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Telling stories: engaging critical literacy through urban legends in an English secondary school

Susan Jones (School of Education, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK)
Katie Chapman (Swanwick Hall School, Swanwick, UK)

English Teaching: Practice & Critique

ISSN: 1175-8708

Article publication date: 2 May 2017




Non-dominant voices have been further marginalised in the most recent national curriculum in England (DfE, 2014), and those working across the English teaching profession often find the subject framed according to narrow, assessment-driven models and prescribed skill sets. This paper aims to bring together two perspectives on the importance of literacy education that remains rooted in young people’s everyday experiences of place.


Chapman is a newly qualified secondary English teacher. She will share examples taken from her own classroom practice of the ways in which she has responded to stories told by young people about the places in which they live.


Jones is a tutor of initial teacher education (ITE). She suggests that Chapman’s approach provides persuasive exemplification of how engagement with alternatives to a dominant view of literacy should remain a key objective for those working with beginning teachers of English.


For Chapman’s students, urban legends are powerful texts which offer the means to explore what we do when we tell stories, both inside and outside the English classroom. As will be shown, such stories are telling examples of the resources young people can bring to critical literacy learning in current classrooms. In the context of the dominance of a narrow, mandated experience of English as a subject, the imperative becomes even greater to recognise stories such as those shared by Chapman’s students as opportunities for authentic, creative and critical engagement with text.



Jones, S. and Chapman, K. (2017), "Telling stories: engaging critical literacy through urban legends in an English secondary school", English Teaching: Practice & Critique, Vol. 16 No. 1, pp. 85-96.



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