English Teaching: Practice and Critique

Walking and talking with living texts: Breathing life against static standardisation

Volume 13 Number 1 May 2014

Louise Gwenneth Phillips (Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Queensland )

Linda-Dianne Willis (Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Queensland )

Current educational reform, policy and public discourse emphasise standardisation of testing, curricula and professional practice, yet the landscape of literacy practices today is fluid, interactive, multimodal, ever-changing, adaptive and collaborative. How then can English and literacy educators negotiate these conflicting terrains? The nature of today’s literacy practices is reflected in a concept of living texts which refers to experienced events and encounters that offer meaning-making that is fluid, interactive and changing. Literacy learning possibilities with living texts are described and discussed by the authors who independently investigated the place of living texts across two distinctly different learning contexts: a young people’s community arts project and a co-taught multiliteracies project in a high school. In the community arts project, young people created living texts as guided walks of urban spaces that adapt and change to varying audiences. In the multiliteracies project, two parents and a teacher created interactive spaces through co-teaching and cogenerative dialoguing. These spaces generate living texts that yield a purposefully connected curriculum rich in community-relevant and culturally significant texts. These two studies are shared with a view of bringing living texts into literacy education to loosen rigidity in standardisation.