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Stepping up to Complex Picture Composition: How Adolescent Students with Emotional and Behavioral Difficulties Succeed at Picture Making with Movable Layout Technique



Movable Layout Technique (MLT) is a research-based instructional adaptation to teach art in classrooms with adolescent students with emotional and behavioral difficulties (EBD). With MLT these students unexpectedly find themselves in a complex process of designing, experimenting and composing. They are easily and successfully guided into the artistic terrain and encouraged to independently lay out pictures and creative compositions in a fun way. Given the chance to arrange figure elements against a background initially on a trial basis, then to manipulate them in new and different ways, makes perspective and the pictorial space concrete for the student as foreground-background, in front of-behind, etc. and dynamically tangible, comprehensible and adjustable. Photocopies are made of the prepared layout. These copies are then enhanced using various artistic methods, including painting, flat screen printing or computer-based image processing applications. In this way, escape-maintained disruptive student behavior can be circumvented. With MLT students step up to complex picture composition and spatial organization. MLT opens up ways to freer forms of artistic work.
Stepping up to Complex Picture
Composition: How Adolescent
Students with Emotional and
Behavioral Difficulties Succeed at
Picture Making with Movable
Layout Technique
Joachim Broecher
Studies in Social, Emotional and
Behavioral Education, Vol. 4
The author wishes to thank all the youngsters from the schools, the
university students from pre-service teacher education programs, and the
teachers from in-service trainings for exploring Movable Layout Technique
and its possibilities. They all contributed to this publication by sharing their
art work which is based on MLT. The picture element of the boy on the
skateboard in the MLT composition on the cover of this book is taken from
a series of drawings produced by Daniel Rech and Peter Rech (see their
article Botschaft der Skater. In Päd Forum, 12 (6), 1999, pp. 475-479). The
author wishes to thank the artists for their permission to reprint this picture
element on the book cover. It would be impossible to find out the many
owners of rights with regard to all the other drawings and paintings where
the numerous picture elements or backgrounds have been taken from. The
author hopes that all these persons, organizations or institutions consider
the educational (and not commercial) goal and character of this work and
publication and wishes to thank them for acknowledging his own vision and
mission with regard to the education of students with emotional and
behavioral difficulties.
Manufactured and published by
BoD - Books on Demand
Norderstedt, Germany 2015 (2nd ed.)
ISBN: 978-3-7347-5407-4
Photographs: Joachim Broecher
1. Teaching art in an EBD classroom
with adolescent students
1.1. Some students chose not to make any
picture at all11
1.2. Development of a collage-assisted
drawing technique 13
2. Applied research findings from the EBD field
2.1. Emotional and behavioral difficulties go hand in
hand with academic learning difficulties 14
2.2. The important role played by academic
instruction on which we can then build academic,
social and behavioral learning15
2.3. An `instructional adaptation´ that is linked to a
more effective management of `escape-
maintained behavior´ in the classroom 16
3. Basic precepts of MLT
3.1. Breaking up the task components17
3.2. Explicit or direct instructional practices20
3.3. Choice-making21
3.4. Opportunities to respond23
3.5. Male gender issues: Stress on picture
making technique25
4. How to implement MLT
4.1. A system of manipulable picture
backgrounds and elements28
4.2. Some backgrounds virtually invite the projection
of subjective imaginings onto them30
4.3. The repertoire of figure cutouts33
4.4. Setting up folders arranged by element
subject matter35
4.5. Working with a smaller or a larger format … 36
4.6. The posing of topics … 37
5. Operations that play a role in the
creative process with MLT
5.1. Ordering, experimenting and arranging38
5.2. Selecting and attaching the picture elements
and photocopying the layout49
5.3. Enhancing the copied composition with
artistic means49
Drawing and coloring49
Painting, experimenting and abstracting59
Flat screen printing68
Computer-based image
processing applications73
Experiments on the copy machine … 78
Creating a short picture story79
5.4. Staging a kind of symbolic trial action79
6. Pedagogic integration with school instruction
6.1. Systematically working through the MLT steps
and variable possibilities … 80
6.2. MLT as part of a broader overall palette
of curricular offerings … 81
6.3. Discussing the students’ compositions … 83
7. The bridging function of MLT … 84
8. Further research … 85
9. References … 88
1. Teaching art in an EBD classroom
with adolescent students
1.1. Some students chose not to
make any picture at all
In the research literature the positive effects of art
making with regard to the emotional and social devel-
opment of children and youth are well documented
(e.g., Broecher 2012 a; Nissimov-Nahum 2008;
Sandmire et al., 2012 etc.), also when youngsters ex-
perience some kind of social disintegration in their
lives (e.g., Batsleer 2011; Broecher 2000 a; Gannon
2009; Prescott et al., 2008 etc.). But how can I teach
art in an EBD classroom with adolescent students?
