Multiliteracies in ELA Classrooms

Entries Tagged as 'Seminar Prompts'

An Education for Instability

July 16th, 2014 · 4 Comments

In his article “A Curriculum for the Future”, Gunther Kress writes that a radical shift in thinking and curriculum in ELA classrooms is due to occur in response to the different needs of the contemporary adult in 21st century society. He states that the world has changed so much that the 19th century model of education is just not applicable anymore. Kress calls for a shift in curriculum from an education for stability to one for instability:

“Associated with this are the new media of communication and, in particular, a shift (parallelling all those already discussed) from the era of mass communication to the era of individuated communication, a shift from unidirectional communication, from a powerful source at the centre to the mass, to multidirectional communication from many directions/locations, a shift from the ‘passive audience’ (however ideological that notion had always been) to the interactive audience. All these have direct and profound consequences on the plausible and the necessary forms of education for now and for the near future.” (138)

The notion of a multi-directional communication and a shift to an interactive audience is what stands out for me in Kress’ assertion. As such, I have designed an activity for use in an ELA classroom that allows students to be creators and participators in such a communication. Using a variety of online tools, students are able to work collaboratively to create a co-authored product. The product can be inspired by whatever you are currently studying in your class—it could have a thematic or topical connection to a literary text, or it could simply be a pre-writing exercise begun with a prompt. The only stipulation is that the activity be carried out in silence thus disturbing the notion of passivity and activity, telecommunication and proximity, and the product of the individual vs. that of the group. So far in this class we have explored the following topics:

• modes of representation in ELA classroom/21st century literacy
• visual literacy and rhetoric
• media literacy
• social media and the notion of participation
• new literary forms/e-literature
• computer mediated communication
• gaming

I also designed this activity to address pieces of all of the things we have discussed thus far in regards to these topics.

In a group setting, students will work in silence to participate in a back channel conversation while they co-author a textual document with a particular purpose. This purpose may be nebulous or fixed. The backchannel application I use is Today’s Meet and the document will be created in Google docs. Each student will be invited to share the document and simultaneous editing will be possible. Google docs also has a “chat” capability which may or may not be used. I will begin the class by explaining the task and the “rules” as well as work with the students to determine the loose direction of the task. Once we have a sort of trajectory, we will begin and allow the interaction to take us where we will. The backchannel and the doc will be projected on the screen for all to witness (though it occurs to me that maybe just the backchannel might be appropriate). After the time is up, we will take the product (the created text) and render it in a text visualization tool. A teacher could then take this one step further and have the students create a found poem from the word cloud that serves as their reflection on the task.

After I execute this today, I will post the products as an exemplar.

Works Cited:

Kress, G. (2000). A curriculum for the future. Cambridge Journal of Education, 30(1), 133-145.

The Products:


Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 3.45.43 PM

The Today’s Meet chat transcript was lost to the ether but, interestingly, the group chose to communicate via in-doc Google chat instead.

Tags: computer-mediated communication · e-literature · Lesson Plans · multiliteracies · Presentation · Seminar Prompts · Social Media · Visual Literacy · Weblog Activities

Reading Response “Good Video Games and Good Learning”

July 13th, 2014 · 2 Comments

In his article, Good Video Games and Good Learning, James Paul Gee identifies sixteen learning principles that good video games incorporate and argues that teachers should try integrating aspects of gaming into their classrooms in order to maximize students’ success. As someone who grew up playing Nintendo, Sega, and Play Station, I recognize that video games are very fun and agree with Gee that school should be fun too. Too often students today are forced to sit passively in their hard plastic seats for long periods of time and listen to a teacher talk for what seems like forever. By incorporating aspects of gaming into the classroom environment, students are able to have fun, proceed through the curriculum at their own pace, take part in the creation of storyline or setting of a game, and make mistakes in an academic space where failure has traditionally been highly stigmatized.

