“At-Risk” Adolescents: Redefining Literary Competence

Posted by mariamengel on July 19, 2011

image of Literacy Lab door

The Literacy Lab

To be labeled as “At-Risk”, a student will probably show signs of struggling in reading and writing.  According to the traditional definition of literacy, text, and writing, these students are often viewed as inept, lazy, or lacking in intelligence (O’Brien, 2001).

In the article titled “At-Risk Adolescents: Redefining Competence Through the Multiliteracies of Intermediality, Visual Arts, and Representation”, high school reading teacher David O’Brien discusses the various literary projects that his “at-risk” high school juniors have accomplished in their Literacy Lab (pictured above).

David O'Brien

Students who don’t conform to the traditional definition of “intelligent” or who don’t test well on their standardized tests may be overlooked in terms of talent and potential.  O’Brien tries to give his students an avenue to express their individuality while succeeding in school and researching projects that interest them.  The arts can be an outlet for students who “struggle” to live up to their reading level.  Projects like these give students the opportunity to build self confidence, realize their potential and talents, and may open up future career options or college opportunities.

O’Brien explains it beautifully:

“Having failed with print media and narrow definitions of literacy, they have found new voice in the multiliteracies of representation through a variety of media texts. The roots of this longing can be traced backed to these adolescents’ typical positioning as failures, as “special” yet outside the school community, as striving to be accepted and acknowledged. Second, at-risk adolescents can be viewed as public intellectuals in our new times, as astute visual artists who are using creative approaches to address the complexity of their world and are solving problems that they pose through a visual medium — whatever that medium my be.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: