Visual Literacy: Teachers Online: Using Personal Visual Literacy Skills to Enhance Professional Teaching Knowledge

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  • Visual Literacy: Teachers Online: Using Personal Visual Literacy Skills to Enhance ProfessionalTeaching KnowledgeAuthor(s): Diane Lapp, James Flood and Debra Bayles MartinSource: The Reading Teacher, Vol. 51, No. 8 (May, 1998), pp. 702-705Published by: Wiley on behalf of the International Reading AssociationStable URL: .Accessed: 28/06/2014 13:00

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  • VISUAL LITERACY_ Editors: Diane Lapp

    James Flood San Diego State University, San Diego, California, USA

    Coauthor: Debra Bayles Martin San Diego State University, San Diego, California, USA

    Teachers online: Using personal visual

    literacy skills to enhance professional

    teaching knowledge It's the end of a busy school day. Three teachers in very different locations take a moment to reflect on their efforts to

    help students comprehend information al text. Often, these teachers have heard friends and students exclaim, "I love the novel I'm reading?I wish it would never end!" But none of the three can

    remember the last time they heard the same exuberance from someone read

    ing an informational text. Somewhat

    frustrated, Sandra, Victor, and Lupita each wonder: "Why do most of my stu dents experience informational and narrative texts so differently? Am I ad

    equately preparing them to read and ap

    preciate nonnarrative text materials?" In the past, these three teachers may

    have sighed, packed up their belongings, and left their classrooms for the day?

    wishing to discuss their concerns with other educators, and yet feeling they had neither the time nor die professional net

    work to do so. Fortunately, technologi cal advances are changing the way teachers approach these challenges.

    Today, instead of simply enduring daily concerns or frustrations, teachers can

    log onto computers and access a number

    of helpful sources. There are Web sites filled with teaching plans and ideas, in teractive programs that offer curriculum connections and extensions, and elec

    tronic chatrooms?places where teach

    ers can gather to discuss common ques tions or ideas.

    In this column, we describe how

    Sandra, Victor, and Lupita could use a

    teacher chatroom to explore ways to in

    vite their students to gain facility with informational texts. As you join in their electronic conversation, we hope you'll discover some helpful ideas for using informational texts in your own class room. We also hope you'll enjoy this online experience, which is an exam

    ple of how teachers are expanding their

    personal visual literacy skills by using the Internet to explore educational is sues with other like-minded educators.

    An Internet conversation

    Victor: Hi! I'm Victor Lee, and I teach 32 fifth graders in a self

    contained classroom in Cali fornia. Eight of my children are English as Second Lang uage. All of my students like to

    read stories, and they're pretty

    good at it. But when we get to

    science and social studies they fall apart, and I really don't know what to do.

    Sandra: Hi Victor! I've wondered about that too. My name is Sandra, and I teach fourth grade in

    Ohio. I have a class of 26 mid

    die class Anglo and African American children. They're all

    English speakers. I feel pretty good about dialogue journals and book clubs. But I'm not sure how these ideas would

    work with content reading? like in our textbooks.

    Victor: That's what brought me on

    line. When I heard about this chat line, I thought maybe peo ple would be sharing some new ideas.

    Lupita: Hi Sandra and Victor! Mind if I join in? I'm Lupita, and I teach third grade in Florida. I've been grappling with the same concerns you've men

    tioned. My work is particularly challenging because there's a

    lot of change within my class room. I usually have about 27 ESL students, although many move out?and in?during the school year.

    Victor: We're glad for you to join us! Do you have any ideas for us?

    Lupita: Well, I think the most useful ideas I've heard so far came from our reading specialist at the middle school. She told me

    that mature, capable readers

    approach all reading with par ticular expectations. These ex

    702 The Reading Teacher Vol. 51, NO. 8 May 1998 ?1998 International Reading Association (pp. 702-705)

    This content downloaded from on Sat, 28 Jun 2014 13:00:30 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

  • pectations come from each reader's past experiences,

    knowledge, and beliefs. She used the word stance to de scribe this set of expectations.