After reading Gee’s article, one of the potential benefits that immediately occurred to me was the possibility of reducing the amount of classroom behavior management needed. For generations, schools, and especially the classroom, have been environments where mistakes are considered the worst things that a student can make. The traditional classroom environment does not provide students with the opportunities to learn from the mistakes they made on their tests or assignments. The stigmatization of failure in the classroom has generated a feeling of animosity between students and their learning environment. By viewing mistakes as failures rather than learning opportunities, schools are adding a lot of unnecessary stress to their student body and preventing them from making educated guesses or taking chances. In such an environment, students could also begin to believe that their ideas are not valuable and are unworthy of sharing with the rest of the class just because they are different or potentially wrong.

Unlike the traditional classroom, I think that modern classrooms should present a happy, motivational, engaging, and purposeful setting for learning. In order to reduce the amount of classroom behavioral management needed, teachers must understand the conditions that affect the instructional process if they want to prevent inappropriate behavior. By incorporating the learning principles highlighted in Gee’s article, teachers are providing their students with the opportunity to move through the class material at a speed that is more comfortable and less stressful for them. Students will be less likely to act inappropriately in class if the learning environment is suited to their interests and learning styles. Teachers can provide help to students and guide them through their learning process when they ask for it, but most of the learning is done by the student at their own pace. It is the hope that during this process students will start to take ownership of their learning and begin to view their mistakes as learning opportunities rather than failures.

Another interesting learning principle that successful video games incorporate is what Gee describes as the element of production. As the article mentions, “players are producers, not just consumers; they are “writers” not just “readers”” (Gee, 35). In other words, many good video games get their players to take part in the writing, producing, and co-designing processes with every action and decision that they make in a game. In their short article, How Can Video Games Support Literacy Skills for Youth?,Kathy Sanford and Liz Merkel bring up the excellent point that video gamers also take part in many literary activities in order to improve their favorite games and gaming skills (Sanford and Merkel, 118-121). Gamers are always producing written reviews about games online, in magazines, and even on the iTunes app store. The popularity of these video games and gaming apps can often be determined by these written reviews and critiques by players. In order to write these reviews, gamers have to develop a complex language about the game by playing it. Therefore, teachers should try to tap into this knowledge of video games by encouraging their students to write about them during writing activities. Students should also be provided with a similar opportunity in the classroom to take part in the formulation of the curriculum and their own learning. As teachers, we need to recognize how video games are transforming previous forms of literacy. It is up to us as teachers to become informed about the learning principles that good video games incorporate and the activities of literacy that our students are already engaging with outside of the classroom.


-Cody Macvey



1) As English teachers, how can we use video games to improve the literacy skills of our students?

2) What are the potential drawbacks of structuring the classroom and curriculum like a video game?


Gee, J. (2005). Good Video Games and Good Learning. Phi Kappa Phi Forum, 85(2), 33-37.

Sandford, Kathy, & Merkel, Liz. How Can Video Games Support Literacy Skills for Youth?. In Kendrick James, Teresea M. Dobson, Carl Legoo (Ed.1), English in Middle and Secondary Classrooms: Creative and Critical Advice from Canada’s Teacher Educators (118-121). Toronto: Pearson. (2012).

Tags: gaming · Presentation · Seminar Prompts

Seminar Lead – Erin Milne – We have not reached the end of civilization!

July 13th, 2014 · 2 Comments

Naomi Baron and Victoria Carrington articulate in each of their respective articles that “Standard English” is being destroyed due to the use of texting by adolescents in today’s society.  Carrington argues that “txting is clearly constructed in direct opposition to legitimate language, represented by the notion of Standard (or the Queen’s English)” (Carrington 168).  Text language, however, can better be seen as an alternative form of language and rather than perceiving this change as ‘the end of civilization’, (Carrington 161) might better be viewed as one form of literacy.


