What is Visual Literacy and Why is it Important in Our Classroom?

Visual Literacy is the ability to read and understand images.  As adults we are bombard every day with images and we interpret these image without a consciences thought about what we are looking at.  For example, how many road signs did you see on the way to work today?  Did you stop at your favorite fast food restaurant or coffee shop?  How did you know it was your favorite?  Did you see the giant letter M in the sky?  When you logged onto your computer, how did you know which internet browser symbol to use?  Are you using the little fox or the letter “e” with a yellow ring around it? When your class says the pledge how do you know which flag to use?  These are all examples of visual literacy.  Some signs are worldwide, like the M in the sky.  We need to teach students what symbols in our content area mean. 

The video Visual Literacy Across the Curriculum by Amy B. Ballet argues that visual literacy is just as important as reading literacy.   The video shows pictures of images across content areas and asks teachers to think about how images they use in their classroom.

Ballet asks the following questions in the video:

  1. How can I facilitate a deeper understanding of imagery in my subject area?
  2. What types of images are most frequently utilized in my subject area?

Examples given include: fine arts, web and charts, music notation and manuscripts, science charts and symbols, maps, logos, graphs

When using an image in your classroom these are questions Ballet suggests using to facilitate their cognate development:

  1. How does the image affect the viewer?
  2. How is the image composed?
  3. How do the symbols that appear in the image affect the meaning?
  4. How does the subject matter affect the viewer’s response?
  5. How do the materials used affect the meaning of the image? (photo, drawing, computer image…)
  6. How does cultural context affect production and understanding of the image?

Take a moment and determine which symbols are most important for your students and the potential for visual literacy in your classroom.

 “Our language abilities do not define the limits of our cognition.” Elliot W. Eisner


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad ©? | Webster Christian School Library Blog

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