The Power of Pictures: Creating Pathways to Literacy Through Art
Beth Olshansky, founder and director of the Center for the Advancement of Art-Based Literacy at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, has just completed a new book and companion DVD: The Power of Pictures: Creating Pathways to Literacy Through Art. The book is available through Jossey-Bass, an imprint of Wiley. Call 800-956-7739 to order your copy.
In her book, Beth shares her experience of nearly two decades exploring the dynamic relationship between art and writing, the language of pictures and the language of words. Replete with powerful stories of students of all ages, learning styles, and backgrounds whose literacy learning has been transformed by the hands-on visual process she has developed, the book also includes empirical data. Two sizable quantitative research studies and seven years of reading and writing standardized test score data reveal the value of these alternative visual pathways into literacy learning for at-risk students. Sprinkled with the voices of young artists and writers, the book and companion DVD make clear the power of pictures to transform the literacy learning of all students, particularly those for whom words are not their preferred medium.
The companion DVD takes viewers into a third-grade classroom to watch the process unfold with one group of diverse learners. Witness the power of pictures to level the playing field and create a truly democratic learning environment.
Reviews of The Power of Pictures: Creating Pathways to Literacy Through Art
The Ultimate Tool for Teaching Writing
Nearly two decades ago, Beth Olshansky started a quiet revolution designed to overthrow the traditional verbal bias that drives our educational system. By recognizing, honoring, and celebrating the natural relationship between words and pictures, Beth has given voice to those students who have been stymied by the writing process for years. Her two 'pictures first' literacy models, Image-Making Within The Writing Process and Picturing Writing: Fostering Literacy Through Art, place struggling student writers where they've never been before: in a position of power!
For years teachers have been directed to differentiate instructional strategies in order to reach the diverse learners in their classrooms, yet most of the prescriptive techniques offered to them have remained dogmatic and joyless. Beth Olshansky's art-based literacy models not only put pleasure into the equation, they result in a whole that is vastly greater than the sum of is two parts. The technique that Beth has perfected for enabling students to create collage illustrations results in images that are truly breathtaking. As a result, students find that rich, descriptive words spring into their heads when they sit down to write about what they've created.
In The Power of Pictures, Beth describes her two research-based models in an exquisitely detailed, logical, sequential format that is richly sprinkled with anecdotal illustrations. She has left no stone unturned. For those who need convincing, quantitative results of field studies are provided, as well as a theoretical base that references Gardner, Bandura, and Vygotsky, among others.
For those who want to cut right to the chase, Beth offers detailed descriptions of the various components of her model including using professionally published picture books as studies, shifting traditionally held 'verbocentric' paradigms, lesson-planning and implementation, materials, Artists/Writers Workshop, and much, much more. An accompanying DVD provides visual instruction as well as classroom demonstrations. After having used both of Beth Olshansky's models for nearly ten years, I am still taken aback by the alchemy that occurs when students finally find eloquence after creating their hand-painted, textured collage images. The Power of Pictures should be required reading for anyone teaching students to write!
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High Praise for the Power!
As a literacy educator I've long admired Beth Olshansky's work. This gem of a book will now make her "pictures first" process to literacy accessible to all teachers.
Beth starts with a fundamental literacy truth: The root of comprehension and composition is visual images. Even young children can decode the meaning of pictures and encode meaning into pictures with ease, without instruction.
Beth proceeds to show teachers, even those with no prior art knowledge, how to use this truth to transform the literacy learning of all students, especially diverse learners. She makes plain how visual art is indeed a critical pathway to literacy by explaining the parallels among art-making, writing and constructing meaning during comprehension.
Beth's writes with passion about her personal literacy journey that is informed by two decades of work with children and research that is well respected in both the professional literacy and arts integration communities. The result is her Artist/ Writer's Workshop model. This solid literacy framework is infused with an innovative art-based alternative that taps into the source of all good writing---making pictures inside and outside your head. The four-step process (demonstrated in the DVD that accompanies the book) has a simple elegance and provides a new vision of how all students can write successfully.
As a teacher I need and want practical literacy strategies proven to succeed. Beth provides this with specifics about everything from mini-lessons that include modeling and scaffolding, to guidelines for teaching crayon resist and collage making used as sources for subsequent writing. Novice and veteran teachers will enjoy her book walks, brainstorming frames, happy accidents and silver dollar words. She also offers solid recommendations for engaging students in reflection and her assessment checklists
Beth has made a significant contribution to expanding our view of literacy and what effective literacy instruction should be. She convinces readers that the arts are indeed the fourth R.
