Internet Images, Newfangled Negotiations, and Multimodal Metaphors:<br />Reducing Fear and Loathing in Poetry Classrooms<br />Sue Ringler-Pet & J. Gregory McVerry<br />University of Connecticut<br />November 15, 2009<br />Introduction<br />The teaching of poetry has long endured crusades to make poetry relevant to students. As scholars, educators, and poets come to embrace meaning-making as an eventful transaction between reader and text (Rosenblatt, 1938/1995; 1978) that is embedded in complex sociocultural worlds (Galda & Beach, 2001), there is promise to reduce “fear and loathing” of poetry (Faust & Dressman, 2009, p.130). Although it may appear otherwise in practice, educators have consistently resisted formalist notions that exalt poets and ascribe “correct” meaning to poems; research shows preference for poetry to be “used, adapted, cut up, borrowed from, parodied, and played with in all sorts of ways” (Faust & Dressman, 2009, pp.116-117). Nevertheless, due to status quo-maintaining factors, formalist approaches to poetry continue to permeate teaching, leaving English language arts classrooms full of students and teachers “beating [poetry] with a hose/ to find out what it really means” (Collins, 1988, p. 16). <br />Acknowledging poetry as arguably the oldest literary genre in human history, it is intriguing to juxtapose some of the oldest texts with some of the newest technologies. Recent research has begun to examine approaches to teaching poetry that embrace either response or authorship merged with new technologies (see for example Bailey, 2009; George, 2002; Jewitt, 2005; Hughes & John, 2009; McVee, Bailey, & Shanahan, 2008; Pappas & Varelas, 2009; Reilly, 2008; Wissman, 2009). This study examines the integration of technology to potentially enrich English classrooms, looking at both response to and authorship of poetry. Specifically, we ask: <br />1. In responding to poetry, what happens to understandings when students identify key words and use Internet images to represent tone and negotiate meaning? <br />2. In authoring poetry, what happens to self-expression when students use multimedia technologies and Internet images to compose multimodal extended metaphor poems? <br />Theoretical Perspectives<br />To understand technology’s impact on literacy practices and avoid a myopic theoretical approach, it is important to recognize that “multiple realities” occupy the relationship between educational research and practice (Labbo & Reinking, 1999). Since “multiple realities influence what research gets done and how it is interpreted and what research gets listened to, by whom, and under what circumstances,” (p. 478), researchers must recognize strong forces at work— including the agency of practitioners and the complexities involved in introducing new technologies into the status quo of education. Specifically, a multiple realities perspective “confronts… a common and unfortunate tendency to treat technology in relation to literacy as a monolithic, unidimensional topic and a corresponding tendency to oversimplify its use… in literacy instruction” (Labbo & Reinking, 1997, p. 479). That is, it takes into account what may be “lost in crossover” to schools (Tierney, 2009, p. 28) due to the reality that typically technologies: (a) become first cemented into other-than-school environments, (b) enter schools at inconsistent rates, and (c) are supplanted by teachers’ professional wisdom in certain pedagogical situations (Ringler-Pet, 1989). This study acknowledges multiple realities as it examines literacy practices that recognize meaning making as transaction with text and explores the changing nature of text due to new technologies. Accordingly, we embrace both transactional theory (Rosenblatt, 1938/1995; 1978) and New Literacies theory (Coiro, Knobel, Lankshear, & Leu, 2008) to frame our research. <br />Transactional Theory<br />Rosenblatt’s literary theory (1938/1995; 1978) diverges from the New Critical perspective that readers examine texts in order to extract "
Rosenblatt states that during transactions with literary texts, readers draw on past and present literary and life experience to create meaning and posits that “'[t]he poem’ comes into being in the live circuit set up between the reader and 'the text’” (1978, p. 14). Faced with traditional curricular and new high stakes testing requirements, today's literacy educators are pressured by technology’s promise to expand the repertoire of students' literacy experiences. At this juncture, Rosenblatt’s theory offers an important reminder that regardless of, and perhaps even because of increased pressures, it is the role of the teacher to "
foster fruitful... transactions"
(Rosenblatt, 1995, p. 26) between readers and all kinds of texts. Transactional theory also highlights the active, recursive, and multifaceted nature of reading and response, creating a model of classroom reading that values students’ initial responses as a significant first step in meaning negotiation toward mature, considered responses (1938/1995; 1978). In this study, student-chosen Internet images used to negotiate meaning with poetry complicate and enrich this dynamic while appealing to students’ fast-paced, Internet- and image-filled lives outside of the classroom.<br />Bridging Rosenblatt’s theory with 21st-Century technologies, McEneaney (2003) explored hypertext as rooted in transactional theory, suggesting, “[a] transactional view of text structure... requires us to reject the notion of structure as a property of text in the same way [the transactional] theory rejects the notion that meaning is a property of text” (p. 273). As students make meaning from today's variety of texts, they transact linearly, laterally, and unsystematically— not only with words but also with infinite combinations of images, sounds, and videos (Kress, 2003). Thus, today’s teachers must not only help students respond to text but also must acknowledge that when students transact with literary texts, they do more than establish a “live circuit”: they add new transistors and switches (McVerry, 2007). <br />To enrich the content and affect of the poetry classroom, technology may seem like an unwelcome stranger. Research has found, however, that “multimedia texts and multimodal composing may actually shift classroom culture toward a more learner-centered paradigm” (Chandler-Olcott & Mahar, 2003, pp. 381-2). Thus, with careful embrace, technology may create fertile classroom conditions; robust, dynamic new texts, contexts, and representations show promise to crack into marble of New Critical and five-paragraph essay monuments that historically mark reading and writing in English classrooms (Pirie, 1997). We propose that by responding to poetry through non-verbocentric activities and becoming authors of multimodal texts, students will not only explore and refine 21st-century skills, but also, by building contemporary live circuits, they may benefit from new understandings of poetry and a powerful means of self-expression.<br />New Literacies <br />New Literacies is a framework for understanding shifts in literacy due to digital technologies, but scholars define the term variously. Some focus on new skills, strategies, and dispositions necessary to comprehend online texts (Leu, Kinzer, Coiro, & Cammack, 2004); others examine emerging Discourses (Gee, 2005b); and, others look at semiotic contexts (Kress, 2003; Labbo, 1996) that cause a divergence into multiliteracies, a view of literacy that extends traditional language-based approaches (New London Group, 1996). With diverse perspectives brought to bear, it can be argued that the only constant is change (Leu, 2002; Leu & Kinzer, 2000). Accordingly, many scholars who adopt a New Literacies perspective necessarily examine changes in social practices surrounding literacy events— specifically, the implications of shifts in the “space” and “stuff” of learning. Lankshear and Knobel (2003) argue that the Internet has led to new “spaces” because communities of practice are no longer limited by physical space, while shifts in the “stuff” of learning call attention to digital commodities that have no physical attributes. <br />Readers and writers fashion identity and express the self through literacy practices (Tierney, 2009). Involved in “design” (New London Group, 1996), meaning-makers engage in “an active and dynamic process… not something governed by static rules” (p. 74). Lewis and Fabos (2005) examined the place and space that instant messaging (IM) serves in the lives of adolescents. Addressing the purposes, circumstances, and motivations surrounding adolescents’ use of IM, the researchers came to understand participants as social subjects who shape and are shaped by particular technologies. Black (2008) noted how writers of adolescent fan fiction used alternative texts to express themselves as second language learners and authors with “global identities.” In this study, we examine high school students’ non-verbocentric relationships with poetry. Introducing Internet images, newfangled negotiations, and multimodal metaphors into teaching response to and authorship of poetry, we explore new engagements that may allow students to discover, build, and reinforce understandings, agency, and expression. <br />Methods<br />Our analysis technique developed from employing inductive practices (Merriam, 2009; Thomas, 2006) that focus in particular on thematic analysis (Boyatzis, 1998; Fereday & Muir-Cochrane, 2006). With the goal of analyzing themes across two different poetry activities in a nonhierarchical manner, “giving fluidity to the themes and emphasizing the interconnectivity,” we chose thematic networks as our main tool in analysis (Attride-Stirling, 2001, p. 389).