Genre Approaches; perspective taking
Genre approaches focus on patterns of interpreting texts and artifacts. For example, looking at a text or an event from multiple lenses or looking at multiple accounts of the same event would follow the genre approach. The course started with an introductory unit, historical thinking, that did not cover traditional historical content. This unit was full of interactive and metacognitive activities that challenged the students’ notions of thinking historically while also introducing them to multiple critical lenses. Students were introduced to gender, post-colonial, socio-economic and reader response to get them thinking about the questions they could ask to enhance understanding. I borrowed exercises and worksheets from Debroah Appleman’s Critical Encounters in High School English: Teaching Literary Theory to Adolescents.
This unit focused on perspective taking, but there were also perspective taking exercises incorporated in the entire course. For example, after examining different accounts on colonialism in the Congo, students had to write cover letters reflecting on the perspectives they took. The cover letter required them to reflect on the following questions:
1. What is one thing that you learned about having to look at a historical event from 2 sides?
2. How did the different perspectives in your group impact this project?
3. Where does your perspective lay in all of this?
The second unit looked at Andalusia and the Spanish conquista. Students read primary sources about Andalusia, Islamic Spain and the positive relations that Muslims, Christians and Jews had. This unit set them up for the third unit that focused on European exploration and European/Native American encounters. The fourth unit examined colonialism in Africa while the fifth unit looked at independence movements in Africa. I attempted to focus on regions that are not emphasized in the school curriculum which is another form of incorporating diverse perspectives. For example, in the independence unit, we examined counter narratives by reading a novel written by a Moroccan woman who challenged notions of freedom and independence. After reading the novel, students had to create comic strips that expressed themes from the book, the multimodal assignment was an example of my attempt to merge multiliteracies with the dialogue between understanding student identity and pedagogy.
Establishing an introductory unit at the beginning of the course was necessary in order to:
1. Establish a classroom culture of critical literacy.
2. Communicate expectations to the class. Students engaged in perspective taking as soon as they entered my course.