Category Archives: art

Using Phonological and Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, and Prosodic Reading in Art Classes

Once again, this was written for a reading endorsement class. I am posting my thoughts for anyone who is looking to support reading from he art classroom.


It seems that phonological awareness and phonemic awareness differ mostly in their degree of specificity. Phonological awareness is acknowledging in general that words are made up of sounds, which can be manipulated to form other words. It happens in listening, not reading. Pence-Turnbull & Justice (Pence Turnbull & Justice, 2012) write, “Phonological Awareness is an individual’s ability to attend to the phonological unites of speech through implicit or explicit analysis. We can examine an individual’s phonological awareness using a variety of simple tasks (which are typically presented orally, so that a person must listen to the phonological unties and not read them)” (p.80). Similarly, our reading suggests, “Phonological awareness is the ability to identify, think about, and manipulate sounds in spoken language without using text” (Phonics and Phonological Awareness Article.pdf, p. 1). The key to understanding phonology seems to be that the person can hear and use sound differences without necessarily identifying them as individual phonemes of a particular language.

Conversely, “Phonemic awareness involves the understanding that words are made up of individual sounds, or phonemes, and the ability to manipulate these phonemes either by segmenting, blending, or changing individual phonemes within words to create new words” (Phonics and Phonological Awareness Article.pdf, p. 1). “When an individual is able to attend explicitly to the individual phonemes in words…he or she is said to have phonemic awareness” (Pence Turnbull & Justice, 2012, pp. 80–81). Hence, while both phonological and phonemic awareness are about understanding that words are made up of sounds, phonemic awareness is more specific in that one with phonemic awareness can identify and manipulate specific phonemes within words.

Two ideas/plans

As an art teacher, I try to help support reading and other content area needs throughout my curriculum. I currently teach grades 2–5 and three middle school electives. The first plan will describe using phonics and phonemes into a grade 3 lesson, which is when children are transitioning from learning-to-read to reading-to-learn. The second plan will support middle school students who are reading-to-learn, but still need support in developing thier phonemic awareness and literacy skills.

Plan 1 for Grade 3 lesson: During one of my third-grade lessons that was originally designed to support North American history across the third-grade level, the students learn about the influence that the Europeans had on making pottery in the part of the continent now known as Mexico. I introduce the terms pre-Columbian art and post-Columbian art along with some other challenging vocabulary words for this project. Phonics education is designed to make connections between letter sequences and phonemes. For the purpose of developing the students’ phonological awareness, I say the words before putting them up on the projector to be read. While I say them, I stress the sounds that make up the words. I have the students repeat the sounds so that when I put up the slide, they will already be aware of the sounds, and they can start connecting them to the letters they see on the projector. In this lesson, I go beyond phonemic awareness and ask the students if they can identify the morphemes—the roots and affixes that make up the vocabulary terms—to see whether they can derive meaning by which they can begin decoding the words. For pre- and post-Columbian art, I often get responses about Columbia rather than about Columbus. This lexicon error gives me an opportunity to talk more about the geography and historical development of the region. Conversely, the students usually recognize the pre- and post- prefixes. Therefore, once they understand that Columbian refers to Christopher Columbus, they can generally derive the meaning of the terms.

The grapheme to phoneme correspondence and phonological awareness parts of the lesson doesn’t stop with the vocabulary words. In designing their pottery, I ask the students to build vessels using pre-Columbian methods (the techniques used in Central America before the introduction of the potter’s wheel from Europe), but to design their pots in post-Columbian style like the artworks of modern Mexico. I include the names of contemporary Mexican artists, like Mata Ortiz, with some exemplars in the lesson because the phonemes and morphemes of Mexican-Spanish language sound different than American-English phonemes. Hopefully, this helps any ELLs in my classes from Spanish-speaking countries to hear the differences in pronunciation thereby raising their phonological and phonemic awareness of the differences between Spanish and English phonemes.

One last element to this lesson that is designed to support literacy is that the students must build their name as a relief feature onto the surface of their pots or other vessels. Doing so helps support the correspondence of the phonemes that make up their names to the alphabetic symbols needed to spell them. I find that being able to manipulate the physical letters also helps the students at this grade level who are still reversing letters like “b” and “d” when they write.

Plan 2 for middle school elective: My middle school electives that most lend themselves to supporting reading are my digital art and design class, and my cartooning and caricature elective, though I include literacy in my other electives as well. This year, I used both classes to support a struggling reader, which prevented her from needing to be pulled out of electives that she enjoys for reading interventions. This plan will describe how I support reading through phonics in the cartooning and caricature elective.

