What is text?

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Dr Ania LIan, CDU

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Language & Language Development b y Ania Lian, CDU Australia 10 March, 2013 This entire lecture is based around the concept of genre, as conceptualised by Professor Anne Freadman, University of Melbourne What is text? And how can you tell?

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A text is an intersection of genres engaged for a particular purpose. Hence, we can say that if literacy is about learning the tools of communication (with oneself or others), then communication does not engage texts as such, but genres which then only together form texts. But what creates GENRE? CULTURE is the answer. Culture is the organising element of all we do.

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This is a PPT about text as genre

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“ There is an old question that haunts the profession of language teaching: what, we ask anxiously, is the relation between “language” and “culture”? It is an ill-formed question. If a culture is a collection of genres, the appropriate question is this: what is the function of language in any particular genre ?” Online reference no longer available, Anne Freadman, (2004) Inaugural Lecture, University of Melbourne We can now see that language provides tools for expressing that which is not linguistic. Conclusion: We need to teach not language or texts, but genre. That is, the relationship between the linguistic and the cultural components of texts. You teach one element only, you lost the text.

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What is genre?

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We can think of genre as a cultural protocol – created over a period of time, practised and evolving, when needed. (Lian) Any genre is a practice that derives from a local history and whose form becomes conventionalised through practice (Freadman) Culture as a heterogeneous collection of genres . ( Freadman)

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Imagine We are in Paris Today, the Queen of England is having a welcoming procession through the Champs des Elysees. The crowd is summoning. People eat hot dogs, wave British flags. How do you think the wife of the French president is participating in this welcoming event? Picture http://completerunning.com/archives/2006/09/18/photo-of-the-week-paris-marathon/

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Is she with the crowds, waving the British flag in one hand and holding a hot dog in another? No? Why not? The protocol or the genre of Welcoming a Queen can be effected in a number of ways, but these ways are not arbitrary. They signify how the participant positions himself or herself toward the event. The French president’s wife is expected to adopt a VIP approach to this event. Just like the Queen, she will not jump, wave hot dogs and scream with the crowds. Picture: http://collegecandy.com/tag/crazy-women /

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So a genre of Welcoming a Queen can be effected in ways which themselves draw on other genres . This is important. No genre is an isolated piece of “text”. A text is an interplay of genres. See below ho wit works: A VIP genre shares some commonalties with genres which place high premium on the following qualities: not much movement, emotional distance, physical distance to the crowds etc. A Volk (popular) genre draws on genres which are all about personalising: emotion, close physical distance, lots of (cheap) food to feel the spirit of celebration, engaging in games, dressing up, playing popular music. All these qualities are genres too. So texts are a combinations of protocols that together create meaning. It is not words that have meaning. It is their use in texts as part of genre that makes us believe that they have a meaning independent of their use – this is just an illusion of the native speaker. We experience this when learning another language.

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How can we utilise genre in teaching? Part 1 – to re-arrange information i.e. to know what we knew but did not know we did See FreAdman’s example of Collette

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Now, Professor Freadman turns our attention to the following example. In 1920s, Collette, finds herself in a boxing event, in Paris. She has never been there before, does not know what’s going on (pre-TV). Even though she speaks the language of the participants, she is unable to participate as the crowds do. The first shock she quickly overcomes with the awareness that she does have resources – her past. In fact, YOU would have done the same. What would you have done? You have never seen this picture and yet you have resources to make some assumptions, e.g. a sporting event, for the rich probably (check the clean garden), somewhere in Europe? (although my Asian students thought the men were Asian!), and so on My point: nothing is totally new - we have tools to make sense of texts – everything that has meaning is a text (not always linguistic, like clothing or a scene)

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Collette observed and evaluated: Were there other women there? Was it OK for her to sit where she set? Are the security guards leaving her alone. What flag represented what athlete? The French crowd was happy when the English guy got hit and vice versa. She was learning the rules of the game, by watching who did what and how people were reacting to her, to each other and to the game. We see Colette assembling an array of genres in order to interpret the genre of the boxing event

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We see her “use the familiarity of what she does know to defuse the fears and the subtle threats of her first experience with the unknown .” And so, we find [Collette] exploring the resources of her own cultural knowledge, discovering its limitations, certainly, but also discovering comparisons and contrasts which she can use to shed light on the problems of the encounter.  Foreignness (lack of familiarity) is simply our experience of an encounter

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If it is the case, that Colette assembles an array of genres in order to interpret behaviour that she finds puzzling, then we can say two things . One is that she starts out in a situation of unfamiliarity with the genre, and the other, that she comes to understand it by calling on her other cultural knowledge . Sometimes her extrapolations are unconvincing, and so she has to start again “there is some continuity between spaces” – nothing being just English or French or yours or mine ….

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Conclusion to Part 1 When teaching literacy (the relationship between culture/genre and the linguistic elements), we should not assume that for students to understand a text, we need to give them tools. The C ollette example shows that we can take a different approach and approach texts construction or understanding as an exercise in exploration. Ther e is no limit. But when these explorations are conducted with students engaging by sharing with everyone what they see and how this compares with what they know, this is allows everyone to learn more than a simple was meant to show. Our goal is not to teach as such, but to use curriculum to thoughtfully engage students in recognising their own power and value.

