In the interpretive mode, the word “text” carries the same definition as the Language Arts Common Core: anything that is read, listened to, or viewed. Not only does that definition include videos, audio clips. memes, infographics, poems, articles, and short stories, but it also includes visuals.
Visual literacy is the ability to interpret, negotiate, and make meaning from information presented in the form of an image. In an article on Edutopia, Common Core in Action: 10 Visual Literacy Strategies, the author, Todd Finley, discusses ways to increase students’ visual literacy skills such as:
- Think Alouds
- Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS)
- Five Card Flickr
- Image Analysis
For more information on Visual Literacy or Visual Thinking Strategies, here are some links:
- Visual Thinking Strategies website: https://vtshome.org/
- Visual Thinking Strategies to Improve Comprehension: http://www.colorincolorado.org/article/visual-thinking-strategies-improved-comprehension
- Visual Thinking Strategies: Milwaukee Art Museum: http://teachers.mam.org/collection/teaching-with-art/visual-thinking-strategies-vts/
- Teaching Visual Literacy in the Classroom: https://www.literacyideas.com/teaching-visual-texts-in-the-classroom/
- 7 Things You Should Know About Visual Literacy: https://library.educause.edu/~/media/files/library/2015/3/eli7118-pdf.pdf
In my blog post entitled “Teaching Listening and Viewing Skills Using Authentic Resources,” I shared some simple ideas for having students interpret visuals:
Some strategies students can use when “reading a picture” are:
- describe what they see (what is going on, who is doing what)
- make connections with the visual
- describe how the picture makes them feel
- express an opinion
In that same blog post, I shared a tool called a “picture description frame” which gives students the language they need to describe a picture:
Examples of the picture frame for multiple languages can be found at:
Focus on Fine Art
We have heard the phrase, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” How can we leverage the power of authentic visuals such as fine art to give students a context for interpersonal exchanges and presentational products and performances?
Fine art, in particular, offers some unique benefits in that it usually has a cultural context. So, the discussion of the artwork extends beyond what is seen in the piece to the connections the artwork has to the historical time period and to the cultural products, practices and perspectives.
The painting below, La Tamalada, by Carmen Lomas Garza shows a family working together to make tamales:
In addition, consider the possibility that viewing fine art can also be a practice in language structures. “The Boating Party” by Renoir (which is the artwork at the beginning of this post) can be used to talk about who is looking at whom, a great practice in using object pronouns. “The Artist’s Bedroom at Arles” by Van Gogh is a great piece for practicing prepositions of place.
Scaffolds and Supports for “Reading” Fine Art
There are expressions lists that exist to serve as scaffolds and supports for students when describing a picture or piece of art:
And here’s a PDF from the Instituto Cervantes that offers a more in depth look at describing artwork in the target language. Scroll to the appendices to see expressions lists they provide: