The Process of Co-Constructing and Implementing a Critical Literacy Unit for English Learners




Ewaida, Marriam

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English learners (ELs) represent one of the fastest growing groups among the school-aged population in the United States, yet the level of literacy achievement for ELs has lagged significantly behind that of their native English-speaking peers. Existing practices in schools tend to favor an asocial and decontextualized language learning approach that ignores critical literacy and inquiry. Grounded in sociocultural theory, critical multiculturalism, engagement theory, and language learning frameworks, this mixed-methods ethnographic case study explored the process of co-constructing and implementing a critical literacy unit in which I worked alongside two middle school English teachers of ELs. The study describes the challenges and successes the teachers and I experienced during the planning and implementation process, as well as the impact of the critical literacy unit on ELs’ literacy engagement and development. Analysis suggests the teachers encountered several barriers during the process, including difficulty locating quality resources, struggling to balance state and district requirements with core beliefs, and effectively managing projects. On the other hand, the process was perceived to be an effective mode of teacher professional development and fostered collaboration and trust between students and teachers. Quantitative analysis also suggests that the unit positively impacted students’ literacy engagement and development. This study highlights important alternative notions of English language learning and literacy pedagogies, as well as teacher professional learning and growth.



Reading instruction, Education, Curriculum development, Adolescents, Critical literacy, Curriculum, English learners, Instruction, Middle School