The dominant methodology for teaching literacy advocated in teacher education programs today, the “workshop” approach, privileges the ways with words of the mainstream, mostly white middle class, by insisting that individual readers and writers should work as the sole proprietors of texts and pursue an ethic of rugged individualism in their work habits. The problematic nature of this approach for nonmainstream students is framed by the fictional portrait of Nancy Hartman, whose multiethnic urban middle-school students from working- class backgrounds ‘just aren't getting it.” Ethnographic studies, as well as an analysis of the sociocultural contexts of young adult novels, show that the oral and written communication practices of nonmainstream children are highly communal and contextualized when compared to the practices of mainstream children, who learn early in their lives to encode and decode meaning through words and/or text alone. Sharing sessions and writing conferences of workshop approaches are criticized as socially artificial devices that fail to meet students’ needs. A restructuring of workshops as communal practices is called for, in which teachers acknowledge their power and engage their students in the negotiation of meaning.
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