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.