The current study examines how children develop multimodal
narratives through the construction of quilt squares and I Am poetry.
Creating visual narratives through the use of personal artifacts lays
the foundation for this artistic multiple literacy experience. The study
focuses on the process and growth that a diverse group of kindergarten
children underwent over the course of 9 weeks. How children reveal their
identity texts through multimodal engagements reflects the significance
of being able to understand, communicate, and think in alternative ways.
Such opportunities offer children ways to represent the importance of
being in the social world and document their personal narratives in
nontraditional forms of literacy. The learning environment must engage
children in experiences that empower them to make their thoughts public
and to change how they think, view, and situate themselves in the world.
Keywords: early childhood, multimodalities, early literacy, early
childhood curriculum, art education, narrative
Children are prodigious creators of art. Their pictorial
representations have been interpreted developmentally (Golomb, 1992;
Kellogg, 1970; Lowenfeld & Brittain, 1964), holistically and
aesthetically (Eisner, 2002; Read, 1956), as iconicities (Kindler &
Darras, 1997), and socioculturally (Wilson & Wilson, 1984). Although
there is an understanding that art is more than a complement, or a
backseat, to literacy learning (Binder, 2004; Dyson, 1993; Kind, 2005;
Pahl, 2007; Steele, 1998), more exploration is needed in understanding
the influence of multimodal experiences with young children.
The New London Group (1996) provided a compelling framework for
redefining the traditional definition of literacy, embracing a
"multiplicity of discourses" (p. 61). Multiple forms of
literacy are defined as situational, instructional, critical, and
transformative, whereby a "transfer in meaning-making practices ...
puts the transformed meaning to work in other contexts or cultural
sites" (p. 88). The New London Group and Eisner (1998) suggested
these multiple forms of literacy reconceptualize the traditional notion
of literacy and engage in what is defined as multiple literacies,
whereby meaning-making and communication are represented not only
through language, but also through other forms of nontextual modes.
Jewitt and Kress (2003) pushed the discussion by examining multimodal
literacies within semiotic and artistic constructs that acknowledge the
myriad ways of communicating. Although the literature supports the use
of multimodal approaches to define literacy in the lives of young
children (Flewitt, 2008), there still appears to exist an approach
toward using the arts as an alternative to text, or using experiences
that are arts-based to support or enhance literacy. Narey (2009)
advocated for using the arts as a process that develops and extends
language, literacy, and meaning-making. Viewing the arts as literacy
offers another lens on viewing young children's meaning-making and
on how they make their graphic thought visible through visual
The current research study examined how children develop multimodal
narratives through the construction of quilt squares that used personal
artifacts, or "things of importance," to represent who they
were and what was important in their world. The use of "I Am"
poetry (Ada & Campoy, 2004) augmented the visual narratives or story
quilts, empowering and validating children' s voice in this
artistic multimodal experience. The study focused on the processes and
growth that a group of diverse kindergarten children underwent over 9
weeks and explored the multimodal experiences through the arts and how
they transformed young children's literacy understanding of
identity texts. Revealing their identity texts (Cummins, 2004) through
multimodal engagement reflects the significance of being able to
understand, communicate, and think in alternative ways and illuminates
how children navigate the relational landscape of their visual literacy
narratives. The learning environment must be one that provides children
with opportunities to engage in experiences that empower them to make
their thoughts public and reveal how they think, view, and situate
themselves in the world.
THEORETICAL BACKGROUND AND FRAMEWORK
The current approach to literacy in North America is through a
curriculum that is predominantly text-driven and standardized;
consequently, a one-size-fits-all approach seems to be the pedagogical
currency. Curriculum is often scripted and omits a sociocultural context
(Genishi & Dyson, 2009), leaving little or no opportunity for
children to bring their own experiences to the school environment, thus
perpetuating a deficit approach to early learning. The importance of
positive learning experiences and social practices that support the
knowledge children bring from home (Gee, 2001; Goodman & Martens,
2007; Harste, 2010; Heath, 1996) is marginalized.
Although current research and teaching and learning evidence
support a shift from this philosophy and method to early literacy
practice, educators tend to still focus more on the readiness skills
required, rather than on building culturally responsive classrooms
(Purnell, Ali, Begum, & Carter, 2007). Ideally, one should not
preclude the other. Both should be woven into the teaching and learning
environment as quality practice. However, with the strong focus on
standardized testing and outcome-based curriculums, young children are
now being exposed to what could be described as a mono-literacy culture
that stresses a linearity of skills.
Understanding the identity texts of children and their families not
only provides a socially constructed lens of understanding, but also
enables reflection and potential for transforming educational practices
in the learning environment (Cummins, 2004). Educators and researchers
are now being challenged to examine multiple literacies as alternative
ways that inform and shape children's literacy acquisition and
understanding. Sanders and Albers (2010) argued that knowledge of
multimodal tools and implementation must be a part of current literacy
Multiple forms of literacy broaden, extend, and transform the
traditional use of the term literacy to include any form that conveys
meaning (Eisner, 1998; New London Group, 1996) and expands the
understanding of Halliday's "learning how to mean"
through and beyond semiotic spaces (cited in Bainbridge, Heydon, &
Malicky, 2009, p. 45). The last decade showed an ongoing shift of using
the arts as multimodal forms of expression within new contextual and
meaningful interactions of communication (Albers & Harste, 2007;
Lankshear & Knobel, 2007). This is exploring "communication in
the widest sense, including gesture, oral performance, artistic,
linguistic, electronic, graphic and artifact-related" (Pahl &
Rowsell, 2006, p. 6) and is embedded in meaning-making in
representations of social practice as well as constructions of discourse
around identity (Gee, 2004).
Although the research literature supports and advocates for
multimodal approaches to literacy, actual practice is not prevalent, nor
explored, as a tangible method for understanding and deconstructing
early literacy teaching and learning (Binder, 2004; Crafton, Silvers,
& Brennan, 2009; Kendrick & McKay, 2004). Young children's
conceptions of identity are rarely present in the literacy discourse
(Cummins et al., 2005). Through multimodal forms of expression, young
children find validation and empowerment through a redefining of self,
which ultimately transforms their relationship to themselves, others,
and the world around them.
Similar to Souto-Manning and James's (2008) discussion of a
heightened awareness of the Reggio Emilia curriculum in the United
States, early learning in Canada is experiencing a comparable situation.
The Reggio Emilia approach to education offers an interconnected
philosophy of education that recognizes the potential of all children by
empowering learning through an emergent curriculum design that draws on
children's interests. A project design approach (Katz & Chard,
2000) promotes relationships (between children, teachers, and parents),
provides an environment that reflects the children's work, and
views documentation of their work as a process critical to learning
(Edwards, Gandini, & Forman, 1998; Hendrick, 1997; Seidel, 2001).
The belief that children naturally represent in multiple symbolic
languages is referred to as "The Hundred Languages" (Edwards
et al., 1998) and has created a surge of interest in how young children
can express themselves through multimodal forms of communication.
Although the interest is primarily in the early childhood education
movement (as opposed to the public education sector), there are those,
such as Wien (2008), who are doing significant work with primary
educators in public schools, demonstrating adaptations of the Reggio
philosophy, and using the visual arts as a component of the one hundred
languages of children (Edwards et al., 1998; Fraser, 2006). As teachers
begin to hear and see the benefits of documentation, exploration, and a
strongly thought-out environment on the process of learning (Hohmann,
Banet, & Weikart, 1979), more attention will be given to
children's ways of communicating and the importance of
collaborative inquiry. However, the curricular emphasis still rests on
literacy as print-driven, and the arts are still frequently slotted into
a specific time or viewed as a frill in the learning day.
Although an understanding is present to expand children's
opportunities for narrative construction, these experiences are often
restricted to retell and response. For example, in our provincial new
full-day early learning-kindergarten draft document, the expectations
are to "use language in various contexts to connect to new
experiences with what they already know (e.g., contribute ideas orally
during shared or interactive writing; contribute to conversations at
learning centres; respond to teacher prompts)" (Ontario Ministry of
Education, 2010-2011, p. 27). There are no statements or examples that
offer explicit opportunities for depth, validating children's
voices, or creating spaces for engaged discussion that really move
beyond question-and-answer. Providing the spaces for voice, so that
children are able to express themselves beyond a directed lesson, is
critical for defining their realities and experiences (Ahn &
In our growing and diverse population, especially in urban settings
in Ontario, the need to move beyond traditional forms of text in the
social construction of life experiences is becoming more apparent. This
view of language and literacy as socially constructed (Gee, 2004)
emphasizes the necessity of authentic listening to children's lived
experiences in the learning environment. Freire and Machedo (1987)
called the "word universe" (p. 35) the place where the
experiences expressed are not those of the teacher, but rather are those
of the students, hence creating an authenticity in learning and the
space to transform literacy understanding and action. Young
children's word universe should include their visual universe, too.
Although pictorial representations can be viewed as complementary
to language, Leland and Harste (1994) suggested that children's
ways of knowing are constructed through "multiple sign systems--not
just language" (p. 344). This view is supported by Eisner (2002),
who suggested that though language is a main form of communication and
expression, other valid forms of representation also should be
considered. New views on knowing are supported by Kress's (1997)
social semiotic theory, which examines all symbols as multimodal forms
of communication when enacted with meaning, and by Wright (2010), who
examined the layered complexity of meaningmaking from children's
images. The generative possibilities (Siegel, 1995) offered through
visual representation are significant, as are the transmediation
capacities that are developed (Suhor, 1984). Providing opportunities for
children to represent their visual universe through artistic
representational experiences, such as drawing, painting, or quiltmaking,
confirms Sullivan's (2006) claim that art-making is a form of
inquiry that can occur before language and could support the idea of
children's visual representations as being graphic thought (Binder,
The creation of story quilts offers young children the artistic and
aesthetic opportunities to represent the importance of being in the
social world (Ball, 2008) and provides documentation of their personal
narratives in alternative ways. Using multiple sign systems (Comber,
2003) offers learning opportunities for young children that are not
traditionally restricted to print. Multimodal forms of literacy
expression are examined within new contextual and meaningful
interactions (Lankshear & Knobel, 2007) and offer a discourse of
process (Jewitt & Kress, 2003). This embodies the spaces for
children to discover and resituate their understanding of identity
within representational expression (Albers & Harste, 2007; Pahl,
Cummins (2004) discussed identity text as the way children take
artifacts, use them, and begin to take ownership of them. The term is
This concept of identity text is adapted in this research to
explore a visual arts-based, multimodal approach to examine how young
children represent their understandings of identity.
This interpretative study used visual research methodology
(Prosser, 1998; Prosser & Loxley, 2007; Rose, 2007; Thomson, 2008)
and narrative inquiry (Clandinin & Connelly, 2000). The marriage of
these two approaches provided an arts-informed exploratory and
interpretative approach to understanding the process and experience of
the participants and the researchers (McNiff, 2008). Of significance is
the practice of incorporating the creative arts in the research
(Sullivan, 2006) that provided the emergent design.
The nature of visual narrative required an innovative and
contemporary approach for this research design, whereby the images the
children created were recognized as valuable data to be interpreted and
provided educators with a discourse of understanding. The use of images,
be it drawings or other multimodal representations (such as quilt
squares), enabled the researchers to view and interpret children's
understandings of themselves in relation to others in dramatically
different ways. Because young children aren't always able to
express their thoughts through the printed word, visual representations
became the text of meaning-making, or what Soto (2005) so aptly
described as "the notion of visualizing voice" (p. 9).
Leavy (2009) made the case for the use of arts-based studies in
identity research. As Kendrick and McKay (2004) stated:
"Individuals see themselves reflected in images in ways they may
not see themselves reflected in words" (p. 112). Ball (2008)
discussed the use of quilts and their significance as constructions of
social texts of complexity. This problematizes the question of the
visual arts as transformative literacy practices in understanding the
identity texts of young children.
The use of narrative methods allowed for the presence of researcher
and teacher voice in the research. This afforded time for reflection and
valuable observations in shaping the discourse on the process (Clandinin
& Connelly, 2000). It was a way to provide multiple lenses to the
research and to potentially enact change (Chase, 2005). The reflexivity
of the teaching and learning process empowers practitioners and
researchers to "enact and document new stories of educational
research" (Beattie, 2004).
Overview of the Study
We conducted the research in a culturally and linguistically
diverse kindergarten classroom in an all-day early learning center in a
Canadian university. There were three junior kindergarten children and
nine senior kindergarten children (a total of five boys and seven
girls). The majority of the children had been together since they were
toddlers. Many of the children were from the university community (i.e.,
their parents were professors and students), but children from outside
that group were represented as well. The room had one teacher and was
also a site for placement of early childhood education students. The
manager of the center was involved in the research as a co-investigator.
Toward the end of the 9-week project, one child left and another moved
up from the preschool setting. Although following the Ministry of
Education document for kindergarten, the program's philosophy was
designed collectively by the staff and drew on the Reggio Emilia
approach of an emergent curriculum (Edwards et al., 1998).
For 9 weeks, the researcher worked with the children once a week
for approximately 2 hours. The children were engaged in a process and
progression of activities that deconstructed learning into sustainable
sessions. Each encounter opened and closed with a quality picture book
that reflected the use of imagination and artistic and aesthetic
engagement and included various stories about quilts. The selected
picture books segued into the activities and connected to the overall
process. The children worked on the following concepts: why they were
special, painting, artifacts of importance, a planning quilt square, the
quilt square, and I Am poetry. To close, a soundscape installation of
the community quilt was created through the laying of each quilt square
and reading of each student's poetry. It is important to note that
the creation of the images came before the writing of the poems. These
artistic experiences were seen as the initial modalities of
meaning-making, which then enhanced and complemented the poetic
creations. Although poetry is textual, the making is viewed as a
The Role of the Researchers
The role of the researcher was one of participant-observer. As
participant, I (the first author) provided a curricular vision of what
would transpire over the weeks and planned the sessions, selected the
books, and provided the structure ahead of time to the teacher and to
Sally Kotsopoulos, the co-investigator. Reflective discussions with Mrs.
Kotsopoulos, also the manager of the early learning center, always
followed the sessions to determine the direction of the project and
identified areas that might need revision. Meetings were held with the
teacher of the classroom several times during the project. She took on
the role of observer during the time I was in the room, and her
documented insights were valuable during debriefing at the end of the
project. She also, with Mrs. Kotsopoulos, prepared materials and the
classroom space prior to my weekly arrival.
I conducted the group sessions, read the stories, and provided
direction for the children. In essence, I became the teacher for the
time I was there. My role as observer occurred when the children were
engaged in activities. As a researcher who was also a participant and
observer, I needed to be mindful of the two hats I was wearing and of
the subjectivity of my position in the room.
Data Collection and Analysis
Data collection occurred over a 3-month period and included
children's paintings and drawings, quilt drawings, draft quilts,
quilt squares, photographs, poetry writing, and videotaping of the
ongoing process. This collection was augmented by recordings of
discussions with children and children's oral reflections. Data
collection also took the form of field notes, teacher journaling, and
ongoing discussions with the teacher.
The data analysis adapted what Gillian Rose (2007) defined as
"discourse analysis 1," "where the notion of discourse is
articulated through various kinds of visual images and verbal
texts" (p. 146). In this way, examining the images that children
produced as visual narratives including intertexuality focuses on the
totality of the pieces created, from the beginning to end, as becoming
the discourse: drawings of important things, paintings, planning quilt
square, quilt square, I Am poetry, to the final quilt installation
itself. The discourse presented was situated within a specific socially
constructed context of understanding identity and embedded in the
discourse of the process. This was supported by Gee's (2005)
premise that "people build identities and activities not just
through but by using language together with other 'stuff' that
isn't language" (p. 20).
We examined 16 hours of videotape; all the artwork; transcripts
from the sessions at the activity tables; observations from the teacher,
both researchers, and the research assistant; and notes from meetings
between the researchers and teacher. Each child's identity journey
was examined through the process and experiences that child engaged in
during the project. The children and their artwork were examined
individually as they moved through the 9 weeks of art and aesthetic
engagement and the interaction with peers and adults during the
activities. It became apparent that the individual pieces of artwork
could not be experienced independently but needed to engage with the
whole process as it unfolded, within the context of examining the visual
arts as literacy and as the conduit for entering into the worlds of the
children. Each piece of artwork was examined in relation to observations
and conversations that occurred. Consequently, a holistic approach to
the analysis provided the overall emergent frame for the multimodal
narratives that became visible. The elements of group process and
dynamics also were observed and analyzed, enabling the reading of the
overall process through the image creations.
The construction of narratives developed over time through
examining the sessions as an emergent piece from the children's
restorying of what had transpired the previous week and building upon
that teaching experience. Although a plan was developed each week, we
were mindful of and open to the importance of what the children brought
to each session. This negotiation between adults and children (Fraser,
2006) contributed to the overall analysis of how knowledge was
constructed and the visual narratives created. Conversations that
emerged around several of the children became recognized as something
attributed to all. A continual revisiting of the data as it was
collected enabled us to code the observations and emerging themes. After
the installation session, during which the children collectively created
the quilt and read their poems, thematic threads were pulled together
and further analyzed.
This exploration of how children express literacy understanding of
their identity texts through multimodal art experiences offers a
contextural understanding that illuminates the private world of the
children and makes possible the depth of interpretations and insights
that emerged from the analysis. The totality of the experiences through
a reflexive process provided the constructed spaces of visual
representations of meaning in the early literacy learning and allowed
for the emergence the themes to be discussed.
The concept of overall process was prominent and based on the
researchers' experiences and educational philosophy. Introducing
this concept was significant and allowed for the sustainability over the
9 weeks. Breaking the activities down into manageable steps enabled the
children to make their thoughts public through the images, their talk,
and their interactions. The notion of process was brought into class
discussions early on, and soon many of the children were referring to
things as "step by step" after one child used this term to
describe what we were doing. Each week, the children were asked what
they had done the week before. Most of the children were not only able
to retell what had transpired the week before but also able to
articulate a sequential description of what had occurred and reflect on
the importance of what we had done from their perspective. An
internalization of the idea of process became visible as they moved from
one activity to another. There was a mindfulness in creating each
session to reflect and build on previous meaning-making.
A project approach (Katz & Chard, 2000) was reflected such that
each designed phase over time flowed and depended on what had transpired
previously in the learning, allowing for a flexible framework. Key
characteristics of this approach include developing an in-depth study
that emerges and builds on children's strengths and interests, a
deepening sense of purpose for learning, relational connections, working
at one's own pace, and allowing children authorship over their
learning. By breaking down the process, we observed the connections
between experiences that offered the children opportunities to bring
their learning into other places. For example, they began to visually
represent their ideas more frequently between sessions. They talked of
taking things step by step when creating art. More authentic engagement
emerged between them at the activity tables as they collaborated more
often in their interactions.
Concepts of symbolic representation, from simple to complex, were
of an initial concern for some children. For example, questions of how
to represent the doggie or mommie on the quilt shifted from the literal
to the interpretative. The children came to understand that it was
"the process of representation" they were trying to master,
"not an adult conception of what constitutes an adequate
symbol" (Hohmann et al., 1979, p. 171). Such observations also are
supported by Edwards et al. (1998), Golomb (1992), and Kress (1997).
The validation of a philosophy that honored an emergence of
learning that came from the children, individually and collectively, as
they engaged in the process was significant (Edwards et al., 1998). It
was where they could explore their cultural capital and consider what
they brought of themselves to the project and how they represented it.
Although the sessions occurred only once a week, the project reemerged
throughout the week, taking on a life of its own through extended
discussions that arose and from spontaneous activities stemming from the
children. Anecdotes filtered back from the children's homes about
how the quilt project was entering into their lived family space.
The use of a step-by-step process also allowed the adults in the
room to support the children. As a result of recognizing each aspect as
important and validating the children's engagement, the project
carried deep meaning and understanding for all involved. The engagement
and process they went through was empowering as they expressed
themselves through different modalities (see Figures 1, 2, 3, & 4).
Situated in a discourse of process, the multimodal theory of Jewitt
and Kress (2003) characterizes four components of symbolic
meaning-making: materiality, framing, design, and production.
Materiality refers to the actual resources used. Various materials were
used throughout the project to provide the children with a range of
tactile and aesthetic experiences, along with opportunities for choice
and problem-solving. Framing relates to how the components work
together: how the design interacts. Here is where the children presented
the personal artifacts and represented the significance of them through
drawing, their quilt square, and then through poetry. Design connects to
the significant aspects of the representational expression. By allowing
the children to be the designers in the process, they engaged in
imaginative experiences that illustrated graphic thought (Binder, 2002).
The concept of design had a strong presence in the planning quilt phase
prior to the actual creation of their quilt square. Production is
embodied in the soundscape installation, when the quilt was built
collectively (see Figures 5 & 6).
[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]
[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]
[FIGURE 3 OMITTED]
Three key themes of "I to we," finding voice, and
literacy beyond text emerged under the umbrella of process.
I to We
As the children moved through the process, a clear shift developed
from the 'T' to "We." Although we acknowledge the
different degrees and events that precipitated the shifts, we observed
an overall shift of all the children throughout the 9 weeks. At the
outset of the project, the children were focused on their things of
importance: the personal artifacts they were going to represent on the
quilt. As the children moved through the different activities, a shift
occurred. The quilt became the important thing. The children were more
focused and demonstrated their place in the learning community. We
noticed more interaction among all of the children. It wasn't just
friends sitting and working with friends, for example. A caring
community became evident as the children recognized and engaged with
each other while creating their drawings and quilt squares. We also
observed how the children at some point in the project focused on the
work of their peers and not just their work first. This reciprocity of
caring (Noddings, 2002) redefined the relational qualities of the
[FIGURE 4 OMITTED]
The shift was first evident during a painting session when the
children were experimenting with color washes as a background to
creating their three important things. Working on the floor provided a
different kind of physicality than sitting at tables and offered a space
for shared understandings (Pelo, 2007). The sharing of paint and sponge
brushes enhanced their relationships, and they began to show a genuine
interest in each other' s work as they delighted in the use of
color. There were squeals of excitement as we heard, "Look, I made
orange" and "Look at the colors I made," as they created
an atmosphere of pure aesthetic joy. Although the activity was designed
by adults, it was the children who took control of the experience and
brought it to a new level of community building.
The "I to We" was not an expectation or intentionally
framed. Although there was a conscious effort to include all children
and cultivate a respectful learning environment, it was observed that
the project allowed the dynamics of the group to change on their own.
One child was always trying to find her place in the group. Family
issues were reflected in her being perceived by some as difficult. Her
social interactions were not easy and often self-isolating. A noticeable
shift occurred during the session when the children were working on
their rehearsal quilt squares (as part of the design process). This
child was drawing her things of importance, her cat and dog. We
witnessed her conversational engagement with others at the table,
complimenting the work of others first, and then showing hers with
pride. In return, the child offered to assist others when working.
According to the teacher, this change continued after the project. It
became evident how this child's sense of identity strengthened as a
result of this experience, allowing her to build relationships through
the art to communicate ideas and to view herself and others as
collaborators (Pelo, 2007).
[FIGURE 5 OMITTED]
It is important to note that no particular person or event
introduced the shift directly. It is believed that the foundation arose
from several factors: most of the children had been together since they
were toddlers; they had engaged in class projects before and so a
collaborative learning environment of respect existed. The nature of the
shift was significant. A depth of understanding was observed as the
children engaged in discussion while they created their squares. Perhaps
the stories selected for reading and discussed helped to nurture the
ethos over time as there became a collective acknowledgment of the work
and ideas of others. Although the objects were important as symbols of
identity, the creative engagement became the collective shift.
We also viewed the children's acceptance of each other's
efforts and interest in the way their items were represented. For
example, one child had brought a special button as one of his artifacts.
This tiny button had been made by his mother, and he wanted it on his
quilt square. Another child wanted to represent her "blankie"
on her quilt square. These were significant childhood artifacts for
them, and no one responded negatively to what was brought in, nor did
anyone make fun of their choices. Instead, the children showed true
interest when we gathered together to show their important things and
Seidel's (2001) research from Project Zero and Reggio Emilia
supports the significance of collective experiences for children. The
importance of learning with and from others extends children's
capacity outside of self. Further research by Krechesvsky and Mardell
(2001) substantiates our findings that learning is socially constructed
and takes on another dimension when children are involved in experiences
that are aesthetic and emotional. The importance of the children
understanding themselves, connecting to others, and connecting to the
community in which they lived was reinforced, and individual learning
was redefined through the group experience as embodying "a
collective body of knowledge" (Krechesvsky & Mardell, 2000, p.