For this class, my students are primarily learning about the connections between art and literature through SVS (sequential visual storytelling). While there are smaller projects along the way, the main goal of the class is for the students to write/draw their own graphic novels using SVS that follow a “Hero’s Journey” pattern as defined by Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949). This being the objective of the class, we explore many stories along the way and identify the parts that reflect various portions of the hero’s journey. In each story, we also look at the historical archetypes that are present in the tale and compare then to Carl Jung’s identification of historical archetypes.

During the storytelling-based lessons, we sometimes do read aloud sessions where the students have an opportunity to read parts of the story. I try to ensure that they read with fluency, including automaticity and appropriate reading speed, when they read, and support them individually when I see them struggle. I am sensitive that some struggling readers are not comfortable reading in front of their peers, so I do not force public reading. For those, I work on reading more privately in one-on-one sessions.

I also read to them. When I read, I try to enunciate the various phonemes and point out important morphemes to promote phonological and phonemic awareness. I already make my thought processes transparent about understanding content and vocabulary; therefore, I can also illuminate my processes for decoding words and linking/manipulating sounds as I read to the students.
While reading, I also use the punctuation in exaggerated fashion to help the students develop prosodic reading, which studies have shown help support silent reading as the inflections of speech tend inform meaning.

This year, when I teach the lesson, I plan to incorporate a Reader’s Theater strategy where the students, working in small groups take a story from an existing graphic novel, turn it into a script, and act out their script during the class. During the reading, I will ask them to enunciate the phoneme blends clearly, and to read with emotion to help other students with comprehension. When writing their scripts, I will require the students to choose words and phrases that have a strong rhythmical quality and/or a strong voice. I can assist them in this area through the use of exemplars and by walking around as they work suggesting rhythmic phrases. These things are said to help with prosodic reading, phonological and phonemic awareness, and reading comprehension (Paige, Rasinski, & Magpuri-Lavell, 2012).


Paige, D. D., Rasinski, T. V., & Magpuri-Lavell, T. (2012). If fluent, expressive reading important for high school readers? . Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 56(1), 67–76.

Pence Turnbull, K., & Justice, L. (2012). Language development from theory to practice. . Boston: Pearson.

Phonics and Phonological Awareness Article.pdf. (n.d.). Retrieved from scps.instructure:


Tags: , , , , , ,

Career Counseling for the Creatively Talented Student

Charles Sutton
Galileo School for Gifted Learning
Level 7 Learning

As an art and design teacher, it is important for me to consider what aspect of guidance and counseling for gifted and talented students applies most directly to my own classroom and students. While the social, emotional, and academic well-being of the students is a primary concern, career counseling may top them in that one of the important goals of—and justifications for—art and design education programs relates to career preparation. Further, counseling takes place in the present, but there are also long term goals that must be considered when working with students. Therefore, the topic of this paper is about the importance of counseling gifted and talented students about arts-related careers.

Parents and other adults often recommend that children should move their professional interests away from arts careers because they are concerned about the child being able to earn a proper living wage as an adult. In 2014, Graeme Payton, the Education Editor for The Telegraph newspaper wrote an article stating that, according to Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, “…too many teachers are… [encouraging students to make art and humanities] choices at school that ultimately holds them back for the rest of their life” (Payton, 2014). Instead, Morgan suggested that students should be pushed more toward STEM careers. Two days later, Phelps (2014) responded in an editorial, citing much information about happiness leading to success, careers in the arts, and the percentages of top CEOs with arts and humanities degrees. This has been an ongoing debate for a long time. Is it appropriate to counsel children—even those with relevant, innate talents—to pursue arts education and art-related careers? How should one counsel these creative students in terms of making career choices? This paper will endeavor to answer some of those questions. </p?

First, to address Morgan’s concerns about the need for people in STEM careers, pursuing the arts is hugely helpful toward that goal. Specifically, engineers need to be able to design and innovate, and art and design skills are essential ingredients for good product development. Additionally, the main reason cited that companies hire outside consulting firms has become innovation, which is an offshoot of art and design. “The biggest single trend we’ve observed is the growing acknowledgment of innovation as a centerpiece of corporate strategies and initiatives. What’s more, we’ve noticed that the more senior the executives, the more likely they are to frame their companies’ needs in the context of innovation” (Kelley & Littman, 2001). Do they hire engineer firms or other STEM-related business for coming up with unique ideas? Sometimes, but more often the hire companies like IDEO—which is a design company—to help them think of innovative products and processes to help their companies grow. In the future, many of those innovations will come from within the company, and students with degrees in art and design will fit into those careers naturally.