Carrington’s article begins with the discussion of a 13-year-old Scottish girl who submitted an essay to her teacher that was written entirely in ‘txt.’  The girl wrote an essay that happened to be written in ‘txt’ form.  Carrington further argues that due to the fact that the young girl was “unaware of the high stakes surrounding institutional literacy practices, she chose an inappropriate genre in which to respond to the class assignment” (Carrington 173).  In addition, Baron explains that “the shape of written language has always been as much a product of social attitudes and educational values as of technological developments” (Baron 31).  This means that the use of ‘txt’ language in a formal setting would likely be foreign for some adults because it is not something regularly seen within social realms.  Our society has not socially adjusted to the idea of using text language in formal settings and therefore is not yet prepared to accept this new form of language as a legitimate.


Written language has also largely been influenced by adolescents.  Baron states that “adolescents have long been a source of linguistic and behavioural novelty” (Baron 30).  Language has always been a part of adolescent small-group identity (Baron 30) and plays a significant role in the way that adults understand adolescents.  Text language acts as a snapshot into the lives of young students in our educational system.  If educators give students the opportunity to engage with text language in the classroom and let students know that this is in fact a legitimate form of literacy, students will be better able to shift and decode between a variety of print and visual forms.  Carrington argues that much of the meaning of contemporary text is embedded in the graphics, symbols, images and sounds that surround print” (Carrington 172).  Therefore, if educators can assist students in developing literacy skills in a variety of areas including ‘txt’, students will build the explicit skills necessary to engage with language that is continuously shifting.


So is ‘txt’ language really causing civilization to end?  In my opinion, not at all.  Knowledge of ‘txt’ language and other forms of computer-mediated forms of communication are simply empowering students and other members of society to participate and engage with others using a variety of literacy forms.

Erin Milne



Baron, N.S. (2005). Instant messaging and the future of language. Communications of the ACM, 46(7), 30-31.

Carrington, V. (2005).Txting: the end of civilization (again)? Cambridge Journal of Education, 35(2), 161CCC175.


Tags: Presentation · Seminar Prompts

Possible Co-existence?

July 12th, 2014 · No Comments

There are two articles to be read for this topic, but I am only focusing on Carrington’s Txting – the End of Civilization (again)?.

Many educators are shocked when their students hand in assignments that are written in texting language. Many wonder if texting is going to ruin students’ ability to write in Standard English. Carrington made an compelling argument to outline the dilemma that English teachers encounter and to offer another point of view to the controversy.

When I was reading the article, this question instantly popped up in my mind: who determined what is Standardized English? Then more questions followed: can language be changed overtime? If so, who is permitting the change or what is driving the change? Language keeps on evolving. From Old English, to Middle English to now Modern, can there be more progress? Why are educators terrified by the texting language? Is it because they are not the experts of this new literacy?

These questions left unsolved after I finished the article. However, I found it interesting how Carrington brought the social aspect of texting to light. Outside of the classroom, most of our students nowadays are engaged in simplifying the languages into short-forms or replacing expressions with emoticons. This is the literary currency that is being practiced outside of class right now. On the other hand, when students are in class, they need to code-switch, writing and reading in Standardized English. I found this process of switching between two literacies interesting because in some way, it reminded of translation. Being an ELL learner and teaching ELL classes, I found that language could be easily interfered by your daily social interaction or practices. For example, one of my ELL student directly translated a Chinese saying into English in one of his assignments. Since I had that chinese background, I instantly understood what he was trying to say. However, other teachers might be clueless. It became a perfect teaching moment. I told him the right way to express whatever he tried to say. I think the same method could be applied. As teachers, we need to acknowledge that students’ usage of texting for social interaction. Students have some kind of background knowledge to grammar or sentence structure in order to construct a comprehendible text. Therefore, we cannot really indicate that it is degrading Standardized language. Texting is just another form for students to be more efficiently express their thoughts. At the same time, as teachers, we need to help them develop the literacy that is being valued by the dominant professional realm that will allow them to be successful in the future.

In my opinion, these two literacies can definitely co-exist. We just need to figure out how or what is the best way to introduce this form of language into the classroom.