Claudia E. Cornett, Ph.D.
Professor Emerita, Wittenberg University
Author of Creating Meaning through Literature and the Arts
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An Invitation to Art and Writing
This user-friendly book is a delight to read. It is as if author Beth Olshansky is chatting with you personally as she shares her art-based literacy program. You meet students and teachers from across the country and beyond as they share their successes. The Workshop Process is clearly described as students move from the creation of pictures using simple yet engaging art techniques to rich, descriptive writing through a series of mini-lessons as they produce stories, poetry, and integrated curriculum research-based science and social studies projects.
The Power of Pictures provides an invitation to art and writing that is accessible to us all. You need not be an artist to use and share with your students the simple techniques of crayon resist and collage.
The author's style of writing is not textbook-like but rather clear and encouraging. The companion DVD adds sparkle to the mix, showing students participating in a variety of literature-based art & writing mini-lessons. All elementary teachers will welcome this book; especially because it is easily integrated into the current curriculum--not as an add-on, but as support for student literacy.
Elementary school librarian and former elementary teacher
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Words of Praise
All teachers and parents should read The Power of Pictures in order to fully understand how students can use their natural visual abilities to improve their literacy skills. Beth Olshansky’s extensive and impressive research provides a very convincing rationale for promoting a strong visual and verbal partnership in the curricula of our schools.
Janet L. Olson,
Author of Envisioning Writing
Professor Emeritus, Department of Visual Arts
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The Picturing Writing model is arts integration at its best—a perfect combination of literacy and the arts—where drawing and painting become vehicles for learning to write.
Ray Doughty, former Project Director for South Carolina’s
Arts in Basic Curriculum (ABC) Project
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Beth Olshansky provides teachers with sound, refined methods for engaging all students in integrated studies of art, writing, and literature--and further possible integration with science or social studies as well. Unlike other literacy claims, these techniques truly leave no child behind.
Reading and Literacy Program
Bank Street College
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Olshansky has created a model based on how kids learn; a model that draws on the best tool--our ability to think in pictures. Don't let this one pass you by; it is sure to bring positive results for all learners, but especially those who need it the most.
Marcia McCaffrey, Bureau of Accountability
New Hampshire Department of Education
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Through powerful examples of students’ work, thoughtful explanations, and clear, simple instructions, Beth guides us into a revolutionary way of teaching writing that ensures all children are successful. Having used this art-based approach to writing for the last nine years, I can attest to its ability to empower all learners!
Paula Kilts, 2nd grade teacher
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Each time I use Beth’s Picturing Writing or Image-Making process with a new group of pupils, I am struck anew by the deep level of engagement and sustained motivation in my at-risk Title I children. They are so proud of their work! Beth’s ability to clearly communicate the value of visual and kinesthetic activities in our classrooms has transformed my work with at-risk children.
Katherine Lovering Shanks-Title I Project Manager
Monadnock Regional School District
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Picturing Writing has been a godsend for our self-contained ELL classroom. It gives all our refugee and immigrant students a voice despite their diverse backgrounds. We have witnessed tremendous growth in all aspects of language development!
ELL classroom teachers grades 3-5
Webster Elementary School
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I’ve had great success using these methods English Language Learners and other at-risk students. Engaging all learners, this visual approach promotes oral language skills and writing that flow directly from the pictures students have painted with care and pride. The Power of Pictures will be required reading in my University literacy courses!
Donna L. Garcia, Ph.D.
Instructor, Language, Literacy, and Sociocultural Studies
College of Education, University of New Mexico
Instructional/Literacy Coach, Albuquerque Public Schools
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Last year I tried this approach with my class of high school special education students. This diverse group of learners, ages 14-22, all experienced an enormous sense of pride and self-worth as they artfully crafted their own spectacular picture books. In the process, the students made tremendous improvements in their reading and writing skills, which also carried over into their test scores!
Academic Support Reading/English
Salem High School
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During our 10 years of implementation of Artists/Writers Workshop, teachers consistently reported how students who had difficulty expressing themselves and completing writing assignments became creative and engaged writers using this arts-based approach to literacy learning. I strongly recommend this book to district administrators, principals and teachers.
(retired) Director of Language Development
Franklin-McKinley School District
San Jose, California
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I have never in my thirty years seen first graders write like this or be so attuned to literature. This approach works for my low readers and writers; it challenges my top students; and it supports those in the middle. My only regret is that I waited 30 years to discover this wonderful process!