When I look back on my 19 years as a teacher and
school principal working with children and adolescents
with emotional and behavioral difficulties (EBD) in both
specialized and inclusive settings and on my observa-
tional classroom research conducted at the juncture of
art education and special education (e.g., Broecher
1999; 2000 a), it was primarily the students with emo-
tional and behavioral difficulties at the secondary
school level, and especially those in specialized alter-
native settings, who frequently exhibited scarcely any
spontaneous access to drawing, painting and other
artistic forms. These challenges and also the following
observations already have been documented in the
research literature (e.g., Richter 1984, pp. 155-165;
Richter 1987).
Some of these students with EBD lacked confi-
dence for drawing, others had little previous artistic
experience or knowledge, or they dodged aesthetic-
creative assignments entirely. Many of these students
had lost the spontaneous childlike delight in pictorial
storytelling and self-expression or, in some cases, de-
pending on the individual socialization background, it
seemed they had never known it at all.
Rather than putting something on paper that did not
measure up to their own inflated expectations derived
from media models, they chose not to make any pic-
ture at all and refused to cooperate in class. Already a
problem that is encountered in this age group general-
ly, it was that much more pronounced in students with
EBD and posed extreme challenges for me as a
teacher who wanted, and was obligated, to make art
with this audience.
1.2. Development of a collage-assisted
drawing technique
To deal productively with this situation and get these
youngsters with EBD to make pictures anyway, over
the years I developed a kind of Movable Layout, in
essence a collage-assisted drawing technique. For this
purpose, I took availed myself of a series of pedagogic
and education precepts whose effectiveness EBD re-
search had confirmed, i.e., breaking up the task com-
ponents, explicit and direct instruction, choice-making,
and opportunities to respond.
With this research-based technique, students with
EBD, who often exhibit difficulties with pictorial exposi-
tion or who completely refuse to draw because of the
fear of failure, can easily be guided into the artistic ter-
rain and encouraged to have fun producing pictures on
their own, never mind any obvious difficulties. The ac-
ademic intervention undertaken in this way also turns
out to be a behavioral intervention.
2. Applied research findings
from the EBD field
2.1. Emotional and behavioral difficulties
go hand in hand with academic
learning difficulties
The consensus in EBD research holds that emotional
and behavioral difficulties go hand in hand with aca-
demic learning difficulties. Students with EBD show
large academic achievement deficits across all content
areas (see Nelson et al., 2004). `A key finding in the
literature is that EBD students usually struggle aca-
demically´ (Nicholson 2014, p. 180). They disrupt their
own learning and the learning of others (see Trout et
al., 2003, Reid et al., 2004), although the interplay of
both variables is very intricate and not yet fully under-
stood (see Algozzine et al. 2011). So do we start with
learning or with behavior or both?
There is a `line of thinking´ in the theory that `pre-
supposes that academic instruction cannot take place
unless a student's behavior is first under control´
(Wehby, Lane, and Falk, 2003, p. 195). This can be
contrasted with the high impact of academic instruction
that is effective from the outset, albeit accompanied
and supported by behavioral interventions.
2.2. The important role played by academic
instruction on which we can then build
effective academic, social and
behavioral learning
Hence, as my many years of application in the field
have also convinced me, we need to acknowledge the
important role played by academic instruction on which
we can then build effective academic, social and be-
havioral learning.
Much of the off-task behavior of students with EBD
is escape-maintained. Academic failure and escape-
motivated problem-behavior are functionally related
and consequently academic interventions can be con-
sidered as a meaningful treatment response. In other
words: when we want to reduce problem-and off-task
behaviors and increase on-task behaviors, research
suggests instructional adaptations are effective inter-
ventions (see Lee, Sugai, and Horner, 1999, p. 196).
2.3. An `instructional adaptation´ that is
linked to the goal of more effective
management of `escape-maintained
behavior´ in the classroom
The object therefore is to carry out an `instructional
adaptation´ that is linked to the goal of more effective
management of `escape-maintained behavior´ in the
classroom (see Moore, Anderson, and Kumar, 2005).
The `curricular expectations´ that apply to a specific
classroom subject `are antecedent events´ and when
these are `mismatched with current student skill lev-
els´, undesirable classroom behavior may be the con-
sequence (ibid., p. 216).
Consequently, what is needed is to ensure an `ap-
propriate instructional match between curriculum
(and/or instructional materials and methods) and the
existing level of student academic skills´ (ibid., p. 217).
The instructional adaptations will function as proac-
tive interventions because they often change the learn-
ing situations that trigger the problem behavior and
ameliorate them for students with EBD (see Lee,
Sugai, and Horner, 1999, p. 196). Such an alternative
will now be presented and analyzed specifically for
teaching art in an EBD classroom.