<br />Participants and Setting<br />Two university researchers conducted this study in an 11th grade Honors English class at a public high school in the Northeast U.S. Participants included 18 students – 11 males and 7 females. We chose this purposeful sample as an outgrowth of prior professional conversations between one researcher and the classroom teacher. Through ongoing dialogue, the English teacher had expressed dismay toward traditional activities that turned students off to poetry. As a poetry buff, however, he personally valued close reading. To explore this paradox, he was eager to explore new methods for teaching both response to and authorship of poetry. We planned this study with two classrooms in mind (two five-day units) and intended to report on both. However, ultimately, we found a disparity between settings (i.e., an 11th grade Honors, fall semester class vs. a senior spring Writing Workshop elective) disallowed integration of observations into a single data set. Therefore, we decided to conduct follow-up analysis comparing the two classrooms as part of our future research agenda; we report, here, on one five-day study in the 11th grade Honors class. <br />Poetry Activities<br />With an eye to minimally disturbing classroom routine and targeting “regular” curricular objectives, we consulted with the classroom English teacher who designed and implemented the activities for a weeklong poetry unit. The unit consisted of two activities – one focusing on nontraditional modes of response to canonical poems, the other on authorship of multimodal extended metaphor poems. The activities intertwined, with the response activity implemented on days one and three and authorship the focus of days two and four. Day five was a celebration of learning and in the form of a Poets’ Café. Due to an unanticipated half-day on day three, the activities were necessarily compacted. Each of the first four days, one of the two researchers observed and took field notes; both researchers were present on day five. We recognize that having two researchers always present would have made the study stronger. However, to respect the teacher’s plan of instruction, we worked our professional schedules around his. During the research week, as per normal classroom routine, participants’ desks were grouped into “tables.” To preserve anonymity, we labeled each table by color and assigned each participant a number (e.g., a participant was referred to as Blue-1 or Brown-3). Each student received a color-coded, labeled folder in which to keep poetry materials.<br />Response activity: a focus on tone. The response activity targeted representing tone and understanding poetry through use of images found on the Internet. The teacher designed this activity based on theoretical underpinnings of Rosenblatt’s transactional theory (1978). Acknowledging that any “valid” response to literature must begin with students’ initial responses, the activity relied on a simple model of response to text over time— moving students from a poem, to an initial response, through negotiation of meaning, and, finally, to a considered response (Rosenblatt, 1938/1995) (See Figure 1).<br />______________________<br />Insert Figure 1 about here<br />______________________<br />Each group was assigned a different poem: “The Road Not Taken,” by Robert Frost, “Between Walls” by William Carlos Williams, “When I heard the Learn’d Astronomer” by Walt Whitman, or “Impeccable Conception” by Maya Angelou. The teacher asked a representative from each group to read their poem aloud. With the goal of capturing students’ initial responses as a point of entry (Probst, 2004), the teacher directed students to reread their poems and “free write” for three to five minutes. Next, he introduced tone through a quotation from Donald Murray (2005, p. 50) and dramatized a series of examples Murray offers. Students then received “tone charts” on which they listed 10-12 words or phrases that they felt contributed to the overall tone of their poem. For homework, students used tone chart words and phrases as online search terms to find images at “safe sites.” Means to search key words and select images was left wide open to student interpretation, with the expectation that some students might orient themselves linearly or literally, while others might use the Internet as “an interesting metaphor machine” (McVee, Bailey, & Shanahan, 2008, p. 123). Students printed out images at home or in school and had the option of sending them via email for the teacher to print. <br />Working individually at group tables, students created “image tableaus” on newsprint. Directed to choose five or six “best images,” they arranged pictures in a manner that might help them understand and represent the meaning—in particular, the tone— of the poem. Using Maya Angelou’s “Preacher, Don’t Send Me,” (See Figure 2) the teacher modeled the process (i.e., choosing, placing, overlapping the images), and students asked questions. In groups, students then discussed tableaus with regard to expectation, choice, surprise elicited through Internet searches, and reasons for placement and arrangement. <br />______________________<br />Insert Figure 2 about here<br />______________________<br />Finally, students wrote two-part considered responses. Rosenblatt (1956) defined a considered response as a close scrutinizing of the “live circuit” between the reader and the text, wherein the reader tests if their response adequately incorporates “what the printed page offered” (p. 72). Students first reread their poems and wrote a paragraph in response to the prompt: “What, now, does the poem mean to you? How, if at all, does the tone of the poem affect your reaction or understanding?” Then, after reviewing their initial free-writes, students wrote a second paragraph comparing their initial response with their considered response, incorporating perceptions about how creation and discussion of image tableaus helped them understand the poem. Essentially, the considered responses encompassed an expanded Rosenblattian model that incorporates meaning negotiation fueled by Internet images—a transactional but ultimately less verbocentric approach to poetry response. <br />______________________<br />Insert Figure 3 about here<br />______________________<br />Authoring activity: extended metaphor poems. Participating in a poetry activity inspired by Brooks and Mabry’s (2008) “A Matter of Identity,” student-participants explored identity as reflected through extended metaphors and multimodal composition. In the same small groups, students each received a copy of the poem “Identity” by Julio Noboa Polanco (See Appendix A). The teacher read the poem to the class, led a 10-15 minute open-ended group discussion, then introduced four prompts (e.g., “Why do you think the author compared himself to a weed?”) for small group focused discussion. The teacher then facilitated whole class discussion aimed at collectively defining “extended metaphor.” He verbally provided a definition and handed out a graphic organizer illustrating how the narrator of Polanco’s poem (the source) is compared to a weed (the target). After cementing an understanding of “extended metaphor” by brainstorming metaphors with the teacher as source, students explored metaphors related to themselves by identifying personal characteristics and comparing these to unlike objects. For homework, they used the graphic organizer to draft an extended metaphor, which they would eventually transform into a multimedia poem.<br />Next, the class met in a computer laboratory, so students could draft, revise, or embellish their multimedia extended metaphor poems, using Microsoft Powerpoint as a tool for multimodal composition. They were to use Internet search engines to find a background image for their poem. The teacher: (a) provided handouts that included screen shots and directions for using Powerpoint; (b) discussed multimodal choices and implications of design; (c) encouraged manipulation of font, styles, colors, image transparency, and image contrasts; and (d) shared a model multimodal extended metaphor poem he had composed. Discussion with the teacher led us to view this poetry activity as exploratory; students were free to experiment with new modalities that might lead to emerging appreciations for poetry and interest in sharing compositions with authentic audiences. Though each student authored a poem, the computer lab setting was conducive to collaboration. Accordingly, the teacher did not provide formal feedback, and the poems were not graded.<br />Poets’ café. The last day was reserved for a classroom celebration of learning and sharing of extended metaphor poems. The teacher provided snacks and drinks. With an LCD projector used to display poems on a large screen, students read their creations. In accordance with classroom norms, students applauded each other’s efforts and provided informal critique that led most to expound upon their metaphors, specific images, and modality choices. Due to time constraints, not all of the students shared during the Poet’s Café; additional sharing extend ed beyond our research week. <br />Data Sources<br />We collected a variety of data sets across participants. We reduced the fallibility of any one artifact and increased both the credibility and quality of findings through triangulation of data sources, observers, and theories (Denzin, 1989). As partner researchers, we analyzed data sets independently and then revisited and reworked them collaboratively, attempting to “make substantial strides in overcoming the skepticism that greets singular methods, lone analysts, and single-perspective interpretations” (Patton, 2002, p. 556). Data sources used in analysis included student artifacts (i.e., free-write, tone chart, image tableau, considered response, extended metaphor graphic organizer, extended metaphor poem); field observations from two researchers; and, teacher planning materials and notes.<br />Student artifacts. Student artifacts served our main data source. We collected and analyzed 17 initial free-write responses and 15 tone charts. Fifteen participants contributed completed image tableaus to our data, and an additional student submitted a collection of unassembled images. We also collected and analyzed 15 two-part considered responses—all of which were paired with an initial response—allowing us to compare initial and considered responses during coding. We collected 13 graphic organizers, 14 polished, multimodal extended metaphor poems, and one poem text-only. The inconsistency in number of collected artifacts reflects naturalistic conditions of classroom research wherein tardies, absences, and missing homework inevitably affect data gathering.