Embedding Visuals Into Teaching and Learning

I confess, I am a visual learner! I also relate better to metaphors, since they paint a picture in my mind.


My eyes roll back when I see long passages of text, that I am supposed to read, digest, analyze, understand, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I can do it (I am an avid reader), but I can wrap my mind around concepts, thoughts and content better, if it is represented visually in some shape or form.


The majority of content presented to students in school is in form of text, the world outside of school bombards us with information in many forms of media beyond text.

Times Square-by Trey Ratcliff

Image licensed under CC by Trey Ratcliff

Our ability to navigate a media rich world and “read and write” in that world is increasingly important skill to posses.

Visual Literacy is defined by Wikipedia as:

the ability to interpret, negotiate, and make meaning from information presented in the form of an image, extending the meaning of literacy, which commonly signifies interpretation of a written or printed text. Visual literacy is based on the idea that pictures can be “read” and that meaning can be communicated through a process of reading.

I have been working with one of our Middle School teachers, Morah Ita,  and her blog. She is steadily climbing the classroom teacher’s blogging step ladder. Her classroom blog has moved from being a static replacement of the weekly newsletter sent home and information “pushed” out for students to read and consume to a hub, where students respond to prompts from her, are able to read and comment on each other and allow a global audience to their conversation.

Another upgrade we are taking a closer look at now, is a move from TEXT HEAVY to a more MEDIA INFUSED writing style.




Inspired by the website Visual Writing Prompts, I took the text based journal prompts on her blog and “visualized” them.





From creating these visuals as a journal writing prompts, my thoughts turned to other subjects.

Our 4th/5th grade Math teacher is revisiting fractions. Part of her class needs more help than others in understanding and making sense of fractions.

fractions visuals

Again, the idea was to bring more visual “real life” elements to a typically taught abstractly (with numbers) or with clipart (blocks or circles) concept. Just google “visual fractions” and switch from web to images.

The meta-cognitive process of creating the slides and thinking of a questions to go along with them gave place to another opportunity for the more “advanced” students. As the teacher works with struggling students, they would be able to create visual fraction problems for their classmates to practice and solve.



Our Kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Yegelwel, shared the following on our school’s Professional Development Ning.


A seesaw is a perfect balance (given the right amount of weight on each side)! How do you teach heavy, light, equal to Kindergarteners? Using balances and connecting cubes in the classroom is good, but using their bodies on the seesaw outside is even better.  We (not me personally!) weighed ourselves, figured out which child weighed the same or almost the same as another child and then tried to balance on the seesaw.

The activity is excellent. I am so glad that the teacher documented it by taking the image to be later shared among colleagues and parents via her classroom blog.

I am wondering now though, how can we continue to upgrade and continue to infuse visual literacy for our 5 and 6 year olds?  Can we take images from objects the children are familiar with (ex. from around the classroom) and create visual questions for them. The objective is to teach students not only the concept of heavier, lighter, equal, but to give them the ability to see and evaluate images and transfer the concept to real life and vice versa.

PS. I used the (free)  iPad app Haiku Deck, in case you were wondering how the visual slides were created.

Haiku Deck

I have found the app to be perfect to quickly create good looking slides. The app is very intuitive. The fluency of the creation process is smooth.

1. Add your text (you are limted to up to two lines…which is a good thing!)


2. Choose an image (from Flickr’s Creative Commons pool or upload your own)


3. Choose the layout


4. Share your slides (export it as a PowerPoint file or send an e-mail with a link)


I then emailed the slides to myself, opened them up in PowerPoint and exported them as images to be uploaded to the blog. You can also view the slideshow on the iPad and take screenshots of the individual slides in order to upload them to a blog.

I am calling on all of you bloggers, presentation deliverers and teachers to

BREAK UP THE TEXT! Include less words, embed a variety of media to support you message/content, infuse visual literacy into your teaching!