I recently took a course on Visual Literacy and its importance. I learned that Visual Literacy is one approach that teaches children how to make meaning from information with images that contextualize various subject matters. “Young people learn more than half of what they know from visual information, but few schools have an explicit curriculum to show students how to think critically about visual data” (McKenzie, 1998). Hence, it is my belief that Visual Literacy is a necessary component of Pre-K/12 curriculum. McKenzie (1998) submitted that, “schools must show students how to look beyond the surface to understand deeper levels of meaning and tactics employed to sway their thinking.” This means that the curriculum should contain opportunities to teach students how to “interpret, negotiate, and make meaning from information that is presented in the form of an image”, film, or logo (Wikipedia, 2017). McKenzie submitted further that, “there is a danger that …images will serve as decoration rather than information unless we show [students] how to interpret (or make meaning of) the data (1998).
Based on what I learned in the course, I decided to incorporate some of the principles of Visual Literacy with a stamp lesson. I based the lesson on Dr. Temple Grandin since my students had been studying her. I posed the following questions to them: What is a stamp? What are the informative parts of a stamp? How and when did stamps come into use? Why are there pictures or images on postage stamps? It was the picture part that I wanted to focus on since pictures convey information.
I explained to my students that stamps, although they are very small, have pictures or images that have meaning. I told the students that making images meaningful has three components. The first is making ideas clear by visualizing them. The second is making them interactive, and the third is making them persistent (Eisner, 2017). In other words, when using images to support the message, the image must clearly make the idea visible. The image should also engage the audience, making them think deeply about the ideas. Lastly, the image must make the ideas persistent or relevant over time with different audiences. This is quite a hard task for third graders, but I wanted to challenge my students.
I gave them an empty slide template where they would place one or more images on the template that visually represented an idea about Dr. Temple Grandin, that was engaging to the audience and would stand the test of time by being persistent. For further information on how to implement this lesson, click here.
I was pleased with what they came up with. If you want to try it with your students, click here to make a copy.
In sum, it is important for a teacher to understand how to effectively use visuals in the classroom because these visuals will not only enhance comprehension, but they will also support a student’s ability to use visual thinking skills that will deepen student understanding and sustain recall and memory over time. It is also important for a teacher to understand why our students need to be visually literate because Visual Literacy will allow our students to elect alternative methods for sharing information in order to make their ideas clearer to their audience.
Elliot Eisner. (2017, June 21). Retrieved September 16, 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elliot_Eisner
McKenzie, J. (1998). Visual Literacy. Retrieved July 03, 2017, from http://fno.org/PL/vislit.htmVisual Literacy. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved July 3, 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visual_literacy_in_education