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The Learning Conference 2003

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Presentation Details


Literacy, Popular Culture, and the Middle School Classroom

Bronwyn T. Williams.

The Middle School years mark an important transition for many students in their literacy education as they are increasingly asked to read texts more critically and to produce works about such texts that are more analytical in nature. Such critical encounters with print texts are crucial toward the development of more thoughtful and critical literacy skills that will be required of students higher levels of education. These attempts to read and write more critically also obviously help shape student attitudes toward literacy and education. At the same time, the Middle School years also mark the point that many adolescents become more independent consumers of popular culture as they begin to purchase and consume forms of popular culture far from adult supervision. During these years these students are making their own choices of popular culture texts and are learning to engage in their own “readings” of such texts, making their own interpretations and intertextual connections. Yet often no attention is given in school to the ways in which students do read and interpret popular culture texts. This presentation explores how the forms of electronic popular culture and communication young adolescents are most interested in – television, movies, and the Internet – influence both how they perceive and respond to print literacy how they read and process texts of all kinds. I examine how urban Middle School students read and respond to forms of popular culture and what effect that has on their encounters with the print literacies taught in their classrooms. An understanding of such points of contact helps teachers find ways to help students perceive more clearly the distinctive differences print literacy offers in exploring ideas as well as help teachers use the knowledge students have gained from their encounters with popular culture texts to move them toward a more critical and sophisticated literacy of both print and popular culture texts.


Bronwyn T. Williams  (United States)
Assistant Professor of English
Department of English
University of Louisville

Bronwyn T. Williams is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Louisville. He writes and teaches about issues of literacy, popular culture, identity, and cross-cultural communication. He recently published the book Tuned In: Television and the Teaching of Writing and is currently editing an anthology titled Composing Identities: Issues of the Self and Writing.

  • Literacy
  • Popular Culture
  • Middle School
  • Pedagogy

(30 min Conference Paper, English)