<br />Field observations. To record and illuminate actions, decisions, discourse, and products seemingly evidenced in student artifacts, we recorded five days of field observations. Each day one of us observed research activity (conducted as part of normal classroom routine) and gathered condensed field notes. On the fifth day both of us gathered field notes. We transformed condensed notes into expanded field notes that included observations and reflections represented in T-table format. T-table entries ranged from attention to classroom atmosphere, to teacher style, to direct quotations from students and teacher. We shared T-tables and thus bolstered the research with a duet of perspectives. Field notes were member-checked with the teacher to be sure he approved of our record of timeline, intention, and sentiment (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). <br />Teacher materials and notes. As an additional data source, we collected formal and informal teacher planning materials, including lesson plans and notes, some scribbled during lessons or debriefing with the researchers in preparation for the next class. Though these artifacts were few, they allowed us to observe differences between what actually unfolded during the natural course of classroom events versus what we knew had been planned. Complementing reflections gleaned from field notes, this type of comparison provided insights into the nature of this particular classroom’s culture as well as glimpses into the teacher’s pedagogical style and philosophy. <br />Data Analysis <br />The purpose of our inductive data analysis was fourfold. We worked to: (a) transform extensive, varied data into codes and categories; (b) identify connections between the data and the research questions (Thomas, 2006); (c) develop themes (Merriam, 1999) through use of thematic networks (Attride-Stirling, 2001); and (d) “take the key conceptual findings in …each thematic network, and pool them together into a cohesive story” (Attride-Stirling, 2001, p. 402) that might explain the role images and multimodality play in the response to and authorship of poetry.<br />Before we chose a data analysis tool, we conducted a close reading of each data source. Working independently and with the research questions in mind, we identified codes emerging from each data set (Rice & Ezzy, 1999) and displayed initial codes using matrices (Miles & Huberman, 1994). Examining the matrices, we realized that we were struggling to explain paradoxical discourses within and between the two learning activities. For example, we wanted to explore whether or not the response/tone activity affected the authorship activity and vice versa; and, we needed to explain differences in student attitudes and aptitudes that affected overall learning. Thus, we decided we needed an analysis tool that could examine non-hierarchical, non-causal relationships that would better communicate what happened for students during the teaching/learning experience as a whole. <br />We chose thematic network analysis (Attride-Stirling, 2001), because it maps a six-step journey from data through analysis to findings. As an explicit and effective means to unify what was communicated through various data sets, thematic network analysis allowed us to “unearth the themes salient in a text at different levels, and… facilitate[d] the structuring and depiction of these themes” (Attride-Stirling, 2001, p. 387). Working inward from basic to global themes, we ultimately were able to identify key conceptual findings in the summaries of each network and weave them into a cohesive story related to the research questions and theoretical grounding of our study (Attride-Stirling, 2001; Boyatzis, 1998; Fereday & Muir-Cochrane, 2006). <br />Steps of thematic network analysis. The first step in thematic network analysis is to reduce the data (Attride-Stirling, 2001). Accordingly, we each coded large chunks of text across all data sets and reexamined the codes based on theoretical underpinnings of the research questions. This process led to 80 raw codes, which we recorded in table format reflecting frequency of occurrence (See Appendix B). Step One’s reduction of data not only evoked an extensive list of issues (raw codes) but also established inter-rater reliability, in that frequency of codes identified by the two researchers were reasonably in sync. Next, we developed a coding framework by grouping raw codes into tighter codes. Looking for patterns and drawing on our research questions, we categorized the 80 issues discussed into 18 codes. <br />In Step Two of thematic network analysis, the goal is to derive basic themes from codes (Attride-Stirling, 2001). As we identified basic themes, we made sure that each was discrete enough but also encapsulated multiple text segments across all data. From our initial codes, we developed a list of 26 basic themes (See Appendix C).<br />In Step Three of thematic network analysis, basic themes are clustered into organizing themes (Attride-Stirling, 2001), and organizing themes are gathered into global themes. Clustering basic themes, we combined, for example, “Readers employ a variety of strategies to understand poems,” “Students recognize formal elements to respond to poetry,” and “There is not one way to read poem” and continued clustering in similar fashion. Identifying shared issues among basic themes, we deduced and labeled organizing themes. For example, the previously mentioned cluster became the organizing theme “Inherent flexibility in reading strategies” (See Appendix D).<br />Next, we clustered organizing themes; for example, we grouped “Inherent flexibility in reading strategies” with “Reader and meaning are related,” “Predispositions to poetry affect meaning making,” and “Connections affect meaning making.” Finally, we deduced global themes by looking for the dominating “claim, proposition, argument, assertion or assumption that the Organizing Themes are about” (p. 393). From the above, we deduced the global theme statement “Meaning Making is a Negotiation that Encompasses Time and Space.” Overall we developed three global themes (See Appendix D).<br />In accordance with Step Three, we depicted our three thematic networks (Attride-Stirling, 2001). Outermost spokes hold basic themes that point inward toward ovals that represent organizing themes. Each oval projects a spoke toward the global theme, which serves as the central construct in a web (See Appendices E, F1, F2, G). Returning to the data, we reviewed the thematic networks to make sure that the themes encapsulated what we had found during basic inductive coding. We made only two adjustments. We moved the basic theme “Readers’ life experience influence meaning” from the organizing theme “Connections affect meaning making” to “Reader and meaning are related.” And, after trying to describe the organizing theme “Perception of effect of learning activities varied” on thematic network #2, we realized that the basic theme “Prior opinion of poetry” was not distinct from the organizing theme Predispositons to poetry affect meaning-making on thematic network #1. Also, for the other basic theme in that spoke, “Some students didn’t recognize evidence of change while researcher did,” there wasn’t enough evidence to support inclusion in the network; therefore, we removed an organizing theme (See Appendices F1 and F2). <br />Steps Four and Five of thematic network analysis involve a second level of analysis wherein the researcher explores the networks and then summarizes each network’s main patterns and themes (Attride-Stirling, 2001). Following Step Four, we returned to our data sets and reread them through the lenses of our global, organizing, and basic themes. With the goal of transforming the networks into “not only a tool for the researcher, but also for the reader” (p. 393), we worked to include text segments and other examples from original transcripts to support our analysis. In accordance with Step Five, we composed summaries of each thematic network, which we share in the next section. Step Six is incorporated into our discussion section, wherein we returned to the research questions and theoretical underpinnings of the study to interpret findings in light of the thematic network analysis and, ultimately, tell a “cohesive story” (p. 402).<br />Findings <br />Thematic Network One: Meaning Making is a Negotiation that Encompasses Time and Space<br />Meaning making is a negotiation that does not exist in one person, one text, one moment, or one space; it is an idiosyncratic transaction between reader and text that reaches through time and space (Rosenblatt, 1978; 1938/1995). As the first thematic network illustrates, meaning negotiation with poetry encompasses flexible strategy use, predispositions to poetry, connections a reader makes, and the relationship between reader orientation and meaning (See Appendix E).<br />Flexible reading strategies. In order to make sense of their assigned poems, students flexibly and independently employed a variety of reading strategies. Evidenced through free-writes, considered responses, and reflections, these strategies included summarizing, rereading, and visualizing. For example, the student labeled Blue-2 summarized “Impeccable Conception” upfront, with the main idea: “This poem talks about the inspiration and the passion of a poet,” whereas Blue-3 noted using rereading strategy: “I found myself jumping back to previous lines in each verse, sort of trying to get a feeling of the whole rather than recalling only disjuncted fragments.” Other strategies included students visualizing and “hearing” words during reading; a reader of Whitman “pictured the scene, a bored young man in a lecture hall…” (Brown-2), and, responding to Williams another wrote, “When I read [my poem] in my head it sounded so different from when it was read aloud” (Red-2). <br />Many students attended to formal elements of poetry and seemed to engage in close reading. Blue-3 free-wrote that Angelou’s “rhyming is nicely done and not glaringly obvious...” and quotes: “A wilting, dying rose…the most rewarding prose.” Several students mentioned line breaks in “Between Walls,” with Red-1 noting “intended pauses” because the poet “wants the reader/listener to listen closely and think hard.” Attention to enjambment, rhythm, repetition, and onomatopoeia was evidenced in authorship as well. One student captured in metaphor her structured lifestyle, comparing it to a dance routine. In the first of two contrasting stanzas, use of short, one-syllable words, separated by commas, communicated sharp contrast to the improvised lifestyle the narrator desires (See Figure 4). In onomatopoetic attempt to capture improvisation, a male student used repetition: “rat-a-tating,” “rat-a-tat,” “thump thump thumping,” and “thump thump a thump.” Thus, formal elements and poetic devices were variously noticed and employed across response and authorship and across individuals and group, underscoring the third basic theme: “There is not one way to read a poem.”