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Media Reviews

A big “thank-you” to all of you who have read, supported, and written for the “Media Reviews” column in NAEA News— and welcome to all who are joining us now in our online format.

Here you will find reviews by your colleagues of a variety of the latest books and videos of interest to art educators—resources for your personal or professional library and reference materials that support your classroom teaching and planning strategies for student learning and assessment; that offer instruction in practical art methods, skills, and techniques for various media; that showcase new digital technologies and their application to art education; that stimulate academic research and collaboration; that highlight new artists or look at art history in new ways; and that inform and connect you to new programs and initiatives in art education in multiple settings, including museums and community arts centers.

Note: With few exceptions, books reviewed here are not available for ordering through NAEA, but are often found on or the publisher’s website.

**Posted April 22, 2014**

Using Art to Teach Reading Comprehension Strategies: Lesson Plans for Teachers.
Jennifer Klein and Elizabeth Stuart. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield; Reston, VA: National Art Education Association, 2013.

The greatest strength of the 109-page book Using Art to Teach Reading Comprehension: Strategies Lesson Plans for Teachers is the emphasis on developing strategic thinking skills through art and language arts.
The book acknowledges social assumptions about the importance of text-based works (the subject of language arts) and text-free works (the subject of visual arts). “Text-free” visual arts content is described as friendlier and as a stepping-stone for scaffolding to primarily text-based works. I submit that, contrary to top-down policies that place a primacy on literacy, it is important to trouble-make the idea that visual works as less complex. Visual art can be ambiguous, but the default response to ambiguity (that if no clear answer exists, every interpretation is valid) is misleading; a picture is, after all, worth 1,000 words.

Klein and Stuart offer both art and general education teachers clearly scaffolded and detailed plans organized around a few central skills. These skills are reflected in 21st Century Skills and the Common Core literature. The lessons also include resources for young learners to navigate visual and text-based information.

Using Art to Teach Reading Comprehension is ideally suited for its intended audience: generalists and art educators asked to integrate art education to other content areas. Art educators might use the text to remind stakeholders of the similarity of thinking skills across domains.

While the front-end planning of each of lesson is very robust, the connection of assessment to all of the original elements late out in the plans is less direct. In this text, the assessment does not always match up with the intentions of the planning. Nonetheless, the robustness of the lesson plans is more than adequate for aiding teachers unfamiliar with the content of visual arts or language arts to successfully bridge the subject-matter gap.

Reviewed by Chris Grodoski, Middle Level Educator, West Chicago, Illinois.

The Learner-Directed Classroom: Developing Creative Thinking Skills Through Art
Diane B. Jaquith and Nan E. Hathaway, with Foreword by Patrick Fahey. New York and London: Teachers College, 2012

Throughout reading this book one question kept popping up in my mind: Why aren’t ALL classrooms—academic and art based—designed with this learner-directed model? From engaging all learners by allowing them to follow their individual curiosities, to providing a framework for teachers to assess learning with studio habits of mind, this anthology addresses the most urgent issues in our current educational system.

The description of the learner-directed classroom combined with studio practices to develop the “lifelong habit” of real learning through a “…culture of imagination, practice, inquiry, experimentation, discovery, and critique” solidifies the argument that the learning and development of creative and critical thinking skills are inherent in engaged, motivated, and curious students.

This collection of works also successfully demonstrates the ability of learner-directed classrooms to reach a diverse group of learners from all demographics and developmental abilities. The joy and benefits all of us experience when learning through experimentation, play, and failure is repeatedly expressed by a variety of authors.

The importance of teachers modeling the studio practice of reflection and revision by using the tools and empathic open questions described in the chapter “The Art of Motivation and Critiques” cannot be overstated. Those same teachers will be rewarded with a classroom full of students that have the skills to engage in civil and respectful discourse about curricular content and their own work.

This book is a useful tool for both preservice and experienced educators looking for methods to use within the constraints of a system of compliance and conformity.

Reviewed by Rob McAdams, Program Coordinator, Partners in the Arts, University of Richmond, Virginia.

Artist, Researcher, Teacher: A Study of Professional Identity in Art and Education
Alan Thornton. Bristol, UK: Intellect, 2013

The title of the book, Artist, Researcher, Teacher, immediately caught my attention as I have played all three roles at one time or another. I was curious what the author had to say about this hybrid of elements that make up the professional identity of myself as well as many of my colleagues. Thornton’s self-stated intent was to challenge preconceptions about these elements, thereby strengthening one’s connection to and building support for visual art education.