Tags: Presentation · Seminar Prompts · Social Media

Seminar Lead Blog Post: Texting (Monday, July 14)

July 12th, 2014 · No Comments

The articles on instant messaging, texting, email, and other forms of informal electronic communication raised some interesting questions about the language we as English teachers are supposed to teach. For the purposes of simplicity, I will refer in this blog post to “texting” or “texting language” to mean any abbreviated and/or condensed form of communicating often found in digital spaces.

One of the major questions concerned in these two articles is: Is texting language degrading “standard” English? Though they were written around 2005, sentiments seem to have changed very little since then, and texting language is still associated with teenagers and young adults in an often criticizing way. Texting is still thought of as dangerous to students’ ability to master academic and professional English, with fears of lol’s and omg’s littering an essay or a cover letter. I definitely ran into that fearful attitude at my practicum school as teachers worried about what this language meant for their students’ futures, especially those with weaker English skills to begin with.

This notion of the degradation of some sort of “standard” English reminded me of something we worked on for our second Inquiry Seminar. On our “Inquiry into Writing” blog, Ceilidh posted an interesting video on African-American Vernacular English (Ebonics) under her section on writing and culture. The video shows a school that treats Ebonics as a distinct dialect with its own features and grammatical rules. Teachers teach students the differences between Ebonics and “standard” English in a way that does not devalue students’ home culture, unlike the typical viewpoint that sees Ebonics as an incorrect or lowly version of English.

Hence, the question of whether texting language is degrading “standard” English is quite similar to the questioning of the value of Ebonics. In both cases, there is a direct comparison between and value claim about the “nonstandard” and “standard” forms of English.

The backlash against any non-standard form of English, especially forms that considerably break the conventions, invites us to think critically about who the gatekeepers of this knowledge are, and who benefits from the maintenance of some sort of “standardized” English, and who loses? Also, to what extent can language accommodate change over time, and what changes are permissible?

And most importantly, is our role as teachers to teach our students how to switch registers while still upholding this “standard” English? If yes, perhaps we can learn how better to go about this by learning from other situations, such as the teaching of Ebonics in a way that still values students’ background knowledge.


To view Ceilidh’s piece from our old blog, click here.

Tags: Presentation · Seminar Prompts

Seminar Lead Response – I See, I Do: Persuasive Messages and Visual Literacy

July 6th, 2014 · No Comments

With an article devoted to “addressing persuasive visual messages” (Farmer 33), and which opens with the line that “if a picture is worth a thousand words, then a few images can constitute a persuasive argument” (Farmer 30), I found myself taking a closer look at the image presented at the beginning of the article, and generally paying more attention to the visual layout of the article, in an attempt to analyze it in the same ways that it suggests that teachers should train students to analyze advertizing and other media. The article suggests that what makes an image persuasive is “content, context, and connotation”, so with that in mind, I delved deeper into the article’s visual presence.

The initial image content is of a young woman in a blue shirt, with crossed arms and a skeptical expression on her face. At first glance, we might take the contextual meaning that she is a visual model for the championed stance of skepticism and critical thinking. Looking deeper at context and connotation, and applying some of the analysis techniques recommended by the article, such as considering “who created the message”, “why was the message created”, and “what values, lifestyles, and points of view are represented or omitted” (Farmer 32), I took time to think about why the image was included, why that image was specifically chosen, how it influenced me, and whose values and intentions were being communicated. I was certainly struck by the use of colour, as my second look prompted me to realize that the young woman’s shirt was the same cool azure as some of the accent text, bullet point markers, and dividers between sections. I questioned the effect of the colour scheme, and also questioned whether the young woman’s photo was changed to make her shirt match the scheme, or whether the colour scheme was matched to her actual shirt colour as photographed. The colour scheme of azure, rust red, white, and a much paler azure used in some of the charts, not only granted a coherence and cohesiveness granted by the continuity of the colour scheme, but it also had aesthetic and emotional effects. It is a non-threatening and visually appealing colour scheme, which created an emotional feeling of calm, stability, and authority, that I feel encouraged me to take on a trusting demeanor. The colour scheme connotated an environment of comfort and trust, and helped convince me of the textual argument. Taking a cultural perspective and trying to further understand their “visual coding system” (Farmer 31), I also suspect that as this article was produced in the United States of America that there may have been a subtle connection to their flag, whether it was a conscious or unconscious decision, and that the basic red-white-blue colour scheme would be likely to evoke an American’s patriotic sensibilities and cause them to feel an ethical responsibility to their students and by extension, a responsibility to the wellbeing of the country as a whole, in an endless feedback loop.

