Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Learning Outcomes and How We Met Them

English 295 is a much-dreaded course for many English majors. Writing Literary Criticism. Yuck. The BYU website describes it as a course to teach "how to address an academic audience, support arguments, and engage effectively in critical conversations about literature." Alright, that's not a bad start, but our class took these basic learning outcomes a step further. We wanted to consume literature in ways that are new to this digital age. We wanted to connect with--not just address--our academic audience. We wanted to create something worthwhile with all that we had learned, discussed, and analyzed. And we did.

Our blog posts bear witness to our unordinary methods of consuming our literature of choice. Some listened to audiobooks; others read eBooks; still others watched movies or read comic books or fan fiction. I went a more "traditional" route and read my digital culture book, Remix, online. We went on to consume what others had said about our books (consuming their interpretations of their own consumption), reading sometimes less-than-scholarly interactions with the text. Significantly, though, we also immersed ourselves in literary scholarship by learning more about the traditional research process through BYU's library. This was an important part of our consumption, and one not to be overlooked. It also directly fulfilled the course's goal of engaging in critical conversations about literature, because sometimes it's a lot easier to find those critical conversations in bona fide scholarship than it is in the overwhelmingly plentiful opinions online.

It was time to connect, to truly engage in these conversations. First, I read my novel of choice, Where the Red Fern Grows, on my own, but I was sure to ask everyone I talked with if they had read the book and what they had thought about it. Thus, I eased myself into the waters of critical conversation. My first major connection outside of the class and outside of my friends, though, was with Israel Sanchez, a professional illustrator who had created some artistic depictions of Where the Red Fern Grows. Because my thesis centered around the pedagogy of language arts classrooms, I then reached out to language arts teachers and the educational community through forums and Goodreads discussion threads (and once or twice through an old-fashioned e-mail). My classmates acted similarly, collaborating with individuals who would have special interest or insight in their literary analyses. We connected with one another in a different manner, by posting links to one another's blogs and helping each other in the research process.

The success of our connections is evident, as previously mentioned, in our blog posts. But there is something bigger that sings glory to our ability to create, to create something that matters after all our consumption and connection: our class eBook. Yes, our blog posts were creations of sorts, but we wrote an eBook in a matter of weeks! I suppose you can hardly call an eBook physical, but we created something that is as tangible as the virtual world gets--a book! It has chapters and illustrations and a table of contents; we are the authors of something real. This is engaging effectively. This is addressing an academic audience. Through meeting the goals of our specific class--Writing about Literature in the Digital Age--we met the course goals more fully than administration could have ever conceived.

Monday, June 13, 2011

eBook Collaboration

I like to get things done. So, when Professor Burton asked every member of the marketing team to find 20 individuals to whom we could market our eBook, I was all over it.

Wait. Twenty? That's a lot.

After experiencing a moment of flustration (no, that is not a typo), I got to work. First, I thought about people I actually know, in the flesh, who might care about this eBook. The list was minimal. Then it was time to explore my online contacts that I have met through my collaboration particularly through this class. While I tried all term to reach out to individuals through the internet, this list, too, was minimal.

Time for a Google blog search. Turns out, lots of people are saying lots of things about eBooks. Specifically, there is a vast array of blogs on the use of eBooks in education. After several searches related to eBooks, education, and technology, I was able to find many potential readers. Potential readers who might even get pretty excited about what we're doing.

And then there was Diigo. Diigo was a goldmine of people who care about this stuff (naturally, since it's such a technology-rich environment). I was able to find several potential contacts whose interests, based on their bookmarks, perfectly align with the objectives of this class: collaboration, eBooks, education, literature, writing in the digital age; many were interested in these topics almost exclusively.

So, with those searches, a few homies, and a couple of teachers, I successfully found 20 potential readers for our eBook. Twenty plus one--me. Currently, our list of potential readers is at 155. Many of those readers are active online, sharing what they learn and what they read. All of those readers have homies. This eBook could really go places.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Another Educated, Probably Interested Audience

Richard West, my IP&T 286 professor (that's a class on teaching with technology for teaching majors), would absolutely love to hear about our eBook. Moreover, he has resources and connections that would probably help to further circulate our efforts to connect with a real audience. He's really into internet security, so he's a bit hard to find online, but I have his e-mail address, and I'm sure he'd be thrilled to hear from us.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

An Educated Audience

Erica Hartman of Hartman Instructional Technology Consulting would probably be interested in our eBook. Just a hunch.

