The following blog post is part of a blog series called "Comments on the Common Core," written by Eye On Education's Senior Editor, Lauren Davis.
When teaching reading, we can’t overlook visuals. We should show students how to read illustrations, photos, and charts, not just text. It’s easy for students to gloss over the bar graphs and pictures in an article and think of them as decoration. We need to show students how to understand those visuals and integrate the ideas presented with the ideas in the text. We can also have students read photographs and paintings and compare them to literary or informational texts on the same topic. Our world is filled with a rich variety of cultural, historical, and informational visuals, and we need to teach students how to understand (and hopefully appreciate) them.
Visual literacy is also a requirement of the Common Core State Standards. Standard 7 for Reading Literature asks students to compare texts to visuals. The standard gets increasingly complex as you move up the grade levels. For example, in grade 5, students are supposed to “analyze how visual and multimedia elements contribute to the meaning, tone, or beauty of a text (e.g., graphic novel, multimedia presentation of fiction, folktale, myth, poem).” In grades 9–10, students are expected to “analyze the representation of a subject or a key scene in two different artistic mediums, including what is emphasized or absent in each treatment (e.g., Auden’s “Musée des Beaux Arts” and Breughel’s Landscape with the Fall of Icarus).”
- Ask students to compare and contrast Longfellow’s poem about Paul Revere to the Revere painting by Grant Wood. To extend the lesson, have students do a close reading of the Leonardo da Vinci essay, “Painting Is Superior to Poetry,” and then debate whether they agree with him (Davis, Common Core Literacy Lesson Plans, 6–8, p. 46).
- Have students examine Dorothea Lange’s photography of the dust bowl and compare it to historical accounts about that period as well as to excerpts from Grapes of Wrath (Davis, Common Core Literacy Lesson Plans, 6–8, p. 45).
- In this ReadWriteThink lesson plan, ninth and tenth graders compare Edward Hopper’s art to fiction by Raymond Carver.
- This ISTE resource contains terrific visual literacy teaching materials, including worksheets that students can do when analyzing photographs.
- This page from The New York Times Learning Network features a rich collection of visual literacy lesson plans.
How are you teaching visual literacy? Leave me a comment!
Check back on February 6 for Tips for Adding More Literary Nonfiction to Your Common Core Curriculum
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