This is an important concept for gifted and talented education and for those who counsel these students. Gifts and talents are great to have, but if they are not nurtured and practiced, they will not lead to lucrative careers. Arieti (1976) explains about the relationship between genius and talent. He claims that they are not the same, in fact they have an antagonistic relationship. However, the acknowledged genius—one who has superior gifts—also has talents that needs to be developed. Aritei (1976) writes, “But the genius also has talent, and the development of his talent enables him to objectify his creativity and render it permanent” (p. 341).
Similarly, Malcolm Gladwell (2008) discusses innate talent. He acknowledges its existence, but also says that it is not enough. Students with gifts and talents need to nurture and develop them in order to be successful. He cites evidence from a study conducted at Berlin’s Academy of Music that sought to determine what made the difference between talented amateur piano players and professional pianists. Regardless of gifts and talents exhibited early on, only those that put in at least 10 thousand hours of practice time were able to make the leap from sufficient to professional status. He writes

        The striking thing about Ericsson’s study is that he and his colleagues couldn’t find any “naturals,” musicians who floated effortlessly to the top while practicing a fraction of the time their peers did. Nor could they find any “grinds,” people who worked harder than everyone else, yet just didn’t have what it takes to break the top ranks. Their research suggests that once a musician has enough ability to get into a top music school, the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works (Gladwell, 2008, p. 39)

Gladwell’s (2008) book cites examples over and over again from a wide range of professional fields that the difference between innate talent and professional-level skills is approximately 10 thousand hours of practice time utilizing those skills. We have students in gifted and talented programs with high IQs or extreme talents in many fields—including art and design—but if we do not counsel them to practice and perfect those skills, then their gifts may end up being squandered. Furthermore, gifted and talented students may have the task commitment that it takes to put in the 10 thousand hours of practice time, but if we do not specifically counsel them toward a profession in which their talent is useful and desired, then we may not be fully preparing them for college and career.

It is imperative that school counselors and content area teachers perform the role of career counselors as well. Mayes and Hines (2014) conducted a study about the importance of career counseling for African American girls who are identified as gifted and talented. They wrote, “…school counselors must facilitate college and career development activities and disseminate information to prepare gifted African American girls for postsecondary education” (p. 35). Their focus is specifically on African American girls because they are an underrepresented subgroup in gifted and talented programs and often ill prepared to succeed once they are selected based on biases built into the system. However, the point in their paper about counseling applies not only to the students in their study, but also to all gifted and talented students in general who need career goals in order to develop their talents into professional-level skills. The study continues about how children should be counseled to foster career development. Career assessment tools can be used to “…help students match their personalities with potential jobs, careers, college majors, etc.” (p. 37). This may be a key to understanding that aside from the few students who have overall giftedness, most students have talents in specific areas. Those who are talented in the arts and design should be identified and encouraged toward careers in that direction.

Similarly, Elijah (2011) writes about the main functions of a school counselor for gifted and talented students saying counselors should, “…monitor student academic progress and provide guidance with appropriate course selection, career planning, post-secondary educational options, and special programs and enrichment opportunities” (p. 5). Wood (2009) suggests that that career counseling may be even more important for students who are multitalented or overall gifted. These students have a richness of possibilities from which to choose. They may be drowning in career choices, and this multiplicity of choice may cause them to freeze due to the “Fear of making the ‘wrong’ decisions, not finding the ‘right’ college, fear of disappointing others, or failure to find the ‘perfect’ career [which] may create procrastination of the college and career search or the choice of a ‘safe’ college major” (p. 8). However, if Gladwell (2008) is correct, then the students need to make an early choice to get that professional level of practice and talent development. Therefore, they need to be counseled toward one of the many possible gifts and talents in order to meet their potential. There simply is not enough time to develop multiple talents to professional level, and trying may make it that none of the students gifts are adequately strengthened through practice. Alternatively, making a safe career choice in the case of gifted students is a form of underachievement; so, school professionals need to help the student understand that they have potential for much higher than making safe decisions. However, students also need to know that they may only be able to achieve professional-levels of talent if they are prepared to put in the work at an early age and to continue developing skills through college. For student’s whose strongest talents are in the arts, counselors and teachers should not shy away from making the development of those skills the focus of career training.

