Re-Understanding the Meaning of Literacy

What is Literacy? Literacy is one of the terms in education which for several years has often been part of various stakeholder conversations. Policy makers, community activists and teachers all agree that literacy is important to implement.

But, as we know, agreement on ideals does not guarantee every child achieves it. Over the years, we have been busy talking about a concept that we have not fully understood. There are so many misconceptions that then lead to more misguided programs. We are stunned to see activities only from the name on the surface, but the process and planning are not in accordance with the principles of literacy development. In fact, how to design will distinguish the benefits that will be obtained.

Listening stories in class every day, is not necessarily useful. We need to make sure when listening the story, children starts by answering questions, then stop in the middle and link the character of story to the facts that occur to them, after that, children can be invited to articulate the story in different forms for example through drama. Literacy which practiced in a comprehensive manner like this, ensures that every activity will be related to high order thinking. Literacy is the reasoning ability related to the ability to analyze, synthesize and evaluate information that can be grown by being integrated in the lesson.

The benefits of literacy cover various aspects of development. Not only cognitive, but also includes social, language, and emotion. Because literacy is related to learning and decision making skills, as well as adjusting to the environment. One characteristic of society today and in the future is the enormous amount of information, the increasingly digitalized life, the type of work that demands high-level reasoning - all require literacy.

Children will also understand the importance of literacy and are motivated to develop their competencies, when we emulate literacy practices in the everyday classroom. We are often busy giving instructions or running literacy programs such as recipes that can be replicated, but forget that teachers have a very important role to play as models of literate people. Literacy is not an independent subject or goal. Literacy needs to be trained, but the way is not just to advise.

Indicators of literacy achievement include many aspects of reading comprehension, ability to evaluate, ability to conclude and correlate information with other information or results of observations, reflections expressed after exposure to information, and so on. Many scales and continuum have been tested that can be used in schools to assess this. Again, the assessment was not isolated, but integrated with various disciplines.

Interaction with literacy really depends on the level of development and ability of students. The key is relevance, unfortunately often, teacher does not have these competencies. Many simple abilities actually really affect the effectiveness of our ways - for example, choosing reading material for students who enter adolescence. Text and genre must match the topic to be studied, but the level of difficulty is also in accordance with the level of reasoning, it is not too easy but also not too difficult for students.

In my experience, students who have a low literacy level at the beginning of middle school actually begin to miss out in the critical grades in grades 4 to 6 in elementary school. So there is no jump from basic literacy "learning to read" to the ability "read to study" at the age of 8 years and above.

Continuous training must be done - the key is cross subjects, all teachers guide children's development in reading and writing throughout their ages. Through not monotonous fairytale activities, children can continue to be challenged to improve their abilities. Children can take turns taking roles, not just listening but telling stories from their version. Fairy tale topics can be changed, introduce various "genres" through fairy tales - mystery, saga, adventure, and rhyme.

Meaningful literacy skills can also be practiced in non-language class. Children with a high interest in science, give them the opportunity to write better observation report to be trained, things that will later be transferred to social studies may not be of their interest. Children with an interest in football, can analyze information from match reviews, make information processing diagrams after watching certain goals etc. can be skills that are then mastered and practiced in mathematics or other disciplines.

The students' strength always has to be the main way to overcome the challenges. Literacy that is not related to text can also be developed from a variety of media when exposed to art, understanding story characters or the purpose of filmmakers, making sequel stories or prequels by playing pretend with the teachers, making music or songs from observations around the school. Various techniques make the thinking process real when dealing with the essential information for literacy development. Teaching mind maps, marking keywords, recording information after listening to the description, making journal result of discussion, skimming book contents through the table of contents, making trailers from films being watched - various "fast" techniques introduced to children - will greatly help them to be more motivated.

Teachers must be aware that if students literacy not improved, students will not have the ability to learn and think independently. So, even though it is as if our responsibility to deliver the subject matter has been completed, srudents does not understand, and knowledge or skills they obtain will not be able to be linked to the information at the next level. Do not get as a teacher, we have a doctrinal nature, which in turn makes students more frustrated. I prefer to "sacrifice" the subject matter, which often necessary at this stage and focus on a more diverse context around the lives of students, not just topics that are forced on standard curriculum documents. If reading comprehension, ability to ask questions, draw conclusions, and others are increases, students ability to mastering advanced material will be faster and able to catch up independently without excessive dependence on teachers.

On the other hand, I invite us to redefine what we mean by "sacrificing material". Curriculum guidelines are not only content standards, but there are also competency standards, processes, assessments. As long as we focus on the goals of literacy competencies, using methods that improve children's understanding and provide judgment that stimulates reasoning - don't be discouraged. Actually as a teacher we have achieved very much in carrying out roles - winning in many aspects and only "losing" in material / content aspects.

I also often invite teachers to see material or skills not just as a goal for one semester or school year, let alone the purpose of one lesson plan or lesson hours. This material is actually the easiest thing to "chase" children independently even outside school hours if he already has literacy skills. There are many situations where the teacher feels that he has succeeded in teaching, but the student does not succeed in learning. Do not let us feel we are struggling for a child by refusing to "sacrifice material", but what we sacrifice is the child in question and what we strive for "peace" of the teacher because he has carried out his actual obligations.

Author: Najelaa Shihab

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