Visual Literacy / by Tyler Wood

Students' eyes are witnessing more man-made visuals everyday than at anytime in human history. Most of those visuals are trying to convince them what to think, buy, feel, or do - many without them knowing it. To ignore this part of reality in the classroom is to not prepare our students for the world at large. If education is to prepare students for their future and life, then how can we ignore something so front and center as the visuals they see everyday?

Visual literacy is to learn how images work, what they mean, and how to 'read' them like they would a piece of text. More and more communication in the modern world is visual and it would be in the best interest of the students that they learn about this medium in the classroom. We don't expect our children to pick up reading in the streets, why would we expect them to pick up visual communication?

For this section, I have posted below six ideas for utilizing visual literacy in accordance to the Common Core Standards. After reviewing my ideas, I will choose one to implement in class. Click below for my ideas.

Tyler's Visual Literacy Ideas


For class I made a list of 100 interesting and more precise verbs for use in story-writing. I wanted to get the kids using more variety in their verbs to spice up their writing. I added the words onto and printed out the sheets so the kids could look at them closely. I had them pick out four verbs they had never used before (or don't remember using before) and circle them. 

A students wordle sheet after their search.

After they chose their four words, I explained their meanings and how to use them in a sentence. They could also look them up on the translator to get the Korean definition for better clarity. After they understood the meaning of the words, they used them in a sentence each. Then, they were to draw a picture that matched the action. This way I was able to assess their writing and whether they fully understood the word meaning with the picture corroboration of the sentence. 

An example of student work

Successes and Challenges

During my explanation, the kids were already curious and excited to get their hands on the Wordle sheets. They really enjoyed looking at the words in a different format, I think it resembled a game more than work for them. Hunting for words was more like a word search than vocabulary practice. The kids were quietly engaged searching for words they hadn't used and were interested in trying. Making the process of using words you don't know part of the task relaxed them about having to know everything and try something different. When most of the kids in my class only use words they know and keep it simple to avoid errors, it was refreshing to see the students really active about picking words they didn't understand. I could tell this easily because they were all raising their hands impatiently to get the explanation of their words. With the exception of one student, they were all very engaged and focused. 

One student wasn't too interested in this task and was visually bored after doing her search. I'm not sure if it had anything to do with this particular lesson, or something unrelated since she has been on and off like this since the beginning. I won't claim to know what is the source of the problem, but I will continue to try and engage her in other ways throughout the year. 

The writing part was much less exciting for the students but they had a good head of steam after the word search, so they moved into the writing more excited than a 'normal' writing assignment. Many of them finished one or two sentences then slowed down noticeably. I think next time I will take a break between the two parts of this assignment or even cut it down to two sentences at a time and then do the activity more often for vocabulary building. 

All in all, I thought the activity worked well, and with a few tweaks on timing and shortening the writing, this will show up in class again in my room. 

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