Gladwell (2008) concludes, “We are caught in the myths of the best and brightest and the self-made that we think outliers spring naturally from the earth” (p. 268). He cautions that although there is innate giftedness and talent, that if we do not recognize the need to nurture it, then it will never amount to more than it is. Success for gifted and talented students means that one needs to identify talents and potential early, and to provide means for putting in the hard work that is required to make that inborn-talent reach professional levels for the students to reach their potential. Even though many gifted students have the ability for great task commitment, they may become lost in the multiplicity of talents, or they may not see the benefits for developing talents in the creative arts. That is where school counselors and teachers can help these children realize that they need to foster and practice their talents, whatever those gifts are, if they want to become successful, professional adults.


Arieti, S. (1976). Creativity: The magic synthesis. New York: Basic Books Inc., Publishers.

Elijah, K. (2011). Meeting the guidance and counseling needs of gifted students in school settings. Journal of

      School Counseling, 9(14), 1–19.

Gladwell, M. (2008). Outliers: The story of success. New York: Back Bay Books; Little, Brown and Company.

Kelley, T., & Littman, J. (2001). The art of innovation: Lessons in creativity from IDEO, America’s leading

      design firm. New York: Doubleday.

Mayes, R. D., & Hines, E. M. (2014). College and career readiness for gifted African American girls: A call to

      school counselors. Interdisciplinary Journal of Teaching and Learning, 4(1), 31–42.

Payton, G. (2014, November 10). Nicki Morgan: Pupils ‘held back’ by overemphasis on the arts. Retrieved from

Phelps, J. (2014, November 12). Young people should pursue what they enjoy. Retrieved from The Telegraph:

Wood, S. (2009). Counseling concerns of gifted and talented adolescents: Implications for school counselors. Journal of School Counseling , 7(1), 1–47.

Leave a comment

Posted by on July 12, 2016 in art, Education, Gifted learning


Tags: , ,

Using Sequential Art for Narrative Therapy

Charles Sutton

Galileo School for Gifted Learning

Level 7 Learning

When writing the reflection for the topic of using narrative therapy with gifted students, the question arose that, if creating an narrative that externalizes one’s problems could allow the student/client to rewrite his/her own story to help determine a path to bypass the child’s problems, then perhaps, is it also possible to do the same thing through art using graphic novels or comics, which are highly narrative forms of sequential art? As a result of the question, searches were conducted for academic resources in ERIC and other search engines using the terms narrative therapy, graphic novels, comics, etc. While little exists about the particular topic, one research study was located that set out to determine whether sequential art could be used in a therapeutic setting based on the concepts of projection and narrative therapy. This paper will summarize the researcher’s findings and provide some additional insights from other sources.

Castle (2010) wrote his thesis based on personal and professional interest in therapy and comics. He conducted a literature search that did not yield much about using sequential art as a therapeutic tool. As a result, he put together a convenience sample grouping of therapists, professional artists, and graduate students—all of whom have an understanding about and interest in both therapy and art. He collected demographic data, and a developed a five-question survey designed to yield some qualitative and quantitative data that he could analyze to determine whether his theory—that sequential art could be used in the form of narrative therapy—could be confirmed. Before getting to his results and conclusions, it is constructive to see how visual storytelling through sequential art might be a valuable tool for therapists. Additionally, there should be some discussion about using this form of therapy with gifted students, as this was the point of my research.

For some gifted students, especially those who are twice-exceptional, writing long narratives may be too much of a difficult task to have therapeutic value. Therefore, finding non-verbal means of accomplishing the same task may be preferable to writing stories. Unlike traditional stories, which contain writing with possibly a few illustrations, comics generally require three parts. Potts (2013) defines comics as, “Narrative + Art + Visual Storytelling” (p. 14). Narrative is the story that is being told. Art in comics is usually drawings, paintings, or photos. Visual storytelling encompasses several factors

        • The visuals a comics creator choses to show (and not show)
        • The framing, angle, layout, and rendering of the visual elements
        • The juxtaposition, order, and sequence of the visual elements
        • The emphasis that the visual elements are given relative to one another (Potts, 2013, p. 14)

According to Castle (2010), in this very visual medium, the artist drawing the comic has the ability to not only tell the story s/he is drawing, but also to leave room for interpretation. He writes, “…between the panels in Sequential Art is a kind of creating from imagination that only comics provide” (p.66). In other words, the narrative value of comics, graphic novels, storyboarding, and other sequential art forms is that the drawing can bring attention to specific important events, but the reader is left more room for interpretation between the drawing panels by filling in the missing parts, making for a continuous sequence of events between the artist/storyteller and the consumer/reader. This is an important area for Narrative Therapy in that the narrative is both collaborative between the therapist and client. The therapist asks questions to help the client figure out the story, and having room to interpret between the panels can inspire the questions. Additionally, the client is asked to look for feedback from “other viewers” who have experienced similar problems. These viewers are invited to read the story or to watch the presentation of the narrative that the client has created and to make suggestions based on their own experiences. The space between the panels in sequential art leaves room for the viewers to expand the story to allow for solutions to be found by the client within the feedback. This feedback is important for use in rewriting the story with a more favorable outcome for the client/student (Standish, 2013; Wikipedia, 2016; Good Therapy, 2015).