Based on the blog of hers that I found, her occupation is directly related to exactly what we're interested in in this class: incorporating technology into education. Our educational purposes have been quite specific (writing about literature), but I'm sure she would be thrilled to learn about how we have used technology to consume, connect, and create. I am also confident that there are many others out there just like her. We just have to find them. As Dr. Burton has made abundantly clear, there is definitely an audience for this eBook.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Coon Dogs, Cartoons, and the English Classroom: How Where the Red Fern Grows Calls for Visual Representation and Why This Matters


"Championship Coon Hunt to be Held" by Israel Sanchez, 2010

"I don't see why we have to move to town to get an education," I said. "Hasn't Mama taught us how to read and write?"
"There's more to an education than just reading and writing," Papa said. "Much more." Wilson Rawls, Where the Red Fern Grows


Visual arts is necessary in English classrooms; it allows for greater communication than writing alone, especially when enhanced by digital collaboration.


Communicating the Emotionality of a Text


Billy, the young coon-hunting protagonist of Wilson Rawls' Where the Red Fern Grows, witnesses the gruesome death of Rubin, a boy from his boondocks community."Scared, not knowing what to do, I called for Rainie. I got no answer. I called his name again and again. I could get no reply. My voice echoed in the darkness of the silent night. A cold chill ran over my body. I suppose it is natural at a time like that for a boy to think of his mother. I thought of mine. I wanted to get home" (Rawls).


I just read Where the Red Fern Grows for the seventh or eight time in my life (it's a childhood favorite) so that I could research it and write about it for my class, Writing about Literature in the Digital Age. Often as I read, though, I forgot to think about it as literature as I was caught up in the emotionality of the text. "It is natural at a time like that for a boy to think of his mother." 



Out of curiosity regarding how readers react to this children's novel filled with weighty issues such as love, death, and family relationships, I began to research informal online responses to Where the Red Fern Grows. I looked through Facebook groups. I read tweets. I read book reviews on Goodreads and various other online forums. I searched blogs that mentioned the book and I asked almost everyone I had a conversation with if they had read the book and what they thought of it. I was disappointed in the surface-level responses I got from each of these sources. In my blog post, "Using Art to Interpret Art" I mention how frustrating it was to hear "What a sad book" over and over and over again. While Where the Red Fern Grows is an easy read, it is replete with feeling--it is full of opportunities to connect with the text in a meaningful, personal way and to explore the intricacies of human emotion and, even, interspecies relationships. Words, at least the words I found in informal online settings, were inadequate at expressing the readers' emotions.

These frustrating findings were a pivotal point in my research process.




I decided to see if the internet could provide any visual representations of Where the Red Fern Grows that might be more meaningful than the shallow commentary I was finding in written words. I ran across some art by illustrator Israel Sanchez inspired by the novel, and I was moved by the emotion in even his cartoonish depictions (see illustration above and see citation for URL). The picture at the heading of this chapter is a fine example of his work. In the written text, as Billy asks for permission from his father to attend the big coon hunt with his grandfather, the hopeful yearning of the adolescent is palpable through the pages. Similarly, in Israel Sanchez's piece, Billy's earnest dream--and any dream of any boy that age--is clearly demonstrated in his cherubic upward gaze at his father. 


I e-mailed the artist, and he gave me permission to share his art on my blog, thanking me warmly for my interest in his art and the way he was using it to express his interaction with the work. Thanks to his connection to literature through art, then his connection to others through the internet, I was led to research school projects (typically junior high) that incorporated visual art into the study of Where the Red Fern Grows. As a future high school teacher, I quickly developed a theory that I was thirsty to prove: Visual arts is beneficial for students of secondary education as they study language arts. Indeed, the two arts should not be separated because both textual and visually artistic reactions to the text are legitimate means of interacting with it. Where the Red Fern Grows is particularly appropriate for visual representation because of the strong emotions of the plot that sometimes overshadow meaningful themes and, somehow, dissuade mature written interactions with the text.


