threads of Reading: Strategies for Literacy
Development (2003) Tankersley includes higher-order thinking skills as a thread
that needs to be woven into strategies for literacy development. Her book
provides many practical classroom strategies that can be used. Tankersley, K. (2003). The threads of
reading: Strategies for literacy development. ASCD, VA. Her
work can also be accessed at:
The Common Essential Learnings (CELs)
constitute a component of Saskatchewan’s Core Curriculum. The CELs are
currently undergoing renewal and it is interesting to note that the first Common
Essential Learnings to be renewed are Personal and Social Development (PSD) and
Critical and Creative Thinking (CCT). For purposes of this Learning Object and
in relation to the skills needed for 21st Century Literacy, the
renewed Critical and Creative Thinking Skills will be addressed.
The continuum explores the notion that the
critical thinker embraces communitarian notions. The idea of communitarianism
was first described by Amitai Etzioni. As you review the attributes assigned to
the communitarian critical thinker, you will note the relationship to global
As an educator, why would I need
to teach critical literacy?
INSERT GRAPH OF SASK
STUDENTS RESULTS FROM SAIP IN WHICH THEY ARE CLEARLY BEHIND MANITOBA AND ALBERTA
IN CRITICAL AND CREATIVE THINKING SKILLS…WILL FORWARD THIS GRAPH
Critical Literacy as a Tool of
“To be literate is not to be
free, it is to be present and active in the struggle
for reclaiming one’s voice, history, and future.”
(Friere and Macedo, 1987)
1970s and early 1980s, the term critical literacywas
probably most strongly affiliated with the work of Paulo Friere and his
colleagues. Freire outlined an orientation to education that began from
the proposition that language and literacy, and control over how issues,
problems and aspects of the world are “named”, are directly tied to issues
of political power, and that reconstructed, literacy education could
therefore be used as a force for political liberation and emancipation for
disenfranchised social groups.
Friere and Macedo
define literacy in a political sense. They iterate that literacy is best
understood as a myriad of discursive forms and cultural competencies that
construct and make available the various relations and experiences that
exist between learners and the world. Friere and Macedo (1987, p. 25) best
say this in the following quote:
“Reading the world
always precedes reading the word, and reading the word implies continually
reading the world…. [T]his movement from the word to the world is always
present; even the spoken word flows from our reading of the world. In a
way, however, we can go further and say that reading the word is not
preceded merely by reading the world, but by a certain form of writing it
or rewriting it, that is, of transforming it by means of conscious,
practical work. For me, this dynamic movement is central to the literacy
This is an
important element for critical literacy on the Internet. Not only must
students learn how to read the Internet but for a critical element they
must also construct texts. Andersen (2000) discusses how users of the
Internet construct their own text when surfing the web. Their journey is
individualized as each student uses different sequences and duration.
Opportunities also arise for discussion on the vocabulary of searching,
surfing, evaluating sites, and processing retrieved information (Andersen,
2000; Jones, 1996, retrieved on March 20, 2005 from
Below is a list of attributes of critical
thinkers. These attributes are taken from the research done for the renewal of
the Creative and Critical Thinking Skills. Cut and paste the attribute into the
category you feel it best belongs. After completing this activity, you can
access the continuum that is used for the renewed Critical Thinking Skills.
what are the attributes of critical literacy we need to address?
review of the literature, we must address the following skills in order to
achieve critical literacy:
a) Critical literacy
according to Wendy Morgan (1996) attempts to develop three kinds of
the way texts and
their discourses work to represent reality and define what is necessary
understanding of the people who are affected (shaped) by those
ways we can engage
with those texts and their debates
b) The explicit
instruction of critical thinking skills.
educators, how do we do this?
critical literacy by
helping students deconstruct the structures and features of texts.
We ask students to
examine the following:
What is this text about? How do we know?
Who would be most likely to read and/or view this text and why?
Why are we reading and/or viewing this text?
What does the composer of the text want us to know?
oTextual structures and features
What are the structures and features of the text?
What sort of genre does the text belong to?
What do the images suggest?
What do the words suggest?
What kind of language is used in the text?
oConstruction of characters
How are children, teenagers or young adults constructed in this text?
How are adults constructed in this text?
Why has the composer of the text represented the characters in a
oGaps and silences
Are there ‘gaps’ and ‘silences’ in the text?
Who is missing from the text?
What has been left out of the text?
What questions about itself does the text not raise?
oPower and interest
In whose interest is the text?
Who benefits from the text?
Is the text fair?
What knowledge does the reader/viewer need to bring to this text in
order to understand it?
Which positions, voices and interests are at play in the text?
