In 1956, Dr. Benjamin Bloom proposed a theoretical ranking of the levels of thinking that people use.
At the basic level, people operate at a very concrete level of knowledge. From there, people are then able to comprehend what the facts are about and use those ideas to compare or retell events in their own words, an important skill for writing. The next level of complexity of thought states that individuals are able to apply what they have learned from facts, allowing them to demonstrate knowledge, solve or apply what they know to new and related situations. The next level of thinking allows people to analyze what they know. At this level, they can classify, categorize, discriminate, or detect information. The two highest levels of cognitive thought, according to Bloom, are synthesis and evaluation. In synthesis, the individual is able to put ideas together, propose plans, form solutions, and create new information. In the evaluation stage, the thinker is able to make choices, select, evaluate and make judgments about information and situations. These highest levels of thinking are goals for our students. As teachers, we want to provide the opportunities for thinking to occur. Making choices is one avenue to the building of thinkers as students learn to take more control of and accept more responsibility for their learning.
Because Writer's Workshop is focused on children making choices, visual literacy brings art into the process helping children become thinkers, writers, readers, and students. When drawing is part of literacy, it encourages the student to slow down and take notice, an important skill for writers. Drawing becomes a planning activity. As is a concrete representation, drawing provides a way of depicting rather than describing objects or actions in the real world. The act of drawing allows students to begin thinking of their picture as text, using it as their story, weaving their thoughts and their images together for meaning.
Where do ideas come from? How can students be inspired to write? Teachers hear the common phrase, "I have nothing to write about – nothing happens to me!" Unfortunately with the traditional approach to writing, predetermined prompts, this comment seems to be a valid reaction. By supplying a topic, teachers unknowingly reinforce the idea that the student's lives aren't worth writing about. How can you make a connection when there seems nothing there to connect to from your life experiences? Instead, a more meaningful approach would be to have the students take their own personal moment – an image, a memory, a phrase, an ideas and "declare it a treasure." Placing value on a small moment in time empowers the students to not only begin their writing but to develop an authentic piece with substance and voice. Keeping those many memories, ideas, and stories in their journal or sketchbook further validates them as true writers. Teachers themselves need to draw and write along with their students; maintaining a journal, sketchbook, or folder along with the students shows a true passion for writing, the goal we set for our students.