[FIGURE 6 OMITTED]
Halfway through the project, five of the children presented me with
a paper quilt they had constructed (see Figure 7). This was done on
their own volition and during a time when I wasn't in the room. The
week before, I had read a book titled The Kindness Quilt (Wallace,
2006). A long discussion took place on defining kindness and acts of
kindness. One could suggest that this was their act of kindness toward
Creating the quilt was a collective endeavor that built empathy and
understanding of their peers. The process empowered the children to tell
their stories and gave voice to their shared experiences. During the
construction of the quilt and reading of their poems, the children
listened intently to each other. This strengthened existing
relationships between the children, with their teachers, and with the
The concept of the quilt became the metaphor for an ethos of
community building. This was evident from the following reflective
statements that two of the children made during the end-of-year
celebration held for them and their parents. The children were asked
what was important and what they liked about the quilt project.
[FIGURE 7 OMITTED]
Child: What I liked about the quilt was that we all made our own
quilt projects and that we were all together.
Child: We liked the quilt together.
Although one must acknowledge that there were several children who
focused on what they had liked as individuals, these reflections do
suggest and provide an example of a shift in focus from I to We.
Finding voice through visualizing voice was significant for most of
the children. This manifested in self-confidence to represent ideas
pictorially and to express verbally. Children who appeared more passive
and often slipped into the background were observed finding strength
through the aesthetic engagement. Also contributing to this developing
sense of identity were weekly opportunities to tell their stories,
respond to stories read, and listen to each other. We observed this
change strongly with two children in particular, whom we called The
Seahorse and The Hero. At the end of the project, we could ascribe this
change in varying degrees to all of the children.
[FIGURE 8 OMITTED]
The Seahorse (SK) spoke in whispers. She became empowered through
the creative process, but specifically through identifying one of her
special things as a seahorse. Figure 8 shows her drawing the seahorse.
This became her metaphor for her identity expression, representing an
ethereal strength that grew and her internalization of the process.
Figure 9 represents the choices she made for her important things and
their representation. The seahorse is represented through a shape
configured with eyeballs; when asked about that, she said
"Seahorses have large eyeballs" and "Seahorses are
magical." She was also the initiator of the paper quilt created for
me by four of the children.
One of the most significant transformations through visual
narrative occurred with an "I can't draw" child, whom we
called The Hero. His identity journey began by validating the importance
of why he was special. He viewed himself as a superhero who "helped
his Mommy and Daddy," and this made him happy (see Figure 10). This
was a child who struggled to find his place in his learning community.
Over the course of several weeks, it became evident that this child was
experiencing angst over his ability to draw, paint, and even conceive of
creating a quilt square. He would frequently rush through his initial
The major turning point took place while he was drawing his three
important things. I decided to sit with him in his space while he drew.
He initially moved quickly through the task. He first drew a car; then,
after a discussion, he decided that the car needed wheels and remembered
that windows and a door were also needed. The same thing occurred when
he went to draw his truck. As I sat there, we talked about the objects
and why these toys were important to him.
The next image he wanted to draw was his stuffed dog. When he said
"I can't draw," I talked about how I picture things in
shapes when I couldn't figure out how to show it. He said the body
was "like, like a race track." He then said, "That is an
oval shape." It didn't take long for him to determine the
shape of the head, ears, and eyes. He decided it was important to show
four legs, as dogs could not stand on two. This was a significant
turning point. We had been sitting together for more than 40 minutes and
he was self-directed in this process. Just being with this child
validated his process and drawings. Perhaps the attention was needed;
however, it was a shift in how he saw himself. This carried over into
his planning quilt, quilt square, and poem (see Figure 11).
[FIGURE 9 OMITTED]
[FIGURE 10 OMITTED]
[FIGURE 11 OMITTED]
After this, "The Hero" wanted to draw, and he asked to do
so. He entered into the club of those who liked to draw in the class.
Others began asking him to draw a car or a truck for them. At the
celebration, his parents shared their observations of changes they had
seen in their son: He was asking to draw at home and wanted to learn
more poetry. These observations confirmed his self-growth and how he
related to others. Although drawing became his language, his visual
voice, his I Am poem also reflected this strength in understanding self:
I am happy when my dog licks my cheek.
I am sad when someone is unkind to my friends.
I am happy when Wall-e and Eve love each other.
Observed was the intertexuality of image and talk, and image and
text: the artistic experience through multimodal expression.
The content of these images also reflected what was important. Such
popular and well-known icons as Wall-e and Cinderella entered into their
visual discourse. Some objects could be identified as gender influenced,
but the majority could not be categorized as such. This observation is
supported by the work of Pahl (2007), who explored the importance of how
gendered identities are revealed through visual texts. The surprises
showed the capacity for sentimentality. One boy brought in a button his
mother made for him. There was a special bracelet, and a representation
of a blankie. Also shown were pets and plants, things that one cares
for. This reminds us that we cannot underestimate the depth of
children's understanding and their ability to connect to bigger
Literacy Beyond Text
This emergent theme, though strongly observed in one child's
responses, reflected an initial concern overall of a need for more
artistic approaches using the arts in this learning environment and
alternative ways to view literacy learning. This particular child
demonstrated excellent writing skills, not only in her sentence
structure, but also in her composition. When asked to draw why she was
special, she represented her ideas only in writing (see Figure 12).
Although she affirmed her sense of identity, the way she expressed her
view was framed by her perception of what she thought literacy should be
and what she thought the adults in the room would want. To her, literacy
was about print. It raised the question about overall prior knowledge or
expectations from home as well. This understanding shifted as she
experienced more creative activities. Figure 13 shows a visual
representation of one of her important things, her house. After she
realized that she could represent concepts visually instead of
textually, this child was more able to return to drawing and painting
for expression. This experience gave her permission to move beyond text.
We recognized a confidence in adapting another mode of expression. The
importance of this understanding extended into her own initiative of
creating a paper quilt at home.
[FIGURE 12 OMITTED]
[FIGURE 13 OMITTED]
This understanding was further reinforced during the session where
I was showing personal artifacts of importance: a rock, a room number
from an old classroom, and a Vincent van Gogh finger puppet. A week
before, I had read Ish by Peter Reynolds (2004) to the class. Ish
illustrates the exploration of authenticity and ownership over
one's artwork. The book reinforced for children the message that it
is OK to represent objects in their own way. Ish provided the vocabulary
for thoughts or ideas and opened up the possibilities for the children
who had placed artistic limitations on themselves: the "I
can't" responses. We wanted the children to have permission,
if you will, to create their way, thus opening the opportunity to
express their ideas successfully instead of getting bogged down by how
something looked. By this point, the children were being redirected back
into the art from traditional text to express themselves, for which the
book became the catalyst. The children were also familiar with Vincent
van Gogh's artwork, as there was a beautiful print of a sunflower
in the room.
