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Investigating Junk Mail: Negotiating Critical Literacy at the Mailbox
|Grades||3 – 5|
|Lesson Plan Type||Standard Lesson|
|Estimated Time||Three 40-minute sessions|
By investigating junk mail, students learn to think about and question texts in ways that develop their analytical capacities and critical reading practices. Students work in small groups to investigate and sort junk mail into categories of their choice using a Venn diagram. They discuss the purpose of junk mail and compose a class definition. They then find examples of junk mail at home and share them in small groups, explaining why they think the mail is junk mail. As a class, students discuss any mail that their group disagreed about and explore how mail could be considered useful or junk, depending on the audience. Finally, students select a piece of junk mail and rewrite it to be more honest, more effective, dramatic, or humorous.
In "Negotiating Critical Literacies," Barbara Comber explains that students come to our classrooms with many analytical skills. Our job is to identify and engage those skills in meaningful ways that extend student's thinking. Comber states, "Children are accustomed to thinking analytically about power and pleasure and listening to and producing powerful texts. The task for teacher is help children to develop a meta-awareness and a meta-language of what they already know how to do and to assist them in applying these resources to the texts and situations of school life" (2). This lesson plan follows such a model by asking students to stop and think critically and consciously about the decisions someone makes at the mailbox, to think carefully about which pieces of mail are kept and why. Comber's article touches on a similar activity practiced by educators in South Australia.
Comber, Barbara. "Negotiating Critical Literacies." School Talk 6.3 (April 2001): 1-2.