Integrating visual and language arts
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This case study investigates a teacher’s curriculum composing in a sixth grade English language arts class, focusing on the teacher’s problem solving and use of drawing to integrate the curriculum with visual arts. Framing curriculum as a process/product composed over time, I investigate the curriculum path of the teacher, Sherelle. Organized into a manuscript format, two articles comprise the body of this dissertation. The first manuscript focuses on composing curriculum and analyzes the curriculum path (Sumara, 1996), relationships, and solutions involved in Sherelle’s integrated curriculum. The second manuscript focuses on Sherelle’s decisions to use drawing as a tool and frames problem-solving around these decisions as a bricolage (Leví-Strauss, 1966). I analyze the bricolage within a sociocultural framework that provides specific goals, tools, and settings to analyze Sherelle’s decisions. Data were collected during the school year through participant observation in the classroom, artifact collection of curriculum materials for student and teacher use, and interviews with the teacher. I reduced field note and artifact data to produce an initial set of codes, applied codes for goals, settings, and tools to analyze the problem solving moves Sherelle discussed in interviews. Analysis focused on Sherelle’s situated activity, specifically her use of drawing as a tool, personal and professional settings in which Sherelle worked, and goals Sherelle had for integrating curriculum within the school context, using drawing as a primary visual art text and tool, and solutions she developed for documenting and negotiating the integrated curriculum. The analysis finds that Sherelle used drawing for several purposes: (1) as a visual cue/illustration tool; (2) as a multimodal composition tool; (3) as a planning tool; and (4) as an assessment tool. The curriculum path integrated visual art on a consistent basis during most of the year, but a decision to focus on a colleague and the end-of-course exams resulted in a temporary shift to a language-only focus. The study concludes with a discussion of implications teachers may face in using visual art in literacy curricula. In Sherelle’s case, careful documentation and opportunistic decisions for using available resources were needed to support her use of drawing.