The following conversation reflected this particular child's
understanding of this concept and growing recognition of the importance
of alternative ways of communicating. It was here we observed that not
only was she beginning to frame her thinking around art, but that the
rest of children were as well.
Teacher: I have a very strange-looking man.
Teacher: His name is Vincent. His name is Vincent van Gogh. And he
lived in the late 1800s so he is very old.
Teacher: But he died, so it's okay. He is not still living.
But he was a famous artist ...
Teacher: He lived in Holland and he also lived in France. And he
was a very famous painter and he painted beautiful, beautiful,
beautiful, beautiful paintings, and I have a wonderful story on Vincent
and I will bring that in for us next week.., he could have learned a lot
from you. I decided to bring Vincent, because Vincent is one of my
favorite artists and I love his paintings. And when I look at his
paintings they make me feel very ...
Teacher: Happy and ...
Child: And very paintish.
Teacher: Yes. That's a good word. I like that word. Makes me
feel very paintish ...
This process demonstrates what Suhor (1984) called
"transmediation." This child has interpreted the meaning from
one sign system (picture book) to another form (embodiment of feeling).
Significant is the authorship in representing ideas and feelings, and in
communicating in different modes other than traditional forms of text.
This anecdote also illustrates the importance of honoring the voices of
the children through different modes of expression.
What emerged from this research is a deeper insight into how young
children shift their understanding of what literacy looks like through
multimodal narratives. Such situated constructs strengthen the
children's identity texts and the potential to make thought visible
in ways that are not just text. Using artistic literacy practices
engages educators in a new socially constructed discourse of
possibilities, deconstructing traditional understandings of what is
perceived to be literacy learning for young children. The findings
suggest that literacy, as it is conceived in school curricula for young
children, can be reconceptualized beyond print. There are alternative
expressive modes to understanding children through attending to and
reading their images and art creations. From ideas or acts that made
them special, to selecting three things that represented what was
important to them, to representing these concepts in images, the
children shaped and reshaped their ideas of identity; through being
together during this process, they extended an understanding of self to
others. The poetry, although often perceived by some as traditional in
nature, also reflects an artistic representation of identity
interweaving the images and words.
Incorporating a reflective component at the end emphasizes the
recognition that young children have the capacity to internalize
experiences of importance and show their thinking. Framing the research
through open-ended activities, during which the children made art,
discussed their art, solved problems, and shared new understandings with
each other, resonates with Sullivan's (2006) suggestion that
inquiry is "interactive and reflexive whereby imaginative insight
is constructed from a creative and critical practice" (p. 20) and
provides ways to engage in art-making that offers creative new
constructs and possibilities of understanding. This precipitates a
potential paradigm shift in the teaching and learning process, whereby
understanding the cultural capital that children bring to the learning
environment is not only recognized but also becomes the foundation for
practice. A deeper insight for teachers provided the impetus for
curriculum change in this learning environment, using the visual arts in
more meaningful ways and raising the potential for recognizing their use
as language. Moving beyond text and looking at the art as literacy
opened up new territory for not only meaning-making, but also for
rethinking what literacy means for young children.
Validating identity texts through visual narratives reframes the
power of early literacy through a critical pedagogy. It transforms and
supports teacher practice and creates authentic literacy spaces for
diverse children in their learning environments. Because young children
aren't always able to express themselves through the printed word,
visual representations become the language of meaning-making, to the
point that the quilt squares were significant creations of social text.
In her seminal study of children's use of language in three
distinct communities, Shirley Bryce Heath (1996) validated the
importance of how children show their understanding of the world, not
just from printed text, but also through the different "ways of
taking from their environment" (p. 12). Home practices have a
tremendous influence on literacy learning at school and contribute to
children coming to school as "being literate," not just
"becoming literate" (Gillen & Hall, 2003, p. 10). Heath
argued that literacy events must reflect "larger sociocultural
patterns that they may exemplify or reflect" (p. 74). James Gee
(2001) extended Heath's concept through a New Literacy Studies
perspective of understanding children's multiple literacies through
their "ways with words" (p. 41), in situated practices and
social language. By broadening the concept to include multimodal forms
of expression, I would like to offer the notion of "ways of taking
with images," in which children make meaning of their world through
the images they create and the symbols they take and form to represent
Research demonstrates the significance of symbolic representations
before written language is mastered (Dyson, 1993; Genishi & Dyson,
2009; Kress, 1997). The expressive communicative value of multiple
literacies (Eisner, 1998; Narey, 2009; New London Group, 1996) deepens
and broadens the view of literacy beyond text. The current study builds
on and contributes to existing research on the arts and literacy (Albers
& Sanders, 2010; Wright, 2010) by offering further evidence that
supports the importance of not just interconnecting the arts and
literacy in a curriculum for young children, but also giving credence to
the notion of the visual arts as literacy within the pedagogy of
The experience of going through a process of designing of the quilt
squares and writing I Am poetry demonstrates the transforming nature of
the arts in the lives of young children. Children gain authorship of
their work through visual narratives that reflect their identities. The
project advocates for artistic alternative perspectives in understanding
young children within the learning environment, which can lead to more
critical discourse on practice. Of significance is the demonstration of
what young children are capable of doing if provided with such creative
endeavors that challenge and validate the knowledge they reveal through
contextural and intertextual experiences. The importance of a critical
pedagogy (Souto-Manning & James 2008) emerges to crystallize the
paradigm shift in the teaching and learning process: one that views the
arts as an essential thread in enabling children to share their lived
experiences through multimodal literacy narratives. This presents the
possibilities and foundation for future research with young children,
interconnecting other art forms and identity texts.
Past and present experiences constitute how one reads the world
(Freire & Machedo, 1987). Cultural and historical influences impart
a unique signature that reflects personal interpretations and
interrelationships. Understanding the sociocultural significance of
children's experiences enriches the dimension of learning
interactions. Honoring personal histories provides the possibilities of
cocreating an environment that values the building of community. The
importance of attending to the many facets of children's identities
empowers teachers to take on more of an advocacy role in working with
the myriad factors that impact on the learning experiences of the
children who enter their classrooms.