3. Basic precepts of MLT
3.1. Breaking up the task components
However, this is not merely about reducing the task
load. What it does call for is a special way of structur-
ing the problem presentation and ways of solving it. To
simply make tasks easier would undermine the cur-
ricular educational requirements for students with EBD
and also not challenge the students enough so they
can develop. What the students need much more is
stimuli for learning, they need `opportunities to acquire
new skills and expand their behavioral repertoires´
(Moore, Anderson, and Kumar, 2005, p. 217).
That is why breaking up the task components, split-
ting up the workload into steps, and adapting the task
so that the respective steps are of shorter duration is
crucial. These strategies lead to more on-task behav-
ior (Nicholson 2014, pp. 183-184).
Tightly tied into this is the teaching of component
skills. The term `component skills´ refers to `lower-
level skills that collectively make up complex higher
level skills´. When one or more component skills are
lacking, students fail to learn the complex skill. But if
the students `possess all component skills necessary
to learn a task, learning the larger task is easier and
access to positive reinforcement is increased´ (Lee,
Sugai, and Horner, 1999, p. 196).
In classroom work with the Movable Layout, the first
thing that happens is a simplification of the perspec-
tival and compositional relationships and demands.
Given the chance to arrange the figure elements
against a background initially on a trial basis, then to
manipulate them in new and different ways, makes
perspective and the pictorial space concrete for the
student as foreground-background, in front of-behind,
etc. and dynamically tangible, comprehensible and
adjustable. In addition, teacher input can help students
understand this step better and complete it successful-
Combined with the principle of substitution for miss-
ing or incomplete cognitive figurative representations,
depending on an adolescent’s individual learning level,
previous aesthetic socialization and learning biog-
raphy, this reduction of complexity on the formal level
of the perspectival picture composition corresponds
with a high degree of complexity of visual narrative
and visual message on the content level. By using this
method, the student is guided step by step to a pictori-
al creation that is in most cases very satisfying for him.
3.2. Explicit or direct instructional practices
The second factor by which the Movable Layout also
contributes to academic learning and behavior im-
provement lies in the way it integrates explicit or direct
instructional practices. Explicit instruction is under-
stood here as an `unambiguous and direct approach to
teaching, with an emphasis on providing students clear
statements about what is to be learned, proceeding in
small steps with concrete and varied examples, check-
ing for student understanding, and achieving active
and successful student participation´ (see Nelson,
Benner, and Bohaty, 2014, p. 363).
The key elements or functions relating to explicit or
direct instruction are: 1. Daily review and prerequisite
skill check, 2. Teaching of new content, 3. Guided
practice, 4. Independent practice, 5. Weekly and
monthly reviews (ibid., pp. 367-374).
Direct instruction as described by Eisner Hirsch et
al. (2014, p. 209), citing Rosenshine (2010, p. 7), e.g.
`limit the amount of material students receive at one
time, give clear and detailed instructions and explana-
tions, guide students as they begin to practice´ etc.
This hands-on approach as part of a highly structured
pedagogic framework lets the students learn how to
work step by step with the Movable Layout and the
subsequent variations it makes possible.
3.3. Choice-making
Third, the Movable Layout despite, or perhaps be-
cause of, its high degree of pre-structuring, allows the
students with EBD choice-making in various ways. The
positive effects of choice-making as interventions that
reduce problem behavior are accepted as givens in
EBD research (see Green, Mays, and Jolivette, 2011;
Shogren, Faggella-Luby, Jik Bae, and Wehmeyer,
2004). The more confrontational, the more disruptive a
student's behavior is, the more important and effective
choice-making is as an entry to a productive learning
The closer we approach positive, on-task student
behavior on the other hand, as in general education
settings, the sooner choice-making also could and
should be dispensed with in order to achieve an opti-
mum level of academic learning (Mizener and Wil-
liams, 2009).
Movable Layout, however, was specifically devel-
oped for adolescents with very disrupted behavior pat-
terns, such as those encountered in specialized set-
tings in alternative schools or in the Tier III area of a
school-wide model. Here choice-making, in conjunc-
tion with other precepts for example, breaking up the
task components as well as explicit or direct instruc-
tional practices, etc. is of fundamental importance for
dismantling learning resistances in adolescents.
In this, different types of choice-making can come
into play for students with EBD, from preference and
choice of activity (Romaniuk and Miltenberger, 2001),
through within-activity choices (Cole and Levinson,
2002) to a choice of task sequences (Kern et al.,
With Movable Layout, the youngsters can choose
from many different picture backgrounds and picture
elements, as provided for in specific lesson plans. De-
pending on circumstances, they may also freely
choose the subject of their art work, or I may give them
a choice of two ready-made, combined background-
and-figure sets. Next they have the opportunity to
choose the materials and artistic technique for doing
further work on a copy of their pictorial composition.
3.4. Opportunities to respond (OTR)
Fourth, classroom work with the Movable Layout in-
cludes a variety of opportunities to respond (OTR),
understood as instructive stimuli that occasion the stu-
dent responses (see Haydon, MacSuga-Gage, Simon-
son, and Hawkins, 2012; Sutherland, Alder, and Gun-
ter, 2003).