Visual Representations and Educational Implications


So, having my theory that involved education, I decided my best course of action would be to use the internet to contact teachers on the topic. Through several forums targeted to teachers and a discussion I started on Goodreads, I received responses that, for the most part, corroborated my thesis. Various teachers agreed that language arts can be enriched by visual arts, and they encouraged me to continue to pursue this line of thinking (Whitaker, "Responses"). One woman named Cheryl responded on Goodreads that I should consider offering students a choice when I create visual assignments because "some may not be comfortable responding visually" (Whitaker, "The Incorporation"). I assert that if all students should be expected to create written work, and assuming that visual creation is proven beneficial to the learning process, all students can reasonably be expected to create and consume visual work.   

There are scholarly sources that agree with this viewpoint. Two articles by Zoss and Lin, respectively, state very clearly that visual arts should be a part of mainstream subjects, particularly language arts. I simply wish to take this a step further. Visual arts enriches the study of literature by allowing a greater range of communication, which is especially helpful when exploring highly emotional texts such as Where the Red Fern Grows.



The Digitization of a Visual Classroom


Now, this is important. This is the crux of my research. But there is an underlying significance to how I did my research, how I found the art, how I found the lesson plans, how I communicated with Israel, how I reached out to fellow educators, and how I shared what I learned. It was all done online. Even the student art that I found was online. Yes, I read the primary text from a printed book, but most of my interaction with it was virtual. This says much about my learning process as a college student, but that is not what I am researching. Now, after becoming thoroughly convinced that visual arts is a necessary component of a secondary language arts classroom, I am faced with another question: Is technology a necessary part of this visual interaction?


I love the traditional English classroom. I love the smell of books and sitting in a circle, discussing literature. I love markerboards and notebook paper and that wall-mounted pencil sharpener that sounds as though we're sharpening our pencils with a chainsaw. But, considering the richness of my digital interaction with Where the Red Fern Grows, I can't just forsake technology when I am a teacher in my own classroom. Especially when scholarly sources indicate that technology enhances learning.


The article "Utilizing the Internet to Facilitate Classroom Learning," by Jan Tucker and Bari Courts, states that, "There is a push to increase the efficiency of learning and the transfer and facilitation of knowledge. Technology enhanced learning environments improve the learning experience by promoting cooperation, collaboration, and self-sufficiency in learners." Cooperation, collaboration, and self-sufficiency. Couple that with a visually-rich classroom, which enriches communication, and the level of student interest is bound to increase. Therefore, technology and visual arts are both key components of a great language arts classroom, and just as I saw the two coincide in my research, they should be interwoven in school.


Bringing It All Together


Why does this all matter? My research on a single book, Where the Red Fern Grows, done through a single--though highly diverse--medium (the internet), led me to a single driving thesis: Visual arts is necessary in the study of language arts. How I arrived at this conclusion, though, is as significant as the idea itself when one considers its implications. My ability to access the thoughts of artists, teachers, and typical readers was made possible by the internet. My ability to share my own ideas and get feedback from a variety of interested individuals was similarly a product of technology. The way I learned about educational interaction with Where the Red Fern Grows suggests that secondary education students, too, can benefit from the richness of digital collaboration. Instead of one-dimensional, read-the-book-and-be-able-to-discuss-it English classrooms, students should be immersed in environments of visual and textual intellectualism, coupled with meaningful collaboration that the digital age makes possible.









Amy Whitaker is an English Teaching major at Brigham Young University who runs by day and reads by night.



Sources Cited


Lin, Chia-Hui. "Literary Instruction Through Communicative and Visual Arts." Teacher Librarian 32.5, 2005. p. 25. Web. 2 Jun 2011.


Rawls, Wilson. Where the Red Fern Grows. NY: Laurel-Leaf, 1961. Print.


Sanchez, Israel. "Red Fern Color Comps." Picture Book Report. Web. 6 Jun 2011. http://picturebookreport.com/category/where-the-red-fern-grows/



Tucker, Jan and Courts, Bari. "Utilizing the Internet to Facilitate Classroom Learning." Journal of College Teaching and Learning 7.7. Littleton: Jul 2010. p. 37-43. Web. 6 May 2011.