How is the reader or viewer positioned in relation to the composer of
How does the text depict age, gender and/or cultural groups?
Whose views are excluded or privileged in the text?
Who is allowed to speak? Who is quoted?
Why is the text written the way it is?
oWhose view: whose reality?
What view of the world is the text presenting?
What kinds of social realities does the text portray?
How does the text construct a version of reality?
What is real in the text?
How would the text be different if it were told in another time, place
oInterrogating the composer
What kind of person, and with what interests and values, composed the
What view of the world and values does the composer of the text assume
reader/viewer holds? How do we know?
What different interpretations of the text are possible?
How do contextual factors influence how the text is interpreted?
How does the text mean?
How else could the text have been written?
How does the text rely on inter-textuality to create its meaning?
possessing a full range of dialogue abilities & abilities to “think with”
valuing the development of strong communities and community based
appreciating social and cultural diversity and developing intercultural
understandings and abilities
understanding and appreciating the natural environment as a part of one’s
acting upon an understanding of the implications of our social and biological
valuing ideas of all persons involved in a issue/concern, believe that group
will develop stronger understanding & better solutions than an individual
questioning own role, role of community, role of society in understanding or
solving a problem
working towards solutions that are environmentally-sound
understanding importance of hope & vision
having the courage to think for
ones self and to stand up for the strongest idea or argument even when this is
not the popular view
seeking to understand both short
and long term consequences of decisions/actions
possessing values, attitudes and
dispositions related to fair-mindedness, respect, and concern for others, other
life forms (e.g., fairness, justice, care, empathy)
using the full range of critical &
creative thinking abilities not only to meet own needs but also to find the
fairest, most equitable solutions for all, and to conserve environments, support
being honest (including with self)
ignoring self knowledge if it goes
against one’s present desires, interests
having “blind spots” in one’s
trying to deceive others about own
motives in order to get what we want
using critical thinking abilities
to manipulate others into believing or doing what we want them to believe or
tendencies to be ego-centric,
ethno-centric, &/or socio-centric
having and using a range of
critical and creative thinking abilities
using one’s thinking abilities to
achieve what is wanted for self (i.e., to serve our own interests)
valuing and developing
not being easily fooled or
asking questions when uncertain
taking the time to think things
seeking evidence or “proof”
–understanding that not everything in life can be described in “black and white”
terms & that there can be many approaches to the same problem but often not one
background document “Thinking contextually” for full description of
Jane Thurgood-Sagal Executive
Director on Curriculum and Instruction Saskatchewan Learning on developing
critical thinking skills - click play button above -
Critical Thinking Skills: suggestions for reading instruction
the suggestions from Karen Tankersley's book The Threads of Reading
relative to the importance of instructing higher order thinking skills
in reading instruction.
oInsert Question+ Answer =
oPair and Share:
Students are grouped in pairs.
After reading an assigned text, students share questions and ideas from the
text with their partners. Then they discuss these ideas in detail, They
decide upon the key idea and present that idea to the entire class.
Students create five questions
that they might ask the main character of the story. These questions are
then given to another student to answer from the main character’s point of
oSetting: Have students compare where they live to the
setting of the story. How would a particular story change if it were set in
their environment? How would the story’s details need to be changed to
accommodate the change in setting? Have students rewrite the story using
the new setting.
it important to explicitly instruct critical thinking skills?
If we want to
achieve the CELs and create communitarian thinkers, we need to instruct
our students in critical thinking skills.
communitarian perspective requires us to look beyond our self-contained
world and reach out for global understanding.
there is a strong link to global literacy. If we follow the progression
of critical thinking, the next step is global literacy.
thinkers then, we do have an obligation to support development of
literacy on a global level.
It is our
attempt to ensure that all people have a voice.
consideration when addressing critical literacy:
Assisting students with determining the reliability of internet resources:
with your school division: there is usually a policy that addresses
research skills required of students and that includes Internet site
Make use of varied and creative
critical evaluation skills:work to develop simple procedures/guidelines that can be used
at home, at work and in the
classroom to help students, parents and teachers best evaluate validity
and reliability of Internet sources and resources.
What is a URL?
When you want to
find a book in the library, you use a set of letters and numbers called a
call number to locate it on the shelves. When you want to find a
page or site on the World Wide Web, you also need a special code. This
code or address is called a URL or Uniform Resource Locator. The
URL can provide important clues to the source of the web page.
Parts of a URL
A URL begins with a
prefix which shows the type of file being examined. All World Wide Web
URLs begin with
http://-- for example:
Other kinds of
files include gopher (gopher://) and newsgroups (news://).