The author begins with an introduction about the meaning of being human, followed by the overlapping practices of the artist, researcher, and teacher. Thornton then explores the Artist-Teacher, the Researcher-Artist, and the Teacher-Researcher in more detail. Historical background for each of these dimensions is provided with examples of contemporary people who function in each of these roles.

One caveat is that the book was written for professionals in the visual arts in the United Kingdom, where training includes a PhD in Art and/or Design instead of an MFA, as in the United States. The Artist Teacher Scheme was developed by the National Society for Education in Art and Design in the UK with an emphasis on the artistic education of the art teacher.
Why should we examine our praxis as artist teachers and researchers? According to the author, it helps us become reflective practitioners who better understand our professional work, thereby helping us in our fight for resources. In addition we would be better able to adjust to the continually changing world of the visual arts.

After reading this book, I paid more attention as I planned for teaching my next class and as I constructed some drawings. In both cases, I realized how important research was to both endeavors.

Reviewed by Nancy House, Art Educator, Portland State University, Portland, Oregon.

Everyday artists: Inquiry and creativity in the early childhood classroom
Dana Frantz Bentley. New York, NY: Teachers College Press, 2013

In Everyday artists: Inquiry and creativity in the early childhood classroom, Dana Frantz Bentley presents a descriptive account of early arts classroom practices that illustrate how rich, embedded arts experiences can support the development of young children’s inquiry and creative thinking skills. Frantz presents a view of early arts experiences as a tool for building children’s cognitive, aesthetic, and artistic skills. Through rich narratives of preK classroom experiences, Frantz crafts a descriptive account of early arts experiences that further develops existing understandings of the communicative, aesthetic, spiritual, and cognitive capacities the arts bring to early childhood classrooms and young children’s everyday lives. Frantz’s engaging narratives will prove to be valuable for those working with young children as they strive to build classroom environments that support views of the arts the go beyond those framing the arts a secondary, supportive subject. 

For classroom educators, one of the most valuable aspects of Everyday artists: Inquiry and creativity in the early childhood classroom will surely be Frantz’s emphasis on reflection in teacher practice. In each chapter, Frantz presents questions for reader reflection that support the idea of reflective practice as a means to build deeper understandings of young children’s capabilities and abilities as they build new knowledge and experience in supportive classroom environments.

Early childhood art educators and researchers have long advocated for rich, embedded arts experiences in early childhood classrooms in an effort to counteract the shallow practices provided in many early childhood classrooms. This writing from Dana Frantz Bentley is a must read for those interested and invested in early childhood arts education. It promotes the ideal of a responsive, classroom educator who seeks to include the arts children’s daily lives to support diverse ways of knowing and learning.

Reviewed by Angela Eckhoff, Assistant Professor of Teaching and Learning, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia.

Creativity in the Classroom: Case Studies in Using the Arts in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education
Paul McIntosh and Digby Warren (Editors). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2013

Seventeen chapters are divided under five somewhat nebulous headings: Encouraging creativity in the classroom, Using performance, Using poetry, Using imagery, and Learning technologies and assessment.

Highlights include chapters on using cinema in the economics classroom, music improvisation in leadership training, poetry reading in diversity management, poetry writing in healthcare education, and creating social networks to support teachers in the development of creative classroom approaches.

Most chapters provide insightful examples of ways to use the arts to promote the kinds of skills associated with creativity among college students and emerging professionals. However, the text is somewhat uneven, with some chapters clearly less developed than others. Almost all of the contributing authors are working in the UK, and some of the terminology used presents a challenge to understanding clear applicability in the US.

Notably, the section on using imagery includes only one chapter that explicitly addresses the creation of visual images in the classroom (several of the chapters focus on verbal imagery). Included in that section are chapters on using visual imagery in end-of-life care training, using museum objects in fashion design, examining landscapes to advance educations students’ observation skills, developing personal narratives in social work education, and using labyrinths in many different education fields as a means of promoting personal growth and development.

McIntosh notes, in his introduction to the book describing the importance of these kinds of creative approaches, that this is not a book for educational theorists. It is a practically oriented book that could be useful to those in higher education looking to enliven their practice with a few creative arts-based approaches.

Reviewed by Katherine Morse, Education Coordinator, Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Johnson County Community College, Overland Park, Kansas.