The old cliché “a picture is worth a thousand words” is a cliché for a reason.  There is no question that one single picture can replace thousands of words of attempted explanation.  The ability to find and use powerful images in our classrooms is absolutely essential in today’s world.  If we hope to hold the attention of our students we must incorporate powerful images into our instruction.

I am currently teaching a unit on Mesopotamia.  This is often an abstract topic for kids to understand.  I can talk till I am blue in the face about how amazing it was that these nomadic tribes managed to learn to cooperate together to form societies capable of creating magnificent structures without the use of modern technology, but until they see the products for themselves they don’t truly get it.

Here are some images I use with my kids to show how impressive their accomplishments were:

These show the size and precision of the temples built by the ancient Mesopotamians.

By jmcfall

By The U.S. Army

Seeing the Ishtar gate really shows them the craftsmanship that they were capable of achieving.

by Rictor Norton & David Allen


However, one of the most powerful images I use all year comes in my Egypt unit.  I teach the kids that Egypt is called “The Gift of the Nile,” but they never understand how essential the Nile is to life in Egypt until I show them modern Egypt on Google Earth.  I start zoomed far out and slowly zoom in as they identify what we are looking at.

This is the first image they see, and most kids can Identify the Nile river, or so they think.

From Google Earth


By the time I zoom in this far they all see the “river.”

From Google Earth


It’s not until I get zoomed in this far that they see the real river.  This image is really powerful for showing them how irrigation can turn a desert into farmland.

From Google Earth


Images have a much longer impact than any words we could muster.  A well-chosen image will make or break a lesson.  This is why it is so essential that we become “literate” in using visual media in our classrooms.