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Discourse in Storytelling

I really enjoyed doing the activity with everyone during our storytelling presentation. When we created the activity we knew it would be interesting but I was excited to see what everyone came up with (in such little time). All the presentations were so different in medium, style, content and presentation. They all showed something different about the individuals in the group and what was important to each of them. It got me thinking back to Gee and his ideas of discourse. While all the presentations were different they all seemed to fit the standard discourse we have in academia, rather than a discourse that would have been found in a place like Ghana.  What I mean is we have all been told stories throughout our lives, we have acquired (to use Gee’s word) a certain way to tell stories. They are through pictures or narrative and they all come from the narrator. We saw that in Ghana many stories involve movement from everyone or call and response, and those stories were not presented in our classroom. If they were it would have been a learned practice and the class would have been more aware of the choices they were making to tell their story in that way. I am now realizing even more how much our own discourses determine not only how we interact but also how we tell stories about ourselves (to bring in Rob’s class and Narrativity to tell about who we are). Our discourse determines how those stories look and the way they are told. Is it so crazy to ask us to step outside of our own discourse to tell our story? Perhaps it is.

m.steinfeld's picture

Discourse in Storytelling

I really enjoyed doing the activity with everyone during our storytelling presentation. When we created the activity we knew it would be interesting but I was excited to see what everyone came up with (in such little time). All the presentations were so different in medium, style, content and presentation. They all showed something different about the individuals in the group and what was important to each of them. It got me thinking back to Gee and his ideas of discourse. While all the presentations were different they all seemed to fit the standard discourse we have in academia, rather than a discourse that would have been found in a place like Ghana.  What I mean is we have all been told stories throughout our lives, we have acquired (to use Gee’s word) a certain way to tell stories. They are through pictures or narrative and they all come from the narrator. We saw that in Ghana many stories involve movement from everyone or call and response, and those stories were not presented in our classroom. If they were it would have been a learned practice and the class would have been more aware of the choices they were making to tell their story in that way. I am now realizing even more how much our own discourses determine not only how we interact but also how we tell stories about ourselves (to bring in Rob’s class and Narrativity to tell about who we are). Our discourse determines how those stories look and the way they are told. Is it so crazy to ask us to step outside of our own discourse to tell our story? Perhaps it is.

m.steinfeld's picture

Discourse in Storytelling

I really enjoyed doing the activity with everyone during our storytelling presentation. When we created the activity we knew it would be interesting but I was excited to see what everyone came up with (in such little time). All the presentations were so different in medium, style, content and presentation. They all showed something different about the individuals in the group and what was important to each of them. It got me thinking back to Gee and his ideas of discourse. While all the presentations were different they all seemed to fit the standard discourse we have in academia, rather than a discourse that would have been found in a place like Ghana.  What I mean is we have all been told stories throughout our lives, we have acquired (to use Gee’s word) a certain way to tell stories. They are through pictures or narrative and they all come from the narrator. We saw that in Ghana many stories involve movement from everyone or call and response, and those stories were not presented in our classroom. If they were it would have been a learned practice and the class would have been more aware of the choices they were making to tell their story in that way. I am now realizing even more how much our own discourses determine not only how we interact but also how we tell stories about ourselves (to bring in Rob’s class and Narrativity to tell about who we are). Our discourse determines how those stories look and the way they are told. Is it so crazy to ask us to step outside of our own discourse to tell our story? Perhaps it is.

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Learning to Read or Reading to Learn

This past week I have spent a significant amount of time asking others and myself, how do you teach reading? I realized that in my placement in first grade I am constantly asked to help the students learn to read. But what does that really mean? How am I supposed to help them? My main question was, when do I give the student the word and when do I let them work through it? I got answers from Alice, Amy (our guest speaker) and my field placement teacher.  I got similar but slightly different answers from each. However what I took from what everyone said and my own experience is that there is no right way to teach reading; it is all dependent on the child’s needs and personality and what the goals of the reading are. Are the student learning to read or reading to learn? Do I want them to learn how to sound out words or do I want them to learn how to get a story out of a book? Each case I would have to handle differently, which is true about each of the kids reading. Some will get frustrated quickly and so I’ll have to be quicker to give them the word because I don’t want them focused on their frustration I want them focused on the words, but if they can handle struggling a little longer than I can wait to give it to them (suggested by my field placement teacher). I am excited to get back into my field placement and try my new found teaching techniques with the students. I hope to find that I can learn the needs of each student and adjust my teaching accordingly.

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Learning out of the Classroom

When I ate lunch with the High School students at the Imagine Africa exhibit I asked them what they liked about it and I got rather short answers, nothing too detailed or informative. However when I went into the focus group on what we liked about the museum I saw the students light up. They were asked which exhibit they liked better, what other themes they wanted to see and suggestions of what else to put in the exhibit. While the Bryn Mawr students answered from a place of intense academic study and concern (due to our many hours in class discussing these issues, stereotypes and prejudices that can easily be spread to a less knowledgeable group, needless to say we had a lot to contribute) the High School students were not shy either. In fact they were the ones who had to be cut off eventually because the focus group was taking too long. I was wondering why did these students have so much to say now when they did not before? Why were they so eager to offer suggestions, most of which were incredibly similar to suggestions already made? I wondered how often someone they view as in charge asks them their opinion. I guessed not very often due to the testing nature of public education these days. It was nice to see these students articulate themselves and express what they felt. What was also interesting was their unwillingness to just shout things out. The women writing wanted them to yell out their thoughts but they all insisted on raising their hands and wouldn’t speak until called on.

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Memorizing vs Reading

In the Literacy and Development reading Pat Herbert and Clinton Robinson describe a scene from a Muslim religious tradition in which people are holding cards with prayers written on them but none of them can actually read the cards; they have memorized the prayers instead. Further investigation found that the people believed the actual words themselves to be sacred and therefore having them in their hands was important even if they could not read the words. This reminds me of my field placement in a first grade classroom. I was working with a boy struggling to learn to read. The teacher had given me a stack of books the boy had been working on all year. I let him pick which book he wanted to read. He picked it and read it better than I have ever heard him read before. He picked another and again I was impressed at how much he had improved since my last visit a month ago. I even told the teacher about how much he had grown in that time. The next week I picked the book for him. It was one I had not seen before which meant it was the most recent book he had been reading. He struggled.  He did not know most of the words, making most of them up as he went along. He even said, “I don’t know this one.” It was clear to me that he had read the other books so many times he had memorized them. I thought he had really improved his reading but in fact he had just memorized the words and so could “read” them quickly. But it made me wonder, is reading the words actually any better than simply memorizing the stories?

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Written vs Spoken

Lemke said that spoken language falls before we have a chance to analyze it, but written language is forever.  I find it interesting the distinct difference made between spoken and written language. With spoken language more “mistakes” can be made because they are likely to be missed and forgotten about, only the main ideas will remain. On the other hand, written language has the ability to be analyzed again and again word for word. This seems to connect to the idea of how stories in Africa were once told compared to how they are told now. Before stories were all oral, they involved motions and emotions and were passed down through memory, but once the European colonizers arrived stories began to be written down. While now there is a “formal” way to write down the stories, what is lost from the oral traditions of the past? Telling a story from memory is a certain kind of literacy, it just seems to be less respected by the European world because it can not be analyzed or monitored in the same way as written stories can be. While written language is incredibly important what is really gained if the written and the spoken are completely different?

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