Mobile Navigation Menu Icon. 3 horizontal gold bars.

Reading and Language Arts

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

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