Literacy Instruction through Communicative and Visual Arts

Article excerpt

THE PURPOSE OF THIS ARTICLE 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 TO COMIC BOOKS TO TELEVISION VIEWING. THE COMMUNICATIVE ARTS, SUCH AS READING, WRITING, AND SPEAKING, EXIST AS INTEGRATED ELEMENTS IN THE VISUAL ARTS. THESE EDITORS 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 SOCIETY.

TELEVISION AND MULTIPLE MEDIA AS INSTRUCTIONAL TOOLS

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 prereading 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 nonviewing peers on the tasks of word knowledge, concepts of print, phonemic awareness, and letter-sound knowledge (Strickland & Rath, 2000).

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 grades 2-6 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 and videos in conjunction with texts, using computers for information and writing and other reading and writing instruction (e.g., book clubs) to engage students in a language arts unit (Lapp, Rood, & Fisher, 1999). Students' reading comprehension and attention spans 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 traditional media.

USING DRAMATIC ACTIVITIES IN LANGUAGE ARTS CLASSROOMS

Using 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 more interested in learning (Smith, 1972). The following studies document the effectiveness of incorporating dramatic activities into the language arts curriculum. …