Multiliteracies in ELA Classrooms

Response to Farmer article and discussion question for Seminar Lead

July 5th, 2014 · No Comments

Lesley S.J. Farmer’s article, “I See, I Do: Persuasive Messages and Visual Literacy,” talks about the power of visual media to persuade its viewers. Farmer argues, “students need to know and apply technological visual principles and skills to become critical visual consumers and producers” (30).  In order to be critical visual consumers, students require extensive knowledge about the visual elements and principles used in visual media, such as line, dots, shapes, scale, direction, dimension, texture, value, color, balance, contrast, proportion, pattern, and variety (30-31). I think that learning about how to interpret these elements and their persuasive uses should be a part of all courses in grade school, not only those focusing on visual art or media.
Farmer’s argument is even more relevant now than when this article was written in 2007; now, in 2014, students have hundreds of encounters with digital and visual media every day. They need to learn the skills required to be able to decode the messages they see, and to be able to think critically about why and how they are receiving these messages. Without these skills, students will live their lives being subliminally convinced or persuaded by visual media, to an extent that can influence the world around them: “Digital tools also make it much easier to manipulate images in order to convince and persuade viewers. Even newspaper photographers have altered or combined different images in order to generate a more compelling story or editorialize about an issue; their efforts change election results, impact court decisions, and influence global politics” (32). Once students are able to unpack the messages they receive from visual media, they are better equipped to inquire further about the meaning of the image and its purpose. They can engage in more in-depth critical thought about a variety of topics pertaining to the image. I liken visual media literacy to some of the literacies required in an English class. In English classes, students are required to decode the messages that texts present, trace connections, identify themes, determine purpose and relate ideas to broader social and cultural issues and topics. To understand visual media, they need to decode the message of the image, trace connections between images and between form and meaning, identify themes, determine purpose, and relate the image to broader social and cultural issues. Thus, visual media literacy is a translation of English language literacy into the visual realm. Students need to learn how to “read” images just as they need to learn how to read texts. It will ensure that they are always in control of how they process the imagery they encounter on a daily basis, and it will ensure that they are also able to create compelling and convincing images themselves.

Discussion question for Seminar Lead:

How can we incorporate learning about visual elements and principles and understanding different cultures’ visual coding systems into subjects like English and Socials?

Rebecca Thomas

Farmer, Lesley S.J. (2007). I See, I Do: Persuasive Messages and Visual Literacy. Internet @ schools, 14(4), p. 30-33.


Tags: Presentation · Visual Literacy

0 responses so far ↓

  • There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

You must log in to post a comment.