Reading Response 4: Literacy Is More Than Reading and Writing

As the semester has progressed, I believe that my perspective on a few things has changed, mostly due to class discussions and class interaction. One of our first class discussions was about the Elements of Literacy article we read. Up until this point, I automatically thought of reading and writing when I heard words like literacy, literate, and literature. However, this class has helped me have a better understanding of the term and that it actually has many different meanings. In class, we talked about how literacy is based on certain time periods and all grammar is a set of rules, recognized by a certain group of people. I also found it really interesting when we learned that we all have a “saving face,” or damage control, meaning that we want to keep a certain image of ourselves at certain times. We are constantly trying to construct how we want to be seen by others. I had never put too much thought into this, probably do to the fact that I do this subconsciously, like many other people. But my sociology professor has also put a lot of emphasis on the fact that our behavior changes due to social behaviors and people act differently when surrounded by different groups of people. It has been easy for me to grasp this concept because it is relevant in two of my classes. This helped better my understanding of discourses as well. We have discussed numerous times that it’s not only important how you say something, but who you are and what you are doing when you say it. With this in mind, I feel like my writing has already improved because of this class and I am beginning to acknowledge that whenever I write, speak, or act, who I am and what I am doing should be obvious to the reader or listener. I have even found myself thinking about literacy and discourses outside of my English class, which is super neat because we are learning about things that relate to the things around us. We are all multiple people at different times. It’s fascinating that we all create our own discourses by adapting to the ones around us and accepting them.  Our discourses are defined by literacy, technology, place, actions, writing, language, beliefs, and values, and we can choose to keep those components a part of us or choose others that will set us apart. I have really enjoyed expanding my knowledge of grammar, language, and literacy, and the things we have read and discussed have changed my personal definition of literacy. Literacy is much more than just reading and writing. Literacy impacts who we are and what we are doing.


Free Write: After Group Facilitation

What was most significant for you about today’s class facilitation as it applies to your understanding of Literacies, Discourses, and Contexts? Why was X significant and how can you use what you have learned to continue applying it to this class, your work in the university, and your life beyond the university?

I really enjoyed the activity when we compared the stereotypical labels we discussed as a class and put on the board, and watched the clip from the Breakfast Club. I think it was a good way for the class to interact with each other and it made me think about something that I’ve never really taken into consideration. As we talked more about labels and how we all have discourses that apply to our lives, typically more than one, it became more evident that we adapt to discourses all the time. This was significant to me because I began to analyze myself and consider all of the discourses I’ve accepted and conformed to throughout my life. As I am a college student, I am also an athlete, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a Believer. I have adapted to other discourses to fit in, feel accepted, to survive, etc. All of these things have shaped and defined the person I am today. This discussion helped me realize that things aren’t always as they seem, and people take on multiple roles and discourses in society.

Group Facilitation 1: 9/16

Group 1: Class Notes 9/16/13


Stereotypical High School groups:


  • Jocks-cocky, popular, athletic, attractive

-”Yo, what’s up bro?”


  • Potheads-chill, hungry, creative, high, smell “earthy” or like essential oils, open-minded, lazy

-”You trynna smoke? I got some loud.”


  • Nerds-smart, geeky, studious, glasses, socially awkward, “tidy”

-”According to my calculations…”


  • Fashionistas-always put together, snobby, well dressed, confident or self-conscious, creative, trendy, thrifty

-”OMG that is so fab!”


  • Preps-opinionated, rich, “monogram everything,” Lilly Pulitzer, chevron, “Polo’s”

-”Lilly sale!”


  • Hippies-no shoes, long skirts, tie-dye, colorful, chill/mellow, carefree, nature loving

-”Yeaaaaaaa man, just chill out.”


  • Scene/Emo/Gothic-obnoxious, dark clothes, dark make-up, intimidating, over dramatic, emotional, normally introverts, expressive, seem depressed, somewhat artsy, loud music



  • Band Geeks-instruments, obnoxious, dedicated, friendly, artsy, typically smart

-”Music theory, scales, notes.”


