10 Tips On How To Teach Visual Literacy

“Creative Commons Eyes” by Wonderlane is licensed under CC BY 1.0

I recently worked on a project with my classmate, Chelsea Larson, on our very first Podcast on ArtTalk. Our topic was Teaching the Unspoken Language of Images. You can find a link to our podcast here. We discussed the importance of teaching students about Visual Literacy and the Power of Images. In our conversation many questions and ideas were brought up on the different ways that we can teach students. Every single one of us came from different backgrounds, cultures and upbringings. I believe that all of these influence how we interpret, decode and create images. It seems that only literacy is taught in schools, but not much attention is put into teaching students how to understand and create Visual Communication.

As a future Art Teacher and Commercial Art Teacher, I wanted to put together 10 Tips for future educators and for myself to use as a guide. I am a painter and a graphic designer and both fields uses and implements Visual Literacy.

10 Tips

1. Exposure to Art

“Creative Commons
Night in the Museum ”
by puffin11k is licensed under CC BY 1.0

Exposing students to art galleries and museums give them the exposure to Visual Imagery they may not have seen in their everyday lives. Exposing and discussing the Art and their interpretation can only expand their Visual Vocabulary. Prepare a worksheet for the students asking them questions about the Art.

2. Storytelling

Teach your students about Visual Storytelling by showing them Graphic Novels, Comics, Anime, etc. Have them read some individually or maybe as a class. Discuss the meanings, colors and symbolism used in the book.

Create a project where they can illustrate a story board or a comic strip. Maybe provide them with a poem or a story to create a Visual Story, or have them come up with their own story.

3. Color

“Creative Commons
Muchos Gracias-Thank You for the Music 2”
Franzisko Hauser is licensed under CC BY 1.0

Color is so important! Create projects and presentations that teach students how the use of color can affect a mood and a feeling behind a Visual Image. Have them create the same work of art or design but make each one a different color scheme. Talk about how it changes the meaning.

4. Elements of Art

This may seem like a give in any Art or Design Class, but I cannot stress how important it is for students to know the elements of Line, Shape, Form, Color, Texture, Space and Value. This knowledge will give them the foundation to becoming Visually Literate.

5. Principles of Design

Here is another staple for all Art and Design Teachers to include in their curriculum. The Principles of Design: Pattern, Contrast, Emphasis, Movement, Balance, Proportion/Scale and Harmony/Unity. Not only will this help students understand how to decode images, but give them guidelines to follow to create pieces of work that will help them express their intended meanings.

6. Photography

There is so much to be learned by looking at photographs from all over the world. Photos taken by professional photographers, artists, or from photojournalists. Present and discuss with your students the meanings, feelings and mood that they get from these photos.

7. Advertising

Talk to your students about the advertisements they have seen, Commercials, Billboards, or Digital ads. Discuss the ideas behind advertisers and designers and how they use the Principles of Design, Color and other elements to dictate the message they are sending out to the public.

8. Art Projects

“Creative Commons
working #homnguyen”
Hom Nguyen is licensed under CC BY 1.0

Create projects where the students need to create artwork that sends a personal message. Perhaps have them engage in a social issue that is important to them.

9. Design Projects

“Creative Commons PATRIARCHY” by 
CHRISTOPHER DOMBRES is licensed under CC BY 1.0

Create a design project for your students where they need to sell or persuade their audience through the imagery they create. Have them explore well known designers, or even famous packaging design.

10. Discuss, Interpret and Decode.

I cannot stress enough on how important it is to discuss, interpret and decode with your students. Visual Literacy is storytelling of images, and it needs to be talked about and discussed in order to be understood. Sometimes in discussions, ideas and thoughts that you never imagined can come up and give you a completely different perspective.

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