Whitaker, Amy. "Responses to My Public Questions on Visual Arts." Blogger. 1 Jun 2011. Web. 7 May 2011. http://amywhitakerwrites.blogspot.com/2011/06/responses-to-my-public-questions-on.html 


Whitaker, Amy. "The Incorporation of Visual Arts in a Language Arts Classroom." Goodreads. 27 May 2011. Web. 7 May 2011. http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/563335-the-incorporation-of-visual-arts-in-a-language-arts-classroom#comment_id_31040075


Whitaker, Amy. "Using Art to Interpret Art." Blogger. 16 May 2011. Web. 6 May 2011.  http://amywhitakerwrites.blogspot.com/2011/05/using-art-to-interpret-art.html

Zoss, Michelle. "Visual Arts and Literacy." Handbook of Adolescent Literacy Research. NYC: Guilford Press, 2009. Web. 25 May 2011.


Monday, June 6, 2011

Score!

I got permission from Israel Sanchez to use his art in our eBook!

Coon Dogs, Cartoons, and the English Classroom: How Where the Red Fern Grows Calls for Visual Representation and Why This Matters

Billy, the young coon-hunting protagonist in Wilson Rawls' Where the Red Fern Grows, just witnessed the gruesome death of Rubin, boy from his boondocks community, while Billy was on a hunt with him and his brother. "Scared, not knowing what to do, I called for Rainie. I got no answer. I called his name again and again. I could get no reply. My voice echoed in the darkness of the silent night. A cold chill ran over my body. I suppose it is natural at a time like that for a boy to think of his mother. I thought of mine. I wanted to get home" (Rawls).


I read Where the Red Fern Grows for the seventh or eight time in my life (it's a childhood favorite) so that I could research it and write about it for my class, Writing about Literature in the Digital Age. Often, though, I forgot to think about it as literature as I was caught up in the emotionality of the text. "It is natural at a time like that for a boy to think of his mother." How stirring!


I began to research the reactions of Where the Red Fern Grows on an informal basis. I looked through Facebook groups. I read tweets. I read book reviews on Goodreads and various other online forums. I searched blogs that mentioned the book and I asked almost everyone I had a conversation with if they had read the book and what they thought of it. I was disappointed in the surface-level responses I got from each of these sources. In my blog post, "Using Art to Interpret Art" I mentioned how frustrating it was to hear "What a sad book" over and over and over again. While Where the Red Fern Grows is an easy read, it is replete with emotion--it is full of opportunities to connect with the text in a meaningful, personal way and to explore the intricacies of human emotion and, even, interspecies relationships. Words, at least the words I found in informal online settings, were inadequate at expressing the readers' emotions.

This frustrated post was a pivotal point in my research process.




I decided to see if there were any visual representations of Where the Red Fern Grows that might be more meaningful than the shallow commentary I was finding in written words. I ran across some art by illustrator Israel Sanchez inspired by the novel, and I was moved by the emotion in even his cartoonish depictions. I e-mailed the artist, and he gave me permission to share his art on my blog, thanking me warmly for my interest in his art and the way he was using it to express his interaction with the work. Thanks to his connection to literature through art, then his connection to others through the internet, I was led to research school (typically junior high) projects that incorporated visual art into the study of Where the Red Fern Grows. As a future high school teacher, I quickly developed a theory that I was thirsty to prove: Visual arts is beneficial for students of secondary education as they study language arts. Indeed, the two arts should not be separated because both textual and visually artistic reactions to the text are legitimate means of interacting with it.


So, having a theory that I was thirsty to prove that involved teachers, I decided my best course of action would be to contact teachers on the topic. Through several forums targeted to teachers and a discussion I started on Goodreads, I received responses that, for the most part, corroborated my thesis. One woman named Cheryl responded on Goodreads that I should consider offering students a choice when I create visual assignments because "some may not be comfortable responding visually." She did go on to admit that maybe pushing students out of their comfort zone was appropriate.    
There are scholarly sources that agree with this viewpoint. Two articles by Zoss and Lin, respectively, state very clearly that visual arts should be a part of mainstream subjects, particularly language arts. I simply wish to take this a step further. Visual arts enriches the study of literature by allowing a greater range of communication, which is especially helpful when exploring highly emotional texts such as Where the Red Fern Grows.



