Finding the artist within: Creating and reading visual texts in the English language arts classroom by Peggy Albers is another text I have read lately in my journey to learn more about visual literacy. She has written this “as an introduction, a guidebook, to support middle and high school English teachers’ learning–raw and untutored perhaps–in designing and creating visual arts and technology-rich texts, as well as reading and interpreting students’ visual texts” (p.xv).
Albers believes “the time has come for ELA educators to commit to classrooms in which languages such as art, technology, music, and written and oral communication are valued for what each contributes to knowledge about students’ learning” (p.xv). And to support teachers on this quest, she provides information, instructions, and examples for both helping ELA educators explore and practice various art techniques as well as learn how to incorporate these into their classrooms to support student learning.
I especially appreciated her section on reading students’ artworks/visual texts. According to Albers, “reading and studying students’ visual texts support three important aspects of learning. First, visual texts show a distinct link between cognition and affect. Students share what they understand about ELA concepts through their visual communication, so effectively reading students’ visual texts offers insight on the relationships students see across a range of texts. Second, as you learn to read visual texts, you can share this tool with students so they, too, better understand and are conscious of the marks they make on canvas (or paper, or walls, or computer screens). And, third, an ability to read visual texts allows you and your students to understand messages in more complex ways” (p.133).
Throughout her text, Albers’ message is loud and clear. You do not have to be an Artist to draw, or paint, or sculpt. And maybe more importantly, you do not have see yourself as an Artist to successfully incorporate these types of languages into your curriculum and provide your students with additional ways to learn and communicate. We all have an artist within.