Using Picture Books to Build Common Schema in

Report
USING PICTURE BOOKS TO BUILD
COMMON SCHEMA IN THE MIDDLE
SCHOOL ENGLISH CLASSROOM
Kristina Albarello
THE BACKGROUND

Literacy Instruction within the
Middle School Curriculum with
Dr. Shelly Furuness
Introduced the value of using
children’s picture books in the
middle or high school classroom
 Example: Yertle the Turtle by Dr.
Seuss before reading a novel about
the Holocaust
 Tapping individual prior knowledge
and creating common, shared
knowledge

THE BACKGROUND

Middle Grades Curriculum & Instructional
Methods with Dr. Roger Boop

Created and taught lesson about paraphrasing to an
8th grade Language Arts class
Created a shared experience to begin the lesson
 Students and I referenced the shared experience
throughout the ensuing lesson

THE QUESTION

Reflecting on the theory and practice, the two
ideas merged and led to the central question of
my investigation:
What happens when a teacher uses picture
books in a middle school English Language
Arts classroom to create a common
experience that all share, to which all can
relate and reference throughout the
ensuing lesson?
THE EXISTING LITERATURE
Theoretical Considerations
 Schema Theory





Schemata: The frameworks/networks of ideas that
help us make sense of experiences (Chapman, 1993,
24)
Schema: The “hooks” onto which new information can
“hang” (Gipe, 2002, 221)
Students need schema to understand new
information
Schema vary from student to student
For students without schema about a topic, stories
are the best for developing new schema (Marzano,
2003, 113; Gipe, 2002, 222)
THE EXISTING LITERATURE
Picture Books
 Advantages

Short length
Students completely engage (Giorgis, 1999, 51-52)
 Experience a complete story rather than an excerpt
(Giorgis, 1999, 51-52)

Sophisticated Language & Topics (Kasten, Kristo,
McClure, & Garthwait, 2005)
 Art and Visual Aids

Help students who struggle to form mental images (Hibbing
& Rankin-Erickson, 2003)
 Art valuable for its aesthetics alone (Carr, Buchanan,
Wentz, Weiss, & Brant, 2001, 147).

THE EXISTING LITERATURE

Specific Kinds of Students Who Benefit
English Language Learners: there are visual clues
and less language in picture books (Hadaway &
Mundy, 1999,465)
 Visual learners
 Multi-level
classrooms

THE APPROACH & METHODOLOGY
The Question: What happens when a teacher
uses picture books in a middle school English
Language Arts classroom to create a common
experience that all share, to which all can relate
and reference throughout the ensuing lesson?
 Hypothesis:

positive learning experience
 students would make connections to the picture
books during the rest of the lesson

THE APPROACH & METHODOLOGY

The Setting
7th grade Language Arts classroom
 Middle school located in a metropolitan school
district in Indianapolis, IN


The Participants
2 groups of 5 students, selected by classroom teacher
 Diverse in ability, participation, personality,
background
 To establish trust, I taught the students two dates
before beginning the data collection

THE APPROACH & METHODOLOGY

Research Design
Used teacher action research
 Study spanned 5 weeks with no more than 2
meetings per week: total of 7 lessons
 Format of Lessons

1.
2.
3.
4.
Began lesson with a picture book that helped teach
lesson’s objectives
Made connection from picture book to lesson’s topic
Taught same lesson as the classroom teacher, referring
back to the picture book
Students work on own with independent reading books
THE APPROACH & METHODOLOGY

Data Sources





Post-Lesson Rating Scales
Quick notes in a field journal
Video recordings of lessons (later viewed and
transcribed)
Post-Study Rating Scale
Post-Study Survey
THE APPROACH & METHODOLOGY

Data Analysis

Used indexing: creating a table of contents of
reoccurring categories found in my data (Shagoury &
Power, 1993, 99)
Found common themes in notes, observations, and student
responses
 Narrowed categories


Used the constant comparison method: relating
categories within a larger framework to make
theoretical claims (Shagoury & Power, 1993, 115)
THE APPROACH & METHODOLOGY

The data analysis led to the following categories:

Teacher-Made Connections
using the picture book as a model to prepare students for
what they need to be able to do
 giving more examples/providing comparisons
 returning to the shared picture book experience for students
struggling to understand the concept



Student-Made Connections
Through further analysis and triangulation of
these categories, I was able to draw conclusions
for my findings and implications
FINDINGS & IMPLICATIONS
Teacher-Made Connections
1.
Using the picture book as a model to prepare students for what
they need to be able to do
The Findings