Multiple forms of expression reveal the multidimensional layers of
lived experiences. Through the visual arts and the arts as a whole, the
complexities of understanding the world enable children to express the
multitude of thoughts that embody their everyday lives and to make this
graphic thought public (Binder, 2004). An understanding of their
personal landscapes is transformed through their social and cultural
ways of knowing, empowering identity and voice. What is also
transforming is the nascent understanding of their personal landscapes,
where they explore their social and cultural ways of knowing and
empowers their voice.
The research presents the importance of children's voice and
multimodal narratives to express identity and understanding of the
world. The results indicate a need for children to explore different
modes of expression as a way to develop understanding of self, other,
and community. Observed was the significance of artistic modes of
expression in the learning lives of young children. Although the
research demonstrates the importance of multimodal literacies as opening
up the boundaries of what is considered literacy and literacy learning,
providing semiotic spaces for young children could benefit from extended
study. To consider the visual arts as literacy could be a powerful
construct for early learning, providing opportunities for young children
to voice ideas and empower their sense of self through alternative modes
Ada, A. F., & Campoy, E I. (2004). Authors in the classroom: A
transformative education process. Boston, MA: Pearson Education.
Ahn, J., & Filipenko, M. (2007). Narrative, imaginary play, art
and self: Intersecting worlds. Early Childhood Education, 34(4),
Albers, P., & Harste, J. C. (2007). The arts, new literacies,
and multimodality. English Education, 40(1), 6-19.
Arnheim, R. (1969). Visual thinking. Berkeley, CA: University of
Bainbridge, J., Heydon, R., & Malicky, G. (2009). Constructing
meaning: Balancing elementary language arts (4th ed.). Toronto, Canada:
Ball, H. K. (2008). Quilts. In J. G. Knowles & A. L. Cole
(Eds.), Handbook of the arts in qualitative research (pp. 363-368).
Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Beattie, M. (2004). Narration in the making: Teaching and learning
at Corktown Community High School. Toronto, Canada: University of
Binder, M. (2002). Visual literacy in the primary inner city
classroom. Orbit, 32 (3), 40-42.
Binder, M. (2004). The importance of child art as a foundation for
teaching and learning. In D. Booth & M. Hachiya (Eds.), The arts go
to school (pp. 35-38). Toronto, Canada: Pembroke.
Chase, S. E. (2005). Narrative inquiry: Multiple lenses,
approaches, voices. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), The Sage
handbook of qualitative research (3rd ed., pp. 651-679). Thousand Oaks,
Clandinin, D. J., & Connelly, E M. (2000). Narrative inquiry.
San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Comber, B. (2003). Critical literacy: What does it look like in the
early years? In N. Hall, J. Larson, & J. Marsh (Eds.), Handbook of
early childhood literacy (pp. 355-368). London, England: Sage.
Crafton, L. K., Silvers, P., & Brennan, M. (2009). Creating a
multiliteracies curriculum: Repositioning art in the early childhood
classroom. In M. Narey (Ed.), Making meaning: Constructing multimodal
perspectives of language, literacy, and learning through arts-based
early childhood education (pp. 31-52). Pittsburgh, PA: Springer.
Cummins, J. (2004). Learning with deep understanding: The role of
identity texts and multiliteracies pedagogy. In K. Leithwood, P. McAdie,
N. Bascia, & A. Rodigue (Eds.), Teaching for deep understanding:
Towards the Ontario curriculum that we need (pp. 68-74). Toronto,
Canada: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of
Toronto and the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario.
Cummins, J., Bismilla, V., Chow, P., Cohen, S., Giampapa, E, Leoni,
L., ... Sastri, P. (2005). Affirming identity in multilingual
classrooms. Educational Leadership, 63, 38-43. Retrieved from
Dyson, A. H. (1993). Social worlds of children learning to write in
an urban primary school. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Edwards, C., Gandini, L, & Forman, G. (Eds.). (1998). The
hundred languages of children (2nd ed.). Westport, CT: Ablex Publishing.
Eisner, E. W. (1998). The kind of schools we need: Personal essays.
Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Eisner, E. W. (2002). The arts and creation of mind. New Haven, CT:
Yale University Press.
Flewitt, R. (2008). Multimodal literacies. In J. Marsh & E.
Hallet (Eds.), Desirable literacies: Approaches to language and literacy
in the early years (2nd ed., pp. 122-139). London, England: Sage.
Fraser, S. (2006). Authentic childhood: Experiencing Reggio Emilia
in the classroom (2nd ed.). Toronto, Canada: Nelson.
Freire, P., & Machedo, D. (1987). Literacy: Reading the word
and the world. London, England: Routledge.
Gee, J. (2001). A sociocultural perspective on early literacy
development. In S. B. Neuman & D. K. Dickinson (Eds.), Handbook of
early literacy research (pp. 30-42). New York, NY: Guilford.
Gee, J. (2005). An introduction to discourse analysis. London,
Gee, J. P. (2004). Situated language and learning: A critique of
traditional schooling. New York, NY: Routledge.
Genishi, C., & Dyson, A. H. (2009). Children, language, and
literacy: Diverse learners in diverse times. New York, NY: Teachers
Gillen, J., & Hall, N. (2003). The emergence of early childhood
literacy. In N. Hall, J. Larson, & J. Marsh (Eds.), Handbook of
early literacy (pp. 3-12). London, England: Sage.
Golomb, C. (1992). The child's creation of a pictorial world.
Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Goodman, Y., & Martens, P. (Eds.). (2007). Critical issues in
early literacy: Research and pedagogy. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum Associates.
Harste, J. C. (2010). Multimodality. In P Albers & J. Sanders
(Eds.), Literacies, the arts & multimodalities (pp. 27- 43). Urbana,
IL: National Council of Teachers of English.
Heath, S. B. (1996). What no bedtime story means: Narrative skills
at home and school. In D. Brenneis & R. K. S. Macaulay (Eds.), The
matrix of language: Contemporary linguistic anthropology (pp. 12-38).
Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
Hendrick, J. (Ed.). (1997). First steps toward teaching the Reggio
way. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Hohmann, M., Banet, B., & Weikart, D. P. (1979). Young children
in action: A manual for preschool educators. Ypsilanti, MI: High/Scope
Educational Research Foundation.
Jewitt, C., & Kress, G. (Eds.). (2003). Multimodal literacy.
New York, NY: Peter Lang.
Katz, L. G., & Chard, S. C. (2000). Engaging children's
minds: The project approach (2nd ed.). Stamford, CT: Ablex.