    Sandra: Wait a minute! Did you say the middle school reading special ist? What is her knowledge about older readers going to do for our elementary students?

    Our students don't have enough experience to have stances yet!

    Lupita: I thought that at first, too. But she told me to hang on?said I

    would see that this idea works for all readers.

    Victor: It's a little hard for me to see

    how, but I'll be patient. Tell us

    more, Lupita.

    Lupita: Well, the specialist mentioned Louise Rosenblatt's (1978) ideas about efferent and aes

    thetic stances?

    Victor: Oh, I remember that from a

    reading course I took in col

    lege. Aesthetic is what we do with reader response activities and literature books, right?

    Lupita: Yes?at least that's one kind of aesthetic experience :-). If you read for an aesthetic purpose,

    you're reading for the "litera ture experience"?maybe to

    become lost in a good book, to

    imagine yourself in another

    time, that sort of thing. Sandra: We do that all the time in read

    ers' workshop. It's so much fun. I remember one day the students were so involved in their books that no one even

    moved when the recess bell

    rang! I couldn't believe it. I ac

    tually had to interrupt them and TELL them to go to recess!

    Victor: That's great! I've had similar

    experiences?in fact, some

    times aesthetic reading is the

    only kind of reading I want to teach! Unfortunately, we're

    supposed to do SOMETHING with content reading too, and I

    really get anxious about how to

    doit. Sandra: Yeah. So what did your spe

    cialist say about that, Lupita? Lupita: Well, the reading specialist told

    me that when readers read with an "efferent" stance, that's more

    like what we think of as content or informational reading.

    Sandra: Like reading for a test or some

    thing? Lupita: That's one kind of efferent

    reading. If you assume an ef ferent stance, you're trying to "take away" information from the reading. But, like aesthetic

    reading, efferent reading can

    also be fun. When you have the

    strategies to read informational text successfully, you're able to enjoy the experience.

    Victor: So efferent reading is sort of

    practical, do-something-with-it reading?like what we want the children to do with their science and social studies texts? Or like

    you do with a telephone book or a menu?

    Lupita: Yes, that's the idea. But even

    when someone is doing infor mational reading, it's probably never completely "efferent." Readers have feelings and emo

    tions about everything (whether

    they're negative, neutral, or

    positive). Besides, just because someone reads for pleasure (aesthetic) doesn't mean they don't learn something from it

    (efferent). Sandra: I know what you mean there.

    I remember how much the students picked up about dog sled racing and northern cli

    mates from reading Stone Fox

    (Gardiner, 1980), and I never

    directly taught any of that!

    They even made comparisons between our winters here in Ohio and those in the story.

    Victor: Okay. From what you're say

    ing, I'm thinking about how I act when it's time for reading in science and social studies. Instead of looking forward to it like I do readers' workshop, I

    wonder if maybe I come across

    like, "Okay, we've had our fun. Now it's time for the 'work'


    Sandra: Exactly! Maybe because I'm not sure how to make the "fac tual" reading fun, I make it

    very serious.

    Lupita: And yet, there are lots of won

    derful, well-written informa

    tional books and articles?in our textbooks and in other chil dren's literature. When we ap

    proach content reading as

    "serious" or "work," we may

    be sending a message based on an unfounded assumption.

    Victor: You mean, if we assume that factual or content reading is "hard" and "not fun"?we end

    up expecting to have to "make" students read?

    Lupita: Right! And yet, how often do

    you have to tear away a student from a book about animals or a sports hero?you know, the kind with all the statistics? Children OFTEN read for facts on their own.

    Sandra: Isn't that interesting! You're so right! I've got three children in my classroom who can tell

    you every batting statistic for the Cleveland Indians?not

    just for this year, but for sev

    eral years back. They think

    they're experts on the team. It was so funny the other day. Two other students in my class came in with some news about the pitcher that the "experts" hadn't heard yet! The experts didn't believe them, and the other two pulled out a newspa per clipping to prove their

    point. You should have seen

    the experts' faces! I've never

    really thought about my stu dents poring over the newspa pers and other information sources.