<br />________________________________<br />Insert Figure 4 about here<br />________________________________<br />Predispositions to poetry affect meaning making. Expressing a positive predisposition to poetry, Blue-1 clarified atypical boredom with “his” particular poem: “And this is NOT because I dislike poetry. In fact, I love poetry, and I enjoy writing it myself.” Another student expressed a negative predisposition to poetry, calling it “meaningless words on a piece of paper that people overanalyze to whatever suits their fancy on that particular day” (Red-3). Our data evidenced interesting findings with regard to these students’ predispositions. The first “positively predisposed” student showed expected mature engagement with Angelou’s text; he questioned why the poet is specified as a woman and wondered about potential sexual overtones in the pants/romance rhyme. However, he later concluded that, “writing poetry about writing poetry is dumb.” Contrast between this colloquial language and the student’s initial sophisticated critique suggests that distaste for the poem influenced his interest in meaning making, despite his positive predisposition. The second student (Red-3), whose predisposition suggests he would not expect to find “deep meaning” through poetry, expressed a compelling transaction with “Between Walls,” through probing exploration of the with repeated use of the words “might,” “may,” and “maybe.” Interestingly, this student also used what we characterize as poetic language in his own writing: “…feathers stop growing, the only thing that remains is a remembrance of what used to be, that reflect/refract the sun’s broken rays, pieces of a green bottle…” Furthermore, Red-3’s image tableau showed an eclectic choice of images, attention to detail, and deliberate placement, suggesting that this student was clearly working to make meaning, despite his “declared” predisposition that poetry can be meaningless (See Figure 5). Thus, a positive predisposition can be derailed, and a negative or neutral predisposition can be channeled toward fruitfulness. These two students suggest that predispositions to poetry can act as a switch in the live circuit of meaning making, depending upon pedagogical context. <br />________________________________<br />Insert Figure 5 about here<br />________________________________<br />Connections affect meaning making. Brown-2 connected the theme of the Whitman poem to Catcher in the Rye offering that both texts include “a non-conformist who learns in non-conventional ways.” Discussing distaste for Angelou’s “stupid poem,” Blue-1 made reference to outside texts declaring he preferred the intrigue and mystery of Edgar Allen Poe, naming specifically “The Raven” and “The Bells.” Another intertextual connection emerged during authoring, when a student began his poem with an Anne Bronte title: “Vanitas Vanitatum, Omnia Vanitas.” Still other students connected idiosyncratically; about “Between Walls,” a girl wrote, “The back wings of the hospital…reminded me of angel wings” (Red-1), while a boy wrote that a rhyme he found “weird” was “like something [classmate] would say. He’s weird too” (Blue-3). <br />Use of the Internet also connected students to popular culture—an aspect of their world outside the classroom. Keyword searches led to images of characters from “Peanuts,” popular bands such as “My Chemical Romance,” and (given that the last stanza of “Impeccable Conception” includes the line “then hurry home to be alone”) a familiar mug shot from the movie “Home Alone.” Students also sought popular culture images as background for student-authored poems; notably, one student spent over 15 minutes searching for a man with a lantern and ultimately chose an image from “Phantom of the Opera.” These connections exemplified the Internet as “an interesting metaphor machine” (McVee, Bailey, & Shanahan, 2008, p. 123), leaving meaning negotiation open to the effects of unexpected connections and associations fueled by the “stuff” of adolescent lives, while other connection appeared deliberate; one student wrote, “I closed my eyes to try to fit myself into the descriptions” (Purple-1). Overall, we saw connections serendipitous and deliberate, intertextual and personal, in no particular pattern—glimmers of the complex web readers and writers inhabit, wherein meaning making involves connections threaded through time and space.<br />Reader and meaning are related. In many cases, students intentionally sought deep, multiple layers of meaning; in other instances, it appeared meaning making was primarily influenced by epistemological beliefs. Furthermore, location of meaning on a reader to text continuum was in question, while readers’ unique life experiences clearly influenced meaning making. <br />Many students dug for multiple layers of meaning. Whereas a typical response to “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer” might praise alternatives to lecture-based learning, Brown-3 wondered outside the box, “Was this poem about an astronomer’s wife that knew he was dead or ‘away up in the stars?’,” and Brown-4 bored through layers to conclude that the poem “can be directly related to finding true love…true love may be similar because the journey for finding love teaches us more knowledge than after love is found.” <br /> Meaning making was also influenced by epistemological beliefs. Handed a “considered response” worksheets, one student argued, “What if I don’t think [the poem] means anything? Why can’t it be literal? Not everything is allegorical.” Another’s (Blue-4) recursive written discussion about “Impeccable Conception,” rang of personal epistemology: “This poem is exactly the same as the senseless poem it is talking about…It is about a meaningless subject… and talks about nothing, and makes no conclusions. However, because I was able to connect with it so well, I rather enjoyed the poem… [It] is very ironic.”<br />Location of meaning seemed to be in question, with some students New Critically-oriented toward mining meaning from text (Brooks & Warren, 1938) and others more focused on the lived through transaction (Rosenblatt, 1938/1995; 1978). Purple-1 worked to decipher Frost’s words: “I think the essence of the meaning is revealed in this last sentence, however ‘clues’ can symbolically be found in the descriptions beforehand.” Alternatively, Brown-4 free-associated with Whitman:<br />Why do stars [fascinate] humans? It’s because we like to know what’s beyond ourselves … What we find might never be what we looked for because the journey to finding… may be more pleasurable that what we seek. …Stars… seem to be so close, but we know it’s impossible reach them.<br />Life experience, (considered here as occurring over broad time periods and in varied spaces) also influenced meaning making. A student whose father is a minister, asked to interpret the tableau from the “model” poem “Preacher, Don’t Send Me,” and the teacher obliged. Also, the teacher repeatedly referred to past and future shared literary experiences, spotlighting a previous exploration of tone through Huckleberry Finn and reiterating the importance of repeating this type of literary practice. Thus, in our research setting, readers’ and writers’ life and literary experiences from different times and spaces were validated, underscoring that reader and meaning are related in complex and not necessarily obvious ways.<br />Summary of thematic network one. Exemplars from our data communicate that though meaning making differs among individuals, it proceeds, uniformly, as active negotiation pervasive to reading and writing. Initial evocations represent an important starting point (Rosenblatt, 1938/1995); and, this thematic network highlights numerous entry points, beyond the linguistic. Importantly, in addition to flexible strategy use, predispositions to poetry, and connections during literacy acts; students’ life experiences, considered broadly, contribute to fruitful meaning negotiation in classroom settings (Rosenblatt, 1993). As pedagogical contexts become increasingly Internet and image driven, personal and public time and space may become even more relevant to meaning negotiation, leading students and teachers to sophisticated navigation that can bridge old and new literacy practices.