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Art as Mediating Tool for Literacy Identity Transformation:

Pedagogy for Literacy-Rich and Equitable Access Classrooms



Ellen Spitler, Ph.D.
University of Hawaii at Mnoa

Louise Shaw, M.Ed.
Central Connecticut State University

Literacy Research Association Conference
December 5, 2013


Welcome and Aloha!
Please pick up a piece of large paper, art materials that intrigue you,
and copies of the session handouts.

Art is the social technique of emotion, a tool of society which brings the most
intimate and personal aspects of our being into the circle of social life (Vygotsky, as
cited in Moran & John-Steiner, 2003 p. 62).
spitlere@hawaii.edu louiseshaw62@aol.com
Art as Mediating Tool for Literacy Identity Transformation:
Pedagogy for Literacy-Rich and Equitable Access Classrooms

Multimodal texts (multiple forms of representation) are cultural artifacts produced by
a society to make sense of and illustrate the world (Dewey, 1934; Gee, 2003; Eisner,
2002; Kress & van Leeuwen, 2006).

Art as a tool for literacy identity transformation can be a deliberate attempt to
broaden [the] understanding of literacy and literacy teaching and learning to include
negotiating a multiplicity of discoursesto extend the idea and scope of literacy
pedagogy to account for our culturally and linguistically diverse and increasingly
globalized societies[and to] account for the burgeoning variety of text forms
associated with information (The New London Group, 2000, p. 9).
spitlere@hawaii.edu louiseshaw62@aol.com
Art as Mediating Tool for Literacy Identity Transformation:
Pedagogy for Literacy-Rich and Equitable Access Classrooms

spitlere@hawaii.edu louiseshaw62@aol.com
My battle with anorexia and
bulimia changed the course of
my life. This autobiography
made me realize that the very
fears that plunged me into
this way of thinking were still
hindering me today. I realize
now what a major influence
my disease has had on my
literacy. Julianna
(pseudonym; preservice math
teacher during study)
Literacy Autobiography & Self-Portrait Project:
Re-presentation of self to transform knowledge of literacy
An instructional engagement is an open-
ended (opportunity) so learners can provide a
variety of responses based on their own
experiences (and allow) each student to see
him or herself as a valuable member of the
learning community
(Short, Harste & Burke, 1996, p. 319).
You will render your literacy experiences in:

(1) a written autobiography and
(2) a multimodal re-presentation of your
literacy self [using various art materials to
represent each literacy experience written
about in the autobiography].
meaning-makers remake themselves. They reconstruct and
renegotiate their identities (The New London Group, 2000, p. 23).
Literacy Autobiography
Think over your literacy experiences ~ moments when reading [print,
visual, multimodal texts], writing/composing, speaking, thinking, visualizing,
representing, have been powerful for you in some way. Here are some
prompts that might assist your memory:

Describe a time when reading, writing, speaking, representing and/or
visualizing were really good/bad for you.

What are the kinds of reading, writing, speaking, thinking, representing,
and visualizing do you do inside and outside of school? [What are your
literate practices?]

What is important to you in your life? How do literate practices connect
with what is important?
An instructional engagement is an open-ended (opportunity) so learners can provide a variety of responses based on their
own experiences (and allow) each student to see him or herself as a valuable member of the learning community (Short,
Harste & Burke, 1996, p. 319).
Please write on one side of the large paper for 10 minutes ~ try to write about a few
literacy experiences.
Literacy Self-Portrait
Review the literacy experiences you just wrote about and choose 2-3 that
you believe to be most important/powerful.

On the other side of the large paper, please create a literacy self-
portrait, re-presenting those literacy experiences using the provided art
materials.

An instructional engagement is an open-ended (opportunity) so learners can provide a variety of responses based on their
own experiences (and allow) each student to see him or herself as a valuable member of the learning community (Short,
Harste & Burke, 1996, p. 319).
Literacy Self-Portrait
Review the literacy experiences you just wrote about and choose 2-3 that
you believe to be most important/powerful.

On the other side of the large paper, please create a literacy self-
portrait, re-presenting those literacy experiences using the provided art
materials.

How does each chosen art material represent the literacy
moment/experience about which you have written? How are those
connected?