Former assistant principal and first grade teacher
Hallsville Elementary School
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This success of Olshansky's well documented research clearly shows that literacy--even in the lowest of achievers--can blossom when the classroom teacher also employs the parallel language of visual expression. The results are stunning, artful, and imaginative; a clear testament to a methodology that yields dramatic improvement and empowers young learners!
Sally Gradle, Ed.D. Art Education
Southern Illinois University Carbondale
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Beth Olshansky’s Picturing Writing and Image-Making descriptions are a breath of fresh air for improvement of language arts and development of a positive sense of self for elementary school students. Exploration of these techniques at George Mason University with struggling adolescent readers has been equally as effective as those reported in this well-written, step-by-step approach that honors learners with alternative learning styles. I highly recommend this book for teachers across grade levels.
Barbara K. Given, Ph.D.
Co-Director, Adolescent and Adult Learning Research Center
Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study
George Mason University
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Rich, compelling portraits of learners, beautiful color examples of student work, and practical guidance for implementation, this books Is not only highly readable but also contains convincing evidence of student achievement.
Tracie Costantino, PhD.
University of Georgia
Assistant Professor, Art Education
Lamar Dodd School of Art
University of Georgia
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Beth Olshansky generously shares a teaching approach perfected through years of successful classroom practice, and inspired by the conviction that visual art and writing are ‘equal, parallel, and complementary languages.’ The children’s work testifies to the power of this carefully scaffolded learning process.
Christine Marmé Thompson,
Professor of Art Education,
Pennsylvania State University
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Artist/Writers Workshop gives students the tools they need to create beautiful pictures and extraordinary writing. The DVD brings Artist/Writers Workshop to life! This book is a must for teachers.
Patricia Semrick, teacher of grades 1, 2, 6, 7, and 8
Bullard TALENT K–8
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If you wrestle with the current high stakes testing climate and find it an anathema to inspired learning, this single book is a “must read!” I have experienced few such high impact literacy models that children, pre-adolescents and adolescents of all learning styles and abilities, love and that demonstrate improved reading and writing.
Janet Curcio Wilson
Dean of Special Education
Newport Middle School
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The Power of Pictures book/DVD provides a unique contribution to classroom teachers and other professionals who value the visual arts but are unsure of why or how art can contribute to literacy in the elementary classroom. Olshansky writes with authority, providing solid theory and research to support her exciting practical suggestions.
Charlotte S. Huck Professor of Children’s Literature
Ohio State University
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Beth Olshansky's book and DVD set is extremely valuable for teachers and teacher preparation programs. Practical and theoretically grounded, this is an excellent introduction to a broader view of literacy and a lasting resource for teachers.
J. David Betts, Ph.D.
Department of Language, Reading and Culture
University of Arizona
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Relevant for all teachers and administrators, Beth Olshansky's Artists/Writers Workshop is a place where learners of all styles and languages are empowered by the artists' brush and the writer's pen to weave stories of exceptional quality.
Jasmin A. Niedo
School of Education
Northern Marianas College
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Beth’s book and DVD will speak to the hearts of teachers who want more children to succeed as writers and learners. It describes Artists/Writers Workshop and delivers deep insight into the wondrous potential of learning through the parallel and equal languages of pictures and words.
Associate professor of Language Education
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This dynamic approach engages all learners while addressing the mandates of No Child Left Behind. Our Title I and Special Education students consistently scored above the national and state averages on standardized reading
and writing assessments!
Dr. Susan O’Connor
Director of Instruction for Language Arts and Science
Exeter School District, Exeter, NH
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I have witnessed the results of this visual approach to writing on standardized reading assessments with my third grade classroom (50% English Language Learners and 75% Free and Reduced Lunch). At the beginning of the school year, 33% of my students scored 1-4 years below grade level in reading comprehension; after 8 months of consistent use of Picturing Writing, only 3% scored below grade level with 75% scoring 1-4 years above grade level!
Amanda E. Urrutia-Rayburn
Third grade teacher
Manchester G.A.T.E. School
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Beth Olshansky's system for integrating art and literacy development creates in students young and old a zest for learning. It creates confident and competent students and improves the quality of the students' work to a remarkable degree. Extraordinary!
Mary Jo Morris, Ph.D
Learning Disabilities Consultant
Humber College, Toronto, Ontario.
Writing: Fostering Literacy Through Art®
Image-Making Within The Writing Process® Contact