We need to take into account that higher rates of
OTRs are associated with increased on-task behavior
and decreased disruptive behavior (see Sutherland
and Wehby, 2001) and also be clear in connection with
the Movable Layout, that besides `teacher-directed
individual responding´, `production responses´ (Hay-
don et al., p. 24) are a given, particularly in the crea-
tive processes themselves.
In this way, the Movable Layout gives every individ-
ual student a chance to tell a story using pictures to
share about himself and the world of his thoughts and
lived life and, beyond that, to communicate verbally,
either in conversation with the teacher and/or the other
On the content level, thanks to the tools provided,
offered now is the possibility of a complex, many-
layered and detailed picture message or picture story.
The students get the opportunity to communicate in an
artistically sound manner and at the same time to pre-
sent an altogether respectable whole artistic composi-
tion. This means that the youngsters now are able to
express considerably more pictorially than they could
using just their intrinsic artistic abilities.
With the Movable Layout system they step up to
complex picture composition and spatial organization
that is capable of meeting their own demands far more
than might a free-hand drawing or a free-hand pictorial
design. Thus, problems and fears about artistic ex-
pression are circumvented and then dismantled step
by step through repetition of successful picture making
experiences. The build-up of frustrations or aggres-
sions, which often lead to the artistic activity being
dropped or not even begun in the first place, ceases to
be a problem.
The outcome is quiet, disciplined creative activity,
enjoyable pictorial experimentation and a gradual ex-
pansion of native drawing and design abilities. This in
turn has a positive effect on learning motivation and
the learning and working behavior of a youngster with
EBD. When this happens, it is recommended to con-
solidate and further promote positive developments in
the area of student behavior with behavior-specific
praise on the teacher’s part (e.g., Kalis et al., 2007;
Marchant and Anderson, 2012; Partin et al., 2010).
3.5. Male gender issues: Stress on
picture making technique
Particularly in teaching creative arts, a task may have
`other aversive properties´ than just the level of difficul-
ty (Moore, Anderson, and Kumar, 2005, p. 217). Boys
from problematic socioeconomic communities in the
EBD field, after all, we deal primarily with boys may
perform masculinities that not only are hostile to
school learning in general but can also produce re-
sistance vis a vis participation in the creative arts,
since they are perceived as falling more into the fe-
male sphere because the expression of emotions is
associated with them.
Boys who grow up in environments with more con-
ventional gender roles constructions expose them-
selves in their school peer group to a high risk of hav-
ing their masculinity questioned and of being bullied
when they engage in the creative arts (see Scholes
and Nagel, 2012). This can have very negative conse-
quences for the boys affected because, due to these
constraints and restrictions, they miss out on acquiring
the necessary skills that they actually need to play an
active, productive role and earn a living in the `creative
economy´ (ibid., p. 980) that has supplanted the indus-
trial age.
To address these kinds of difficulties productively
and to ensure that young people from such problem
backgrounds accept classroom work with Movable
Layouts, the technical and rational-seeming aspects of
this method are emphasized up front. Even if life topics
are likely to be addressed directly or indirectly in the
pictures, it is recommended that these be acknowl-
edged in this early phase but not dwelled on as subject
for discussion. Based on my own observational re-
search in the classroom, this may be significantly eas-
ier in the LD area.
Only when a greater degree of behavioral confi-
dence is attained with students with EBD and develops
in parallel with successes in the field of academic
learning, can I, as a teacher, carefully begin to address
the picture contents and thus possibly also begin mak-
ing the contents of a student’s special life experience a
subject of discussion, at all times in line with an EBD
pedagogic focus (e.g., Broecher 1993, 1994).
But to begin with, discussed only are perspectival
issues, overlaps, size proportions, contrasts, drawing
techniques, printing techniques, possibilities of com-
puter image processing, etc. This is safe ground for all
participants, students as well as teachers.
4. How to implement MLT
4.1. A system of manipulable picture
backgrounds and elements
The idea of placing individual figurative elements on a
background, to move them around until a desired ef-
fect is achieved and then to photocopy the final ar-
rangement and then continue to work on it is basic
graphics technique. Movable Layout is a system of
manipulable picture backgrounds and elements.
To make working with this method possible, the first
thing to do is assemble a basic assortment of pictorial
elements and backgrounds, for instance, by copying
drawings by famous artists, figures from how-to-draw
books, and the like. Many documents can furnish de-
tails that can be enlarged or reduced or otherwise ad-
justed with image editing software. The elements are
then printed and or cut out. The picture backgrounds
are mounted or laminated on poster board to make
them more durable.