Please strive to compose a self-portrait that illustrates your face or
entire bodyfeel very free to be creative in the re-presentation process.
An instructional engagement is an open-ended (opportunity) so learners can provide a variety of responses based on their
own experiences (and allow) each student to see him or herself as a valuable member of the learning community (Short,
Harste & Burke, 1996, p. 319).
Please create for 10 minutes.
Literacy Autobiography & Self-Portrait
In your small groups, please:

Find out who in your group traveled the farthest to attend LRA = that person will
share first
Share the literacy experiences written about in your autobiography and how you re-
presented them in your self-portrait
As you listen to each presenter, note ideas for one of the following guiding
questions of visual discourse analysis (Albers, 2013):

1. How is language used to communicate (use of technique, design, color, etc.)
2. How do (or might) viewers respond to the context of the text (composition)?
3. What is revealed about the textmaker through the image (attention to discourses
and systems of meaning that underpin the visual text)?
4. How does art act as a force on viewers to encourage particular actions or beliefs
(use and organization of image; discourses that underpin the text)?
Time to share:
Please arrange yourselves in small groups of FOUR.
Please discuss as a group for 10 minutes.
We will prompt you to switch speakers.
Autobiography &
Self-Portrait Project:
students explore &
compose literacy
self in written and
multimodal forms
Oral Presentation &
Listeners Sheet:
Next dimension of
complexity Verbal
opportunity to share
self;
Comprehension
strategy to guide note-
taking transactions
with language
Comparative Analysis
& Comprehension and
Discussion
Instructional
Strategies:
Academic language
situated in explorations
of self complexity
intensifies
Art as Mediating Tool for Literacy Identity Transformation:
Pedagogy for Literacy-Rich and Equitable Access Classrooms
Ellen Spitler, PhD
University of Hawaii at Manoa
spitlere@hawaii.edu
Each literacy engagement asks
students [youth, preservice and
inservice teachers] to produce
artifacts of language [written,
visual, verbal] that increase in
linguistic complexity with each
task, honoring their voices,
building community for equity,
and supporting literacy and
academic language
transformation.
Autobiography & Self-Portrait Project Presentations
spitlere@hawaii.edu
After the oral presentations:

Students choose one peer whose presentation
resonated most powerfully for them and write a
note to that person.
Students share their notes, or some content of the
notes, with the whole class.
Students pass the notes to each other.

Curriculum:

Analysis: Students write a comparative analysis
[comparing their life to a peers based on the
presentations], construct a thesis statement, use
textual evidence from the presentations, etc.
Practical implications: Preservice teachers write
a reflection of the experience, connecting it to
theory and exploring how they can incorporate the
work into their future classrooms.
Research Questions
spitlere@hawaii.edu
1. What are preservice teachers perceptions of the influential power of an artistic
multimodal self-portrait project designed to support literacy identity
transformation and conscious membership in a literacy learning community of
practice?

1. How do preservice teachers utilize their own experiences with art instructional
engagements when designing future literacy curriculum?
Perspectives:
Theoretical
Framework
spitlere@hawaii.edu
Sociocultural and constructivist psychology theoretical assumptions, particularly
in connection with literacy/literacy instruction and multiple forms of representation
[multimodality], and teacher education literature focused on teacher
identity transformation
(Alsup, 2006; Alvermann & Heron, 2001; Danielewicz, 2001; Dewey, 1934; Eisner,
2002; Freire, 2003; Freire & Macedo, 1987; Gee, 2003, 2008; Kress, 2003, 2006;
Kress & van Leeuwen, 2007; Lave & Wenger, 1991; Moje, 2000; Moll & Greenberg,
1990; Moran & John-Steiner, 2003; New London Group, 2000; Sanders & Albers,
2010; Short, Harste & Burke, 1996; Stake, 1995; Vygotsky, 1978).
Methodology and
Data Sources
spitlere@hawaii.edu
Methodology

Qualitative phenomenological approach (Merriam, 1998; Purcell-Gates, 2004)
Descriptive case study (Merriam, 1998)
Constant comparative method for analysis (Bogdan & Biklen, 2007)

Data Sources

Comprehension strategy pre- and post-assessments
Literacy autobiography reflection
Lesson planning coaching sessions
Written communication [email]

Teacher Literacy
Identity
Transformation
spitlere@hawaii.edu
Results, Conclusions, Interpretations

Definition of teacher literacy identity: A confident view of self as responsible for and
in control of improving the literacy learning of self, and the confidence and
competency to enact engagements to guide the literacy learning of students (Spitler,
2009).

Three dimensions of teacher literacy identity:
(1) Construct of literacy embracing an extended notion of literacy as more
than the ability to read and write print-based text
(2) Construct of literacy in practice a conscious decision to put into action
the construct of literacy [in extended notion]
(3) Quality of the literacy enactment metacognitive contemplation of the
literacy engagements designed and faciliated

Teacher Literacy
Identity
Transformation
spitlere@hawaii.edu All names are pseudonyms
Results, Conclusions, Interpretations:
Influence of art on construct of literacy

When I first received this assignment, I did not want to do the drawing (art). I think I
lacked the self-confidence in my drawing, just as a typical student might. The
drawing evolved and grew to be more complex and attached (Bella, preservice
science).