    Victor: You know what else I'm think

    ing? Sometimes I tend to think of my students as too young for a lot of factual stuff?so I do just the opposite and avoid factual texts. We read lots of

    storybooks and fun stuff. I haven't done much about find

    ing children's literature that

    supports our science and social studies curriculum. I guess I've been too immersed in getting our readers' workshop going!

    Lupita: I know what you mean. And of

    course, getting readers' work

    shop going is a good thing! Certainly we want to be sure

    students have many enjoyable


    This content downloaded from on Sat, 28 Jun 2014 13:00:30 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

  • experiences with lots of text

    genres. But after talking to the

    specialist, I decided that the first step to improving my con

    tent reading instruction would be to focus on finding informa tional books, magazines, news

    papers, brochures, etc., that

    support an aesthetic experience about facts.

    Victor: Can you give us an example? Lupita: Well, let's see. Even though

    it's a picture book and might seem a little "young" for my third graders, I use Koko's

    Kitten (Patterson, 1985) when we study about animals. Do

    you know that book? Victor: No. Sandra: I don't think so.

    Lupita: It's a neat story about a gorilla who wants to have a kitten as a pet. When the students read it

    (or when I read it to them), the children always want to know how the trainer taught Koko

    sign language. They also ask if other animals "talk." They have so many questions; I can

    hardly keep up with them! When I bring in other books

    and articles about animal com

    munication, they practically jump out of their seats to get hold of them!

    Sandra: I like that. And I can see how the students would want to read more. But what about the skills for reading informational text? Even though readers may

    not take a pure efferent or aes

    thetic stance, don't they need lots of help learning how to read efferently? I mean, if you use neat informational books, aren't you just making another readers' workshop out of sci ence and social studies? What about when the students get older and they're expected to

    read a text chapter and remem

    ber the key points? Victor: I have an idea! Couldn't you

    do some minilessons on find

    ing information and organizing notes.. .that sort of thing?

    Lupita: That's a good point. I don't think it hurts to have some

    "workshop-like" experiences

    with informational text, but the children also need the opportu nity to learn and practice strate

    gies that help them process and remember what they read.

    There's no reason why mini

    lessons can't occur whenever

    there's a need?in social stud

    ies, science, whenever!

    Sandra: Hmmn. I can see that. But what about the good old study skills we learned in school?

    Would you teach them in mini lessons too?

    Victor: Why not? You could just take

    your cue from the students, couldn't you?

    Lupita: I think so, Victor. But it may pay to be a little more planful in setting up the kind of envi ronment where the students

    would CARE about the mini lessons. Our reading specialist

    mentioned five things teachers can do in their classrooms to

    help students wonder about the world. She explained that if

    teachers create an environment

    where students wonder, ques

    tions will arise naturally. When students raise their own ques tions, they want to find an swers for them. That's the time to show them how a particular reading strategy or skill can

    help them find the answer

    they're looking for. Victor: Oh! I've never thought of that!

    We sort of force facts on the students in our units?and so

    often they don't seem to want to know more. But if we turned it around and got the students

    asking things?they'd be read

    ing to find out! And then we

    could show them ways to make the most of their reading to an swer their questions! Oh! Then

    minilessons would help stu dents achieve their OWN read

    ing goals! They'd really listen!

    Lupita: That's exactly it! See, if we

    "set the stage" in our class

    rooms to get our students in

    quiring and wondering about

    things, we also set the stage to teach them how to find an

    swers?and at a time when

    they want to know!

    Sandra: I'm starting to get really excit ed! I have a feeling part of the reason content reading isn't as

    successful as I'd like it to be is that my students are reading science and social studies books for MY purposes instead of THEIR OWN! What are

    those five things we can do to

    change that?

    Lupita: They include: 1. creating a functional and di

    verse text environment,

    2. activating students' prior knowledge,

    3. promoting active student en

    gagement with text, 4. developing useful voc...


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