Reading and Language Arts

Pawley Hall, Room 490A
456 Pioneer Drive
Rochester, MI 48309-4482
(location map)
(248) 370-3054

S. Rebecca Leigh, Ph.D.

Research interests:

Multiple Ways of Knowing; Semiotics; Writing; and Teacher Education. My major area of research investigates how art serves as a pathway to literacy learning. In particular, I am interested in how illustration study supports students as writers.

Past research activities/experience:

  • How 70-minutes of drawing instruction a week through the Michigan-based Drawing Children into Reading program supports first grade students in their writing pursuits and thinking about writing (Leigh, 2016).
  • How visual hooks in drawings affords children an effective visual device for extending ideas in writing (Leigh, 2012).
  • How Portal Writing(Leigh 2010; 2012; 2013), an independent writing strategy for revision, provides students an alternative yet creative genre for finding a narrative’s focus.
  • How students in the elementary, middle, and high school grades experience intention, abstraction, and interpretation in their writing through artist/writer partnerships,a three-year collaborative project on constructing meaning through art and language.

Current research activities:

  • How painting on 16-gauge weathered steel, a porous surface that changes with each acrylic application, supports revision in children’s personal narrative writing.
  • How idea bundles (Verdugo, 2015), which include a variety of visual and print media, are used to support students’ efforts to use vivid and descriptive language and enhance literacy experiences.  

Selected Publications:

Leigh, S.R. (2017). First grade children discover the power of expression by creating descriptivedrawings. In R. Meyer & K. Whitmore (Eds.), Reclaiming Early Childhood Literacies: Narratives of Hope, Power, and Vision (pp. 141-149). New York: Routledge.

Leigh, S.R. (2015). Empowering pre-service teachers through praise and forgiveness poems. Literacy Practice & Research, 41(1), 25-30.

Leigh, S.R. (2015). “I’m a writer. But I’m an artist, too. Look at my artist’s notebook”:Developing voice through art and language. Journal for Learning Through the Arts: A Research Journal on Arts Integration in Schools and Communities, 11(1), 1-12.

Leigh, S.R. & Ayres, L.J. (2015). Writing influences: A timeline of teaching writing as a process. Michigan Reading Journal, 47(2), 23-35.

Leigh, S.R. (2014). Wounded writers ask: Am I doing it write? Rotterdam, Netherlands: Sense Publishers.

Leigh, S.R. (2013). Portal writing: Helping writers re-think their writing. In J. Richards & C. Lassonde (Eds.), Strategic Writing Mini-Lessons for All Students, Grades 4-8 (pp. 155-162). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Leigh, S.R. (2012). “Writers draw visual hooks”: Children’s inquiry into writing. Language Arts89(6), 398-406.

Leigh, S.R. (2012). The classroom is alive with the sound of thinking: The power of the exit slip. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 24(2), 189-196.

Leigh, S.R. (2012). Re-seeing story through portal writing. Journal of the Assembly on Expanded Perspectives in Learning, 17, 83-94.

Leigh, S.R. (2012). The power of the sketch (book): Reflections from high school English students, Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy55(6), 539-549.

Leigh, S.R., & Cramer, R. (2011). Two voice poem: A conversation with writers on writing. English Journal, 82-89.

Leigh, S.R. (2010). Violent red, ogre green, and delicious white: Expanding meaning potential through media, Language Arts, 87(4), 252-262.

Leigh, S.R. (2009). Her ways with pictures and words: An interview with Marie-Louise Gay. Bookbird, 47(4), 41-49.

Leigh, S.R. & Heid, K. (2009). First graders constructing meaning through drawing and writing. Journal for Learning Through the Arts: A Research Journal on Arts Integration in Schools and Communities, 4(1), 1-12.

Research goals/plans for future projects:

As society embraces a culture more visually aware, schools are called to accept broader definitions and practices of literacy (Crafton et al., 2007). Understanding the positive effect of art-making on children as writers and how classroom teachers can facilitate aesthetic writing instruction defines my focus for future research projects. 

Workshops, In-Service Institutes, and Community Events:

  • Launching the Writer’s Notebook
  • Using free-writes to generate story ideas
  • Using reading/writing strategies for the content area classroom
  • Using Portal Writingto help middle level students with revision
  • Building a library of picture books for older readers
  • Creating Visual Hooksand Idea Bundles for extending written ideas

 Teaching Awards & Nominations:

  • Graduate Mentor Award Nomination, SEHS, 2016                 
  • Teaching Excellence Award Nomination, SEHS, 2015
  • Teaching Recognition Award, SEHS, 2013
  • Helpful Faculty List, OU Senate Athletic Committee, 2011
  • Teaching Nomination, SEHS, 2010
  • Teaching Excellence Award Nomination, SEHS, 2009
  • Letter of Recognition in Teaching, USC President Andrew Sorensen, 2006
  • Letter of Recognition in Teaching, USC Student Affairs, 2006
  • Excellence in Teaching, USC, 2000