Kellogg, R. (1970). Analyzing children's art. Palo Alto, CA:
Kendrick, M., & McKay, R. (2004). Drawings as an alternative
way of understanding young children's constructions of literacy.
Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 4(1), 109-128.
Kind, S. W. (2005). Windows to a child's world: Perspectives
on children's art making. In K. Grauer & R. L. Irwin (Eds.),
Starting with ... second edition (pp. 9-18). Vancouver, Canada:
University of British Columbia, Department of Curriculum Studies.
Kindler, A. M., & Darras, B. (1997). Map of artistic
development. In A. M. Kindler (Ed.), Child development in art (pp.
17-44). Reston, VA: National Art Education Association.
Krechesvsky, M., & Mardell, B. (2001). Four features of
learning in groups. In S. Seidel (Ed.), Making learning visible:
Children as individual and group learners (pp. 284-294). Cambridge, MA
& Reggio Emilia, Italy: Project Zero Harvard Graduate School of
Education & Reggio Children International Center for the Defense and
Promotion of the Rights and Potential of All Children.
Kress, G. (1997). Before writing: Rethinking the paths to literacy.
London, England: Routledge.
Lankshear, C., & Knobel, M. (2007). The stuff of new
literacies. Phoenix, AZ: Arizona State University, The Mary Lou Fulton
Leavy, P. (2009). Method meets art: Arts-based research practice.
New York, NY: Guilford.
Leland, C. H., & Harste, J. C. (1994). Multiple ways of
knowing: Curriculum in a new key. Language Arts, 7(95), 337-345.
Lowenfeld, V., & Brittain, W. L. (1964). Creative and mental
growth (4th ed.). New York, NY: Macmillan.
McNiff, S. (2008). Arts-based research. In J. G. Knowles & A.
L. Coles (Eds.), Handbook of the arts in qualitative research (pp.
29-40). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Narey, M. (2009). Introduction. In N. Narey (Ed.), Making meaning:
Constructing multimodal perspectives of language, literacy, and learning
through arts-based early childhood education (pp. 1-6). New York, NY:
New London Group. (1996). A pedagogy of multiliteracies: Designing
social futures. Harvard Educational Review, 66(1), 60-92.
Noddings, N. (2002). Educating moral people: A caring alternative
to character education. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Ontario Ministry of Education. (2010-2011). The Full-Day Early
Learning-Kindergarten Program draft version. Retrieved from
Pahl, K. (2007). Creativity in events and practices: A lens for
understanding children's multimodal texts. Literacy, 41(2), 86-92.
Pahl, K., & Rowsell, J. (2006). Introduction. In K. Pahl &
J. Rowsell (Eds.), Travel notes from the new literacy studies (pp.
1-15). Clevedon, England: Multilingual Matters.
Pelo, A. (2007). The language of art: Inquiry-based studio
practices in early childhood settings. St. Paul, MN: Redleaf Press.
Prosser, J. (1998). The state of image-based research. In J.
Prosser (Ed.), Image-based research (pp. 97-112). London, England:
Prosser, J., & Loxley, A. (2007). Enhancing the contribution of
visual methods to inclusive education. Journal of Research in Special
Educational Needs, 7(1), 55-68.
Purnell, P. E., Ali, P., Begum, N., & Carter, M. (2007).
Windows, bridges and mirrors: Building culturally responsive early
childhood classrooms through the integration of literacy and the arts.
Early Childhood Education Journal, 34(6), 419-424.
Read, H. (1956). Education through art. New York, NY: Pantheon
Reynolds, R (2004). Ish. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press.
Rose, G. (2007). Visual methodologies (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA:
Sanders, J., & Albers, P. (2010). Multimodal literacies: An
introduction. In P. Albers & J. Sanders (Eds.), Literacies, the arts
& multimodalities (pp. 1-43). Urbana, IL: National Council of
Teachers of English.
Seidel, S. (2001). To be part of something bigger than oneself. In
S. Seidel (Ed.), Making learning visible: Children as individual and
group learners (pp. 312-321). Cambridge, MA & Reggio Emilia, Italy:
Project Zero Harvard Graduate School of Education & Reggio Children
International Center for the Defense and Promotion of the Rights and
Potential of All Children.
Siegel, M. (1995). More than words: The generative power of
transmediation for learning. Canadian Journal of Education, 20(4),
Soto, L. D. (2005). Children make the best theorists. In L. D. Soto
& B. B. Swadener (Eds.), Power and voice in research with children
(pp. 9-19). New York, NY: Peter Lang.
Souto-Manning, M., & James, N. (2008). A multi-arts approach to
early literacy and learning. Journal of Research in Childhood Education,
Steele, B. (1998). Draw me a story: An illustrated exploration of
drawing-as-language. Winnipeg, Canada: Portage and Main.
Suhor, C. (1984). Towards a semiotic-based curriculum. Journal of
Curriculum Studies, 16, 247-257.
Sullivan, G. (2006). Research acts in art practice. Studies in Art
Education, 48(1), 19-35.
Thomson, E (Ed.). (2008). Doing visual research with children.
London, England: Routledge.
Wallace, N. E. (2006). The kindness quilt. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall
Wien, C. A. (2008). Emergent curriculum in the primary classroom:
Interpreting the Reggio Emilia approach in schools. New York, NY:
Teachers College Press.
Wilson, B., & Wilson, M. (1984). The themes of children's
drawings: A tale of four countries. In R. W. Ott & A. Hurwitz
(Eds.), Art in education: An international perspective (pp. 31-38).
University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press.
Wright, S. (2010). Understanding creativity in early childhood.
London, England: Sage.
Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada
Humber College, Toronto, Canada
Submitted May 19, 2010; accepted January 28, 2011.
The authors thank the Faculty of Community Services, Ryerson
University, for funding this research.
Address correspondence to Marni Binder, EdD, Assistant Professor,
School of Early Childhood Education, Ryerson University, 350 Victoria
Street, Toronto, ON M5B 2K3, Canada. E-mail: email@example.com
describe the products of students' creative work or performances
carried out within the pedagogical space orchestrated by the
classroom teacher. Students invest their identities in the creation
of these texts which can be written, spoken, visual, musical,
dramatic, or combinations in multimodal form. The identity text
then holds a mirror up to students in which their identities are
reflected back in a positive light. (p. 91)