Among the image backgrounds the following might
be found: Gentle hills rising out of fog, as well as
dense forests or barren, craggy rocks in an otherwise
empty appearing landscape. On some of my back-
grounds I have used white-out to delete central fig-
ures, animals etc. from the printed graphics. I have
views of villages, which can stimulate both representa-
tions of idylls and tranquility but also boredom and
4.2. Some backgrounds virtually
invite the projection of subjective
imaginings onto them
Some background scenes I keep deliberately very
amorphous and indistinct, specially processed in part
to leave as much room for imagination as possible.
They virtually invite the projection of subjective imagin-
ings onto them. The city scenes show tidy avenues as
well as street canyons, apartment blocks and dark
subway shafts. There are also house or apartment
interiors, e.g., a kitchen with dining table, living room
with sofa, home office, teenagers’ rooms, bedrooms; in
short, rooms where a relevant event or imaginative
content can be staged.
4.3. The repertoire of figure cutouts
The set of varied pictorial elements should span a
broad spectrum from the aspects of content and mo-
tifs. I derive the selection criteria from my knowledge
of the age-specific interests of the learning groups that
I work with. Accordingly, I compile my ensemble in
different ways depending on age but also the young-
sters’ conflict burdens, severity of behavioral back-
grounds and emotional experiences.
The repertoire of figure cutouts can be made up of
pictures of men, women, children, adolescents, parent-
child groupings, and so on. They can be trimmed with
scissors before being placed into the picture to
achieve an optimal fit with what the student personally
intends to depict. Further, there are pictures of bicy-
cles, motorcycles, cars, trucks, trains, planes, carriag-
es, furniture, houses, animals and all sorts of imple-
ments and furnishings, from the living room chair all
the way to the toothbrush.
Acquiring some light, easy to carry cases is highly
recommended. One case can hold as many as 150 of
the background images mounted or laminated on
poster board. The other case is dedicated to the mov-
able figures. By continually adding to the collection
over the years, newly copying or printing out damaged
items and in between constantly making a few copies,
enlarging, or shrinking drawing elements that you
come across out and make their way into the case,
within a few years it is easy to accumulate 6,000 to
8,000 elements.
With this collection it is possible to work cogently
and in a richly varied manner. But to start with, I will
only have a much smaller collection that I gradually
build up. Occasionally, the students will also help to
cut out newly copied picture elements.
To enhance the chances of finding suitable motifs
and elements, the students themselves also get to
choose images from art books, catalogs, other printed
images or the Internet. They copy, enlarge, or shrink
them and then add these supplementary, found ele-
ments to their own compositions and then enhance
them by drawing on them.
4.4. Setting up folders arranged by
element subject matter
When I present too many mixed-up elements to a giv-
en study group, it may be asking too much from the
individual children and teenagers in the way of sensory
overload. I therefore went on to set up folders ar-
ranged by element subject matter, for instance, by im-
ages of children, adolescents, adults, wild animals,
domestic animals, buildings or vehicles. It also lets me
hand the students just the folder with child figures and
animals and specify the topic as `An experience with
an animal.´
4.5. Working with a smaller or
a larger format
I started out with backgrounds in the DIN A3 format,
but I soon noticed that many students with EBD later
found it difficult to artistically enhance the entire picture
surface. The area simply looked too large to them.
They lacked the endurance. As a complementary al-
ternative, I therefore put together a smaller set of
backgrounds reduced to DIN A4. From then on, I let
some students decide for themselves whether they
wanted to work with a smaller or a larger format, mak-
ing another instance of choice-making a part of this
4.6. The posing of topics
When students first start working with the Movable
Layout system, I recommend not posing a topic at the
start. Usually the motivation is strong enough without
it, i.e., they very eagerly search through the picture
elements, try them, arrange them, so that at the early
juncture, they would hardly pay attention to a subject
Later on, it may be useful to offer something along
the following lines: `A weekend at my house´, `Some-
thing that happened here in the school´, `Recently
something strange happened to me´, `On the go with
my friends´, etc. Through these and similar topics, the
students receive stimuli as well as basic ideas through
which a pictorial exploration of an experiential content
can be achieved. `When I really got upset at school´
could also be a topic on the basis of which it would be
possible to work on EBD related issues with students
that are already exhibiting more stable behavior.
5. Operations that play a role
in the creative process with MLT
5.1. Ordering, experimenting and arranging
In the creative process, a series of operations play a
special role, the first of which consists of ordering, ex-
perimenting and arranging. The creative process un-
winds in a similar manner regardless if the assignment
is free-form without subject or tied to a specific topic:
First, the youngsters select a background, followed
by a series of drawing elements. They arrange, exper-
iment, move, latch on to an idea or discard it. They
move pictorial elements, e.g, furniture, animals, peo-
ple, etc. back and forth across the chosen background
until they arrive at a pleasing arrangement.
It happens from time to time that a student, in follow
up to this introductory experience, desires to change
the background to a different one from the one chosen
initially. I advise making this an option.
