Multiliteracies in ELA Classrooms

Literature and Image

July 14th, 2014 · 2 Comments

While we focused mostly on the benefits of graphic novels in the classroom for our presentation, the article we summarized was mostly discussing the use of “image” in general and how any type of image when used in conjunction with the written text, can be of use in the classroom. For my part, what I find most beneficial with using imagery and text together is how it can help in differentiated learning. Literature and the written world is a very abstract thing. As readers we have to make sense of words that are placed one after in a sequential and logical order. However, the word is basically a symbolic thing. It is there to represent something else. For example the word “tree” is a representation of the actual object: tree. However, it is not the thing, the tree, itself. If we use the image of a tree, though, show a picture of have a student draw the object, this image in fact is closer to reality and less of a symbolic representation. As teachers, this becomes helpful to us when we are met with a student who has a more difficult time with abstract ideas and conceptual thinking.

By making understanding easier for kids we can make literature more accessible. This is what the image allows us to do. Students who would otherwise feel threatened or lack confidence because they have a hard time understanding a literary work can feel more comfortable and safe when they approach the same work through its images. But this accessibility isn’t only to learners who find the abstract challenging, nor, as at the article states, a gateway for language learners to better acquire linguistic skills. During my practicum I had the experience of being in a special education classroom, where the majority of students were diagnosed with high functioning autism. Now while many of these students were able to accomplish certain things in regular classrooms and in some cases excel in them, almost all had difficulty with understand and interpreting emotional cues, especially when that emotion was being communicated to them in the written form. so here what the special education teacher did was to use a separate sheet of paper with pictures of faces that expressed emotions like “sadness”, “surprise”, “anger”, etc. The teacher worked with the students over several hours to help them distinguish and differentiate between the facial expressions. He then would use the graphic novel, or images of certain texts, for example, the surprised face of the lead character in the graphic move Persepolis to help the students connect it to the face on their sheet. This then helped the student understand characterization and the emotional life of the main character in the story, where before when just reading the word “surprised” would not help them at all to understand what the character was feeling or expressing.

Using images in conjunction with text students can in fact learn the written text better and feel more comfortable and perhaps be more willing to engage with literature and a perfectly fine reason to incorporate any kind of “image learning” in a literature classroom.

Work Cited


Frey, N. and Fisher, D. (2004). Using Graphic Novels, Anime, and the Internet in an Urban High School. The English Journal, 93(3), pp. 19-25. Stable URL:


Tags: graphic novels · Uncategorized

2 responses so far ↓

  • rmuker // Jul 20th 2014 at 7:54 pm

    I agree with the original post as I think image and text are pertinent and should be taught in the classroom. I did not get the opportunity to look critically at images until my later years in high school and early university. Images surround our students on a daily basis and I think it is important to give our students tools to critically assess these sources of information.

    However, one thing I want to emphasize is the idea that sometimes gets thrown around about graphic novels being used in place of a novel because they are “easier”. Graphic novels are so rich in content (both text and image). Because of the constraints of limited text, often the vocabulary in graphic novels is complex. This precise use of language usually involves higher vocabulary words that some readers may find challenging. This use of vocab is one reason why teachers need to be cautious when assuming that graphic novels will be better for ELL learners.

  • rmuker // Jul 20th 2014 at 8:06 pm

    For some reason my comment has to be split into two posts, my apologies for this.

    The idea of using image to help decipher emotions is really interesting to me. For students to understand complex human emotions through 2D images is itself remarkable. I wonder, perhaps, if the teacher considered showing film clips of situations where characters are expressing these emotions instead. Therefore, the students would then be watching a 3D clip and picking up on the nuances of body language and other non-verbal cues to assess the character’s emotion. Although I understand that moving from film to text would be difficult for students, I think the gradual move from film clips to graphic novel images would allow students to possibly grasp these ideas quicker.

    I think sometimes teachers are hesitant in bringing film into the classroom because it is not as rich a source as literature. While this topic in itself warrants a whole blog post, I think for instances such as teaching emotion, film is full of so much rich information that it seem logical and justified to use it.

You must log in to post a comment.