These visuals were subtle, yet had a powerful impact of the article’s effectiveness. My own education in visual literacy, possibly augmented by the approaches recommended by this article, have equipped me to unpack the article at both textual and visual levels, and to better understand the meaning being communicated. These skills assist me in assessing visual and textual messages every day, and while I am able to recognize the techniques being used to persuade me in this article, I am the one who has carefully weighed and considered, and decided that the argument has merit, rather than being passively led to agree with Farmer’s conclusions.

Question to Consider:
Visual literacy extends beyond the critical analysis of illustrative or photographic image, and includes all of the visuals included in a given product: the colours, shapes, fonts, and layout. What conventions of this layer of communication do you consciously understand and interpret, and how much of it is interpreted on a subconscious level?


Farmer, Lesley S.J. (2007). I See, I Do: Persuasive Messages and Visual Literacy. Internet @ schools, 14(4), p. 30-33.

By Amanda Cameron

Tags: multiliteracies · Presentation · Seminar Prompts · Visual Literacy · Weblog Activities

“Using Graphic Novels […] in the Urban High School” Response and Prompts

July 6th, 2014 · No Comments


Frey and Douglas do a succinct job of explaining how graphic novels are useful educational tools in the classroom. It was also interesting to see the themes and ideas within the texts being transferred into the students’ own written works. Though it is not explicitly stated, the authors seem to imply two main ideas: that graphic novels (and popular culture in general) are only resonant in the urban/diverse classroom in cities like San Diego, and that students must find some sort of personal connection or parallel to the text in order to enjoy and make use of the literary-visual materials they are given as classroom texts. With increasingly “wired” classrooms, distances between urban, suburban, and rural classrooms are decreasing.

While they do not explicitly deny the universality of graphic novels within popular culture, they do not include this idea in their discussion. It is also important to acknowledge that there is a boundary between what was/is taught and what specific media students take personal cultural ownership of. As educators we should certainly respect what students claim as their own and what would not be fruitful to teach.

With the risk of stating the obvious, graphic novels and other media (film, television, art, etc.) are not only enjoyed and read worldwide but these stories –  those outside the reader’s frame of reference – can leave a lasting impression. An experience or narrative that does not fall within ones own purview can often teach us the most. Art Spiegelman’s MAUS (being an easy example) shows us the experiences of those persecuted and those who witnessed genocide first hand in World War II. This is a text that is often taught in classrooms, and not only within urban and inner-city contexts. Students may have trouble taking perspective and connecting to seemingly distant experiences but it is our job to bridge this gap. Once this division is diminished, what can be gained becomes all that more expansive to the reader.

Question(s) to ponder:

1. Can there not be an intersection between what is “teachable” and appropriate and what students already have a pre-existing interest in reading/viewing? How do we tread through material that students may want kept out of classroom analysis and dissection? What sort of consultation should we doing with our classes?

2. Where is there more value in literature (graphic or otherwise)? Do we take more from a recognizable narrative or from one completely outside of our own knowledge? Do we take different ideas and meanings from both, to the point where we are comparing “apples to oranges?”


Graphic Novel as Prompt

During my B.A. at SFU, I was exposed to a few different graphic novels. The one that stuck out for me the most was Ann Marie Fleming’s The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam. Fleming uses the – very open – format of the graphic novel to explore and display her own personal and familial history. The narrative is centred around the author’s relatively mysterious/unknown great-grandfather Long Tack Sam, a world famous vaudevillian in the early 20th century. The text is also accompanied by a film where a lot of the images have been taken and adapted from and put in the novel (and vice versa). What is most fascinating about the text is its intersectionality and how it transcends genre. Within about 160 pages we see: memoir, autobiography, biography, geographic exploration, history (Canadian and international), cultural interaction and exchange, etc. All of these themes and ideas are doubled (or squared, we might say) in the format of the film.

