What is Critical Literacy?

Critical Literacy is  “a stance, mental posture, or emotional and intellectual attitude that readers, listeners, and viewers bring to bear as they interact with texts. Gee (2004) calls it “socially perceptive literacy.” Luke (2004) asserts that critical literacy “involves second guessing, reading against the grain, asking hard and harder questions, seeing underneath, behind, and beyond texts, trying to see and ‘call’ how these texts establish and use power over us, over others, on whose behalf, in whose interests.” (Connecting Practice and Research, Critical Literacy Guide, EduGains, 2004)

What is the connection between Critical Literacy, Dance and Drama?

Dance and drama invite students to develop investigate core critical literacy concepts. In these units explore point of view, identify and give voice to marginalized and missing perspectives, analyse texts, and examine and exercise power. Following is a detailed description of how these concepts are addressed through dance and drama:

Point of View: Critical literacy is based upon the notion that there are many sides to any given story. Students are provided with opportunities to assume roles of characters whose lives and experiences are different than their own. They engage with characters/texts which hold a different point of view than the protagonist/prevailing message in their stories.  

Exploration of the Missing Voice: When it comes to analysis, one of the key messages of critical literacy is that a consideration of what is not said/explored/included in a piece of work is as important as what is included. Students are asked to consider: Whose voice is missing from this story? Does this account of the story seemed to be biased in favour of one point of view? Who might we want to meet to gain another perspective on this issue?

Deconstruction and Construction of Texts: Students will attempt to surmise the intended audience and purpose (and in some cases the author) of a variety of dance, drama, visual, and written. Similarly, students may be called upon to generate a text (letter, media text, dance text, visual text) for an intended audience and purpose, sometimes from the point of view of one of a specific character. Students may also analyze texts for bias.

Call to Action: Critical Literacy has strong roots in social activism. One of the goals of these units is to make explicit the connection between critical literacy and social justice. Students learn how to use their words, thoughts, and actions to assert their power and have their voices heard in the face of opposition or apathy.