Across the globe, students have been away from schools and their teachers, but literacy learning has continued. In many countries, students’ literacy proficiency is often measured via high‐stakes assessment tests. However, such tests do not make visible students’ literacy lives away from formal learning settings, so students are positioned as task responders, rather than as agentive readers and writers. The authors explore the fluidity and diversity of literacy events and practices for students and their teachers observed during the recent period of COVID‐19 lockdown restrictions. In this piece for The Inside Track, we consider how schools in the United States have been educating the very youngest students to how colleges of teacher education are grappling with a transition to a new shelter in place at home and virtual teaching and learning during the global pandemic. This contrasts to the emergence of public environmental literacy events observed in the United Kingdom, specifically in the South of England.
Over the course of the first six weeks of lockdown, the affordances of the range of these events and the influence of the specific, local cultures (Street, 1984) were documented, highlighting how the immediate physical and virtual environments appear to have become more significant during the COVID‐19 pandemic. As students and their teachers respond and react to new literacy experiences, we hope to expose potential points of intersection where students, with encouragement from their teachers, crafted new and hybrid literacy practices appropriated and recontextualized within new communicative space(s) (Dyson, 2001). Writing instructional practices across the world vary to some extent; in the United States, there are many similarities to what are considered best practices, despite each state holding different standards for writing instruction (Lacina, 2018). Teachers in the United States focus much more of their instructional time in the area of reading, instead of writing (Edwards, 2003; Puranik, Al Otaiba, Sidler, and Greulich, 2014). However, much has been written about teacher planning and instruction with process writing instruction, such as writers' workshop (Troia, Lin, Cohen, & Monroe, 2011). Within a writers' workshop classroom, the teacher uses literature as a model for writing (Lacina & Espinosa, 2010); the teacher teaches minilessons and scaffolds the teaching of writing. Researchers also have noted the importance of teaching writing within the content areas (Fisher & Frey, 2020) and the need to teach using the new literacies (Lacina & Block, 2012). Researchers who study writing instructional practices have found that there is great variance between teachers’ writing instructional practices (Cutler & Graham, 2008); with such variance, there are also connections between teachers’ writing instructional practices and their beliefs about teaching writing. Students out‐of‐school literacy lives often demonstrate a broader conceptualization of writing than is displayed in their school writing (Chamberlain, 2019; Dyson, 2020). Current definitions of literacy appear to mean reading, not writing. It is easier to test, measure, and compare reading proficiency than writing accomplishments. However, writing is better positioned as purposeful in the lives of students and reflected through sociocultural and situated identities where writing is framed as a mode of social or personal action (Prior, 2006; Rowsell & Pahl, 2007). The National Literacy Trust’s recent research based on over 4,000 questionnaire responses (Clark, Picton, & Lant, 2020) of children and young people in the United Kingdom suggested that new and positive writing habits have been developed during this time of lockdown. Educators have studied students’ consumption and production of texts through a framework of multimodality in both in‐ and out‐of‐school contexts (Lenters, 2016, 2018). Studying a framework of multimodality in the area of literacy has helped educators rethink the way literacy is instructed in school spaces (Kendrick & McKay, 2004; Kress, 1997; Lenters, 2018). However, rather than polarizing the literacies acquired in different settings, those of school and away from school, which serves only to limit our understanding of such encounters, the learnings from the examples in this piece aim to make visible the unique nature of students' interactions with their writing (Reder & Davilla, 2005) when schooled literacy (Cook‐Gumperz, 2006) is not an option.