Now, this is important. This is the crux of my research. But there is an underlying significance to how I did my research, how I found the art, how I found the lesson plans, how I communicated with Israel, how I reached out to fellow educators, and how I shared what I learned. It was all done online. Even the student art that I found was online. Yes, I read the primary text from a printed book, but most of my interaction with it was virtual. This says much about my learning process as a college student, but that is not what I am researching. Now, after becoming thoroughly convinced that visual arts is a necessary component of a language arts classroom, I am faced with another question: Is technology a necessary part of this visual interaction?


I love the traditional English classroom. I love the smell of books and sitting in a circle, discussing literature. I love markerboards and notebook paper and that wall-mounted pencil sharpener that sounds as though we're sharpening our pencils with a chainsaw. But, considering the richness of my digital interaction with Where the Red Fern Grows, I can't just forsake technology when I am a teacher in my own classroom. Especially when scholarly sources indicate that technology enhances learning.


The article "Utilizing the Internet to Facilitate Classroom Learning," by Jan Tucker and Bari Courts, states that, "There is a push to increase the efficiency of learning and the transfer and facilitation of knowledge. Technology enhanced learning environments improve the learning experience by promoting cooperation, collaboration, and self-sufficiency in learners." Cooperation, collaboration, and self-sufficiency. Couple that with a visually-rich classroom, and the level of student interest is bound to increase. Therefore, technology and visual arts are both key components of a great language arts classroom, and just as I saw the two coincide in my research, they should be interwoven in school.

I have spent my academic years writing single-strand scholarly papers, but these do not even begin to reflect what literary criticism can be in an age of digital literacy. If I had written a traditional scholarly paper for an audience of one (my professor), about Where the Red Fern Grows, this highly emotional children's novel, I probably would have come up with a thesis, I would have found sources that corroborate my initial impression of something I consider important in the text, and I would have tried to determine its significance on a grander scale. This might have been a fine paper. But writing about Where the Red Fern Grows in the digital age, using digital resources, I was able to reevaluate the emotionality of the text, recognize the legitimacy of visually artistic responses to the book, and study how visual arts might be used to study it in a secondary education classroom. All of this matters much more to me in my future career as an English teacher than does any theme, device, or oddity I would have decided to delve into on my own.

Simply stated, looking at the digital world of Where the Red Fern Grows--particularly a visual world of artistic interpretations--before looking at the printed text itself influenced my research, my ideas, and my ultimate thesis. Going about my research in this manner allowed me to see the novel in a unique light. More importantly, though, it led me to new pedagogical ideals--it led me to a thesis that I will continue to actively pursue and, assuming I find it consistently accurate, incorporate into my future career as a teacher.



Lin, Chia-Hui. "Literary Instruction Through Communicative and Visual Arts." Teacher Librarian 32.5, 2005. p. 25. Web. 2 Jun 2011.


Rawls, Wilson. Where the Red Fern Grows. NY: Laurel-Leaf, 1961. Print.


Tucker, Jan and Courts, Bari. "Utilizing the Internet to Facilitate Classroom Learning." Journal of College Teaching and Learning 7.7. Littleton: Jul 2010. p. 37-43. Web. 6 May 2011.


Zoss, Michelle. "Visual Arts and Literacy." Handbook of Adolescent Literacy Research. NYC: Guilford Press, 2009. Web. 25 May 2011.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Potential (Creative Commons Approved) Artwork for My Chapter

This one might be a bit scandalous. Roy Blumenthal, 2006. "Scientist Reading."

Maybe this contradicts my thesis. Maybe not. I can't decide. Senor Codo, 2000. "Back to School Show: Classroom Board."

I like this one a lot. Amy Guth, 2009. "Poster in Art Room."

This one is pretty direct in its application to my chapter. San Jose Library, 2009. "A Child with His Origami Creations."

