Improving Literacy Pedagogy and Outcomes through Teaching Imaginatively

By Warhurst, Janelle; Crawford, Karen et al. | Practically Primary, October 2010 | Go to article overview
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Improving Literacy Pedagogy and Outcomes through Teaching Imaginatively


Warhurst, Janelle, Crawford, Karen, Ireland, Jackie, Neale, Doug, Pickering, Jenny, Rathmell, Carla, Watson, Gretel, Ewing, Robyn, Practically Primary


This article reports on an action learning research project in seven classrooms at Curl Curl North Primary School in suburban Sydney during 2008. Funded by an ALEA research grant, the project aimed to improve students' critical literacy outcomes through:

--Teaching imaginatively using quality literary texts

--A 'repertoire of pedagogical practices' (Louden, et al, 2005) aligned with the NSWDET model of pedagogy (2003) and

--Immersion in the Creative Arts

Creativity is as important as literacy and we should treat it with the same status (Robinson, 2008)

By fostering creativity we empower our students to interpret and truly appreciate what it means to be literate. Literature as an art form has the potential to change our lives. It can be an influence or a stimulus which moves us and to which we react with feeling.

We wanted to make a difference and improve our pedagogy so we spent time exploring what we thought was important when teaching students to be critically literate (Lankshear, 1994). Our project was framed by the following questions:

* How do we help students to respond meaningfully to what they read?

* Why is it important that we as teachers of primary children listen to and process the responses of our students to what they are reading?

* How do teachers know which books are authentic and worthwhile texts for close study in the classroom?

The creative arts and literacy

Gleeson (2007, p. 4) argues that, 'The whole point is to open the mind, to enlarge the experience, to broaden the horizon of the reader'. Author and artist Shaun Tan (2006) highlights art as the transformation of an idea, subject or concept by an artist. A concept is connected with the world and its meaning. In this way educators can view the Creative Arts not only as separate disciplines, but also as tools for learning about other curriculum areas. All forms of Art need time for exploration, experimentation and play in the effort to solve a puzzle or problem. As teachers we can reflect on this in terms of scaffolding creative activities for students.

Creative Arts and critical literacy both require students to 'develop knowledge of and learn to 'read' the conventions of the symbol systems used in the art forms to communicate and exchange ideas about the world' (BOS, 2000 p. 6). Using the Arts we can delve more deeply into the meaning of the creator, ourselves and our society, giving students the tools to 'see' and understand what they experience in literacy lessons.

Why use narrative?

The creative teacher, Gleeson (2007) writes, uses many stories to develop curiosity and celebrates original responses in students. Similarly Margaret Meek (1988, p. 40) concludes 'it is hard for anyone whose life has been enriched by books to exclude the young from this source of pleasure and serious reflection. What we have to realise is that the young have powerful allies in a host of gifted artists and writers to help them subvert the world of their elders'. Each teacher involved in the study chose various aspects of narrative as a starting point for their programs.

Implementation

I believe we set out to challenge ourselves, try something new and think about our practice. I believe we also set out to motivate, inspire and support each other. Gretel Watson, teacher, North Curl Curl

Karen

Kindergarten

Text: Lucy's Cat and the Rainbow Birds (Hill, 2007)

Tasks: Shared reading, mime with percussion, studied use of
alliteration.

At the beginning of the year some children were able to write their
first name. Some had a rich literary background while others had
little experience with books. One student initially found it
difficult to stay in the classroom at all. Now when we are
brainstorming as a class about what we are writing this student
offers valuable suggestions and has his own ideas about what he is
going to write. 

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