Constructing Arts-Based Literacy Practices through Kwame Alexander’s The Playbook

Document Type

Contribution to Book

Publication Date


Publication Title

Dreams and Inspirations: The Book of Selected Readings 2018


Teacher education candidates collaborated with local middle school students in order to cultivate reading comprehension, creative expression, and critical discussion skills through a visual literacy lens. Collaboration through a visual literacy lens is defined as a practice which invites students to construct meaning through images and text curated to express individual artistic expression. Undergraduate College of Education students enrolled in a Living-Learning Community “Investigating Contemporary Issues in Education” course exchanged pen-pal letters and created mini-lessons for middle school students around issues presented in Kwame Alexander’s The Playbook: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot, and Score in This Game Called Life (2017) over the course of a semester. These students visited the school on several occasions to work with their pen-pals. Pairs conversed about life lessons and autobiographies of athletes presented in the book as well as how the text (varying font sizes and colors, layouts, and the use of photographs and illustrations) affects the reader. They completed interactive activities guided by post-it note prompts and worked collaboratively to answer the prompts. The college students also worked with the middle school students to construct book-inspired arts-based text and image collages to represent their personal life philosophies. The question that this service-based research project seeks to answer is: “Would the use of targeted reading, writing, discussion, and arts-based literacy projects with public middle school students improve pre-service educators’ commitment to their field and expand their learning?”