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Responses to My Public Questions on Visual Arts

In an effort to target an audience of teacher-readers, I posted a question regarding the use of visual arts in language arts classrooms. So far, I've only had one response, but I'll take it! Here's our conversation:


Where the Red Fern Grows Where the Red Fern Grows question



9 views
The Incorporation of Visual Arts in a Language Arts Classroom (edit)
Amy Whitaker Amy May 27, 2011 02:07pm
I am a senior English Teaching student at Brigham Young University, and I am currently taking a class that focuses on writing about literature in the digital age. This class have given me the opportunity to research aspects of an independently chosen novel that are relevant to me. As a future teacher of language arts, I wanted to focus on an old childhood favorite, Where the Red Fern Grows.

Through my research I have become highly interested in visual interactions with the text; that is, I have come to believe that a language-only reaction to Where the Red Fern Grows (a written or oral response) falls flat when compared with visual arts reactions. Written responses (including Facebook and Twitter feeds) are often, "It is such a sad book." Visual responses, I have found, are much richer. (See http://picturebookreport.com/category/wh...).

Now, here is what I would like to know. Have any of you had any experience with teaching Where the Red Fern Grows in your English or language arts classroom? Did you incorporate any visual arts into the lesson plan (including pictures (painted, taken by a camera, whatever), sculptures, videos, etc.)? Was it beneficial in the students' interaction with the story? Any thoughts, ideas, or experiences will be greatly appreciated.




I was an Educational Assitant once and they viewed the film, don't know if they used it as a Language Arts theme. My daughter was at a school where the children would either be read books, or read the books themselves then would draw a picture incorporating what their visual interpretation of the book was. I thought that was a brilliant concept. Hope this helps.

5346952
Amy Whitaker Thanks so much, Robin! That is very helpful.
May 27, 2011 02:19pm · delete



I also received a response to a question I posted on the English Teachers Chatboard. Here's that:


    Re: Visual Arts in the Literary Study of Where the Red Fern 
    Posted by: Mae in Texas on 5/29/11 Visual imagery and the use of artifacts is an excellent way to introduce and support new ideas, concepts, and texts across the curriculum in all subject areas. The cover of the book (as well as picture books) is the artist's interpretation of the text. Visual aids are particularly helpful to ESL & SPED students who struggle with language and reading. One of the key strategies readers use is visualization or the envisioning of text like a painting/photograph or movie. Many of your nonreaders have never learned to create visuals in their minds as they read. One way to help them visualize is to provide them with visual aids. You have some good thinking. Keep on this path. Mae Next Post >>
Clearly, other people care about the topic, which is extremely rewarding to see, not to mention encouraging as I continue to pursue greater understanding of the implications of visual arts mixed with more traditional literary study.

Monday, May 30, 2011

eBooks and Education

The significant presence of eBooks in education is manifested simply but profoundly in this one experience: Upon beginning to Google "eBooks," the phrase "eBooks in education" appeared as a suggested search before I made it any farther than "eBoo." Clearly, this is a major industry, or, at least, there is a major push for the use of eBooks in education.

The Dr. Scavanaugh education technology webpage says that "it is now possible to have a library in every classroom or even in your pocket." Consider the import of such a capability! Just three years ago, as a senior in high school, I was in classrooms with insufficient textbooks; in some classes I couldn't even take my books home to study. In English class the classroom's several bulky copies of Webster's Dictionary sat in a shelf in the front of the room, available to two or three students at a time, and only if they were willing to make the walk. eBooks, stored on portable devices that are growing increasingly less expensive, can provide stores of knowledge that were previously inaccessible to money-strapped public schools.

There are scholarly sources that discuss the use of eBooks in secondary education, as well. In her article, "eBooks--Ready for School Libraries?" Marjorie Pappas discusses the advantages and limitations to eBooks in education, citing copyright laws as a major hindering force at this time. The advantages, of course, include greater accessibility and greater portability.

The renowned Christine Weber, suggests that eBooks might be used especially with gifted and advanced readers to provide great interaction with the text and a more personalized learning process ("Promoting Reading: Using eBooks with Gifted and Advanced Readers").

