ERIC Identifier: ED477612
Publication Date: 2003-12-00
Author: Lin, Chia-Hui
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Reading English and Communication Bloomington IN.
Literacy Instruction through Communicative and Visual Arts.
The purpose of this Digest is to explore the evidence suggesting the
effectiveness of literacy instruction through communicative and visual arts.
According to Flood, Heath, and Lapp (1997), visual arts includes everything from
dramatic performances, comic books, to television viewing. The communicative
arts, such as reading, writing, and speaking, exist as integrated elements in
the visual arts. These authors argued that using visual arts in literacy
instruction motivates students to become involved in the communicative arts. By
taking visual arts away from the communicative arts in the classroom, schools
would grow away from the fundamental skills that adults need to function in
TELEVISION AND MULTIPLE MEDIA AS INSTRUCTIONAL
Television viewing occupies a significant portion of students' lives.
Starting from preschool, American children spend more time watching television
than any other activity (Anderson, Field, Collins, Lorch, & Nathan, 1985, as
cited in Broek, 2001; Huston, Wright, Rice, Kerkman, & St. Peters, 1987, as
cited in Broek, 2001). Despite various negative effects associated with
television viewing, several studies demonstrate that TV can be an effective tool
in literacy instruction.
For very young children, some studies suggest there is an overlap between
children's pre-reading television viewing and their later reading skills. The
results reveal that children who were good at comprehending materials presented
via TV were also good at comprehending materials presented aurally (Broek,
2001). Research also showed that viewing educational television programs may be
beneficial to young children's literacy learning. The evaluation of the
television series "Between the Lions" on Public Broadcasting Service (PBS)
indicated that the kindergarteners who watched this series significantly
outperformed their non-viewing peers on the tasks of word knowledge, concepts of
print, phonemic awareness, and letter-sound knowledge (Strickland & Rath,
For older students, incorporating TV into reading instruction may motivate
reluctant readers and result in improved reading fluency. Koskinen, Wilson, and
Jensema (1985) used closed-captioned television programs with 35 second through
sixth grade remedial readers in an exploratory study. The anecdotal evidence
indicated that closed-captioned programs were effective in promoting the
learners' reading fluency. In Goldman and Goldman's study (1988), the audio
portion of TV programs were turned off and the high school remedial students
were motivated to read the captions in order to understand the story. Two recent
studies show that multimedia can also be an effective instructional tool in the
language arts classroom. One fourth grade teacher used television/videos in
conjunction with texts, using computers for information and writing, and other
reading/writing instruction (e.g., book clubs) to engage students in a language
arts unit (Lapp, Flood, & Fisher, 1999). Students' reading comprehension and
attention span increased, content knowledge was reinforced, and students had
more aesthetic responses. Jester (2002) incorporated reading, writing, and
grammar lessons with multimedia for a book report presentation in a sixth grade
language arts classroom. The multimedia presentation helped students organize
ideas more clearly, provided students with easier methods for revision and
editing, allowed students to differentiate between words and ideas through the
use of color and fonts, and sustained students' attention longer than
USING DRAMATIC ACTIVITIES IN LANGUAGE ARTS CLASSROOMS
dramatic activities as an instructional tool in the language arts classroom is
based on the principle that drama directly involved the child, and an involved
child would be interested in learning (Smith, 1972). The following studies
document the effectiveness of incorporating dramatic activities into the
language arts curriculum.
McMaster (1998) reviewed research studies regarding the use of drama in
literacy education and found that drama is an effective medium for literacy
development in nine areas. First, students develop affect through drama. Drama
creates motivation for students to participate and facilitates students'
responses in reading instruction. Second, dramatization is a source of
scaffolding for emergent readers by providing rich background experiences for
future reading. Third, dramatization leads students to develop symbolic
representation, which is the same concept children require in order to
understand the alphabetic principle. Fourth, dramatic activities provide
students a meaningful environment where they can practice oral reading
repeatedly to develop fluency. Fifth, new vocabularies presented in the drama
context provide students opportunities to acquire the meanings visually,
aurally, and kinesthetically. Sixth, drama helps students acquire the knowledge
of word order, phrasing, and punctuation that contribute to the meaning of a
written sentence. Seventh, drama activities help students read different forms
of discourse, especially in familiarizing children with nonfiction. Eighth,
students monitor their own comprehension in drama and develop effective reading
strategies. Ninth, teachers can use drama as an assessment tool since it
provides immediate feedback about students' understanding of new reading
For adolescents, dramatic activities provide meaningful contexts and
motivation to practice literacy use. Worthman (2002) explored the writing done
by a teen theater ensemble and showed that the aesthetic activities provided
adolescents opportunities to see writing as a means for communication other than
solitary practice. Ferree (2001) documented how two British secondary language
arts teachers engaged students with literature by producing soap operas. During
the production, teachers engaged students in various language usages, spelling
and writing instruction. Students were motivated to participate because they had
ownership over the product. Students also had opportunities to study realistic
materials, use technology, learn actively, and to collaborate with peers in the
Dramatic activities also provide scaffolding for effective literacy
instruction in elementary and English-as-a-second language classrooms. O'Day
(2001) wrote that scaffolded play with elementary students allowed them to
participate actively in their language learning. Students were motivated to
organize, rewrite, discuss and perform the play. Morado, Koenig, and Wilson
(1999) interwove literature, drama, music, and movement together into
miniperformances for at-risk kindergarten, first-, and second-grade students.