<br />Thematic Network Two: Multimodal, Non-verbocentric Teaching Approaches Affect Student Engagement<br />The second thematic network describes how alternative approaches to teaching poetry—specifically the use of Internet images in meaning negotiation and multiple modalities in authorship— can influence student engagement (See Appendix F2). Through two organizing themes, Effects of learning activities varied and Teaching approaches determine level of engagement, we describe student engagement across groups. <br />Varying effect of activities. Small group discussion of assigned poems and whole-class discussion of Polanco’s poem “Identity” were considered to be the most successful pedagogical tools. Students wrote that discussions “allowed me hear what others perceived” (Blue-4), “opened my eyes to other possibilities” (Red–2), and “sparked me to think more and draw my own conclusions” (Blue-2). Of all activities, students commented most on discussion (an activity that clearly requires a high level of student engagement) as catalyst toward understanding. Of students who mentioned the effect of discussion, none said that discussion did not help. <br />Identifying and searching for key words helped students formulate representations of tone and meaning but played out variously across participants and groups. Students reported that identifying key words helped them “notice that certain words contribute to the poem more” (Brown-1) or understand better “because when words and phrases are separated, it is easier to interpret their meaning” (Red-2). Others felt that circling and identifying words helped, but that there was no reason to search for images (e.g., Purple 2). Ten out of the eighteen students commented on how either identifying words, collecting Internet images, or placing images on the tableaus did change their understanding of the poem. This finding is complicated, however, by the fact that students’ sense of whether their understanding changed did not always jive with the researchers’ interpretation. The following example illustrates this phenomenon. After rereading “Between Walls”, Red-4 commented in her considered response: “I don’t think that my interpretation… changed much, except that I feel more strongly… now than…in my free write. The most important word… in the poem is “shine.” That word [influenced] how I arranged my image tableau.” While this student saw no change as a result of the word/image activities, we interpret “feel more strongly” as evidence of engagement toward fuller understanding. This student’s tableau is impressive in that she glued the image associated with “shine” in the center, suggesting it was central to tone and meaning; in considered response, she substantiated this placement remarking, “…the poem is depressing at first, because hospitals are depressing, and nothing growing is also sad… every time I read the poem and get to the word “shine” it seems like the tone changes and gives … a sign of hope” (See Figure 6). <br />______________________<br />Insert Figure 6 about here<br />_______________________<br />Field observations support our finding that the tableau activity influenced engagement. After reading Whitman, Brown-1 noted that the narrator was getting bored with the lecture “but when he went outside [under the stars], he appreciated it more.” Seeming to represent an inside-outside dichotomy in his tableau, he said he deliberately placed a particular image “out” and created his tableau accordingly. The same student commented in considered written response that Internet searches “gave me a picture” and the tableau “showed what was important to the writer in the poem.” Thus, though our findings indicate that discussion was more effective than identifying key words, searching the Internet, and working with images, it is crucial to note that much discussion was centered on images. Therefore, we can say that across students, multimodal activities promoted student engagement and helped develop sophisticated understandings over time.<br />Analyzed across groups, the effect of activities played out less consistently. Blue group members were largely homogeneous in their statements that activities engaged them to negotiate meaning. Blue-2, 3, 4, and 5 explicitly noted that the activities helped. The Red group however, communicated that planned activities other than discussion didn’t affect understanding. Many Brown group members did not complete a considered response, so we did not include their data here. Field notes on the Purple group indicated considerable engagement, however. Assigned “A Road Not Taken,” students discussed “yellow wood” and where they placed images of birches, which emerged from searching on that phrase. All group members indicated that the found image was central to understanding; however, where they placed it differed. Some put the picture of the birch in the middle of paper. Others centered it at the top. That is, though centrality uniformly indicated importance, placement on the vertical axis varied. Another finding in “Brown” tableaus involved the use of a one-way sign. One student placed the sign pointing to the right to indicate, “there was only one real way to go,” while another placed the image in the middle with all the other pictures around it to indicate, “they could go all different ways.” Thus, using images to develop responses to poetry motivated students and opened new entries into poetry. Additionally, within-group strategies were homogenous enough to allow commonalities to emerge, which further engaged students. <br />Teaching approaches. Evidence emerged across all data sets suggesting that alternative teaching styles, affective pedagogy, using non-verbocentric texts, and incorporating technology all positively influenced student engagement (See Appendix F2). <br />The English teacher in this study followed his lesson plans, was clearly respected by his students, and conducted class in a professional manner. Field notes indicate he had “control” of adjusting teaching modes without disruption; after a humorous moment, he switched class gears with, “Put on your serious hats.” We also noted numerous instances of nontraditional teaching infused into both poetry activities. Introducing the poetry week, the teacher raised the question, “How many of you have had poetry ruined?” followed by “Our purpose is to show you another way of looking at poetry.” He also explained that poetry could help students try to “figure out who we are at this minute,” and wrote the following questions on the board: “Who the hell am I? What matters to me? Where do you get your Mojo? What can poetry do for me?” Wearing a hat inscribed with “Mojo University,” he showed a “bag of Mojo” (a pouch full of herbs and trinkets of the souvenir variety) which, he said, “serves as a metaphor for things in life that give him power.” This reference to popular culture, in particular the Austin Powers movies, served as an alternative introduction to Polanco’s poem, “Identity.” The teacher also explained the term “image tableau,” in an unconventional manner; he spun a tale centered on his father, a salesman, and wove in how teaching involves salesmanship of a sort (See field notes excerpt Appendix H). In another nontraditional teaching moment, he announced to an unfazed class that they would eventually “christen the frig” (a single, discarded refrigerator door propped in the corner of the classroom) with student-authored poetry hung on magnets.<br /> Affective education was clearly at work in this classroom—threaded invisibly into the academic context. The teacher applauded a student featured in the sports section of the local paper, and that student, interestingly, chose running as the theme of his extended metaphor poem (See Figure 7). He complimented a (nonmainstream) student’s exemplary reading of one of the focal poems and asked him to model for the class. And, when a student became visibly frustrated with “Between Walls,” the teacher re-engaged her by walking her too the window for a one-on-one examination of the walls surrounding the school’s courtyard. During Poet’s café, a female student uninhibitedly shared strong feelings about love for her family, and a male student remarked, “Good job!– No… seriously!” Attention to affect evidently pervaded the classroom and influenced student engagement. <br />______________________<br />Insert Figure 7 about here<br />_______________________<br />Multimodal texts also played a role in offering new entries into poetry. Numerous examples described above suggest that searching for and manipulating Internet images promoted positive student engagement with poetry; we witnessed a similar pattern with student authorship. One student began his poem with the question: “What?” and used the Nike symbol as background. It can be argued that employing the image of a question mark that resembles the Nike symbol combined with the familiar slogan “Just Do It,” this student may have worked toward a multimodal question-and-answer-type expression; moreover, if not, he was clearly otherwise engaged. <br />Technology itself may offer approachable pathways into poetry. Though use of the word “forced” may seem paradoxical, Blue-3 made a poignant observation that activities that involved technology “almost forced me to approach [poetry] from new and differing ‘angles’ in order that I could derive a fuller and more comprehensive understanding.” The same student used technology to draw on popular culture, choosing and elaborating on an image representing the band “My Chemical Romance.” He explained use of this image: “I took this poem to mean the opposite of romance, but I guess that’s the joke, that’s the point.” Red-3 wrote that searching online helped explain action, (i.e., “a picture is worth a thousand words”), but he ultimately focused on tone: “the tone of the poem makes me want to curl up in a ball and hide.” Thus, technology played a part in engagement both directly and indirectly. <br />Summary of thematic network two. Teaching approaches that promoted engagement with poetry included nontraditional pedagogy characterized by the teacher’s flexible attention to the cognitive and affective domains. Approaches evidenced in the research setting mingled productively with the introduction of Internet images to response and multimodalities to authorship. Though discussion was uniformly considered the most effective meaning making activity, it is difficult to flesh out the degree to which discussion engaged the students, because discussions accompanied multimodal activities throughout the study. Purple-4 wrote that discussion was helpful after working with the poem for a few days, and field notes indicated considerable overall motivation epitomized by a student in the computer lab, who asked, “Is this the last day?” Hearing “Yes,” he asked, “Why?” Thus, it is reasonable to believe that allowing time for discussion and incorporating nonverbal modes influenced student engagement.