The Server (Where
the Web page is stored)
Sections of the URL
are separated by slashes. The first section of the URL after the prefix
is the name of the server, the computer where the web page information is
stored. The server can be anywhere in the world, and you can often tell
where it is by looking at the URL.
The part of the URL
in bold print gives us a www prefix, a name for the server (Indiana),
and a domain which is edu.
for the web page tells us what kind of organization owns the server
computer. edu stands for “educational institution” (usually a
school). In the sample URL above, since Indiana is the name of the server
computer, we can guess that the school is probably in the state of
Types of Domains
Øedu – educational institution (usually a school)
Øorg – non-profit organization
Øcom – commercial organization (may be a
commercial online service, such as AOL)
Ønet – Internet Service Provider
Øgov – government
Ømil – military
can always find the domain at the end of the first section of the URL.
One other clue to
the source of the Web page may be found in the URL: the tilde,
which looks like this ~ This symbol is usually used before a person’s
name, and indicates that the page is a home page belonging to that person.
Words such as users, people, or members may also indicate a personal home
Personal pages may
or may not be good sources of information; a home page may belong to any
person. It is important to keep this in mind when evaluating web pages as
(Retrieved and/or adapted March 27, 2005 from
Evaluating web resources workshop materials and personal communications
with Mr. Robertson)
Hyperreading is particularly
visual in nature. It also draws on a different set of distinctive
features, again related and similar to those for printed text, but moving
Hyperreading, according to Burbules (1998) entails a different kind
of relationship to text, a different kind of reading. He suggests that
there may be, or already are, some new orientations to reading. One
example he cites is the practice of surfing, applicable not only to the
Internet, but also to TV channels via remote control, radio stations via
push-button tuning, and CD sampling. This behavior has both positive and
With a surfeit of
stimuli competing for people's attention, they are, on the one hand,
becoming more adept at screening information very quickly, making rapid
judgments about whether it is desirable, and 'parallel processing'
different materials simultaneously. On the other hand, their capacities
for sustained attention to any single textual source are affected as a
consequence. (Burbules, 1998, p. 108)
In contrast to print reading, where the
text is supposed to be transparent so readers look directly at meaning,
hypertext expects readers to attend to its form: "In following
hypertextual links, the reader becomes conscious of the form or medium
itself and of her interaction with it" (Bolter, 2001, p. 43). The ability
to hyperread relies on those fundamental processing abilities
because it relies on print reading ability. As Bolter says:
Instead, the World Wide Web offers us the experience of moving through a
visual and conceptual space different from the space of the book, although
this experience still depends on our intuitive understanding of that
earlier writing space. Indeed, we depend in a variety of ways on our
knowledge of print in order to read and write hypertexts. (Bolter, 2001,
As educators, how do we assist
our students with this literacy skill?
Skimming (the ability to
read swiftly and lightly) is necessary when trying to locate information.
Scanning (the ability to read more closely for specific detail) helps students
understand main ideas. Studying is also a specific reading skill that requires
students to read closely and then reread. (Saskatchewan Learning, English
Language Arts Curriculum Guide Grade Ten 1997).
Before I read this
about the title and what it suggested the selection was about.
previewed the whole selection or parts of it.
about the subject or situation suggested by my preview.
purpose for my reading.
other strategies including: (List any other strategies used before
reading the selection.)
read this selection, I:
a dialogue with the writer (e.g., What is the writer saying? What is
the main idea? How is it supported? What is the writer’s viewpoint?
What do I already know about this? What am I learning about this?).
paraphrased or retold to myself what I was reading.
imagined what places, people, events might look like, or imagined
whatever the writer was explaining.
connected my personal experience to what I was reading.
inferences from textual clues given by the writer.
distinguished fact from opinion.
predicted and then confirmed what the writer might say next.
back and reread confusing parts.
words that I did not know the meaning of from context.
other strategies including: (List any other strategies used while
reading the selection.)
read this selection, I:
determined my initial impression of what I had read.
discussed what I had read and my impressions with someone.
reflected on what I had read.
reviewed and summarized what I had read and learned.
notes in my journal, notebook, or in my head.
and developed a more thoughtful interpretation of what I had read
(e.g., considered why the writer wrote the text, what was being
presented, and how it was constructed).
evaluated what I had read and supported my judgements with references
to the text.
other strategies including: (List any other strategies used after
reading the selection.)
Click the links to the various Instructional
Strategies/Categories below to see some examples of how we can better understand
each strategy in relation to 21st century literacy and to unleash the
desire to become "learning literate" through the various instructional
strategies and their complimentary technologies.