  • Troublemakers/Rebels-mischievous, manipulative, opinionated, defying the rules, argue, rude, testy, push your buttons, careless, liberal, extreme

-”The man trying to keep ya down!” (Shouting)



Gossip Girl vs. Walking Dead vs. Boy Meets World

  • Literacy, Technology, Place, Actions, Writing, Language, Beliefs, Values
  • How do these stereotypes all come into play?
    • Society changes, skills evolve


  • Why do people adapt to other discourses?
    • To fit in, feel accepted
    • Helps you survive
    • We need other people, we have multiple roles in our lives
    • People deviate from their discourse in the Walking Dead because there is more of a need for survival
    • Position of authority vs. the new guy


  • Once the labels are eliminated, how do we determine who’s on top?


-Speech Acts: verbs that do things


Lauren: “When we are younger, we are more acceptive of things, but as we grow and mature, we begin to label things to help us process, accept, reject, organize, and memorize things.”


Class Notes: George Carlin – 9/9

George Carlin’s, Last Words

  • Relationship with his parents
  • A lot of the reading focused on “Mother Mary’s” primary discourse
    • “My mother insisted and I resisted.”
    • Her love of literature and language sparks his attraction to it as well, even though he takes a totally different approach to it.
  • Her father was an ex-policeman, had many male roles throughout her life
  • Enjoyed the arts and went to the theater on a regular basis 
  • We also learn many things about his father’s primary discourse
  • George’s primary discourse is being a comedian
    • From the beginning, he adopts a comedic discourse and takes big, heavy, life events and makes light of them.
  • His dad was a father, an alcoholic, motivational speaker, husband, etc. and and his discourses are pretty complicated…we are not always predictable…our discourses conflict and take on many different roles. 
  • Nun’s (Seven Words) Why would a religious discourse approve of George’s language and comedy, but his own mother wouldn’t? 
    • His mom’s discourse values self-representation and how she looks, and then the discourse of religion…
      • Religious discourse: help/serve others, don’t judge, don’t use vulgar language. 

Refresher on Discourses:

-Being the right who, doing the right what

  • How you interact with people, tools, technology
  • Dress, speak, think, props, listening
  • Act/adapt
  • Values, beliefs

Class Notes on Discourses: 9/4

Class Notes: 9/4/13

Discourses, Gee:

  • Who we are and how we act
  • How we want to be seen
  • Grammar we use
  • Being the “right” who doing the “right” what

Little “d:”

-Language: writing, speaking, grammar

-Set of rules recognized by a set of people, within a discourse

Big “D:”

-Everything in little “d,” but influences identity as a person

-Acting, interacting, valuing, dressing, thinking, and believing with other people, objects, tools, technologies, and props

“Discourses describe what literacy is.”

Mrs. Cook: “Discourse = Language + other stuff”

He makes a big statement when we says we can separate ourselves from Discourses. We are all multiple types of who’s.

Primary Discourse: home, the discourse you are most comfortable with

Is your primary always the same?

-No but you always know what your primary is but what is most primitive and feels most comfortable.

Secondary Discourse: English 1103, college student, employee, daughters, sons, clubs and organizations, friends, etc.

Why aren’t we just the same person in every single context?


1. Acceptance

2. Fitting in

  1. To get things

Learning vs. Acquisition:

    1. Learning can’t continue without acquisition
    2. You are not aware that learning is taking place with acquisition
    3. With learning, you are very aware that you are learning
    4. We have acquired a lot, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we know

-Just because you know something, doesn’t mean that you are going to know how to do it/be natural.

-Gee says that it’s important to know both!

-How can we describe literacy outside of a discourse?

-Legally Blonde: First Day of Law School

  • The way she was dressed-blonde hair
  • Everyone else had a computer
  • Wasn’t prepared for the assignment

How do Discourses relate to writing?

-You have to write for a certain audience

A Whole New World (of Literature)

As I was reading James Paul Gee’s chapter on Social Linguistics and Literacies, my eyes were open to a whole new world of literature. For starters, I have never heard of the field called, “the New Literacy Studies.”  I guess it is called “new” because it is a new field of study that has emerged. My perspective on what language is also began to transform and I dug deeper into the text. Gee explains that “language” can be a misleading term: and we are often under the impression that it means grammar and specific “rules” we must follow in order to keep the structure of a language. This really altered my opinion because I have always believed that in communication, it is essential to speak grammatically correct. In the article, he emphasizes that saying the “right” thing at the “right” time and in the “right” place is what truly matters. I was truly amazed at the example he used, when he compared the two different women in their job interviews. I can’t believe that that even though the second woman was considered the “success case,” she did not completely ace the interview herself. Her grammar was generally correct and she was using it in the right way, however, Gee says, “she was expressing the wrong values.” As he further explains his reasoning behind believing so, he points out that she contradicts herself several times throughout the interview. That was something that I did not even pay attention to as she was answering the questions because I was so intrigued by her eloquence and correct use of grammar. I realized first hand that language is not necessarily as important as the combinations of “saying-doing-being-valuing-and-believing” all together.