<br />Thematic Network Three: Technology and Authorship are Identity Toolkits<br /> Through two organizing themes, Avenue for adolescent expression and Technology affects authorship, the third thematic network represents technology and authorship as identity toolkits (Gee, 2005a) (See Appendix G). <br />Adolescent expression. That students used poetry-writing as a tool for expression is not surprising. Extended metaphor poems created during our research, however, exhibited a degree of self-expression that isn’t typically encountered and applauded in high school classrooms. Echoing Polanco’s opening line “Let them be as flowers,” one female student wrote a poem about childhood that began “Let them grow up” and included the lines “why would I want to forget/ what made me who I am?” Lines written in a simple, pink font and imposed on an image of a young girl donned in pink pants and shoes, spinning a blanket about herself in the grass capture childhood’s essence (See Figure 8). We found evidence of distinctive self expression, in response to poetry as well; notably Blue-2 concluded that “Impeccable Conception” is about curiosity— about “everything in human nature” and Red-3 imagined that “the human mind is always finding patterns when there is none, unless of course everything is a pattern.” <br />____________________<br />Insert Figure 8 about here<br />__________________________<br />Reflective topics clustered around typical adolescent concerns such as hobbies, destiny, family, and friends. In writing, many students compared themselves to a hobby or sport; personal metaphors included dance, playing in a band, video games, running, and surfing. It appeared that students define themselves more by what they do rather than who they are, or put another way, who you are may be defined by what you do. A common theme across extended metaphor poems was a sense of control or lack thereof over one’s life. Herein, a striking gender difference emerged. Male students wrote about being in control or able to change one’s destiny, whereas female students wrote about being stuck in routine. One male wrote: “I am a river/ Flowing, twisting, and shaping the land/ Carving a path of my own.” His poem further communicated power either to destroy riverbanks or “meander with the sweet breeze.” Another male student compared himself to a surfboard (See Figure 9). Let the waves transport him where they will, he still feels control over the final destination; no matter the conditions, he is able to control the ride into shore. Finally, in the “mY m1nd” poem (See Figure 10), we found a strong sense of being in control of the unknown as a male student wrote (in “gaming” terminology), “I decide what/ I decide when/ I decide why/ and not you.”<br />________________________<br />Insert Figures 9 and 10 about here<br />________________________<br />In contrast, any female who touched on destiny or control expressed, through poetry, a desire for more freedom. Recall, for example, the poem about a dance routine (See Figure 4). By comparing herself to a structured routine and communicating a desire for more improvisation, this poet communicated feeling stuck in routine. In another poignant poem, a female student saw herself as the town inside a snow globe, set upon a mantelpiece. Images, fonts, text, and color work together, for a compelling overall effect; the last stanza is particularly illustrative of the gendered pattern (See Figure 11).<br />___________________<br />Insert Figure 11 about here<br />___________________<br />Family and friends commonly surfaced in writing, and again a gender pattern emerged; only females wrote metaphors with family or friends as the central theme. Notably, one girl compared her family to a garden, assigning each family member a gender stereotypical role within the metaphor and distinguishing herself the “wild flower.” Depending upon this student’s interpretation of “wild flower,” this example might constitute an exception to our earlier finding that only males wrote about having control over destiny. Thus, in this expanded literacy arena, although gendered patterns emerged, freedom of expression prevailed across genders.<br />When students compared themselves to other central aspects of their identities, gender was not as distinguishable. A boy, who by dress and style identifies with the “goth” subculture, used the metaphor “I am black.” Two other students compared themselves to animals, focusing specifically, on inner and outer selves. A girl compared herself to a dog, and a boy compared himself to a sea turtle. The girl wrote: “I am a dog,/ With a thick outer coat,/ Very hard to get through/ Masking what lies inside.” A stanza from the boy’s poem expressed a similar sentiment: “Exterior hard and impenetrable/ soft and delicate interior.” Perhaps most striking exemplar of adolescent expression was exhibited in the extended metaphor poem written by a student who is evidently a “gamer” (See Figure 10). Out-of-school literacies, popular culture, and expression of identity converged as he used text unique to the gaming culture and employed both thematic images and imagery. This unusual design evidences the myriad ways multimodal technology can be employed for self-expression. In response and writing, we saw everything from simple fonts and commonplace images, to extraordinary combinations of text and images. <br />Technology and authorship. Analysis of the relationship between technology and composition processes showed collaboration was key. It is not uncommon for writing to involve some degree of collaboration; however, student authors in this study were particularly compelled to connect. In the computer lab and out of school, they sent poems and pictures via email, helped each other search for background images, and provided technology tips. We observed various iterations of one student asking how to “do that” and another demonstrating. While composing, two girls leaned toward each other and one tilted her screen to show her “draft.” Field notes evidenced her reading aloud, “My life is a dance routine…I can’t end it…seems kind of…” and another girl broke in, “You need something ‘action-y.” Conversations like these evidence how working with and around technology encourage collaboration and may influence authorship. <br />We were also struck by the finding that many students did not use the graphic organizer to develop their extended metaphor; they reached to the Internet and chose images to drive words. Furthermore, students gave as much or even more credence to fonts, color, and background images as they did to words. The student who compared himself to a sea turtle used semi-transparent text boxes and a border around text superimposed over an image to “make the words stand out”; thus, “authorship” expanded dimensionally. <br />Summary of thematic network three. This thematic network accentuates students employing identity toolkits (Gee, 2005a) while growing personal agency. In response and composition, students connected with and chose themes related to typical adolescent concerns, including physical activity, philosophies, friends, family, and futures. Though the extended metaphor activity was designed otherwise (i.e., with a charted graphic organizer for “writing triggers”), students in large part commandeered images to drive the writing process. It is possible that working with Internet images during the response activity carried over to students’ experiences as multimodal poets. That is, they seized an opportunity to experiment with newfound tools. Discussion with the teacher revealed that he had not realized the engaging potential of technology in relation to poetry writing. He commented, “You can see how some students who I may not have considered ‘good writers’ [instead] have a good sense of design. It really affects what you can make of their poems.” Thus, powered by multimodal tools, meaning making fused with identity and made room for agency. Given new opportunities for interpretive, artistic, and poetic expression, students’ canvases became colorful, multidimensional, and inspired. Thus, our findings point to the need for educators to consider literary response and composition instruction with broader brush strokes. <br />Discussion <br />This discussion encompasses the sixth and final step of thematic network analysis; we work to tell a “cohesive story” (Attride-Sterling, 2001) in line with the research questions: <br />1. In responding to poetry, what happens to understandings when students identify key words and use Internet images to represent tone and negotiate meaning? <br />2. In authoring poetry, what happens to self-expression when students use multimedia technologies and Internet images to compose multimodal extended metaphor poems? <br />Synthesizing our thematic networks, this tale sheds light non-verbocentric approaches to teaching poetry as they may affect student understandings and self-expression. We draw across findings regarding response and authorship in alternative modes and frame our discussion in a tradition that sees meaning residing not in text but rather in human transaction (Rosenblatt, 1938/1995; 1978) with “text” broadly defined by New Literacies (Lankshear & Knobel, 2003). Specifically, we discuss our findings with regard to ways in which new engagements with poetry may: (a) enrich meaning negotiation (b) help students explore identity and express agency, and (c) necessarily encompass time and space. <br />Negotiating Meaning with Images: A Window on Process <br />Educators and researchers typically look at goals of learning in terms of measurable resultant change—either in the learner or as represented by a product. With poetry activities that promoted alternative ways to negotiate meaning, we examined that negotiation rather than measure change. In our study, discussion primarily revolved around images and encompassed idiosyncratic associations, serendipitous Internet discoveries, insights into representation, and sparks for authorship. Since use of images was central to group talk, it was difficult to separate out the effect of discussion from acts of selecting and representing with images; but, it was doubly compelling. <br />During the response activity, students were able to respond to poems, reflect upon attitudes and intentions of poets, and consider the significance of words and phrases by searching for images and placing them on a tableau. In the process, they repeatedly drew on elements of popular culture thus grappling with poetry in an arena that begins to bridge the gap between out-of-school and in-school literacy practices (Alvermann, 2002). We saw a similar trend in the composition process. Most notably, rather than choosing a text-based approach to developing ideas, students tended to use images as a tool to generate composition. To do so, they turned to the Internet and to each other. Thus, meaning negotiation took place in multimodal and socio-cultural contexts that triggered engagement through relevant talk and real-life connections.