The vast majority of scholarly sources I found through the ERIC database regarding eBooks and education indicate that using eBooks in the classroom would be beneficial. Of course, it isn't easy to reform the way education has been handled for hundreds of years (with print resources), but eBooks provide many advantages that can't just be ignored.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Visual Arts and James Joyces' Dubliners

  • I'm going to use MLA Bibliography in order to research any visual arts associations with James Joyce's Dubliners to help classmate Ashley Nelson with her research.
  • I'm using MLA (Modern Language Association) International Bibliography, a "detailed bibliography of journal articles, books, book chapters and dissertations."
  • I did a simple search on the MLA site with the phrase Dubliners AND "visual arts." This search only pulled up two results, but I considered that a good thing.
  • Loss, Archie. "Seeing is Believing: Literate Visuals and Visual Literacy." Pennsylvania English 14.2, Spring-Summer 1990. 14-27. Web. 27 May 2011.
  • I actually could not access the actual article for this source, but it could be available through interlibrary loan. I am confident in the relevance of this source by the descriptors associated with it. The descriptors for this article that are relevant to my search are "James Joyce, Dubliners, relationship to visual arts, and pedagogical approach."
  • Ashley Nelson is diving into Dubliners, hoping to view it from various perspectives. A pedagogical perspective is one interesting way to look at a book, and because visual arts in the classroom is something that has come to interest me, and she helped me find a source for my research, I thought this would be of interest to her.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

"Dreams Can Come True": Why Wilson Rawls Would Believe in Visual Arts in the Classroom

  • I am using a database to learn more about Wilson Rawls, hoping to discover how he felt about elementary and secondary education and how he would feel about the use of visual arts in literary instruction.
  • Literature Resource Center (LRC). "Provides access to biographies, bibliographies, critical analysis, and web resources of authors from every age and literary discipline."
  • I simply typed "Wilson Rawls" into the basic search found on the LRC database website, and the first source I found worked with what I was looking for, so I didn't have to do an advanced search. 
  • The source is actually just an incredibly short letter from Wilson Rawls to "those who want to be writers," stating that dreams can come true and the way to become a writer is just to keep trying. Though this does not directly address visual arts or even education, per se, it reveals a lot about Wilson Rawls' personality and his attitude toward learning.
  • Wilson, Rawls. "Dreams Can Come True: A Special Message from Wilson Rawls." Idaho Falls Public Library (12 Sept. 2001). Rpt. in Children's Literature Review. Ed. Scot Peacock. Vol. 80. Detroit: Gale, 2002. Literature Resource Center. Web. 26 May 2011.
  • Wilson Rawls wrote a letter to those who want to be writers, encouraging them to write a lot and not worry about making mistakes.
  • Because I assert that using visual arts in literary instruction is beneficial for students of language arts, and I further assert that this technique would be especially useful in the study of Where the Red Fern Grows, I wanted to know how the late author, Wilson Rawls, would feel about this. Just based on this letter, I can tell that Wilson Rawls understood that there are many ways to achieve the same end--expression.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

My Forum Post

 I just posted this thread on the English Teachers Chatboard. Hopefully someone responds...

"Visual Arts in the Literary Study of Where the Red Fern Grows"

I am a senior English Teaching student at Brigham Young University, and I am currently taking a class that focuses on writing about literature in the digital age. This class have given me the opportunity to research aspects of an independently chosen novel that are relevant to me. As a future teacher of language arts, I wanted to focus on an old childhood favorite, Where the Red Fern Grows.

Through my research I have become highly interested in visual interactions with the text; that is, I have come to believe that a language-only reaction to Where the Red Fern Grows (a written or oral response) falls flat when compared with visual arts reactions. Written responses (including Facebook and Twitter feeds) are often, "It is such a sad book." Visual responses, I have found, are much richer. (See http://picturebookreport.com/category/where-the-red-fern-grows/).

Now, here is what I would like to know. Have any of you had any experience with teaching Where the Red Fern Grows in your English or language arts classroom? Did you incorporate any visual arts into the lesson plan (including pictures (painted, taken by a camera, whatever), sculptures, videos, etc.)? Was it beneficial in the students' interaction with the story? Any thoughts, ideas, or experiences will be greatly appreciated.