Teachers engaged students with literature, explored and experimented with story
elements in the class, and affirmed children's language while deciding with
students on words to use in the performances. Rossi (2000) examined the use of
an opera project with Spanish-English bilingual first graders. Children's own
cultural experiences were valued in the project and many multi-model contexts
were provided for children to learn language and develop literacy in supportive
and meaningful environments.
TEACHING LANGUAGE ARTS THROUGH COMICS
Comic books have been
the reading materials for children since the 1930s (Morrison, Bruan, & Chilcoat, 2002), and because of their popularity among students, several
researchers investigated the effectives of using comic books to engage students
in language arts classroom.
Wright and Sherman (1999) argued that teachers should use comic strips in
language arts classrooms for three reasons. First, their study revealed a high
level of interest in the genre. Second, the wide circulation of comic strips
makes them an economically viable source of material. Third, most comic strips
have low readability levels, with words and sentences which are linguistically
suitable for elementary and middle school readers. In an earlier study,
Goldstein (1986) described a project using cartoons and comics in vocabulary
instruction. Transparencies were made of the cartoons and comics to share with
students. Students kept notebooks, journals, or vocabulary cards for the new
vocabularies they learned from the comic and cartoons. Positive results were
indicated by teacher and parent observation and students' improvement in
standardized test scores.
As technology advances, new ways of transmitting knowledge are
developingrapidly. When we expand our methods of literacy instruction by
includingTV, drama, multimedia, comics, and other formats, we may be able to
reachmore students in the language arts classroom and meet students'
differentlearning styles than would be the case using purely traditional
Ferree, A. M. (2001). Soaps and suspicious activities: Dramatic experiences
in British classroom. "Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy", 45(1),
Flood, J., Heath, S. B., & Lapp, D. (1997). (Eds.), "Handbook of research
on teaching literacy through the communicative and visual arts". New York:
Goldman, M., & Goldman, S. (1988). Reading with close-captioned TV.
"Journal of Reading", 31(5), 458-461.
Goldstein, B. S. (1986). Looking at cartoons and comics in a new way.
"Journal of Reading", 29(7), 657-661.
Jester, R. (2002). If I had a hammer: Technology in the language arts
classroom. "English Journal", 91(4), 85-88.
Koskinen, P. S., Wilson, R. M., & Jensema, C. J. (1985). Closed-captioned
television: A new tool for reading instruction. "Reading World", 24(4), 1-7.
Lapp, D., Flood, J., & Fisher, D. (1999). Intermediality: How the use of
multiple media enhances learning. "The Reading Teacher", 52(7), 776-780.
McMaster, J. C. (1998). "Doing" literature: Using drama to build literacy.
"The Reading Teacher", 51(7), 574-584.
Morado, C., Koenig, R., & Wilson, A. (1999). Miniperformances, many
starts! Playing with stories. "The Reading Teacher", 53(2), 116-123.
Morrison, T. G., Bryan, G., & Chilcoat, G. W. (2002). Using
student-generated comic books in the classroom. "Journal of Adolescent &
Adult Literacy", 45(8), 758-767.
O'Day, S. (2001). Creative drama through scaffolded plays in the language
arts classroom. "Primary Voices K-6", 9(4), 20-25.
Rossi, P. J. (2000). Young children's opera: Having a multiple literacy
experience from the inside-out. "Youth Theatre Journal", 14, 26-39.
Smith, E. C. (1972). Drama and schools: A symposium. In N. H. Brizendine
& J. L. Thomas (Eds.), "Learning through dramatics: Ideas for teachers and
librarians" (pp. 4-14). Phoenix, AZ: Oryx.
Strickland, D., & Rath, L. K. (2000). "Between the lions: Public
television promotes early literacy". Newark, DE: International Reading
Association. (ED 444 118)
Worthman, C. (2002). "The way I look at the world": Imaginal interaction and
literacy use at TeenStreet. "Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy", 45(6),
Wright, G., & Sherman, R. (1999). Let's create a comic strip. "Reading
Improvement", 36(2), 66-72.