<br />Similar to McVee, Bailey, and Shanahan (2008) who highlighted the importance of accessing design processes over products and like Smagorinsky and O’Donnell-Allen’s (1998) body biographies, which captured high school students’ responses to Hamlet, the image tableaus in our study did not serve as artistic renderings but rather as a playground for multimodal considerations. In some cases, noting unusual associations triggered by Internet searches (e.g., Angelou’s text juxtaposed with the main character in “Home Alone”) encouraged students to return to the text. Other times, placement of images (e.g., birch trees in Frost’s poem) acted as significant acts of meaning making (Smagorinsky & O'Donnell-Allen, 1998). Overall, image-centered approaches offered new pathways to fruitful transactions with discussion providing the clearest lane to rich understandings, as evidenced by the student who identified “shine” as central to her image tableau and subsequently central to her understanding. <br />Thus, findings were in concert with Rosenblatt’s transactional theory. Initial evocations (image-texts, or non-verbal representations) triggered negotiation (verbal interaction, considerations, and private and public reconsiderations ) and matured to considered responses (ultimate interpretations). Multimodality served a mediating role allowing students to revise and extend interpretation (See Figure 3). Furthermore, in dialogue surrounding image-texts, such as the one-way sign and looking for an “action-y” ending, students’ used prior knowledge of poetry as well as personal connections to the poem, to other texts, and to each other, highlighting a “mosaic of intersecting texts” (Hartman, 1995, p. 556). Thus, negotiation of meaning that depends upon a “residue of past transactions in life and language” (Rosenblatt, 1993, p. 381) is extended by Bakhtin’s (1981) dialogism—the idea that language always has “multiple possible meanings, that ‘speak’ to one another, [and] create linguistic depth as well as tension (Landay, 2004, p. 108). Participants in our study essentially experienced these reverberations so that the inclusion of images to meaning negotiation amounted to their creating and controlling contemporary live circuits (Rosenblatt, 1978, p.14). <br />Cultivating Identity and Agency <br />As our story line moves from negotiation of meaning to expression of identity and agency, we recognize that cognitive and affective factors drive that response and authorship remain difficult to capture (Tompkins, 2002; Atwell, 1998). Multimodal approaches to poetry, however, rendered students’ metacognition and “meta-affect” both broadly inclusive and more perceptible. Our study peered into “the heart of heteroglossia”— multiple voices (Bakhtin, 1981)—in that the poetry activities both validated “individual voices” and provided “opportunities for a range of perspectives to share space” (Fecho & Botzakis, 2007, p. 553). Applying the notion of heteroglossia (Bakhtin, 1981; Landay, 2004; Mahiri, 2004), we acknowledge that texts “come laden with intention and depth of meaning” (Fecho & Botzakis, 2007, p. 551). Our study showed that students both struggled with and became empowered by this “load” as it tugged on and engaged aspects of adolescent identity. <br />The tableau activity positioned students to incorporate aspects of their own identities into response, as they chose and included references to popular culture (e.g., comic strips, bands, movies) or more “cultured” sources found on museum web sites (e.g., Munch’s “The Scream” and various other celebrated artworks). As underscored in the previous section, the textually-rich, interwoven nature of the image tableaus substantiated that no text is ex nihilo —totally void of all the texts that come before it (Kristeva, 1980)— including the “text” of one’s identity. Further, we found that “meaning …[was moreso] dependent upon the players and the playground” (Fecho & Botzakis, 2007, p . 551). That is, students acquired and exhibited agency, discovered perhaps in freedom from formalist constraints and non-verbocentric activity. One student outwardly rejected traditional interpretation, but took up a doubly powerful pen: “The poem [is] meaningless words on a piece of paper. That people over analyze to whatever suits their purpose on that particular day. The tone of the poem makes want to curl up in a ball & hide…It makes me think negatively…” <br />In the writing portion of our study, creation of meaning had more to do with expressing agency and identity than with following constraints of the assigned activity. Multimodal poetry-writing allowed students to use discourses of everyday classroom practices to reaffirm Discourses related to socially-situated identities (Gee’s, 1999). The student who wrote the metaphor “I am black” created a poem that resembled his dress and dispositions and thus reaffirmed his membership in specific communities. The same can be said of students who connected with sports they played— in particular, the one who ultimately idealized victory and speed, after having been recognized in class as an athlete-leader. <br />McCarthey (2001) helps us understand how the response and authorship activities in this study were wrapped up in identity formation. Discovering that students hear a “chorus of voices” about their literate selves, McCarthey explored alternative (i.e., multimodal, technological) means to examine identity through literate practices. Pertinent to our findings, she found “that the literacy curriculum influenced a student’s identity construction, yet it did so in some unexpected ways” (p. 144). Participants in our study “created their own opportunities to react to issues of importance to them” (p. 144), exemplified by the student who requested to respond to “Preacher, Don’t Send Me” and the one who adopted gaming mode for authorship. We embrace the oxymoronic fact that our study may have designed “unexpected ways” literacy instruction can expose identity and agency under construction. <br />Attention to gender identity also emerged across data collected in this study. Examining technology-mediated literacy practices of females, Chandler-Olcott and Mahar (2003) illustrated how technology allowed for gender identities to be both challenged and reaffirmed. Our data revealed a similar pattern. Many female students’ extended metaphor poems addressed lack of control over destiny while at the same time communicating powerful determination to break free. In the sense that this gendered struggle evidenced responding to a call to overcome being trapped, we see heteroglossia’s multiple voices at work. However, the very fact that “the dancer” could capture her dilemma in multimodal poetry may be considered evidence that she reconciled those voices and is ultimately, a free agent. Similarly, the student who used a garden metaphor to describe her gender stereotypical family may, as the wild flower, envision her own unconventional roles ready to blossom. <br />Lewis and Fabos (2005) studied the out-of-school literacy practice of instant messaging (IM). Primarily concerned with what “engages [participants] and how these literacies differ from school literacies” (p. 496), the research was not ultimately concerned with IM or technology but rather what is compelling about the mode and the technology. In our study, what was most compelling about the technology is that image searches led to unusual associations on which to build understandings and that multimodal authorship led to agency and self-expression in writing. <br />In sum, introducing technology and other nonverbal pedagogical approaches clearly influenced meaning negotiation centered on poetry. In line with Tierney (2009), however, this negotiation “had more to do with the meaning maker … than the technology” (p. 3). Specifically, responding to poems, we suggest that students adopted a carnivalesque spirit (Bakhtin, 1981, Faust, Cockrill, Hancock, & Isserstedt, 2005; Fecho & Botzakis, 2007), freely connecting, associating, and letting loose, so to speak, before harnessing considered responses. Similarly, discussing and adjusting images, color, font, and words, and working to express themselves in extended metaphor, students enjoyed a writer’s playground that fertilized adolescent voices authoring mature texts, proudly shared. Thus, images, technology and multimodality did not fundamentally alter the transactional nature of meaning making; however, transactions that surrounded images and technology provided new pathways to explore identity and express agency.<br />Understandings and Self-Expression in Time and Space <br />Viewed through transactional lenses, our findings suggest pathways to understanding and self-expression are not constrained by time and space. Response and authorship with new and old media necessarily involve drawing upon one’s reservoir of life and literary experience (Alvermann, 2008; Rosenblatt, 1993). Due to the relatively small scope of our research (a naturalistic setting, wherein data collection was limited to the scope of a teacher’s plan for a week-long poetry unit), we do not make broad statements about the relationship between so-called old literacies and new literacies. We consider our findings, however, as a microcosm of the debate over meshing old and new tools and practices across time and space and accordingly work to resist dichotomies (Moje, 2009, p. 359). We therefore draw on Bakhtin’s notion of chronotope (Bakhtin, 1981; Brown & Renshaw, 2006; Hirst, 2004; Mahiri, 2004) with which he explained the inseparability of time and space in literacy acts, to discuss time/space in English classrooms. <br />Chronotopes are “organizing centers for significant events” that recognize learning is not a stable or fixed process (Brown & Renshaw, 2006, p. 249). Viewing students’ “participation… as a situated, dynamic process constituted through the interaction of past experience, ongoing involvement, and yet-to-be-accomplished goals” (p. 249) allows us to appropriate Rosenblattian theory within the context of multimodal literacy events and digital spaces. We argue that the transformative nature of technology, specifically the Internet, has made the interdependence of time and space more significant. Students’ “text” choices are no longer limited to traditional classrooms and libraries. We are in a time when, as part of their adolescent lives, students build texts—connecting