The Legitimacy of the Importance of Visual Arts in Reading Instruction

  • My purpose is to search the WorldCat database to find articles linking visual arts in reading instruction to literacy in order to legitimize my claim that, sometimes, particularly within the context of a book such as Where the Red Fern Grows, visual arts are a necessary component of a language arts classroom.
  • WorldCat. This is "a unified catalog of research libraries and public libraries throughout the world." It is "updated daily."
  • In the WorldCat search box I entered the phrases "visual arts" AND "reading" AND "literacy." This search resulted in 68 sources found. Scanning through them, I discovered many valid sources, but I was most interested in the Handbook of Adolescent Literacy Research. I could not get full digital text directly through the BYU website, but I was directed to Google Books, where I was able to get a full-text preview. Once here, I scanned through the index until I found a chapter that seemed especially relevant to my interests. Chapter 13, "Visual Arts and Literacy," was such a chapter.
  • Zoss, Michelle. "Visual Arts and Literacy." Handbook of Adolescent Literacy Research. NYC: Guilford Press, 2009. Web. 25 May 2011.
  • This article is about the integration of visual arts and language arts into one communicative curriculum within classrooms. The article mentions that visual arts is common in elementary instruction, but it could also be beneficial in secondary instruction because it is a natural means of communication that coincides with written communication.
  • The article is extremely relevant to my research because a) I am interested in the use of visual arts in secondary education and b) Where the Red Fern Grows is a novel that I believe is best explored using, as Zoss puts it, "multiple means for communication," which technique is legitimized in this article.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A New Pedagogical Passion

I decided to major in English Teaching because I love to write, I love to read, and I love to teach. Frankly, it is a major perfectly suited to my interests (besides my interest in money). I did not go into English Teaching because I felt strongly, at the time I determined my course of study, that visual arts is underrepresented in secondary education core classrooms and should be a serious part of language arts study. My research on Where the Red Fern Grows, strangely enough, has converted me into a visual arts advocate.

While searching ERIC, "the world's largest digital library of education literature," through the Harold B. Lee Library's website, using the boolean phrase "visual arts" AND "language arts," I discovered some highly interesting articles that indicate the importance of incorporating visual arts into a child's learning, even from an early age.

One such article, "Literary Instruction Through Communicative and Visual Arts," by Chia-Hui Lin, suggests that "using visual arts [including dramatic performance, comic books, television viewing, and more] in literacy instruction motivates students to become involved in the communicative arts [reading, writing, and speaking]."

Now, this pertains more to students learning how to read and write than it does the junior high and high school students I will be teaching. Nevertheless, this principle transcends the confines of age: If a student enjoys learning, more learning will take place. I have been blogging recently about how visual arts is an excellent way for readers to express their interaction with a text, especially with a book as emotional as Where the Red Fern Grows. Clearly, though, visual arts can do more than that. They can inspire students who aren't naturally into communicative arts to become interested in written expression because that written expression is interwoven with visual expression. Why make learning, even learning literature, one-dimensional!? Not only is that beneficial, it is disadvantageous for our students.

Yes, I believe that using visual arts in literary instruction can benefit students of secondary education in ways that have not been fully explored. I am going to continue to research the topic while exploring ways that teachers have done just this in their units of study around Where the Red Fern Grows.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Reading Aloud with a Knot in My Throat

When I'm an English teacher, I will probably have many opportunities to read literature out loud to my students. In my daily reading practices, though, the vast majority of my reading is silent. So, as I finished up reading Where the Red Fern Grows, I decided to challenge myself (emotionally) and read the second-to-last chapter--the tear jerker--audibly with a reading buddy.

For the record, I didn't cry. But my voice did get a bit strained when I read how Old Dan took his final breath with one last thump of his tail and a longing look at Billy. It wasn't easy to voice aloud Little Anne's devotion even unto death to her buddy, Old Dan, and Billy's heart-wrenching reaction to the deaths of his dogs.

Interestingly, reading the chapter out loud did more than expose my soft spot for a couple of good, loyal dogs. The text, which I have frequently admitted isn't masterfully written, sounds much more beautiful when spoken than when sounded only in my head. I'm not saying Where the Red Fern Grows is poetry, but it is written precisely as it would be spoken by a man who spent his childhood in the backwoods of the Ozarks, a man with a beautiful story that is perfect in its simplicity.


Creating visual art to represent interaction with the book is kind of like reading it out loud. It takes on a new, third dimension. Art is like the intonations in the reader's voice. Art is like the knot in my throat, a near-tangible demonstration of how the novel moves us.

Friday, May 20, 2011