Another aspect of comics that, according to Castle (2010), make them good tools for therapy is that through the use of archetypical characters, the comic story allows clients/students to project. Projection is when clients unconsciously apply a problem behavior to someone else. Narrative therapy requires the client/student to externalize a problem by naming it in the narrative (Wikipedia, 2016). Castle (2010) writes, “The goal of externalizing conversations is to help assist the client to view the problem as the problem and not as part of their identity” (p. 33). This practice teaches the client that the problem is not part of his/her facticity. Rather, it is a separate entity, so the person is able to transcend the problem. By creating an archetypical character upon which to project the problem, the student or client can clearly externalize it, make it the antagonist of the story, and figure out ways to have a more successful character arc for the hero (the client’s own character in the story). Graphic novels and comics can do this perhaps better than traditional story narratives because seeing the externalized problem in an actual form may reinforce the problem as a separate entity.

As for using sequential art with gifted children and adults, there is already a wide body of studies that show that giftedness is often manifested in creativity and visual-spatial intelligence in addition to the linguistic intelligence required for creating a traditional narrative. Sequential art forms allow for more creative expression of the narrative regardless of whether or not the student has specific art talent. Gifted students who have synesthesia may experience emotions through colors, which may be another benefit of graphic forms over traditional stories. Furthermore, since comic book art can be as simple as line drawings or as complicated as the visual storyteller likes, the gifted child who lacks artistic talent or the twice-exceptional child with dysgraphia may not be challenged by or intimidated by simple sketching in the same way that other forms of art therapy (painting, drawing, sculpture, etc.) may. Castle (2010) writes, “Having clients project issues on the table in front of them using Sequential Art may help them communicate in a simple, direct, but non-threatening way” (p. 40). If a gifted child finds the art or the writing threatening, then s/he may be unwilling to participate in the therapy. Therefore, telling the narrative visually using sequential art may remove that obstacle.

Castle’s (2010) study produced four main themes from the responses and literature studies he included. The first is that many agree that sequential art has the ability to be projective, which is an essential element of narrative therapy. Second, sequential art is almost always narrative. Potts (2013) agrees, explaining that although some kinds of abstract expressionist comics may lack a story element, for the most part comics, graphic novels, storyboards, and other forms of sequential art are heavily narrative oriented. The third theme gleaned from the literature review and the study data is that although many therapists see the potential for using sequential art in therapy, it is not currently used much by professionals. Those who use it at all, “…expressed that what they were doing was novel and not necessarily encouraged or understood by their professional establishment” (p. 63). Finally, the research showed there was 100% agreement among the study group that sequential art is a potential tool for therapy in general, and as an alternative method for conducting narrative therapy.

Castle, suggests doing more specific research to glean more about the potential for using sequential art as an art therapy and narrative therapy form. I, further, recommend that specific, client-based research be conducted comparing the results of using sequential art in narrative therapy to traditional narrative therapy techniques to illuminate its benefits and limitations. I also suggest randomizing the client sample instead of using a convenience group of experts as Castle (2010) did for exploring the subject. Castle’s paper concludes, “Using Sequential Art as both a narrative and projective technique could be an effective way of working with clients in a non-verbal way” (p. 70). I concur, but add that it could also be an effective teaching tool for gifted and talented students.


Castle, R. (2010, May). The use of sequential art in therapy: A thesis. Retrieved from Acedemia:

Good Therapy. (2015). Narrative Therapy. Retrieved from Good Therapy:

Potts, C. (2013). The DC Comics guide to creating comics: Inside the art of visual storytelling.

      New York: Watson-Guptill Publications.

Standish, K. (2013, November 8). Lecture 8: Introduction to narrative therapy. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2016). Narrative therapy. Retrieved from Wikipedia: The free encyclopedia:

Leave a comment

Posted by on July 8, 2016 in art, Education, Gifted learning


Tags: , , , , , ,