Shine Trader Limited

Using Art to Teach Critical Literacy Skills

Shine Trader limited reports:

As any high school English teacher will tell you, teaching students how to be effective readers and writers is no easy task. So it’s understandable that we’re always looking for new and attractive texts and ways to teach them. Rather than start reading a new book right away, I started the school year by introducing my favorite works of art to my students. Not as a hint for a narrative writing assignment, as I’ve done in the past, but as text that we’ll explore using literary analysis tools.
Set up the This series of courses is based on a simple but structured approach to literary analysis. Students identify, explore, and analyze three aspects of literary texts: stylistic elemeCritical Literacy Skillsnts, important themes, and social/cultural context. But we substitute art for literary texts. The artists I used included Jacob Lawrence, Faith Ringgold, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Deborah Roberts.
Day 1: Introduce and/or review with students three aspects of literary analysis: stylistic elements, important themes, and social/cultural context.

Shine Trader Limited
Shine Trader Limited

I use articles that I know my students have read before. This year I’m using Sandra Cisneros’s the House on Mango Street. As a class, we created a chart by dividing a large piece of paper into three sections, each corresponding to a category (I used poster-sized post-it notes). Next, I encourage students to dissect the essay by asking questions about elements of style and important topics. This is an effective way to evaluate existing knowledge, review literary terms, and remind students of what they have learned.
When it comes to context, students often need a little help. I review the meaning of words in context literally, “with text”, and ask them to do some research on our authors themselves. They retrieved information about Cisneros’s views and status as an author, as well as her background, her environment, and the circumstances that influenced the book. I ask my students to write a short piece of homework, which becomes a transition to the next day’s class.
Day 2: We first asked students to share the information they had retrieved for their homework, using the information to help fill out part 3 of the lecture chart.
I introduce the artwork (in this case, a collage by Deborah Roberts), and then we spend some time talking about our gut reactions. Then, we create a new diagram and divide it into three parts, using the previous model as a template. But now, instead of literary terms, we use artistic terms, such as the medium, color, style and tone used. We identify important themes together.
Then, as we did with Cisneros, we did a brief online search in class to get a background on Roberts’ work. I added the class survey results to the chart. As coordinator, I emphasized the similarities between our analysis of the house on Mango Street and Roberts’ artwork.