When University of Mississippi faculty members Tamara Warhol and Katherine Rhodes Fields began working on a class to enhance the English skills of visiting Venezuelan high school students, they wanted to bridge the language gap by incorporating multimedia components that would transcend the cultures of both countries.
That effort, which began during the 2009 August Intersession, grew into an award-winning, four-part curriculum that Warhol and Fields hope to publish in a textbook.
In late March, Warhol and Fields will travel to the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages Annual International Convention and Exposition in Boston to accept the Mary Finocchiaro Award for Excellence in Nonpublished Pedagogical Material for their submission, “Perceptual Prose.”
For Warhol and Fields, the award was a first in the field of peer review by both teachers and researchers.
“I feel very honored to receive the award,” said Fields, a visiting professor of art. “I’ve always wanted to develop a curriculum outside my field of study that would utilize visual language.”
Students were asked to photograph scenes and themselves around the UM campus before uploading the pictures to a blog, Fields said. After discussing the images, the photos were critiqued, creating a dialog between students about how and why they took the pictures. Not only did students understand the art, but they were also able to successfully communicate in English about their work, Fields said.
“This course was successful because everyone loves to take pictures,” she said. “It’s a comfort zone for the students who are already very familiar with the cameras. Not only did their photos become stronger, but the verbal critiques became better as well.”
Other components of the unpublished curriculum include activities to identify cultural stereotypes through the use of photo collages, using color in film and learning how visual language is communicated. The curriculum can be used at all levels of education as it combines the universality of art and English as a Second Language, Warhol said.
“It allows them to use more extensive and sophisticated language by building their vocabulary and grammar and including different ways of explaining visual literacy,” said Warhol, who also serves as the director of the university’s Intensive English Program. “There’s really no limit as to how advantageous it is for this university. It opens dialog not just for students, but for (faculty members) as well across departments.”