It has also happened to me that a pupil would rather
design an entire background on his own against which
to position the prepared picture elements. This type of
initiative taking should be supported anytime, with the
rule of thumb being: As many rules and pre-structuring
by the teacher as necessary, as much independent
creativity by the students as possible.
Anyone not needing the Movable Layout who would
rather work free-hand should be allowed to do it! The
method is designed as an aid in independent composi-
tion and should therefore not be experienced as con-
fining. But cases like this are the exception to the rule.
5.2. Selecting and attaching the picture
elements and photocopying the layout
Next is selecting and then attaching the picture ele-
ments, followed by photocopying the layout. The loose
elements are attached with small strips of double-
sided adhesive masking tape and one or more photo-
copies are made of the prepared layout. These copies
are then enhanced using various artistic methods. The
image backgrounds and moving elements are reusa-
ble and find their way back into the cases or folders.
5.3. Enhancing the copied composition
with artistic means
Drawing and coloring
When enhancing the copied composition with artistic
means, one possibility for further creative work on the
picture is to complete drawing it or adding drawings.
Students who have learning problems or learning dis-
abilities in particular usually begin by coloring in their
pictures or over them with felt tip markers.
Variations here might consist of offering the children
and teenagers crayons, oil pastels or water colors.
Even just coloring as an entry into a higher artistic
compositional process is worthwhile, because the al-
most always handsome and brilliantly colored resulting
pictures give satisfaction to the students who are often
accustomed to failure; they fill them with pride and so
motivate them to go on.
In my experience, youngsters with behavioral prob-
lems especially like working with black felt tip pens.
Wherever possible, I encourage the students to draw
in missing shape parts or simple lines, extend them or
to add entirely new details to the pictures by drawing
them in.
Painting, experimenting and abstracting
Another possibility for artistically enhancing the copies
besides drawing with felt-tip pen, pencil, fountain pen
or nib is painting on them with brush and opaque col-
ors to the point where the contours of the graphic ele-
ments are covered to the extent possible, perhaps
gradually becoming completely invisible.
Other artistic options are to be found in transform-
ing, experimenting and abstracting. Based on many
years of observation, students with behavior problems
as opposed to those with severe learning difficulties
tend to do more spontaneous drawing on the copied
compositions and so transform the content (see Rich-
ter 1984).
Transformation to some extent corresponds to their
natural tendency, a circumstance that can be honored
as thoroughly positive in this context, for this natural
tendency to transformation that numerous students
with EBD evidence here is put in the service of artistic
Flat screen printing
Impressively original results can be achieved with the
help of monotype or flat screen printing. In this pro-
cess, sheets of plexiglass (real glass is not used for
safety reasons), have a thick coat of water-soluble ink
rolled onto them.
The layout copy with the picture side facing up is
deposited lightly on the inked surface and then the
contours of the landscape, houses, people, or animals
are traced firmly with a pencil so that they are pressed
into the ink.
The sheet can also be placed step-wise on differ-
ently colored plates. Once again, the image produced
by the monotype can be painted on by dissolving the
water-based remaining paint for a clouded or fogged
appearance or adding a new color accent.
To encourage such experiments and playfulness, it
is best to make several copies of the previously creat-
ed template.
Computer-based image processing applications
In addition, several computer-based image processing
applications offer the ability to twist scanned-in com-
positions, to distort, manipulate and change them by
using various filters. The resulting images can once
more be painted or drawn on, both on the computer
screen and also on a paper print. The picture versions
can also be cut up and assembled in new or different
Experiments on the copy machine
Also, experiments on the copy machine or on a scan-
ner can be done by turning the template during the
exposure process or pulling it out sideways. This pro-
duces abstraction and distortion effects.
Depending on which direction you pull the sheet, it
results in stretching or compressions, twisting of fig-
ures, buildings, etc. From these copies, complete new
pictorial compositions can be collaged and overpainted
again. In this way, an increasing degree of freedom is
experienced in handling the original design.
Creating a short picture story
Another alternative is creating a short picture story or
sequence of pictures from several individual pictures,
as in a comic strip. It need only have the same charac-
ters and elements differently arranged from scene to
scene and each time it is copied or scanned, then var-
ied and combined into a story.
5.4. Staging a kind of symbolic trial action
It is also conceivable that a certain composition is var-
ied in different ways. This can lead to staging a kind of
symbolic trial action or also creative action on the pic-
ture level that could also play a role later on in helping
the young people deal with real-world tasks confront-
ing them (see Richter-Reichenbach 1992).
Multiple references to the world of art are given. The
history of art is filled with examples of pictures, which
can be used by way of introduction, concurrently, in
conclusion or in comparison, etc. The topics of ab-
straction, working in series, or confrontation with art
works already pose markedly higher intellectual de-
mands on the students. For many of them, this is un-
familiar territory, but the Movable Layout with its rich
set of variations provides an orientation that also gives
youngsters with EBD the confidence to explore this
terrain step by step.