This overt openness of the graphic novel genre and format leads back into the idea of the graphic novel as prompt. Again, there is a value and importance in students taking an assigned text and turning into something of their own. Not only does this move us away from the passive mode of simply reading and accepting a text but it also encourages students to continue the narrative in a direction that they find meaningful. The students can also have endless choice in how they want to present their resulting creative texts.  Some may wish to work alone, other collaboratively. Some may wish to follow the children’s book format (e.g. Sendak’s The Miami Giant), others in an audio visual format (E.g. Long Tack Sam). Students can have constraints on what topics they are considering/presenting, and how much time they get, without being limited by how it is presented. With increased accessibility through the internet, such assignments/projects can more easily be created and shared worldwide.

Possible assignments/prompts:

  1. Create a children’s book based off of a Shakespearean play, such as Julius Caesar.
  2. Create one page of a comic book/graphic novel translated from a canonical text, e.g. To Kill a Mockingbird.
  3. Adapt a frequently studied graphic novel/comic/picture book into a one/two/three act play, e.g. Death of a Salesman as a generic guideline.
  4. One group creates a video/theatrical representation of a graphic novel, the other a text-based representation.
  • What does this transfer do to the story? What is lost or gained in this translation? Which genre/format does what for the reader/viewer? -> How can students be meta-cognitive of the process of creation/publication?

Discussion prompts:

1. Fleming ends up doing a lot of self discovery in addition to revealing more about her family’s past. Is it feasible to get our own students to do similar kinds of research and the self-reflection and -realization that comes out of this searching? There is undeniable value in bringing everything back to the self. How or should we ask this of our students?

2. What graphic novels or visual narratives do we connect with? Are these the same kinds of texts we would want to adapt into our own perspectives and narratives?

3. How might a graphic novel prompt be used when classroom resources and technology are limited? Seeing as how the genre is open, how can we as educators work around these sorts of limitations while still giving students to opportunity to, as Ezra Pound said , “[m]ake it new”?

-George Frankson

Works Cited

Fleming, Ann Marie. The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam. New York: Riverhead Books, 2007.

Frey, Nancy, and Douglas Fisher. “Using Graphic Novels, Anime, and the Internet in an Urban High School.” English Journal 93.3 (2004): 19.

Some suggested texts to use as prompts (which will be brought into class for our perusal and consideration):

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie | | Louis Riel: A Comic Strip Biography by Chester Brown | The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam by Ann Marie Fleming | The Castafiore Emerald by Hergé | The Last Musketeer by Jason| Watchmen by Alan Moore | The Miami Giant by Arthur Yorinks & Maurice Sendak

Tags: adaptations · graphic novels · Seminar Prompts

Farmer Article Response for Seminar Lead Assignment (Weblog #1 – Ashley Slade)

July 5th, 2014 · 1 Comment

Lesley Farmer’s brief, four-page, article has been one of the most practical articles I have read since September. As part of our Education program, we have been exposed to many theories and questions surrounding literacy: what is literacy? how many literacies are there? how do we use them? define them? etc. Farmer’s article aims to clarify the concept of visual literacy, and readers are not only provided with a definition of what visual literacy is, but we are also given examples of construction concepts and principles, deeper level thinking prompts to ask our students, extra resources on the topic, the reasons why teaching visual literacy is important, and much more. Overall, the article was laid out in simple language which made it a pleasure to read, and, coincidentally, the layout of the paper made the text more appealing to the eye. I felt that the most important parts of the article, when looking for theoretical discussion points, were the introduction and the last page as they discuss what visual literacy is and why it is important. The rest of the article was filled with the technicailities behind visualliteracy and examples of how to discuss this with, and develop it in, your class.

