It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Can you tell how these children are feeling in the photos? As I was thinking about visual literacy in our first grade classroom, I realized how effective and powerful visual literacy can be in our classroom.
At my current international school, 90% of my students have English as their second language. Although I have a few kids who are fluent in English, the majority of them are beginning or middle level. Thus, the teaching needs to be direct and explicit with a lot of support and differentiated teaching is crucial for these little ones. Therefore, I try to use illustrations and/or drawings as much as possible on anchor charts or on the white board when teaching to help my students understand the teaching point for a particular lesson. Even with directions, I make sure I write it on the white board with different colored markers and go over the steps verbally.
When I’m teaching a lesson, I try to “show not tell.” What I mean by this is that I don’t just tell my students what to do. I try to show them by modelling and giving explicit instructions. For example, in Reading Workshop, we recently just finished a unit on characters. Pictures in a picture book are good to look at to interpret meaning from the story, so I like to choose picture books to model and give explicit instructions. This is quite beneficial to my students who are at the beginning stage of learning the language since they have limited vocabulary. I’m also careful in choosing particular picture books that helps me teach the teaching point to my students. When launching the unit on characters, I used When Sophie Gets Angry – Really, Really Angry by Molly Bang. Before beginning the actual lesson, I showed the, photos of facial expressions of children to activate their prior knowledge. By looking at the facial expressions on the photos, my students were able to tell if the children in the photos were feeling sad, happy, scared, mad, or etc. Then we briefly shared out a time when we would feel happy, sad or etc.
By frontloading them with photos of various feeling or actions, the students are able to get ready to notice the character’s feelings in the picture books and pay close attention to the character’s feelings by focusing on their facial expressions. On the anchor chart, I try to do a quick sketch next to the teaching point phrase so that this will help my student remember the teaching point. A quick sketch or drawing is helpful for my beginning level learners. Also, I try to connect those visual images to their prior knowledge. To make connections to their own schema is very powerful for the students to remember and relate to.Especially for those who speak limited English, visual literacy seems to be quite powerful. Through an image, they can comprehend the big idea of what I’m trying to get across. I find this very effective not only in my Reading Workshop, but across all subject matters. I totally agree that visual literacy plays an important role in our classroom and quite effective to my English language learners.