Notes on Social Linguistics & Literacies

Notes on Social Linguistics and Literacies

Ideology in Discourses

James Paul Gee


Discourses & literacies

“The New Literacy Studies” (“integrated social-cultural-political-historical-literacy studies”)

  • Has become well known and widely used
  • One way we can begin to develop a sociocultural approach to literacy is to engage in the rhetorical conceit of imagining that we have been asked: “What does the word ‘literacy’ mean?”
  • “Language,” can be a misleading term
    • Grammar (structures, the “rules”)
    • A person can know the grammar of a language and still not know how to use that language.
    • Speaking grammatically is important but speaking the “right” thing at the “right” time at the “right” time and in the “right” place.
    • Some speakers can have quite poor grammar & still function in communication and socialization quite well.
    • What is important is not just how you say something, not just language in any sense, but who you are and what you’re doing when you say it.
  • Any time we act or speak, we must accomplish two things:
  1. We must make clear who we are
  2. We must make clear what we are doing


  • We are not a single who, but different whos in different contexts


An example of language use and types of people

-Language must not only have the right grammar and be used appropriately, but must also express the right values, beliefs, and attitudes-the “right who,” the right “type” of person.

  • Example: Paper arguing the importance of using language appropriately, F. Niyi Akinnaso and Cheryl Seabrook Ajirotutu
    • “Simulated job interviews” (practice sessions) from two African-American mothers in a US job training program.
  1. The first job interview is presented as an example of how not to carry out an interview, and the second is presented as the correct way to do it, the successful result of having been properly trained in the job-training program.
  • In our society, you are expected to use “Standard” English for most job interviews, so the first woman’s grammar doesn’t “fit” the context
  • The second woman, the “success case,” doesn’t have a real problem with her grammar. (All of her sentences are formulated appropriately for the time, place, and occasion in which she is speaking).


-The moral of the above discussion is that what is important is language PLUS being the “right” who (sort of person) doing the “right” what (activity).


-What is important is not language, and surely not grammar, but saying (writing)-doing-being-valuing-believing- combinations.

a. These combinations are referred to as Discourses

1. (D)-always more than just language

2. (d)-for language in use or connected stretches of language that make sense, like conversations, stories, reports, arguments, essays, and so forth.



-A Discourse with a capital “D” is composed of distinctive ways of speaking/listening and often, too, writing/reading coupled with distinctive ways of acting, interacting, valuing, feeling, dressing, thinking, believing, with other people and with various objects, tools, and technologies, so as to enact specific socially recognizable identities engaged in specific socially recognizable activities.

1. Identities might be things like: being a L.A policeman, a field biologist, a first-grade student in a specific classroom and school, “SPED” student, a certain type of doctor, lawyer, teacher, man, woman, girlfriend, boyfriend, etc.

            2. Discourses are all about how people “get their acts together” to get recognized as a given kind of person at a specific time and place.


Being in a Discourse is being able to engage in a particular sort of “dance” with words, deeds, values, feelings, other people, objects, tools, technologies, places, and times so as to get recognized as a distinctive sort of who doing a distinctive sort of what.


-Sherlock Holmes:

  • Certain clothes, certain ways of using language (oral lang. and print), certain attitudes and beliefs, allegiance to a certain lifestyle, and certain ways of interacting with others.


-“Primary Discourses,” gives us our initial and often enduring sense of self and sets the foundations of our culturally specific language. (Our “everyday” language).


-“Life world Discourses,” is the way that we use language, feel and think, act and interact, and so forth, in order to be an “everyday” (non-specialized) person.


-“Secondary Discourses,” are acquired within institutions that are part of wider communities, whether be religious groups, community organizations, schools, businesses, or governments.

-Good point: We are all multiple kinds of people.


-So true: It seems that in contrast to secondary Discourses, primary Discourses are not quite as specific, but are defined to be more holistic in their application.


A person’s primary Discourse serves as a “framework” or “base” for the acquisition and learning of other Discourses later in life. ß Makes sense! Solid foundation and better understanding is essential.