My goal in this unit is to formulate a plan that will improve the reading abilities of seriously deficient sixth grade students who have proceeded thus far in an urban school situation without having achieved much success, and the positive feelings of accomplishment and self-worth that are deemed valuable
for further growth. Many of these students have had remedial services since their early years in school and still seem to remain in the position of repeated academic failure. Since so many of these students appear to have untapped potential for success I desire to delve into some of the learning possibilities that might unlock the stagnation I sense in their learning processes. My aim is to organize a plan that will combine art and reading activities in the belief that the learning process is one which relates both hemispheres of the brain in the pursuit of knowledge.
This belief is based upon the research that has been conducted in the field of hemispheric learning. From this research has come the evidence of two brain hemispheres that affect our learning processes, which may alter the ways in which all of us function productively or otherwise. Our knowledge of the workings of the left and right brain hemispheres presents a reasonable case for the relatedness of art and reading in wholistic learning. The left hemisphere of the brain is used mainly for those functions which are verbal, linear and analytic. This is the area of the brain in which many reading and language processes take place. As its complement, the right hemisphere of the brain processes information that is visual-spatial, kinesthetic, and synthetic.
Much of art learning derives from this area of the brain. With a great deal of emphasis in learning to read being directed towards the education of the left hemisphere, with the neglect of the right hemisphere, there is a need to develop activities in learning that combine reading and art. From observation, there are many students with serious reading deficiencies whose strengths appear to be in right hemispheric area. There can be a plan of art and reading activities in which students would have the possibility of making marked progress. Schools of this “Arts-Centered” approach have been in existence over the years with positive results. The most recent and nearby are: John F. Kennedy High School, Bronx, New York and the Mead School for Human Development, Byram, Connecticut.
The purpose and direction of this unit is to develop a reading plan through art that will encourage learning. This rationale is based upon the research that emphasizes combining language and visual learning processes that encourage growth in both the right and left brain hemispheres.
It is my belief that art education has an integral place in the education of children when it becomes thoughtfully connected to the whole learning process. This view offers the child an opportunity to represent his thoughts and feelings through visual images. Children who have serious reading deficiencies can have success through the visual aspect of learning.
The application of art in the reading process gives the child the opportunity to develop his strengths in both the right and left hemispheres of the brain. In this unit drawing and color will be combined with the reading skills of
, ordering the
of events, and
. The goal within this plan is to “unlock” or open the child’s learning process through art so that reading improvement can take place. Thus children with many reading difficulties, who have made little progress compared to their learning potential, can gain confidence and feel successful. To insure that this process takes place the individual child’s developmental level needs to be known so that we can be aware of his/her stage of development. Once we know this level, the teacher can not only be sensitive to the child’s developmental level, but can know at what place in development the child has become “locked in”. The term “locked in” is used here to mean that the child’s growth is not open and progressing, but has become rigid and closed. Art can be the-means by which growth may occur in reading.
A valuable tool in assessing the child’s developmental level in reading would be to be aware of the child’s developmental level in art. This can be observed through his/her drawings. For our purposes it is helpful to be knowledgeable of these stages of artistic development, and at the same time to be aware of the fact that these stages or levels of development are not to be followed rigidly. They may serve to help us design better learning programs for children. A child’s drawings may provide us with clues as to what his developmental level is in learning as a whole. Within a classroom of children there may be evidence of the wide range of visual development that correlates with the children’s learning development. In order to make this concept clearer we will include the developmental levels in art that can be observed in children. The examples used will be found in the work of Victor Lowenfeld and Rhoda Kellogg. This does not contain the total of research in children’s art development, but may be helpful in understanding the use of art in a reading program.