I cant say I really considered how much my literacy has impacted my life until now,
but the journey has been amazing (Christy, preservice social studies).


Teacher Literacy
Identity
Transformation
spitlere@hawaii.edu All names are pseudonyms
Results, Conclusions, Interpretations:
Influence of art on construct of literacy

The most surprising thing about writing this autobiography was how literacy has
been such an integral part of my life. When I first read the assignment for this
project I had no idea what I was going to write. Since I stopped reading for fun for
the most part when I was about 12, I did not feel like I had much to draw from. Then
I started to think about the more extended definition of literacy and how it could
apply to my experiences as a musician and a human being (Lisa, preservice music
teacher).

Lisa later designed and facilitated a modified autobiography and self-portrait project
in her 5-8 grade classroom: Album of My Life.


Teacher Literacy
Identity
Transformation
spitlere@hawaii.edu All names are pseudonyms
Results, Conclusions, Interpretations:
Influence of art on construct of literacy

Lisa later designed and facilitated a modified autobiography and self-portrait project
in her 5-8 grade classroom: Album of My Life.

This makes me rethink all kids because I started to wonder more about them. Its
easy to forget that theyre human when it seems like the kid does something that
makes you really mad or when they seem to be doing everything possible to make
your life horrible. You stop trying to see the human being inside them (Lisa,
inservice music teacher).


Teacher Literacy
Identity
Transformation
spitlere@hawaii.edu All names are pseudonyms
Results, Conclusions, Interpretations:
Influence of art on construct of literacy

At this point in my journey I know for certain that every assignment has been crucial
to my content area literacy growth. All of the strategies, and the literacy
autobiography have been catalysts serving to transform my academic identity from
student to content area literacy teacher (Julianna, preservice math teacher).

It was through the introduction of an unfamiliar term, literacy, that I was able to look
at my role as a future teacher differently. It made me redefine literacyI was
completely ignorant of the definition of the word (Bob, preservice math teacher).

Teacher Literacy
Identity
Transformation
spitlere@hawaii.edu All names are pseudonyms
Results, Conclusions, Interpretations:
Influence of art on construct of literacy

These autobiographies are like therapy. I think I had a lot of these thoughts running
around in my head, but they grew more powerful as I articulated them in my written
autobiography and self-portrait project (Bob, preservice math teacher).

Bob later designed and facilitated modified autobiography and self-portrait projects
in his algebra classroom: My Prime Factors [algebra]; Graphing Myself [algebra
1].

Teacher Literacy
Identity
Transformation
spitlere@hawaii.edu All names are pseudonyms
Results, Conclusions, Interpretations:
Influence of art on construct of literacy

This project affected me on many levels personally, intellectually, spiritually, and
professionally. It is the most community/trust-building endeavor I have ever
experienced. I am convinced that this is the only genuine way to accomplish any
serious work in the classroom (Julianna, preservice math teacher).

In my future classroom I will introduce this type of project at the beginning of the year.
We will use our literacy and cultural background information to think and Ill ask the
students how they view literacy and cultures. Literacy is not just in my lessons. I take
this into my own life and everything I process. Theres more of an analysis into what I
do (Roxanne, preservice Spanish teacher).

Autobiography & Self-Portrait Project
spitlere@hawaii.edu
Multiple Versions of autobiography & self-portrait:

Author autobiography for preservice English teachers in university methods course.

Literacy autobiography for pre- and inservice teachers in university disciplinary literacy
course.

Life autobiography for high school students = powerful moments that transformed
students in some way.

Modified autobiography & self-portrait: math, music, social studies, Spanish, chemistry,
ELA.

Personal Legend autobiography & self-portrait to support a thematic lit study of The
Alchemist ~ journey through the soul of the world and universal language [ELA
secondary classroom].

In support of CCSS personal narrative [expository unit]: 3 successful moments in your
life and 3 challenging moments in your life self-portraits created before writing
narrative [ELA secondary classroom] informational/argumentative.
Implications:
Play in the mess
spitlere@hawaii.edu


Vygotskys notion of play refers to experimental activity designed to create
possibilities and not to the idea that learning should involve (fun or) merriment
(Smagorinsky, 2009, p. 86).

One reason I think identity concerns are rarely addressed in teacher education
courses is that they are difficult to tackle, and are often uncomfortable for the
instructor or mentor to talk aboutthe process of identity development is difficult,
messy, and complex, and must be exactly this way to be successful (Alsup, 2006, pp.
4-5).