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How can we utilise genre in teaching? Part 2 – Linking genre and linguistic elements Pedagogy of exploration: assisting students in re-arranging what they already know Notice, you always work with what students already know

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In Australian schools students are exposed to literary works of all kinds. Implied in this approach is the concept of children’s language development where the object of learning is cultural, emotional, linguistic (symbolic) expansion . However, more often than not, these wonderful literary works are turned into words organised by grammar, and are treated more as an excuse to teach those structures. In essence, teachers do not work with literary works as elements of culture, but as linguistic constructs. Let’s look at another, exploratory way.

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Key terms: compare, contrast & evaluate Implications to literacy and assisting language development

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http://youtu.be/1QnXVpylxiY http://www.aboriginalartstore.com.au/aboriginal-art-culture/aboriginal-art/index.php?page=all Introducing the genre of a children story . It is not uncommon that teachers ask students to produce a story. But children need to be given a choice of tools for so doing. Otherwise, we disempower their creative and critical talents. It is therefore imperative to engage in an exploratory play, one that allows students to compare, contrast and evaluate cultural/communicative features of story telling. And to this end, as the pictures show we can compare and contrast different stories. The greater the cultural and genre range, the more cultural tools we give children to play with. Depending on their age, these explorations do not have to culminate in children creating fully fledged stories. In fact the objective is less the story. Rather, it is to facilitate students’ play with genres. For example, the leading questions of the exploration therefore may be: People do interesting things and never the same way. Why do people do these things? Why do they create things differently? What will happen if we take things out of their place and put them somewhere else Having a PPT ready with Smart Board on which we could move items would be fun.

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The text features of children’s stories Exploratory Learning How does the story begin? Once upon the time.. (an adverbial phrase introduced as a literary device – not as a grammatical structure) Do all stories begin like that? Yes? No? How about the Snow White? Which ones do? (have a resource ready with examples which confirm and n egate this assumption) Why do they begin with “once upon a time?” To set the story in time! Great. So when did the story begin? Once upon a time ….How long ago was that? What about other stories? do they begin with “once upon a time?” Show examples. Compare, contrast the structure and evaluate: WHY do you think so many stories start the same way and these ones do not?

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How do these stories begin? What does the beginning of the story create? Language features? - looking for patterns between the texts’ structure and their functions Allow students to play with texts, experience them esthetically . For example, students can identify features that make them feel sad, happy, worried, content , excited, unsettled, and amazed… so many adjectives, just to express their relationship to the first words of a story.

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Exploratory Learning ‘ Bears in the Night’ In Bed, Out of Bed. Out of Bed, to the Window, Out of bed, to the Window, at the Window, Out the Window, Out the Window, Down the Tree Down the Tree, Over the Wall Over the Wall, Under the Bridge Under the Bridge, Around the Lake What happened here? No “Once upon a time” No “there was a..” Notice ; all action and not a single verb in the story. This is because the adverbial phrases create a rhythm. All this exploration gives students tool for appreciating texts (a true reading) and for creating their own stories, when ready. Just pure action. Do you like it? Can we play it out? Lets watch a video and imitate !! Picture: http://nols.blogs.com/nols_news/2010/08/bully-dem-bears.html ‘ Bears in the Night ’ Ohio Domican Univ v ersion

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Exploratory Learning ‘ Bears in the Night’ In Bed, Out of Bed Out of Bed, to the Window You get the pattern. The aim is to explore relationships within and across texts, because no genre, no structure has a meaning in and of itself – meaning is established relationally, in relation to other uses and features. More on this later on in the unit. Gradually, students will become critical users of texts by learning to link purpose (culture) with form (language). Our students will now be more ready to begin creating their own stories. We have not only opened the door to language. We have also opened the door to creativity. As with Colette, we will see them assembling an array of genres in order to interpret the genre of the events described in the texts that they study, or those they want to create themselves. For this to happen, they need opportunities to compare, contrast and evaluate what things do what and how this feels – a truly esthetic approach to literary texts. Summary

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This were just examples to illustrat e the point that exploration is not a new approach to learning. It is the approach we all use to get by, every day. No day is the same and to live we draw on what we know and we do get it wrong sometimes At the end of this PPT I have included some nice quotes – just in case.

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? Th is is to stimulate your imagination How would you work with this picture using an exploratory approach?

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http:// youtu.be/xPpvQysOuVg?t=2m30s ?

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Our favourite lines ?

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“A thing or idea seems meaningful only when we have several different ways to represent it - different perspectives and different associations. […] In other words, we can 'think' about it. […] So something has a ‘meaning’ only when it has a few; if we understood something just one way, we would not understand it at all. That is why the seekers of the ‘real’ meanings never find them.”     ( Minsky , 1981 ).      

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The answer is that culture acts in dynamic relations with other sign systems, sometimes in a dominant, and sometimes in a supporting role. Moreover, the semiotic view has it that the “boundary” of a language in no way coincides with the boundaries of other sign systems, so it must follow that a language is neither geographically nor historically coextensive with a culture. Facial expressions, gestures, the public and indeed the private display of emotions, sound, the design of spaces for spectator events, the exhibition of monarchs and other public figures, care of the dead and of their resting places … the range of cultural practices that cannot be confined to the sociological extension of a given language is unlistable . It is salutary, I think, for us to consider that what we call our “own” culture is incomplete and fragmentary, that it is traversed by ignorance, that it is imperfectly owned. if it is the case that participating in a culture is not always a matter of cosy familiarity,.. we must often adapt to the unfamiliar, … culture is a process, not a thing , and … that process involves learning and sometimes getting it wrong Quotes from F readman

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Source: http://www.learnfrenchcdsoftware.com/french-for-kids

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