Multiliteracies in ELA Classrooms

Response to “I See I Do: Persuasive Messages and Visual Literacy”

July 5th, 2014 · No Comments

One of the earliest commercials I remember having an impact on my was that of the House Hippo. It was a message from Concerned Children’s Advertisers, and was probably the coolest thing I had ever seen. Did I know there were no such things as house hippos, of course; but even to this day I hear my peers talking about that commercial. Visual media can make quite the impact. Lesley Farmer’s article, “I See I Do: Persuasive Messages and Visual Literacy”, makes some very salient observations about the lengths that media is manipulated in our society, and how this can often be directed at students. While the house hippos of my childhood were not meant to sell anything, and the use of image manipulation in other ads at that time was, at least to my recollection, fairly mild, in today’s society there seems to be no escape. 

Farmer’s article has a number of lists that I think could be very useful in the classroom, due to not only their content, but the accessibility of the language. In addition to listing some basic principles of images (30-31), another list had a lot of suggestions on how to tell whether or not an image has been manipulated, such as “[s]hadows fall at different angles or lighting is inconsistent” and “[i]mage resolution varies in different sections of the composition” (31). When I did a critical media literacy unit in Planning 10 during my practicum, I only had one lesson to talk about advertisements. Due to the limited amount of time, my class jumped right into analyzing things such as who the ad was targeting and how they were doing this, but I wish I had had both more time and this article so that before the advertisement lesson, we could have covered some basic image manipulation tricks, and scaffolded up.

When reading this article, a brief discussion in Claire Ahn’s LLED 449 class came to mind, in which she talked about visual rhetoric in young adult literature. She showed numerous book covers for the same novel, and the class picked which ones would appeal to which readers, in terms of age range. When we discuss how images are changed and why this is important with our students, I think we also need to touch upon why are we seeing this one particular image in the first place.

One activity that Farmer suggests is “[a]sk students to locate online images about an international issue; each student (or small group) might choose a different country or culture. Ask them what visual principles appear to be universally applied or culturally defined. To what extent does culture impact the message?” (31) This helped me identify a possible issue when assigning some of the other activities suggested. As Farmer notes, if students lack cultural capital, and do not know our particular culture’s coding, they may very easily misinterpret signs and, therefore, meaning (31). This is something that I had not considered very much when conducting my lesson with my Planning 10 class, but feel I need to be very aware of going forward, and ties into my discussion question.

Question for discussion:

The article talks about how important it is for students to be aware of visual manipulation, and suggests multiple different ways of introducing projects aimed towards this in the classroom. Bearing potential class compositions in mind, what are some possible difficulties that may present themselves, or how might these activities where students are producers need to be adapted?

Work Cited:

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

Tags: Visual Literacy

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