Multiliteracies in ELA Classrooms

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

July 7th, 2014 · No Comments

I believe that visual literacy is an important skill that often goes underdeveloped (or is neglected altogether) in current teaching practice.  The primary context in which these skill are taught is in the visual arts (which, to an extent, are elective courses).  As a result, the development of these skills can be interpreted as “elective” as well and therefore unimportant.  This is far from the case as much of the media that our students engage with on a regular basis and that we are routinely exposed to as well usually has a visual component that is often central to the meaning of the piece.  In order to be considered “literate” in contemporary society, students must be taught the skills necessary to “read” these images and identify the meanings and ideas that they represent, or else they will find themselves in a situation that is equivalent to signing a contract that they cannot read, or navigating an urban terrain full of signs written in a foreign language.

Because visual media has become such a central part of our everyday experiences, we process images so quickly that it is easy to absorb those persuasive messages without realizing that we are doing so.  To this end, I really appreciated the guidelines that this article recommended as they provide a simple framework that students can use to “cross-reference” the visual media that they are presented with; they can incorporate these questions into their daily practice and engagement with visual media without even really having to think too hard about it. The tools and questions that were provided in the article can easily be used in an English Language Arts classroom to promote visual literacy in conversation with “conventional literacy” and critical thinking.  The concepts presented in the article, like the intended purpose of a persuasive image, the explicit and implicit content presented in an image, inferences that the author/artist is making (and is asking the audience to make as well), and the technical devices that are being used to convey those messages are also “transmedial” so an activity where a student “reads” a persuasive image can be used to scaffold skills that they could then use to criticize the literature that we are reading in class.

Since we are largely in the business of teaching critical thinking skills, I think we have a responsibility as educators to use whatever resources we have available to us (such as those presented in the article) to integrate visual literacy into our teaching practices so that our students can be literate across all platforms when they leave our classrooms.

(Sarah Lowen)




Tags: Visual Literacy

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