6. Pedagogic integration
with school instruction
6.1. Systematically working through the
MLT steps and variable possibilities
The method can be used in different teaching con-
texts. Hence, I successfully made the technique the
focus of a teacher-guided series of classes and sys-
tematically worked through the MLT steps and variable
possibilities with the students in a formal course. This
method is useful, for example, when I teach art as sub-
ject teacher to an EBD or LD class for two hours per
week. It works similarly in an inclusive EBD/LD setting,
where I mostly work in a class as a part-time co-
6.2. MLT as part of a broader overall
palette of curricular offerings
As a class teacher in a specialized EBD or LD school I
also have the option of making available to my stu-
dents the picture backgrounds and picture elements
over several weeks during specific class hours as part
of course offerings under daily and weekly lesson
plans. The Movable Layout system here is part of a
broader overall palette of curricular offerings which the
students can choose from.
The first phase of choosing and arranging of picture
elements is easier when done with the study group as
a whole. It requires the use of all available tables for
two hours on which to spread all the material.
I think it is advisable to do further enhancement
work in more open learning processes. In this way,
more opportunities are provided for individual guid-
ance discussions with the students. It is also a fact that
not all students show the same degree of persever-
ance when it comes to working on the pictures.
The first phase of choosing and arranging usually
proceeds in a highly motivated way. When faced with
a copy of their own composition, it already starts to
look more like work. Some students, particularly those
with severe behavioral problems, often only color the
pictures very cursorily or in a fragmentary way or soon
break off their artistic activity again.
The parallel installation of other learning stations
with different contents and methods allows these
learners to easily switch from one activity to the anoth-
er and relieves me of the pressure of having to make
the students continue working against their will or forc-
ing me to come up immediately in that situation with an
alternative way of occupying those still unsettled, hur-
ried, impatient learners.
Often, after ten or twenty minutes doing arithmetic
on the computer, they return to their picture to contin-
ue working on it for a while. In this connection, too,
choice-making is operating as a fundamental peda-
gogical principle.
6.3. Discussing the students’ compositions
The Movable Layout allows the construction of com-
plex visual narratives, so the chance to discuss the
students’ compositions should definitely be grasped.
There are opportunities to respond (OTR) on several
levels here, through conversation but also in the form
of mini essays.
During inclusive instruction in primary schools, I
have usually let the whole class write stories about
their finished pictures. In classes with up to thirty chil-
dren, this is often the only way to get to hear some-
thing from everyone and to learn. Depending on the
specific setting, the texts can be read in small groups
and discussed. I gave special support to the groups of
students with EBD, so that an active participation by all
and a constructive working atmosphere in working with
the pictures and self-written stories prevailed.
For students with EBD that have concurrent learn-
ing problems, it is often useful to specify beginning
sentences fragments that they then complete or to let
the students talk about their pictures while I record
them. The text that I write down and then type up I
hand back to the student to read, add to and develop
further. Fundamental here is assessing the written ex-
pression skills carefully case by case to avoid provok-
ing any refusal reactions stemming from negative ex-
pectations regarding success.
7. The bridging function of MLT
Even students with EBD who initially very much shrink
from aesthetic-creative tasks or learning opportunities
or reject them vehemently be it because of the task’s
high complexity and the resulting expectations of fail-
ure or because of unsettling gender identity issues that
are associated with art unexpectedly find themselves
in a complex process of designing, experimenting and
composing thanks to the Movable Layout Technique.
In this way, escape-maintained disruptive student
behavior can be circumvented, by substituting missing
artistic potential and, when it comes to the process of
creating pictures, by reducing the complexity of picto-
rial composition and segmenting it into steps that the
students with EBD are capable of mastering. By em-
ploying this method, work interruptions triggered by
frustration can be avoided.
Students with serious artistic difficulties or refusal
attitudes are easily and successfully guided into the
artistic terrain and encouraged to independently lay
out pictures and creative compositions in a fun way. It
opens up ways to freer forms of artistic work.
8. Further research
A few years ago I started publishing the first texts and
picture volumes on the Movable Layout Technique in
German art education and special education journals
(Broecher, 1991, 1997, 2000 b). I also put on classes
and seminars to teach MLT in connection with pre-
service teacher education in the field of special educa-
tion and inclusive education at the University of Co-
logne (see Broecher 2012 b) and in connection with in-
service teacher trainings.
The aim of this new book is to combine this practical
knowledge for the first time with the international EBD
research. What is recorded here is based on 19 years
of observational classroom research that I have con-
ducted as a teacher-researcher in specialized and in-
clusive EBD settings, as well as in the EBD/LD transi-
tion region.
