Visual Literacy in the Classroom

Visual literacy has always been a hot topic to me as an English teacher since I cover it in the research portion of the classes I teach. In my previous master’s programs, I took a number of classes where visual literacy was a significant component. I think the simplest definition is this: visual literacy is the use of images to communicate a message to a reader.

As an English teacher, images are significant part of my lesson planning and teaching. I’ve handed out photographs to students and had them write a fictional creative writing piece where the image plays a part of it. When I teach novels like The Secret Life of Bees, To Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, or The Great Gatsby, I found pictures from the various time periods and areas of the United States to show my students more about the scenery and history of the era.

In newspaper journalism, catching a good photography is an integral part of creating a good page design and telling the story. Photographers, writers, and designers have to work together to create/find/use an image that works the best. I’ve used photographs and images in my argumentative writing units/classes, as well, to talk about visual argument and how argument is all around us. Visual literacy has been a significant part of my teaching at the high school and college levels.

When I taught Of Mice and Men and To Kill a Mockingbird, my students really benefited from seeing photos of California and Alabama during those time periods. In both novels, characters are outside so much; the setting is integral to understanding how the characters get around. Transportation in the early and mid 20th century is vastly different from what the students know and have experienced. Getting to see the pictures helps them create more meaningful images during the action and descriptions in the novels.

One of the biggest concerns that many of us teachers have when using images in our classrooms and lessons is fair use and copyright. Like many of you, I know the rules behind it, but when I see images, I sometimes have a hard time figuring out if I can use it or not. Can you imagine the challenge this is for our students?

It’s our responsibility as educators to help our students find images and give credit. We want them to visually literate, but we need to ensure that we are giving them all of the tools they need to be successful in truly understanding visual literacy.Midi/ミディ ローボード CFS-216 木製(天然木使用)
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