In the introduction, Farmer describes visual literacy as the ability to be “critical visual consumers and producers” (2007, p. 30). This means that our students need the skills not only to understand and analyse presented visuals, but also to create their own visual pieces. I found this extremely interesting, because when I have thought about literacy in the past, I have only thought of it in the sense of reading, or internalizing something, not creating it. However, I see the benefits of having the term literacy include both understanding and production. In order to start developing an understanding of visual messages, we should have students “evaluate visual messages in light of what the producer is trying to convince the viewer to do or think” (p. 33). This relates to the traditional English classroom definition of literacy in that in understanding a literary work, we try to analyze the author’s tone, mood, and intention. In order to further establish this literacy, though, we need to have students move on from understanding to actually using these manipulation techniques themselves (p.33). Such techniques can include altering digital images through cropping to remove a certain context, changing visual sequences to alter the cause-and-effect implications, and changing the size of certain items to change perceived importance (p. 32).

The most intriguing and most beneficial part of this reading, in my opinion, is the section (on the last page) in which Farmer outlines specific ways in which students (or any audience) can identify image alterations. By providing us with this information, Farmer is providing us with tools to identify manipulative images. I feel that this will highly benefit our students who live in a world where they are subject to a bombardment of photo-shopped, and otherwise altered, images that tend to have more of a negative impact on their mental health than anything.

Question for Discussion during the Seminar:

Some digital images are edited so well that it is impossible for the average person to tell if an image has even been altered. Do you feel that critical viewing should only be applied to photos that have been altered? Or should we assess and evaluate all visual images regardless of editing?


Farmer, Lesley S.J. (2007). I See, I Do: Persuasive Messages and Visual Literacy. Internet @ schools, 14(4), p. 30-33.

Tags: Presentation · Seminar Prompts · Visual Literacy · Weblog Activities

Visual Texts in the Classroom

July 4th, 2014 · No Comments

The use of alternative genres in the classroom can be a powerful tool for students to develop their literacy skills.  Texts such as graphic novels are motivating to read for reluctant readers, providing manageable amounts of texts while at the same time presenting complex issues and ideas.  Graphic novels contain many of the same literary elements as their written counterparts.  In addition, the analytic skills that students develop in thinking critically about the visuals in the text can be applied across all disciplines.  Gene Yang, the author of American Born Chinese also explains that since most students are immersed in visual media in their day-to-day lives, visual texts resonate more strongly with them.  Graphic novels, then, serve as a way to “bridge the gap between the media we watch and the media we read” (Yang 187).  It is an effective way to connect readers with a text while developing literacy skills.

While there seems to be an increase in the use of alternative genres in the classroom, it still often feels as though visual texts such as films and graphic novels are often overlooked in the curriculum in favour of written texts.  Perhaps there is still a stigma attached to genres such as the graphic novel, which may appear to some as merely a comic book with inherently less value than a traditional novel.  Particularly when an iconic, classic work of literature has a graphic novel equivalent, some tend to still place a higher value on the written form.  I think that these different versions of the same text offer an opportunity for effective differentiation.  I remember teaching Romeo and Juliet to a class comprised of English Language Learners, and using the graphic novel version of the play was an effective way of teaching many of the same concepts while at the same time exploring the interplay between text and image, and how the images supported the text and conveyed meaning.  When the students felt like the text was manageable, they were much more motivated and engaged with it.

Works such as Shaun Tan’s “The Rabbits” is also refreshing in that it provides students with a complex idea and presents it in the form of a beautifully illustrated text.  Introducing students to different forms of representation is a key aspect of literacy and encourages greater creativity.  I think that challenging students to use the same analytic skills used in reading novels and applying them to different genres of texts creates a more well-rounded literacy program.

In conclusion, visual literacy is a powerful skill that encourages critical thinking and deep analysis.  As an educator, I would definitely like to continue to learn how to incorporate a wide range of visual texts in a meaningful way in the classroom to promote literacy.

