This Video Clip
envisionment-building classroom looks and feels like a community
[where students are] able to look to each
other for information, for readings, for takes on the piece
that they themselves might not have had."
Judith Langer, Director
National Research Center on English Learning and Achievement
State University of New York at Albany
to Making Meaning in Literature: A Video Library, Grades
6-8! Produced by Maryland Public Television with funding
provided by Annenberg Media, this nine-part video library is
designed to help literature and language arts teachers in
grades six to eight enhance the literary experiences of their
students. This series overview introduces Dr. Judith Langer's
theory of literary envisionment and envisionment-building
classrooms and invites us into real classrooms of real teachers
to see how this theory plays out in practice with real students.
View this video==>
all good pedagogical theories, Dr. Langer's theory of envisionment-building
classrooms is philosophically concrete, yet allows for a widely
diverse range of classroom practices. Grounded in key understandings
about human beings as learners and as makers of meaning, the
basic tenets of envisionment theory could productively underpin
literature instruction in any classroom, at any grade level.
Langer identifies four central characteristics of the envisionment-building
are treated as life-long envisionment builders. Both teachers
and students assume that students have been making sense
all their lives. They have been hearing stories and creating
stories. They have been building envisionments worlds
of understandings including images, questions, disagreements,
anticipations, arguments, and hunches that fill the mind
during every reading, writing, speaking, or listening experience
and they know how to create understandings. They
know how to respond to pieces that they have heard, or read,
or seen. And their ideas are at the center of the envisionment-building
are at the center of the literary experience. These are
real questions about things that people really want explained
or want to know more about. While some of these questions
may come from the teacher, many of them come from the students
themselves as they expand their understandings of the literature.
Teachers and students in envisionment-building classrooms
know that making sense in literature involves asking questions.
are expected to develop and expand their understandings.
Teachers and students assume that students come to class
with understandings and interpretations based on the readings
they did individually, but that these will not be final.
Rather, these interpretations will be the beginning of provocative
discussion that helps everybody develop richer and more
and teachers assume that multiple perspectives are useful.
Envisionment-building classrooms encourage different points
of view because multiple perspectives enhance interpretation.
They lead to the development of more complex understandings
of the text than any one individual is likely to reach alone.
In the envisionment-building classroom, respectful conversation
is a tool for exploring and testing these multiple points
of view. It is understood that it is not always possible
to reach a complete consensus about a literary work, although
the group will probably agree on a number of shared points.
This is quite different from the literature classroom in
which a push for consensus is the norm, and one "best"
interpretation is valued above all others.
Langer developed her understandings of envisionment-building
and how it might play out in literature classrooms through
years of research during which she and her colleagues looked
at how good readers including adults grappled
with, and made sense of, literary texts. In addition the researchers
went into the classrooms of teachers around the United States
in urban schools, in suburban schools, and in rural
schools and tried to identify common characteristics
of effective instruction. What they learned is distilled into
the four tenets of envisionment-building theory listed above.
resources that can help you use this clip for teacher professional
development, preservice education, administrative and English/language
arts content meetings, parent conferences, and back-to-school
events, visit our Support
Materials page. There you will find PDF files of our library
guide, classroom lesson plan, student activity sheets, and
other Teacher Tools.