14 occurrences

Using Freedom River by Doreen Rappaport to teach how to
provide definitions of vocabulary words in writing using the
context
•
Used concrete examples of how the author used this skill to
guide students to accomplishing the same skills
•
“If your first vocab word is Luxor, what context clues can you
include? In here [Freedom River], they show us them travelling
under straw in a wagon to give us an idea of what the
Underground Railroad is like. What is important to Luxor?
What context clues can you provide just like they did for the
Underground Railroad in here?”
FINDINGS & IMPLICATIONS
Teacher-Made Connections
1.
Using the picture book as a model
to prepare students for what they
need to be able to do
The Implications


Use picture books as mentor
texts to provide concrete models
the class can share

Reduce the amount of time spent
coming up with abstract
examples or searching the
students’ independent reading
books
FINDINGS & IMPLICATIONS
Teacher-Made Connections
2.
Giving More Examples/Providing Comparisons
The Findings


8 occurrences

Compared Fire on the Mountainside and Too Many Tamales to
teach falling action and resolution
•
Provided multiple examples
and comparisons
•
Allowed students to see the
literary term as not solely
one example
FINDINGS & IMPLICATIONS
Teacher-Made Connections
2.
Giving More Examples/Providing Comparisons
The Findings

Qualities of Good Examples

•
Basic

Students struggled to understand novel excerpts

Students’ reading comprehension should not inhibit their ability
to learn an unrelated skill
•
In Context

Identifying the climax allowed the students to more easily
identify the rising action, when teaching rising action using
Saving Sweetness

Teaching the rising action isolated, out of context, would have
been nearly impossible
FINDINGS & IMPLICATIONS
Teacher-Made Connections
2.
Giving More
Examples/Providing
Comparisons
The Implications

Use picture books for
additional examples and
comparisons

•
Increase the number of
accessible examples
students receive
•
Focus on the skill rather
than reading
comprehension
•
Provide examples in
context
FINDINGS & IMPLICATIONS
Teacher-Made Connections
3.
Returning to the shared picture book experience for students
struggling to understand the concept
The Findings


4 occurrences

After using Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio to teach 3rd
person point of view, we moved onto more difficult mentor texts
from novels. Students struggled with the excerpts from the novels.
•
Returned to the picture book for a more basic, concrete example
they understood
•
Afterward, were able to successfully move to the difficult
mentor texts again
FINDINGS & IMPLICATIONS
Teacher-Made Connections
3.
Returning to the shared picture book experience for students
struggling to understand the concept
The Findings

Examined other occurrences—Saving Sweetness by Diane Stanley
used to teach rising action and Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto
for falling action

•
Recognized that the value was in having a shared experience,
rather than a new shared experience for each skill
•
One book could teach multiple skills
The Implications


Use picture books because of their simpler, concrete examples

Consider all the skills and concepts to be covered in a unit and
choose a picture book that fits all/most of them
FINDINGS & IMPLICATIONS
Student-Made Connections
Seeing the picture book as an instructional tool
 Findings
 Only one student verbally made a reference to a picture book
later in the lesson: Writing their own children’s books, one girl
used it as a model for her plot line
 Students saw picture books as instructional tools



Students responded with averages of 3.99 and 3.75 for:
 Was the picture book relevant to the lesson?
 Did the picture book enhance understanding of the skill later
discussed in the lesson?
Of the 10 total students, 9 made a comment about the picture book:
 introducing the lesson
 helping them learn the lesson better, or
 providing examples of what the lesson was about
Yet students still enjoyed the picture books: Students scores
averaged a 4 on the rating scale
FINDINGS & IMPLICATIONS
Student-Made
Connections
Seeing the picture book as an
instructional tool

Implications

Students were not “tricked” into
learning


The novelty of picture books
likely will not wear off as
quickly
Can use picture books as
shared experiences multiple
times
FOR FUTURE INVESTIGATIONS
Which students benefit
the most and why
 Establish criteria for
determining high quality
picture books
 Other kinds of shared
experiences—
simulations, videos,
magazines, etc.

QUESTIONS?
REFERENCES
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Carr, K. S., Buchanan, D. L., Wentz, J. B., Weiss, M. L., & Brant, K. J. (2001). Not just for the primary grades: a bibliography of picture
books for secondary content teachers. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 45(2), 146-153.
Chapman, A. (1993). Making sense: teaching critical reading across the curriculum. New York: College Entrance Examination Board.
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