Adrienne Law

Questions for discussion

  1. How have you or might you use graphic novels in the classroom?  Consider also texts that have a graphic novel counterpart.  What are the benefits, and what might be some potential challenges?
  2. What skills would students develop with visual texts that would help them to succeed with other forms of literature?


Works Cited

Frey, Nancy. and Fisher, Douglas.  ” Using Graphic Novels, Anime, and the Internet in an Urban High School.”  The English Journal.  93.3 (2004).

Yang, Gene.  “Graphic Novels in the Classroom.” Language Arts.  85.3 (2008).

Tags: graphic novels · Seminar Prompts · Visual Literacy

Texting and the Future of Language

July 14th, 2013 · 5 Comments


“Instant Messaging and the Future of Language” by Naomi S. Baron

This article illustrates the notion of whether or not computer-mediated communication (CMC) is affecting the use of standard English among the young generation. The author demonstrates how the use of standard English has evolved through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance to the modern days. The author also conducted a study at American University in Washington, D.C., which investigated the use of instant messaging via America Online Instant Messenger (AIM) among undergraduate students. The research suggested that “IM conversations serve largely pragmatic information-sharing and social-communication functions rather than providing contexts for establishing or maintaining group identity” (30). The author suggests that parents and educators play a significant role in ensuring the use of formal English among adolescents and that IM is unlikely to have any profound role in changing the writing standards as long as the society does not accept this form of writing as the new standard.

“Txting: the end of civilization (again)?” by Victoria Carrington

This article begins with the author’s recent interview on an Australian radio channel regarding an essay that was fully written in text-language, submitted by a 13-year-old Scottish schoolgirl. The author was asked to discuss the issue of the “legitimacy” (or not) of txt as a form of text. Consequently, the author uses discourse analysis to analyze the initial article and another article regarding texting that was published the next day. The author finds that the articles contained fearful language regarding texting, which she described as a “rhetoric of crisis” (171). The author then illustrates how teachers play an important role in keeping this “correct” version of English and that teachers “are increasingly monitored and controlled” to fit this role of guarding the use of Standard English among teenagers (169, 170). In her conclusion, she proposes that txt should not be dismissed; it is one of many texts that students should become familiar with and fluent in.

Our Standpoint:

 Is texting really a threat?

  • No, texting is not a threat to the English language or to our students’ literacy.

  • Text language is just another register that students learn to use in the appropriate setting.

  • There are many different types of literacy, text literacy is one of them. Students need to be multiliterate.

  • Students should be learning and using forms of communication that are relevant to today’s technologies and ways of interacting.

  • There are many useful web tools that facilitate teacher-student discussion through texting, in which even shy students feel confident participating.

Connecting texting to Language Arts:

  • Writing dialogue through texts in creative writing:
    How to incorporate text-messaging into narratives? Has anyone read any new novels that incorporate text-messaging in the story? Writers are having interesting conversations online about how to represent text-messaging in their novels and short stories.

  • There is also the growing popularity of the “cell phone” novel genre.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are your thoughts towards students using texting as a form of communication with the teacher?  Have you had any experience in this context?
  2. Is using text-language becoming a more dominant way of how children communicate these days? Do you think this will affect their use of formal language?
  3. Do you think teachers are the “gatekeepers” of language? Why might they be perceived this way?
  4. Can you think of some other ways that texting or text-language could be used in the classroom?


  • Use discussion question #2 as an example on Poll Everywhere and have everyone text in their answers.
  • Transfer responses to Tagxedo.

Our result: Communication Cat 🙂
Thanks for your participation!


Baron, N. S. (2005). Instant messaging and the future of language. communications of the ACM, 48(7), 29-31.

Carrington, V. (2005). Txting: The end of civilization (again)?. Cambridge Journal of  Education, 35(2), 161-175.

– Christina Lee, Melanie McKenna, Dayonne Wegner, Sarah Wu

Tags: computer-mediated communication · Seminar Prompts