the past, present, and future—at breakneck speeds. <br />Labbo’s (1996) compelling multi-leveled metaphor characterized as “screenland,” described a place for discovery and invention—another Rosenblatt tapestry stitched with threads of carnivalesque. Her research suggests student stances toward computers influence the symbols they create; these become a “personal record, or memory of that experience” (p. 380). We embrace Hirst’s (2004) implication that chronotopes such as “old space,” “theater,” or “adventure-time” can explain classroom practices. First, our study portrays a “screenland-like” playground for meaning negotiation with students moving from canonical poems to the Internet, back to text interpretation, to multimodal authoring. Our research suggests means to empower students to step out of “traditional English language arts land” into a mediating, potentially empowering place. Herein, multimodal response and authoring tools not only shape understandings and fuel agency but also may begin to reshape notions of English language arts in general, and in particular, reduce fear and loathing of poetry. <br /> Attention to affect compelled us to return to our global themes (Meaning Making is a Negotiation that Encompasses Time and Space, Multimodal, Non-verbocentric Teaching Approaches Affect Student Engagement, Technology and Authorship are Identity Toolkits) and reconsider them chronotopically. From this mélange of words and themes, vivid images emerge. Pooled together, “negotiation,” “time and space,” “engagement,” and “identity” emit an aura of “adolescence” and its associated awkward placement between childhood and adulthood. Add some 21st-Century staging, and post-pubescent problems: personalities, parents, parking lots, and parties—all dealt with through online social networks and handheld communication devices take to the big screen in our minds. In our study, not unexpectedly, numerous responses to poetry and original poems reflect the struggles of adolescence, perhaps most notably in the poem about childhood whose first line declares, “Let them grow up.” We exploit the metaphor of adolescence not to suggest that adolescents’ technology preferences need be infused into pedagogy but rather to encapsulate the “time-space” created in this study; it may represent an “affect” that is missing from today’s traditional English classes. <br />Conclusions<br />We conclude that a multiplicity text forms (Cope & Kalantzis, 2000) was at work, as the processes of response and composition were influenced by images, Internet searches, newfangled negotiations of meaning, and multimodal design. As a result, we told the tale of increased engagement with poetry as students made meaning through “modes of representation much broader than language alone (p. 5),” motivated by personal expression of identity and agency, over time and in new spaces. When we envision poetry classrooms still shrouded in fear and loathing, considerations surrounding the non-verbocentric pedagogy in this study have implications for both practice and research.<br />Implications for Practice<br />Our analysis highlights that using Internet images to interpret poetry promoted enriched understandings. Although all of the study’s activities enaged students, discussion was most valuable. This finding carries implications for the English language arts classroom. Despite what may be deep-seated desires to break away from formalism (Faust & Dressman, 2005), English language arts teachers typically focus on formalist elements and introduce multiple poems as exemplars for interpretation. In our study, students expressed that working with one poem for a few days, through unusual modes, promoted engagement toward understanding. Likewise, they asked for more time to compose, once they kicked off. Students may, in fact, grow a better appreciation for poetry through non-verbocentric means and responding to fewer poems over an extended period of time. One method is to allow students to interact with images found on the Internet.<br />Student-authored extended metaphor poems emphasize how images may be increasingly central to the composition process. First, many participants sparked creative writing by searching the Internet for images, a practice that spotlights a pervasive societal shift from page to screen (Jewitt, 2005, Kress & van Leeuwen, 2001). Second, even in this small sample, exploration of identity, embodiment of authorship, and agency for self-expression emerged from the authoring activity, a finding that holds strong implications for the classroom. As the focal teacher in our study noted, students’ composition strengths may lie unnoticed in traditional, language-based classrooms. Teachers can no longer view composition from a purely verbocentric perspective; they may best meet the needs of students by attending to other modes and valuing design literacy (Heller, 2004: Kress & van Leeuwen, 2006). As reading and writing go hand in hand, it makes sense that opportunities to explore font, color, images, and layout will also require a broader definition of transaction and literary response. Finally, the breadth of self-expression evidenced through the metaphor poems highlights that writing instruction may better serve learners if expression of identity is valued over teaching/learning specific to particular discourses and genres. Though students need exposure to multiple written genres, novice writing may evolve more naturally and productively, if we provide students with multiple channels through which to dispatch their adolescent voices (Bailey, 2009). <br />While multimodal approaches allowed new entries into poetry, the teacher still holds the key (Tierney, 2009). In order to unlock student potential, teachers need to understand how the affordances of new technologies may change how students read and write. In sum, it seems promising that to increase engagement with poetry, we may do well to add multimodal, image-driven modes for response and authorship, but we must also provide ample time for consideration through verbal and written modes and a heavy dose of thoughtful teaching.<br />Implications for Research<br />Like most research, this study left us with more questions than answers. Though the transactional nature of meaning making remained central, it was clear that the use of Internet images in response and authorship affected how students negotiate and create meaning with poetry. A strong research agenda has developed that must continue to explore the intersection of nonverbal modes and literacy (Alvermann, 2001, 2008). Herein, we must recognize that the complexities associated with meshing new modes with longstanding literacy practice are mirrored in literacy research. As researchers investigate relationships between literacy and technology, new lines of inquiry necessitate embracing various methodologies and perspectives. Researchers must be open to multiple viewpoints, competing constructs, potential biases (Coiro, Knobel, Lankshear, & Leu, 2008), and caution against perspectives that are quick to favor technology for the sake of newness (Moje, 2009).<br />Similar to prior research (Smagorisky & O'Donnell-Allen 1998), we found that discussion surrounding non-print-based literacy approaches influenced the negotiation of meaning. This phenomenon needs further research. For example, what happens when this discussion moves online; do the transactions become more or less fruitful? Also, in our design, it was impossible to separate the effects of discussion from the effects of images. Another line of inquiry could investigate how groups’ negotiations and products would look if one used images in response and authorship and another did not. <br />We also found evidence that new influences on the writing may make a difference for student expression. In addition to “consuming” multimodal texts and writing in purely verbal modes, students may benefit from and in fact unearth hidden strengths by composing texts in multiple modalities (Bailey, 2009; Selfe, 2007). This study looked at students composing one type of multimodal poetry. We need a strong research agenda to investigate the relationship between multimodal composition and other types of poetry as well as other writing genres. <br />Introducing multimodality into response to and authorship of poetry highlighted both the established soul and the changing nature of literacy practices. While many of the principles and themes that emerged in our study derive from a long tradition of literacy research and practice, it must be noted that the Internet, which has spread with a scope and speed of no other tool for literacy (Coiro, Knobel, Lankshear, & Leu, 2008), has made these principles even more relevant to English language arts education. Research has begun to address either literary response or authorship merged with the newest technologies (George, 2002; Jewitt, 2005; Hughes & John, 2009; McVee, Bailey, & Shanahan, 2008; Pappas & Varelas, 2009; Reilly, 2008; Wissman, 2009, Bailey, 2009). Using the thematic networks as an analysis tool empowered us tell a rich story about introducing these approaches into both response and authorship and draw conclusions across these intertwined arenas of literacy practice. Our findings may have resulted from introducing multimodalities into either arena. However, it is also reasonable to believe that a compelling complexity has been brought to the fore by intermingling the two. We saw strong evidence of cross-fertilization when students appropriated images to generate poetry ideas amid being introduced to using them to represent response. Perhaps more far-reaching in significance, our thematic network analysis suggests that, “once carnivalesque spirit takes hold, though situations return to the status quo, “things are never exactly the same” (Fecho & Botzakis, 2007, p. 554). <br />Future research must tell tales to guide today’s literacy educators faced with the various and conflicting pressures of high stakes testing and high-speed technologies. To acknowledge these pressures, research must address traditional curricular goals while acknowledging technologies that expand the repertoire of students' actual life experience with literacy. Seeking to bridge school texts with the variety of "
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