Daily Archives: October 25, 2007

NCTE Articles & Dr. Mahar

In the September issue of the NCTE English Journal, I found the Hasset & Schieble article on p. 62 and the Moynihan article on p. 69 to be very integral to Dr. Mahar’s presentation in 541 on 10/23. 

For those of you who were not present at Dr. Mahar’s presentation on unit planning and new forms of classroom media, a few quick points can give you a taste of her delivery:

  • Unit planning is missing “zip” when the major class project involves writing, and writing alone.  Even if your students are creating award-winning compositions that are worthy of being published, something is still missing.
  • Students should incorporate several genres into one project.  For example, a narrative oral history combined with a poem and a picture or graphic can pave the way for genre switching.  Ultimately, the “zip” is created.
  • Introduce picture books, comic strips and photo shop into your classroom.  Enhance the written word with visual cues.

For those of us in 506, these concepts are not new as we have been exploring digital design all semester.  However, I see continual affirmation of these ideas in so many scholarly journals that are available to us, whether hunting for them on my own or reading them as part of class assignments.  In the NCTE English Journal, Hassett and Schieble present a flip-flopped notion of picture illustrations in text.  They argue that words are now illustrating pictures, and that visual literary instruction “examines images as complex texts in their own right” (p.63).  This idea implies that the printed word is merely a tool for delivering the meaning of the picture, which introduces a complete role-reversal between pictures and words in the classroom.  This empowerment of pictures is only carried further by Moynihan’s NCTE article, which holds a mirror up to the kind of work that Dr. Mahar did with her middle school unit on “The Courage To Care.”  Moynihan’s project called for a written paper on collectible items, dependent upon the incorporation of interviews and key pictures with wrap-around text.  Similarly, Dr. Mahar’s one-page oral history on an influential community member was dependent upon interviews, pictures and visual symbols of that person. 

Both Moynihan and Mahar write about giving voice to the people who don’t have voice.  Multimodal projects that empower pictures, design and creativity draw that voice out from the white and black pages of ordinary text.  The new objective, then, is to teach kids how to select just the right word to describe the big picture, instead of choosing the right picture to illustrate endless paragraphs of words.  How fitting then, to end my thoughts on visual literacy by calling to mind Pink’s discussion of symphony.  Harmonizing key words with key images is a new kind of writing that all students must know how to compose.  What precipitates is a new voice among a new generation of learners.  Tonya Perry and Anne-Carter Finch said it best when they wrote, “Each generation has its voice, its language, its way of seeing the world.  Can you dig it?”



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