Below are summaries of the chapters in Dr. Shapiro’s book, Cultivating Critical Language Awareness in the Writing Classroom.  More information, including reviews, excerpts, and support materials, can be found on the book’s homepage with Routledge/Taylor & Francis.

If you would be interested in writing a review of the book, please be in touch!

Chapter 1 presents a rationale for CLA Pedagogy as an approach to writing instruction at the secondary and postsecondary level. I argue that CLA offers powerful insights in addressing a concern that has become prominent recently in discussions of language difference in the teaching of writing—namely, the need for a “both/and” approach that is both progressive and pragmatic in its orientation to linguistic diversity and its treatment of academic norms and linguistic standards. We review how U.S. writing/literacy studies scholars have called for such an approach for decades, as demonstrated in ongoing conversations about Students’ Rights to Their Own Languages (SRTOL), translingualism, and anti-racism, and I present three common teaching scenarios that illustrate the affordances and possibilities for CLA Pedagogy in the current historical moment. The introduction concludes with an overview of the remaining chapters.

Chapter 2 offers a historical and conceptual overview of CLA as a movement within linguistics and literacy studies. We discuss how CLA was shaped by two phenomena: The Knowledge about Language” movement in the United Kingdom—particularly in relation to the U.K.’s National Curriculum in 1988—and the “critical turn” in academia. I then describe how CLA Pedagogy has been taken up in a variety of educational settings since the early 1990s, and I consider possible reasons for why it has been less prominent in the U.S. The chapter concludes with an overview of some key terms that are central to CLA and will be used throughout the subsequent chapters, including: language awareness, discourse, Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA), power, prescriptivism vs. descriptivism, variety, standardized language, and language ideology.

Chapter 3 delves further into how and why CLA works as an approach to writing/literacy pedagogy.  We first unpack the definition of CLA, focusing on how CLA pedagogy promotes three overarching and interrelated goals for student writers: self-reflection, social justice, and rhetorical agency. I explain how foregrounding these three goals can help to bridge the perceived divide between pragmatism and progressivism, as we discussed earlier. I then present six core principles for CLA Pedagogy, curated from a review of educational scholarship, as well as my own teaching practice: CLA Pedagogy: 1) Includes students from all language backgrounds, 2) Uses language as a bridge into social justice learning, 3) Engages minds, hearts, and bodies, 4) Links awareness to action, 5)Works with tensions around linguistic norms and standards, and 6) Builds on best practices for writing/literacy instruction.

Section II (Chapters 4-7) begins with a short introduction to the Four Pathways chapters, including a rationale for how they are structured and some general guidance for how to navigate them. Each of these chapters includes a rationale, introduction, and overview for that pathway. This is followed by three thematic units, each of which is presented as a learning sequence that includes suggestions for tapping into prior knowledge, engaging with key themes, deepening and/or personalizing learning, and demonstrating learning.

Chapter 4, the Sociolinguistics Pathway, includes units on language variation, linguistic attitudes and prejudices, and linguistic discrimination and justice.

Chapter 5, the Critical Academic Literacies Pathway, includes units on academic disciplines as linguistic communities, grammar concepts and controversies, and linguistic pluralism in the academy. 

Chapter 6, the Media/Discourse Analysis Pathway, includes units on language, identity, and power in digital spaces; savvy and ethical news consumers; and critiquing frames and narratives.

Chapter 7 includes units on  the power of language in personal relationships, difficult dialogue in the classroom, and writing as (re)design.

Section III (Chapters 8-10) opens with a short introduction that highlights the key topics and questions addressed in this section.

Chapter 8 discusses how teachers can design CLA-oriented units and courses tailored to their pedagogical goals and institutional contexts. We talk through strategies for needs assessment as part of curriculum design, and I describe how I have used some of those strategies in designing four CLA-oriented writing courses that have distinct goals, student populations, and other features.  We then consider briefly how CLA overlaps with two sets of standards used widely by U.S. writing teachers: the Common Core Standards for English/Language Arts (CCSS ELA) and the Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing (FSPW). We also consider ways to ensure that our courses and units are accessible and inclusive, drawing on Universal Design for Learning (UDL). I conclude by discussing how I took UDL into account in a “Language and Social Justice” unit I co-taught for 7th-10th graders.

Chapter 9 considers how we can infuse CLA into our classroom instruction no matter what the curricular content—including within highly constrained teaching situations. We first look at the relevance of CLA to facilitating class discussion—including managing some of the difficult dynamics that emerge when we talk about sensitive or controversial topics. We then consider how CLA might inform the way we scaffolding academic reading and oral presentations, as well as how we structure and facilitate peer review. We conclude by considering how CLA might inform our feedback and evaluation practices, including how we attend to language issues in student writing.

Chapter 10 explores how we can apply CLA to our educational work beyond the classroom. We briefly review research on how to assess students’ development of CLA, beyond their growth as writers. We then discuss how CLA might shape our curricular and co-curricular offerings, our faculty development work, and our institutional work in relation to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). The final section of the chapter–“CLA for Life!” –highlights some of the ways CLA might be relevant to our lives beyond our professional work.