The Movable Layout Technique is based on evi-
dence-based precepts such as breaking up the task
components, explicit and direct instruction, choice-
making, and opportunities to respond and, in view of
the mostly male adolescents in the EBD field, it is
gender-sensitive by moving the more technical as-
pects of the method to the fore.
In this respect, the Movable Layout, even if it has
not yet been subjected to systematic empirical testing,
can still be regarded as research-based since it em-
ploys evidence-based practices that are applied guid-
ed by theory to the field of art education in connection
with EBD pedagogy and didactics.
My many years of classroom observations suggest
the suitability and effectiveness of the Movable Layout
Technique (MLT) in the EBD field. This holds particu-
larly true for those young people who behave in a
highly disruptive way, who consequently are on Tier III
of a schoolwide model or in separate, specialized
school environments.
Because they have additional, considerable learning
deficits and learning difficulties due to their special ed-
ucational biography, because they may reject art as a
problematic, their own masculine identity-threatening,
gender issue, they have almost completely dropped
out of artistic production or completely refuse it in the
school context.
A systematic, empirical investigation in the near fu-
ture of the method in this pedagogical-educational
connection would seem to be meaningful and worth-
while, in order to explore in still more depth opportuni-
ties and educational potentials inherent in Movable
Layout Technique.
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Studies in Social, Emotional and
Behavioral Education
Joachim Broecher
Vol. 1
`Incident on a train´: How storytelling in higher educa-
tion can foster a critical discourse on the inclusive and
exclusive forces of society (2014)
Vol. 2
How a practitioner in the field thinks in action: Shaping
pedagogical and didactic strategies for students with
emotional and behavioral difficulties through textual
analysis of a teacher´s journal (2015, 2nd ed.)
Vol. 3
The interconnection between formal inclusion and in-
ternal exclusion: How the `Training Room´ Program in
German schools seeks to improve classroom disci-
pline, but in doing so inhibits the development of a par-
ticipative and empowering learning culture (2014)
Vol. 4
Stepping up to complex picture composition: How ado-
lescent students with emotional and behavioral difficul-
ties succeed at picture making with Movable Layout
Technique (2015)
Joachim Broecher is Professor and Director of the De-
partment for the Education of Learners with Emotional,
Social and Behavioral Difficulties, at University of
Flensburg, Germany. Prior to moving into higher edu-
cation he worked in schools, for 19 years, as teacher
in specialized settings, as support teacher in regular
schools and later as school principal.
For more information:
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Full-text available
This cross-sectional study was conducted with a random sample of 155 K-12 students served in public school settings and established the extent to which students with emotional/behavioral disorders (E/BD) experience academic achievement deficits with attention to age and gender differences. In addition, this study examined particular types of problem behaviors related to academic achievement. Results indicate that students with E/BD showed large academic achievement deficits across all of the content areas, and the deficits appeared to be stable or worsen in the case of mathematics across age. There appeared to be no gender differences. Additionally, externalizing behaviors were related to reading, mathematics, and written language achievement; whereas, internalizing ones were not.
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Im Nachhinein erscheinen die Hintergründe und Bildelemente, d.h. das Mobile Layout, nur noch als Hilfsmittel, um einen Einstieg in komplexere ästhetische Prozesse zu finden. Das Collage-unterstützte Bilder-Machen besitzt somit eine Brückenfunktion. Während auf der formalen Ebene eine Vereinfachung perspektivischer und kompositioneller Zusammenhänge stattfindet, bietet sich auf der inhaltlichen Ebene die Möglichkeit einer vielschichtigen und detaillierten Bilderzählung. Lernende mit Darstellungsschwierigkeiten oder Misserfolgserwartungen werden mühelos ins künstlerische Gelände geführt und auf spielerische Weise zu eigenständigen Bildentwürfen ermutigt. Jugendliche, die oftmals jeden Zugang zum schöpferischen Gestalten verloren haben, erleben sich in den neu erschlossenen Darstellungs-, Mitteilungs- und Ausdrucksmöglichkeiten als kompetent und erfolgreich. Hierdurch entsteht neue Lernmotivation, die auch über das ästhetische Feld hinausreichen kann. Das Buch enthält eine Anleitung und umfangreiche didaktische Bildreihen, die zeigen, wie mit dem Mobilen Bildsystem und seinen Variationen im Kunstunterricht gearbeitet werden kann. Der Band enthält darüber hinaus Arbeiten von Studierenden der Universität zu Köln, aus dem Institut für Kunst und Kunsttheorie: Laura Aydogan, Nina Blum, Eliz Breuer, Sarah Falkowski, Isabella Giehler, Valeska Hengstenberg, Sophia Hennig, Ilka Hering, Nadine Kienholz, Natalia Krawcynzka, Rufina Kreibich, Lena Labusga, Nicole Piechota, Sabrina Pützer, Jaqueline Rosenbaum, Stephanie Schär, Katinka Schreiber, Rebekka Schurillis, Julia Stark und Inci Yilmaz.