How to Create a Culture of Literacy

Teachers must create a culture of literacy in the classroom from day one. People have an inherent need to understand their environments before learning anything else; cultivating this understanding as soon as possible allows teachers to progress to more advanced information afterward. This progression helps students absorb classroom material and stay motivated to keep learning.

The process is the same when teaching literacy. Language is a shared cultural system, and it relies on cooperation and community-based learning to continue developing. As society and technology change, so does literacy. Creating a culture of literacy relies on the following ideas.

Integrated Technology

Collaborative classroom exercises today rely on technology — students use it to communicate and share ideas. Classroom technology helps students record pictures or blog about project reflections or research new topics. Teachers need to be flexible with access to these tools because learning does not occur only when teachers schedule it. Learning when to be hands-on and when to be hands-off with classroom technology is a skill that requires differentiated assessment, updated technological fluency and personalized learning approaches, all of which teachers can learn by enrolling in a master’s degree in literacy program.

Cross-Cultural Connections

Students need to consider what they learn in cross-cultural contexts. Teachers need to create situations wherein students can solve culturally contextual problems and check in with their global peers to validate their thoughts. Learning how others think is a critical component in a culture of literacy. Teachers can encourage this thinking by allowing students to ask about and investigate their own thinking.

Multipurpose Information

When teachers ask students to investigate a new topic, they should give the students voice, choice and purpose. Students will work differently depending on the intended outcomes of their assignments. Is this exercise for a show at the end of the year? Is it a project someone else at the school will use? Will anyone besides the teacher be evaluating the work? This is the kind of information students need to know when they begin their work.

Multiple Information Streams

There is so much information available at students’ fingertips that they can become distracted if teachers are not careful to guide them in curating what they find based on the reasons they need it. Not all information is credible or even valuable in every situation. Students need to be able to identify which material is worth choosing and how it contributes to their research.

Learning to teach students this approach through the use of guiding questions is a skill teachers can develop in a master’s degree in literacy program. These courses help teachers understand how to guide students through effective and rewarding research methods.

Create, Critique and Evaluate Multimedia

Just as students need to learn to curate information streams, they must also evaluate various digital and print documents that incorporate multimedia elements, which can be a source of information or distraction. Figuring out which documents to use and how to analyze them can be difficult for students who struggle with literacy. Often, teachers need to scaffold students by moving them from image-based to word-based texts. This scaffolding reinforces a culture of literacy in that it helps students learn to trust that their teachers will not push them beyond their degree of proximal development.

Community Ethics

Children learn both at school and at home, so when teachers communicate regularly with parents about how they work to create a culture of literacy in the classroom and how parents can foster one at home, it reinforces the idea of community ethics. To share this process with all community stakeholders is to respect the community as a whole. It is the students themselves who will build the community after they leave school, so modeling community ethics is essential to a well-rounded education.

Learn more about the CSUSM online MA in Education, Literacy program.


Edutopia: Promoting a Culture of Learning

National Council of Teachers of English: The NCTE Definition of 21st Century Literacies

Kimberly Tyson: 25 Great Ways Schools Can Support Reading

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