Home > General Overview of the Competency Model > Modes of Cognitive Representation > The Social Mode > Social Background Knowledge

Literacy requires that people develop significant levels of background knowledge, not just about social situations in general, but also about the kinds of literacy practices in which they will be participating as readers and writers in our society. This knowledge can be broken down into the following main categories:
  • General background knowledge about people and their interactions, including an understanding of such key ideas as intentionality (goals, purposes, plans, and resulting social interactions), perspective (point of view, bias, and related concepts), and affect (feelings and emotions).
  • More specific background knowledge about how people communicate, including metalanguage for discussing social interaction, communication, and rhetorical and literary concepts.
  • Knowledge of key activity systems in which literacy comes into play including such things as public media (websites, newspapers, etc.), types of literature (novels, short stories, etc.), resources for research (libraries, books, magazine and journal articles), publication processes, and major written communication channels (letters, memoranda, e-mail, messaging systems, etc.).
  • Understanding of key roles they may be called upon to play in key literacy practices, including such roles as researcher, author, editor, reviewer, and proofreader.
  • Ability to use the major kinds of tools available to the literate individual, from basic tools such as paper and pencil or keyboard to more specialized tools such as the thesaurus and dictionary.
  • Practical understanding of key genres, or text types, which goes beyond the usual tripartite division of narration, exposition, and argumentation, to understanding the structure, purpose, and role of specific genres in the major activity systems that define literate interaction in our society.

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